Planning your first big road trip in your shiny new electric car it’s easier than ever. Modern electric vehicles can go further between charges and can recharge their batteries faster than previous generations. DC fast charging networks have also become faster, more reliable and more widespread. And there are better tools available to help drivers find those stations wherever they are.
But if you’re new to electric cars, learning the ins and outs of fast DC charging can make your big American road trip run smoothly and anxiety-free. This is what you need to know before you go.
What type of connector does your vehicle use?
The first thing you’ll want to know is what type of DC fast charging jack your electric car uses. This will determine, for the most part, what kind of fast charging stations you will have access to. For most non-Tesla EVs, you’ll most likely look for a combo charging system or CCS port that can connect to networks like Electrify America (EA) or EVGo. Meanwhile, tesla the cars use their own North American Charging Standard (NACS) port that works with their Supercharger network.
Recently, Tesla has opened its cargo standard and a part of the supercharging network for electric vehicles outside its brand. This prompted a wave of car manufacturers (and even an electric motorcycle builder) to announce compatibility via an adapter and many went so far as to announce plans to switch directly to Tesla’s NACS port on its future EVs, something to keep in mind for years to come.
Plus, there’s a third DC fast charging standard to look out for, the old ChaDeMo connection. Today the thick port is only found in aging electric nissan leaf and, when that model is removed In the next years, ChaDeMo will leave with that.
How fast does your EV charge?
The next thing you’ll want to find out is the charging rate supported by your EV’s on-board charger. Every electric car has a kind of electronic speed limit, measured in kilowatts, that dictates how fast its battery pack can absorb power from a DC fast charging station. This number isn’t constant throughout the state of charge, it’s more of a charging curve that varies based on multiple factors, but that’s okay. All you really need to know is the theoretical maximum charging speed, which will dictate which stations will provide an optimal charging experience close to what the automaker advertises.
For example, to take advantage of the faster charging of 225 kW in the porsche taycan go from 10% to 80% in 21 minutes or the KIA EV6For the 233 kW 18-minute charge, you’ll need to connect to a charging station that can reach its full speed. That means looking for a 350 kW EVGo or EA station. Charging on a 150 kW socket will add minutes to your charging time, although in practice not enough to avoid them.
Most EVs on the market tend to hang out in the 120 to 150 kW sweet spot where most mains chargers are also found. However, some older or cheaper electric vehicles may charge slower. He chevrolet bolt – the cheapest EV you can buy today – has a maximum DC charging rate of around 55 kW, which is essentially the minimum to be considered “fast charging”. Almost any station on the grid will saturate that speed 10-80% in 1 hour, so there is no benefit in looking for a faster 350 kW plug.
How much to charge?
You’ll notice I’m giving 10-80% load times instead of 0-100%. That is for two reasons. First, you should ideally never find yourself at a charging station with a totally flat battery. Also, as I mentioned, the charge rate for most EVs varies by state of charge, and for most cars, charging outside of the sweet spot of 10-80% is significantly slower.
An electric vehicle that takes 30 minutes to charge to 80% can take up to an hour longer to reach 100%. That’s why many car manufacturers and most charging station operators recommend getting back on the road at 80% as the most efficient use of your time.
Where to collect?
Now that you know which connector your car uses and what charging speeds to look for, you’ve got what you need to find and filter DC fast charging stations along your route. This can sometimes be done with the software built into your electric car’s dashboard, with the most advanced systems capable of automatically planning and suggesting routes based on your destination and driving habits, and the best of these offering live feedback. about the status and availability of the charger.
Tesla, for example, can offer a deep level of integration between its vehicles and the Supercharger network, giving its drivers the confidence to hit the road and trust that the car and the network will coordinate to tell them when and where to charge. Mercedes Benz it also offers detailed live charger data, but the consistency of that data may vary between the multiple charging networks it supports.
Getting familiar with your chosen charging network’s mobile app (be it EA, EVGo, Blink, or Tesla) is also a great way to find stations. Apps like PlugShare and A Better Route Planner, which I’ll talk about later, can be useful for aggregating station data for multiple charging networks, but you’ll probably need each network’s native apps to authenticate and start your charging session, and which should ensure the most up-to-date information on charging rates, availability and cost.
How much will it cost?
The good news is that many new EVs include some form of discounted or subsidized DC fast charging plan. So if you stay within the supported network, the upload could be completely free. Ford, for example, offers 250 kilowatt-hours of free Electrify America charging sessions with its Mach E and Lightning, Kia offers 1,000 kWh, and Mercedes-Benz offers unlimited free 30-minute sessions for the first two years of ownership.
But what about beyond the free trial or EVs that don’t qualify? In some states, charging networks charge by the kilowatt-hour; in others, the laws require charging by the minute. Either way, rates can vary by region, network, or even the time of day. EVGo, for example, has different prices for peak, off-peak, and early bird periods. Additionally, some charging networks also charge a small fee at the start of each session and an inactivity fee if you leave your EV plugged in for an extended period after charging (usually after around 10 minutes).
My California household is one state per kWh with Electrify America prices in my region averaging around $0.48/kWh, well above the state average of around $0.30 I get at home. Which means a 20-80% charge on our long-term Kia EV6 test car is around $26.
Or at least, it was before I started taking advantage of EA’s membership program. Some charging networks offer subscription services that, for a monthly fee, grant access to discounted charging rates. So, for $4 a month, the Electrify America Pass Plus program brings the cost down to $0.36 per kWh, or about $18 for a 20-80% charge on the same Kia, paid for in just one session. EVGo has multiple membership levels that remove session fees and unlock discounts and the ability to reserve a charger.
A better route planner
If you’re the type of person who likes to plan before you hit the road, I also recommend checking out A Better Route Planner.
Available as a web or mobile app, ABRP allows users to input their vehicle type, charging status, starting point and destination, returning a detailed road map complete with where and how long each charging stop should be. Users can customize how low their charge can go, how much range they would like to go with, and which charging networks they prefer.
The basic features of the service are free, but a paid premium subscription level enables even more advanced route planning features and compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, bringing your great EV road trip planning to the dashboard. As a frequent long-haul traveler, I think the ease of use and peace of mind is well worth the $5/month or $50/year (around $5.43-$54.30 at time of publication), especially if you only pay monthly what do you need. I will be traveling
Armed with what you need to know about DC fast charging, you should be ready to hit the road in your electric car. Consult our list of The best electric vehicles you can buy today and our guide to maximizing your range for more information.