How To Use EV Charging Stations?


Most public charging stations make it easy to charge your vehicle and have clearly marked procedures printed on or around the charging station explaining how to use it.

Residential chargers are more straightforward to use, with fewer steps involved. These are described in this article, along with the procedure of commercial stations, so you know what to do when you arrive.

Knowing who makes EV charging stations can be useful when learning how to use them. Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s in this article before we begin.

At a Glance:

1️⃣ There are two levels of charging stations that provide a pratical charge rate (Level 2 and DC Fast Chargers). These can be divided into private and public charging stations.

2️⃣ It’s important that you know how to find public charging stations. Several websites and apps have this information.

3️⃣ You must follow the safety precautions displayed at the charging stations.

How to Use Commercial/ Public Charging Stations

Public charging stations use one of three systems:

  1. Level 2 chargers
  2. DCFC (Direct Current Fast Charge) systems
  3. Tesla Superchargers

The following lists the steps needed to start and complete the charging session.

1️⃣ Find A Charging Station 

There are several methods available to find an EV charging station.

US Department Of Energy

The US Department of Energy has details of all EV charging stations across the country. The information is available free of charge to the public via their website, where you can “drill down” to find the nearest appropriate charging station.

Search can be selected by level of charge (Level 2 or DC Fast Charging) and EV plug type. Familiarizing yourself with the types of EV charging connectors can simplify your experience using EV charging stations.

EV Charging Station Apps

Apps are available that aggregate the list of all charging stations across America, enabling a simple search to find the station nearest you. 

Some of the available apps include:

Some apps only provide proprietary information relating to that network’s charger. We recommend that you use a general app that aggregates charging stations from all of the charging networks.

These apps use the smartphone’s location data to find all the charging stations near your location. 

ChargeFinder is an independent app that sorts stations by charging capacity, where orange locations are level 2 chargers and blue chargers are fast chargers.

ChargeFinder displays unique icons for Tesla Superchargers and Ionity fast chargers.

Most apps also provide a navigation routing facility where users can plan a trip to ensure an optimum number of charging stations en route.

2️⃣ Verify The Charging Station Status

Most apps will also show whether the charge stations are available or not.

Some proprietary apps enable the user to book a charging slot. Near the time of the booked charge, the app will disable the charging station until the user arrives for the scheduled appointment.

3️⃣ Check The Charge Station Compatibility

The apps and the US Department of Energy website provide a list of charging stations that can be filtered by the following criteria:

  • Connector plug type
  • Charging station size

Connector Plug Type

Level 2 (AC) charging stations use J1772 connector plugs.

DCFC (Direct Current Fast Charge) stations use the following connectors:

  • CCS – this plug combines the J1772 connection with two high-speed charging pins
  • CHAdeMO plugs
  • Tesla Plugs

The apps provide information regarding the connection types available at the selected charging station.

Charging Station Size

The higher the charge station capacity (kW), the faster the charge. 

EVs have advanced battery management systems (BMS) that automatically control the rate of charge that the battery can accept (acceptance rate). 

If the charge rate provided by the charging station is higher than the EV will accept, the BMS will reduce it to an acceptable level.

4️⃣ Connect Your EV

Assuming you have found a suitable charging station, it is time to pull up in front of one of the charging ports.

Exit the car and check that the charger is operational and working.

Open the charging port on your EV. Plug the connector plug into the charging point on the EV. If you drive a Tesla and are not at a Tesla Supercharger, use the adaptor that came with the EV.

First, connect the charging cable to the adaptor and plug it into the EV charging port.

5️⃣ Initiate The Charging Session

Read and follow all the safety instructions detailed on the charging station.

Once the cable is connected to the EV, several ways exist to authenticate yourself and start charging.

Most charging stations will accept the following verification methods:

  • Swiping a registered RFID keycard.
  • Scanning a QR CODE from the EV charging station app.
  • The controls at the charging station enable the payment information and the charge to be initiated.
  • Activate the charging session by following the instructions on the charging station.
  • On some proprietary apps, the charging process can be initiated on the app.

With DCFC units do not charge beyond 80% as the rate of charge reduces significantly and it costs more. In addition, it holds up EVs in the queue behind you. 

6️⃣ Monitor The Charging Progress

Ensure that the charge has started and that current is being passed between the charging station and the car.

If there is an onsite convenience store or you need bathroom facilities, you can slip away and do what you need. Monitor the charging progress to ensure the battery is charging properly.

7️⃣ End The Charging Session

Once the charge is completed, the session will end. Follow the instructions on the charger, which will normally be a reverse sequence of the steps used to start the charge.

If you end the charging session, this can be done in the app or by pressing the relevant button on the charging station (Some charging stations use a keycard.)

To complete the process, you need to do the following:

  1. Disconnect the car from the charger (Your EV may require you to unlock the charger plug from the EB dashboard before removing it.)
  2. Replace the chargers plug in the holster (normally on the side of the charging station)
  3. Close the charging port cover on your EV.

Do not let the charge complete while you are not at the car. 

Not only is this discourteous to other people in the queue, but most charging stations will charge a penalty for the idle time the vehicle is plugged in after the charge has been completed.

8️⃣ Pay For The Charging Session

Payment will be processed using the same method indicated when the charging session starts.

9️⃣ Leave The Charging Station

Since 2018 it has been an offense to leave a car parked at an EV station when it is not being charged. 

To comply with the law and as a courtesy to other cars in the queue, drive away from the charging station parking when the charge is completed.

How to Use Residential/Home Chargers

To charge at home, you’ll need a level 1 or 2 charging station, so you might want to consider installing one in your garage.

Assuming that a Level 2 charging station is available, the process to follow at a home charging station is as follows.

1️⃣ Install A Home Charging Station

Decide on the charging station that is optimal for your needs. When selecting a level 2 charger, check that it provides sufficient charge for a full day of regular commuting.

Take note of the following:

  • If it is a plug-in device and assuming there are correct capacity outlets at home, it does not need an electrician to connect.
  • If a hardwired (fixed line) connection is chosen, it must be installed by a professional electrician.
  • If the unit is installed outside, an electrician must install it.

2️⃣ Sign Up For All Available Incentives And Rebates

Check and sign up for all rebates that are available for purchasing, installing, and running a level 2 charger.

Possible rebates include the following:

  • Federal government rebates to install a level two charger at home.
  • Your state may offer rebates to buy and install a level 2 charger.
  • Incentives offered by your electrical utility that may reduce the cost of charging (including Time Of Use (TOU) discounts and further rebates for the purchase of the units, etc.

3️⃣ Plug In Your EV

The level 2 charger is purchased and installed, and you have signed up for the rebates – now you can start to charge your EV from the comfort of your home.

There are two types of charging that you may engage in:

  1. Regularly scheduled charging (where you take advantage of TOU discounts)
  2. Ad-hoc charging outside of your schedule.

The only difference is that with scheduled charging, you plug the charger in, but the system does not transfer current until the scheduled charging time. With ad-hoc charging, the system starts immediately.

The process to follow is listed below.

  1. Open the charging port on your EV and plug the connector in.
  2. If you drive a Tesla, you must use the standard adaptor to fit the J1772 plug.
  3. If you are charging the EV according to a schedule, you must set the time parameters.
  4. If you have a SMART charger, the schedules can be set up on the system (or its app).
  5. If your charger does not have a scheduling facility, you can set the EVs own system to accept the charge during the schedule.

4️⃣ Initiate The Charging Session 

Once you have set the schedule and plugged the EV in, simply activate the charging station by following the manufacturer’s instructions.

5️⃣ Monitor The Charging Progress

Until you get used to the speed at which the unit charges the EV battery, it’s a good idea to monitor the charge rate and battery level.

Most SMART chargers enable access through an App or website. Using these facilities, you can remotely check on the charging progress.

This is particularly important if there is a disruption to the power supply. Many chargers will shut down and not automatically restart when power is restored.

If the power is disrupted, be ready to restart the charging session when the power has been restored.

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6️⃣ End The Charging Session

The charging session will be stopped in the following circumstances:

  • It reaches the end of the charging schedule.
  • The battery reaches the set charge percentage.
  • You discontinue the charging session using the app or website connection.
  • You manually deactivate the charging station at the station.

7️⃣ Disconnect Your EV

Once the charging session is stopped, unplug the charger, and remember to neatly store the charging cable (cable storage devices normally form part of charging stations). Close the charging point access door.

Key Takeaways

Using charge stations is generally an intuitive process, and the steps that should be followed follow a natural sequence. Let’s recap quickly:

There are two broad categories of chargers (public and private.)

Within these, there are two levels of chargers that charge at a realistic rate (Level 2 and DCFC.)

Using the chargers is generally very easy and requires following easy-to-understand steps detailed by the manufacturer.

You must be considerate of other EV drivers that may be queuing behind you at a public charging station.

Understanding the process of EV charging will help you use EV charging stations more effectively