Last Update: August 17, 2019
We expect any car, electric or otherwise, to let us drive anywhere we wish. Therefore electric car owners need to find charging stations along the route to their destination. Public charging stations are what the electric car owners to use for traveling long distance, just as gasoline stations are what gasoline car owners use to travel. Therefore the real question is how do electric car owners find public charging stations.
What doesn't work is to drive around randomly hoping to come across a charging station. While gasoline/diesel car owners can get away with that strategy the current state of EV charging means we need to know precisely where to go.
There are of course several ways a smart phone can help us find charging stations.
- Charging station maps applications
- Charging network applications
- Google Maps
- Asking for advice on social media networks
The most common recommendation is the PlugShare application. It is the most highly regarded of the many apps that present a map full of EV charging station locations. For a full list see Smart-phone apps for finding electric car charging station networks
With an app like Plugshare you have a specialized map listing charging stations (usually based on Google Maps). You configure the app with the charging equipment you need, and the map shows the matching stations. In some cases station status is shown so you can avoid traveling to a charging station that's known to be down. Some of the apps help with trip planning, by not only plotting a route but showing the stations along that route.
Google Maps also has charging station locations. In the Google Maps application, or website, enter the search phrase "EV Charging stations near your destination". The map will show stations known to Google. However, the Google trip planner isn't integrated with charging station locations. Further, Plugshare and other specialized apps have more complete charging station lists than does Google. You're better off using a specialized application.
Practically every public charging station is part of a charging network. That means the charging station will be labeled with a logo from companies like ChargePoint, eVgo, Electrify America, E-Charge, Ionity, or whatever. In most cases you'll be required to get a membership card with the charging network ahead of time. Each of the charging networks has its own smart phone app that lists charging station locations, and provides other functions related to membership with the charging network. For a full list see: Known electric car charging networks around the world
What happens if you want to go somewhere and neither the charging station map nor the charging network map shows any charging stations?
There are charging stations and power outlets that aren't listed in any of these resources. Electrical outlets are ubiquitous, and with a portable charging station you can recharge at any available power outlet. For example a widely used option is stopping at campgrounds because those places often have high power AC power outlets that can be used with a portable charging station.
In some cases your only choice is turning to social media networks such as online forums or Facebook groups. For example there are many facebook groups for electric car owners in a given locality - a question in the right group could turn up a charging possibility that doesn't exist on the maps.