Seven Ideas for Electric Car Ownership Without Home Charging

By · April 23, 2019

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Tesla Model X at the Vanguard condominiums in Toronto, Canada.

Tesla Model X at the Vanguard condominiums in Toronto, Canada. (Image courtesy of Devron Developments.)

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 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, indicate 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 homeowners' 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 that 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 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 as 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.

Installing an EV charger in a mutli-family residence

It doesn’t hurt to ask. See if the property owner is willing to offer EV charging.

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 some customers.

Public infrastructure for quick charging has grown by leaps and bounds in the past five years. The momentum continues to build. Volkswagen's Electrify America is building a fast DC charging network that's on par with Tesla’s Supercharger network but open to all EV drivers.

6. Look to Emerging Businesses

An expanding number of start-up companies are offering turnkey solutions for property owners and tenants to gain access to EV charging. For example, EverCharge 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.

Another start-up called Envoy not only provides the charging but also on-demand shared electric vehicles. Envoy cars are located in dedicated parking spaces at apartment complexes, hotels, workplaces and more. They provide a turnkey solution that includes EV infrastructure and an all-electric fleet, entirely accessible via a mobile app.

7. Remain Flexible

For most drivers, especially those with home charging stations, the range anxiety of the first week or two of EV ownership quickly fades away. Electric owners quickly realize that the range from today's 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 increase 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.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.