Installing a reasonably quick home charger is the first priority for most new electric car owners, but the ability to easily charge up away from home adds another dimension to ownership.
Unfortunately public charging station access is not yet standardised, and as with the cars themselves there are a number of companies – operators – vying for your business. The inconvenience of this scenario arises from the need to be a card-carrying member of each operator’s network to use their electricity, which can be a hassle if the station you’ve found is the only one in that area.
Some public charging stations you’ll come across will be free, however, and a growing number can be activated with a credit card rather than a membership card, but for now it’s best to join a network that’s prevalent in your area.
Standardised access with eventually happen – it already is to some extent with a network called EZ Charge – although it requires the cooperation of all the major charging station operators. Unfortunately the largest of those, ChargePoint, is abstaining from the alliance for now, so here are the five biggest networks in the meantime.
Click on the logo to go to each network’s website
ChargePoint’s network is enormous, and currently encompasses just under 18,000 charging stations across the US. Stations are compatible with all electric cars, although cars using the CHAdeMO standard, such as the Nissan LEAF, can fast charge.
The network is unusual when it comes to cost, as the price paid is at the discretion of the owner of the station. These owners generally include hotels, municipalities, and restaurants, although many locations are free.
Signing up to ChargePoint is free, although there’s a deposit of $25 the first time you visit a station that isn’t free. From then on you’ll simply need to swipe you membership card across the display of the charge station to get started.
Yes. Available from Google play or Apple App Store, ChargePoint’s app lets you find and make reservations at stations where there are free spaces, and you can also initiate charging sessions remotely.
Blink’s charge station network can be found in major cities in the US. Like ChargePoint, all electric cars can use Blink stations, although they also offer CHAdeMO standard fast charging. There are around 4,000 Blink stations available to the public.
Charging at a Blink station can cost as little as $1 per hour, although this varies depending on your membership package. To give as many drivers as possible access, you’ll be charged for the duration that you are plugged in, even if the car isn’t charging. Non-members pay $2 per hour for standard Level 2 AC charging.
When it comes to fast charging – and this concerns Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi iMiEV owners – the price goes up to $5 per session and $8 for guests.
Members either tap their Blink ‘InCard’ on the screen or login to blinknetwork.com to get a Blink Code. There is no deposit or sign-up fee, and you’ll be billed at the end of the month.
Yes, thankfully, because it will notify you when your car has fully charged, meaning you’ll dodge any excess fees. The app also gives you information and locations on the network’s stations and is compatible with iOS and Android smartphones.
SemaConnect operates roughly 2,000 electric car charging stations across North America, spanning from British Columbia to Florida. Like ChargePoint, SemaConnect’s ChargePro stations are privately owned, and offer AC Level 2 charging for all electric vehicles.
The cost of charging is at the discretion of the owner of the station, which includes restaurants and departments stores. Many are free, although a charge of around $0.49 per kilowatt-hour is common. That means a Nissan LEAF would cost roughly $12 to charge to maximum capacity.
SemaConnect offers the most options for starting a charging session after feedback from EV drivers that they disliked carrying around an RFID card. You can sign-up for a SemaCharge pass which works like an EZ pass, use their iPhone/Android app, Pay with PlugShare app, simply use your smartphone web browser, use our Google Glass app or charge by scanning a QR code.
Yes, SemaConnect’s app can be found in the Google Play or Apple App store, and can be used to start a charging session, find stations and manage your driver account.
SemaConnect is also the first charging station company to partner with PlugShare, the most widely used EV app for drivers. Through a partnership with PlugShare, EV drivers can have the convenience of starting a charging session at a SemaConnect location straight from the PlugShare app!
Tesla’s Superchargers are the fastest of all electric car charging stations – many operate at more than double the capacity of the CHAdeMO standard. The California automaker is currently rolling out new locations across the US and Europe, and has targeted 98 percent coverage of the former by the end of next year.
Nothing, incredibly. Tesla’s Superchargers are free for Model S owners and, if CEO Elon Musk is to be believed, always will be. Your car will have to be Supercharger-compatible, however, which is standard on 85kWh versions but costs $2,000 on 60kWh cars.
Tesla owners only, sorry. This means that no card is required, making the process easier still for the chosen few.
No, but the touchscreen display in the car will offer directions to all Supercharger Stations.
eVgo has charging stations in California, Greater Washington DC, Houston, and Dallas, with around 90 locations in total. They all offer CHAdeMO fast charging for cars compatible with that standard, but can provide Level 2 charging for any electric vehicle.
Some stations also provide for the SAE Combo standard – particularly in California – which means BMW i3 and Chevrolet Spark EV owners will be able to get an 80 percent charge in around 30 minutes.
That depends on your area and which charging plan you sign up to. Monthly fees range from nothing to $39.95 in Los Angeles, for example, with Level 2 charging costing $1 per hour and DC fast charging costing $0.10 per hour or $4.95 per session.
You’ll need to be a member, and its best to have both your credit card and key tag with you.
No, although all stations can be found on the company website.
Aerovironment’s charging network spans Oregon and Washington, offering Level 2 charging to all electric cars as well as fast charging for the CHAdeMO standard. The network currently boasts 50 stations.
Unlimited monthly access costs $19.99, although if your use is sporadic there’s the option of paying per session. That costs $7.50 a time for DC fast charging and $4 for a standard Level 2 session. New subscribers will have to pay a one-off $15 activation fee.
You don’t need to be a member to charge up, but you will need a credit card to pay. Subscribers will need to use the key tag Aerovironment sends out after the activation fee is paid.
No, all the charging stations are listed on the company website.