Seven Ideas for Electric Car Ownership Without Home Charging
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Electric car owners with a 240-volt supply of power in the garage or driveway can refuel a battery-powered vehicle with ease. Plug your car in before going to sleep, and wake up to a full battery in the morning. That beats going to the gas station—for both convenience and cost. But approximately one in four Americans lives in a multi-unit building without a dedicated parking spot, while many home renters have landlords who are reluctant to install EV charging. Are they completely out of luck?
The short answer is no. Here are seven ideas for living with an EV without having access to a home charging station.
1. Make a Plan using PlugShare
If you haven’t done so already, immediately download and fire up the PlugShare app—or go to PlugShare.com. Researching the location of nearby charging stations is the first step toward developing a plan.
- Type in your home address to see the locations of charging stations in your proximity.
- Use the necessary filters to ensure compatibility with your model.
- Find nearby cheap or free public charging stations.
- For charging stations further away, think about locations where you’ll want to spend several hours at a stretch (entertainment, dining, laundromat, Wifi café, etc.)
- Pay close attention to blue-colored icons, which indicate individuals willing to share use of private home-based charging stations. PlugShare provides an easy way to contact those sharers. When contacting individuals on PlugShare, realize that your request for access to a personal charging station—whether for a single session or repeated use—is a big favor. Be open to a generous negotiation to compensate the sharer for the cost of electricity—and the hassle they will experience in accommodating your needs.
2. Talk to the Landlord
The laws in some cities and several states, including California and Hawaii, say that residents of multi-family dwellings have the right to install a charging station so long as they pay for it and indemnify the landlord or home owners' association, as well as taking out a low-cost insurance policy against property damage. Of course, first ask if the landlord or property owner is willing to offer EV charging as a free perk for residents (and for the green cred it will give to the property).
Bear in mind that current California law also stipulates that all new housing construction with four or more off-street parking spaces include at least one EV charging station per every four parking spots. Organizations such as the Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Collaborative provides guidelines, case studies, and useful information for the process of getting owners of existing properties to install charging.
3. Talk to Your Employer
The next best thing to home charging is workplace charging. If your employer has abundant Level 1 or Level 2 charging access, a full day of work might be all you need to keep a decent level of charge on your EV. Maybe your employer believes in sustainability or wants to attract smart, educated green-leaning workers—or market the business is eco-friendly. Use the prevailing economic and environmental arguments to encourage the powers-that-be to install charging equipment or outlets. Of course, if EV trends continue, there will be competition for those charging spots, so you will need redundant access points, and backup plans, to make sure you can charge as needed.
For workplaces where you are not an employee or customer, you might be able to schmooze your way into access with the same generosity you might show personal owners of shared charging stations.
4. Don’t Overlook Level 1 “Trickle-Charging”
Most home charging stations add about 25 miles of range in an hour. While that makes Level 1 charging from a standard 120-volt outlet—which only adds three or four miles per hour—seem slow, you shouldn’t ignore its possibilities. Not having to install a special piece of equipment, but using the 120-volt charging equipment that came with the car (and a long cord), could be sufficient for a pure EV and is usually all that you need with a plug-in hybrid.
Gaining access to a 120-volt outlet for overnight charging (regardless of location) means that you can add as much as 40 or 50 miles of range from the time you park your car in the evening until you need it the next day.
5. Consider Regular Trips to a Quick-Charger
The number of quick chargers—capable of adding 50 to 60 miles of range in less than 30 minutes—is growing every day. Once again, PlugShare can help you find those locations along routes that you frequently drive. There are caveats to frequent quick charging. First, your car has to be equipped with an inlet for DC quick charging. Also, the quick chargers that you are hoping to regularly access need to be compatible with your vehicles QC protocol—such as CHAdeMO, SAE combo connector, or Tesla Supercharger. And in many cases, gaining access to these quick chargers requires membership into a charging network, often with relatively high fees for the bigger and faster jolts of electricity. The exceptions are Tesla Superchargers and local dealerships that have set up free or low-cost charging for its customers.
Public infrastructure for quick charging has grown by leaps and bounds in the past five years. The momentum continues to build. Volkswagen this month announced that it would spend as much as $500 million to build a fast DC charging network on par with Tesla’s Supercharger network. About $40 million will reportedly go to community charging at up to 350 locations in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, and Sacramento. These locations at workplaces, public parking garages, and multi-family residential buildings would get a mix of 150-kilowatt and 50-kilowatt DC chargers plus Level 2 chargers.
6. Look to Emerging Businesses Like PowerTree
In 2014, PowerTree Services—a start-up company in the San Francisco Bay area—introduced a turnkey solution for property owners and tenants to gain access to solar-powered EV charging. Custom-designed services are backed by major partners including Panasonic. Powertree provides all the needed EV charging equipment, including the solar equipment and a battery system—as well as a system to allow the tenant to pay for the juice as a portion of the rent. There are multiple plans, but the goal is for the property owner to offer an attractive (green) service without any hassle or cost, and for tenants to be able to reasonably charge an electric car. It’s a win-win-win situation for landlord, tenant and Mother Earth.
Another growing company is EverCharge, which works with property managers to navigate the complexities of EV charging regulations, permitting, approvals, capacity limitations, and property reimbursements. EverCharge handles everything from insurance and support to maintenance and billing. As the electric car market continues to grow, so will other new businesses. Meanwhile, existing EV charging network companies like SemaConnect and Chargepoint, continue to roll out services designed to serve owners and tenants.
7. Remain Flexible
For most drivers, especially those with home charging stations, the range anxiety of the first week or two of EV ownership fades away. Electric owners quickly realize that 100 or so miles—and certainly the range from big-battery EVs—are more than enough for regular commutes. However, it’s a different proposition for EV owners lacking secure home-based access to charging. You will need to be flexible, creative and combine multiple strategies into a working plan.
Part of your plan will be to stay keenly aware of your car’s state of charge—including its capability to run closer to empty. A gentle driving manner—like staying in the speed limit and avoiding jack-rabbit starts—can go a long way to increasing range. Be aware of seasonal variations in range based on cold or hot weather, and plan accordingly.
Given your need for a charging station when and where you can find it, you are more likely to experience fee-based locations—rather than driving further to the many free stations that still exist. Remember that you are already saving money on lower fuel and maintenance costs—as well as the expense of installing home charging—so pay public charging fees without too much anguish. It’s all part of the experience. And it’s temporary because EVs will soon reach a level of adoption that will bring abundant charging opportunities to everybody—not just those living in a single-family home.
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