How Do You Charge An Electric Car?


The steps involved in charging an EV include selecting the most appropriate charge station, verifying your identity, connecting the charging cable to the EV, charging the EV, and leaving.

The process of electric car charging is one of the reasons drivers of internal combustion (ICE) powered cars hold up as the reason not to switch. Namely, how long it takes to recharge.

While this may have previously been true, the charging technology is constantly improving, with charging speed increasing significantly. At a high-powered DCFC charging station, charging time can be as low as under an hour.

At a Glance:

1️⃣ Improved charging technology enables under an hour charging time at high-powered DCFC stations.

2️⃣ Electric vehicles have differnet charging levels: Level 1, Level 2 and DC fast charging (this includes Tesla Superchargers).

3️⃣ Apps and websites facilitate finding and assessing charging stations with ease.

Charging an EV is a relatively intuitive process, and knowing what EV charging is can offer some context. So let’s explore what charging an electric car involves.

Determine The Type Of Charging Required

Let’s begin with the various EV charging levels and their characteristics.

  • Level 1 charging
  • Level 2 charging
  • DCFC (Direct Current Fast Charging)

Level 1 charging stations are only useful if you have a Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV). These vehicle batteries are smaller, and a level 1 charge is normally sufficient.

Higher-powered level 2 chargers are produced with varying capacities, which can fully charge your EV in approximately 4-6 hours.

Depending on their size, DC Fast Charging chargers can charge an EV in approximately 1 hour.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) have much larger batteries than PHEVs, and if a level 1 charger is used, it could take up to 5 days to fully recharge a battery.

Level 2 or DC charging stations are the only realistic options if you have a BEV (more commonly called an EV).

  • Level 1 chargers use a plug-in connection to the building’s electricity at 110 volts.
  • Level 2 chargers offer plug-in or hardwired installations at 240 volts.
  • DCFC and Tesla Superchargers are only found at public charge stations and require high voltage input.

Locate A Charging Station

Decide whether you need to charge at home or at a public charge station. If you decide to charge your electric vehicle at home, select the optimum level 2 charger for your needs.

Find A Public Charging Location

To find the most appropriate charging system close to you, you can use one of the many smartphone apps or a website – such as the US Department of Energy of charge station finder website – where you can “drill down” to find the nearest appropriate charging station.

Useful charge station apps include the following:

When selecting a suitable charging station, check the type of connectors, the status of the equipment, and the charging level they provide.

You can check this information remotely, so find out which EV charging apps you should have on your device.

Plug In The Charging Cable

Knowing what’s involved in using EV charging stations is a key skill. So here is a rough picture.

Make sure the EV is close enough to the unit at home or when you arrive at a public charger. 

Open the charge port cover on the vehicle.

Plug the connector into the EV charge port. If you are charging a Tesla at a non-Tesla station, you must first fit an adaptor.

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  • Available for all Tesla Models S/X/Y/3
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Initiate The Charging Session

If you charge at a public station, you must verify your details. Most charging stations require one of the following verification methods:

  • Using a pre-purchased RFID keycard.
  • Using the Smartphone App’s QR CODE.
  • Swipe a payment card at the charge station.
  • Use the app to activate the session and start charging.

If you are charging at a home station, it will not require the verification procedure.

Monitor The Vehicle Charging Progress

Particularly at a public charging station, it is important to monitor the charge progress.  

You do not want to leave the EV at the charge station after the charge has been completed. Many charging stations charge a penalty if the car is left while the charger is idling.

Pay For The Charging Session

At public EV charging stations, the charging costs will be deducted from the account used to verify the charge.

If the charge was done at home, you would pay for the electricity used. Many utilities offer discounted rates if you schedule charging at off-peak (Time Of Use) times. Find out the best time to charge your EV battery to begin saving.

End The Charging Session

The charging session will be ended under the following circumstances:

  • The end of the charging schedule is reached.
  • The battery level of charge is achieved.
  • You manually stop the charging session using the app or website connection.
  • You stop the charging at the station.

Unplug The Charging Cable

When the charging session is complete, remove the charge lead from the EV and replace it neatly on the supplied holder.

If you are at a public charging station, drive out of the bay to make way for other cars in the queue.

Key Takeaways

It is not a complex process to charge your electric car. Here are the key things to remember

1️⃣ Choose the right charger type based on your car’s battery size and charging needs.

2️⃣ Find a charging station using apps or websites, and check the connector type and charger’s status.

3️⃣ Connect the charging cable, start the charging session, and monitor the progress until it’s finished.

Charging is getting faster, and some stations can charge a car in less than an hour. But not all charging levels (level 1, level 2, and DC fast charging) will achieve that speed.

Specialized apps and websites make it easy to find nearby charging stations and see important information about them.

Before we end, I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with the types of EV charging connectors which can help you select the right station.