The availability of electric car charging stations is a valid concern for those looking to switch from gas cars. Luckily, there are lots of websites and apps that make finding a charging station near you — and what it’ll cost if you have to pay — very easy.
The Best Ways to Find an EV Charging Station Near You
Before you look for a charging station, you need to know which type will charge your vehicle. Fortunately, that’s pretty easy. Any electric vehicle (EV) manufactured and sold in North America will be able to use a level 1 or level 2 charging station, which means there are plenty of them around. If your vehicle is compatible with level 3 DC fast charging (DCFC), you’ll often find those stations in the same area as level 2, though there may not be as many available.
Tesla has its own network of chargers made to work with its vehicles, and they remain largely open only to Tesla drivers, though that could be changing in the near future. All of this means that whatever type of EV you drive, chances are you’ll be able to find a charging station nearby.
Third-Party Apps and Websites
There are several third-party apps meant for EV owners who want to see available charging stations from any of the charging networks in North America. These apps are kept pretty up-to-date and can display everything from what levels of charging are available at a certain station to the rate per kilowatt-hour if you have to pay. Some even let users add photos of the station and leave comments.
Here are a few of the more popular apps:
- PlugShare: available for iOS/Android
- Open Charge Map: available for iOS/Android
- ChargeHub: available for iOS/Android
- Chargeway: available for iOS/Android
These apps also have websites you can access from a computer or other device, and usually display a map with clickable pins signifying charging stations. Click one and you can find what charging network the station is on, what the rate per kilowatt-hour is, how many plugs there are available, and in most cases whether the station is occupied.
Other online resources include the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuel Data Center site, and even Google Maps will tell you about nearby charging stations with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
Some of these resources, like Google Maps, won’t tell you what level the charging station is — they’ll just display its output in kilowatts. It’s still fairly easy to figure out the level from the electrical output, but if you’re new to EV charging you’ll probably want to stick with apps like ChargeHub that spell everything out.
EV Manufacturer Apps
EV manufacturers like Tesla and Nissan often bundle an app with their cars that can tell drivers where to find a charging station, the rate an EV charges when hooked up and other useful information. Tesla is probably the best known for this, but other EV manufacturers like Ford and GM also have their own apps you can use to find a charging station that’ll work with your vehicle.
Charging Network Apps
Major non-Tesla EV charging networks in North America include Electrify America, EVGo, ChargePoint, Volta, FordPass, and more. All of them have an app you can use to both find a station and pay whatever session fees and kilowatt-hour rates apply.
Some of these companies, like Electrify America, offer monthly memberships. Electrify America has a membership rate of $4.00 per month as of this writing that lets you waive the $1.00 session fee and lowers the kilowatt-hour rate at their stations. FordPass also has a partnership with Electrify America that gives Ford EV owners deals on access.
The drawback to these apps is that they’ll only show you nearby charging stations on their network, so searching through several apps to get a complete picture can get tedious. If you have a preference for a certain charging network though, it could be worth it to stick with their app, since they’ll be the most up-to-date for new stations added to the network. Another caveat: since these apps are in the early stages, people have reported a less than stellar user experience.
What You’ll Pay at an EV Charging Station, and How
The rate you pay to charge will depend on factors like what network you use, whether you have a subscription to a certain network, what the kilowatt-hour rate is, what your EV’s battery capacity is, and how full that battery was when you hooked up to charge. If you’re using a DCFC station, it will likely be a higher rate to charge — but usually still on par with (or less than) a tank of gas.
We’d recommend sticking with free stations or charging at home if you can whenever possible. But if you can’t, there are a few ways to pay. Charging networks will usually allow you to pay through their app, though people have reported problems doing so. You can also often pay with a credit or debit card at the charging station itself. Whichever app you use to find a station can tell you the per-minute or per kilowatt-hour rate, which you can use to estimate your total.
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