Okay, so there are options in vehicle charging. Cheap Level 1 installations, and faster, smarter Level 2 installations (and ones in between). Now, where do I find these charging options, to make an electric vehicle handy? They’re much smaller than gas pumps, so it’s not obvious if you haven’t been looking.
Quick answer: your home, for one. Since personal road vehicles spend the majority of their lives sitting, doing nothing, that’s a natural time to spend charging. Certainly, if you’re spending that time doing nothing but sleeping, then you’re not on public roads, I hope. So, run a cord out to the vehicle (even if you live in many townhouses, brownstones, or apartments near ground). Level 1 charging from a standard home outlet is good enough for a surprisingly large fraction of people, since a surprisingly large fraction goes short enough in a typical day. If you didn’t completely discharge the pack, your sleep and the vehicle’s charge line up quite well. If you want a little more comfort margin, then a dryer or range outlet’s higher voltage and current can be applied to some vehicles with adapters.
Not-as-quick answer: there’s an app for that.
…and both Nissan (CarWings) and Ford (MyFord) have their own software offerings. It’s a good idea to check more than one listing, just in case. However, this is less of a hassle than it sounds, since the majority of people drive in a “home territory” a majority of the time. After the first time or two, you just know.
However, that leads me to the “out of territory” exception: what if you have to make a trip? For a reasonable trip, Level 2 charging can be combined with your work hours, an appointment, a meal, or a plan such as a mall visit or a movie. Plenty of places now offer public charging:
The Big Ones
–Nissan dealerships. To promote the Nissan Leaf, most if not all dealers serve as Level 2 charging points, and free ones at that. Some may get touchy about non-Nissans, but most haven’t, so far. Some may lock up after business hours, hence you should check an app or try the manager if you have no alternative stations. To a lesser extent, some Chevy and Mitsubishi dealers are also equipped with Level 2s.
–Walgreens drugstores. As a chain, Walgreens has taken it upon themselves- chargers have rolled out nationwide. Note, however, that the chargers are run by a contractor, who usually charges some fee. Individual stores also have individual policies on parking spaces.
–Cracker Barrel restaurant/stores. That’s right, Cracker Barrel. Locations are usually along highways, and used to have gas pumps. Now they have chargers, possibly Level 3 (see below). This is especially true in Tennessee. That’s right, Tennessee- home of a Nissan plant, and the TVA.
–Ikea stores. Like Walgreens, the chain policy is some form of charging, even if it’s Level 1. Since people spend hours there, you might as well feed your battery as well as your family.
–Kohl’s department stores. Not every store has chargers, but every store makes sense, at least as much as Walgreens. There are also select Meijer and Macy’s locations with chargers.
–Whole Foods groceries. Again, not every location. But Whole Foods was one of the first, installing chargers back in 2010. Other grocers include some Kroger, Publix, and WalMart/Sam’s Club stores.
Lesser rollouts include the odd Best Buy and Lowe’s big-box retailers, occasional 7-Eleven and Kwik Trip stores, and at least one Muvico theater. Restaurant chains include some McDonald’s (Cary, NC; Huntington, WV; Antioch, CA; Hillsboro, OR; and Gallatin, TN that I know of) some Panera Bread restaurants, and at least one Wendy’s. There are stations in civic parking lots, and the public lots of many train stations. These are all chains, mind you- there are also individual restaurants along…
THE REAL BIG ONE
Interstate 5 (from Canada past Vancouver, to Mexico) is the West Coast Green Highway. At numerous points, you’ll find Level 1, 2, and 3 chargers. Sure, there are still gaps in the quieter parts of California. But Oregon even has stations on highways branching off of I-5. Oregon’s I-5 stations are so numerous, if one charger’s taken or broken, you just go to the next.
A fair number of these WCGH chargers are Level 3- direct-current, high-voltage, super-fast chargers. (Also known as quick chargers or DCQC.) When I say fast, I mean “mostly recharged in under 30 minutes” fast. Right now, the only ones available conform to the “CHAdeMO” specification, agreed upon by Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and their suppliers. But there are competing Level 3 specifications, from a US-German consortium of automakers (“combo plug”) and one lone EV company, Tesla’s SuperCharger. As format wars go, this auto war could turn out to be The Big One…