All Charged Up

Owning an electric vehicle (EV) these days isn’t any more complicated than owning a gasoline one. In fact, the argument could be made that it’s easier from a “fuel” perspective. While refueling gasoline vehicles require a stop at the pump to top up or fill the tank, the same can be accomplished with an EV by simply plugging it in.

You can recharge using a simple wall socket or a charging station, generally called an Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). The time it takes to fully charge is based on three things: how fast the vehicle can accept a charge; the level – or speed – of the charger; and, the size of and how “full” the battery is. Currently, there are three different levels of charging stations available in Canada. Level 1 charging is essentially plugging your car into an ordinary household outlet. All EVs come standard with a cord-set that plugs into a regular wall socket. This is the slowest speed of charging and is generally the least demanding on the electricity service, and ensures that no matter where you are, you can always recharge. The home is the most popular place to charge an EV; surveys show that between 60 and 80% of charging is done at home. This charging is mostly done overnight as it takes a bit longer to “fill the tank” and electrical costs are at their lowest overnight. City driving and commutes to and from work generally will not drain a tank, so plugging in overnight is enough to refuel for the next day.

Level 2 is becoming more and more common as EV owners install Level 2 charging stations at home and many businesses install them for employees and/or customers. Level 2 stations have similar electrical requirements to a stove or clothes dryer and will fully charge your EV in three to eight hours. Many provinces offer rebates to subsidize the cost of charging stations making them an affordable option for both homeowners and businesses. The Province of Ontario offers 50% off the purchase of a home charging station (maximum $500) and 50% off the installation (max. $500); it is of course very important to have a qualified electrical contractor do the installation to ensure safe installation and compliance with electrical safety and building codes.

Charging in public is becoming more accessible as businesses make stations available to employees and customers and as the network of public charging stations continues to grow. Next to charging at home, charging at work is the most popular place EV owner’s fuel up. In addition to this option, the network of public charging stations in cities and along major highways all over Canada continues to expand. This allows those who do not have a garage or live in developments that might regulate the use of common element electricity to charge up in public stations. Level 2 chargers are the most common but more and more Level 3 chargers are being installed. Level 3, also known as DC-Quick or Fast Charging (DCFC), will recharge your battery from empty to 80% or more in 30-45 minutes. DC-Quick charges are common especially along major highways and serve as an EVs version of a service station, allowing you to fill up while driving longer distances.

Public EVSEs have different owners, and are either free or pay-per-use. While a station may allow you to charge for free, they, like the pay-per-use ones, may require subscription to the EVSE owner’s network program to access or may be located in parking lots with associated parking fees. The costs for pay-per-use vary from location to location as there is currently no industry standard. Typically, Level 2 stations cost $2.50 flat or $1.00/hour and Level 3 stations cost an average of $15.00/hour. Public charging stations are becoming easier to find with many websites, such as CAA, offering searchable lists and maps.

All this talk of charging might have you thinking EVs are meant only for short commutes or city driving. This isn’t true at all. As mentioned, Level 3 stations can be found along major highways throughout Canada and this network is constantly expanding. While trip planning is important in order to take advantage of the many charging stations along the route, the same argument could be made for non-electric vehicles since running out of gasoline will leave you equally stranded. By taking advantage of information online, such as the CAA website, you can note locations, fees and availability along your chosen route. And as EVs evolve, the battery range just continues to improve, allowing you to drive further without charging. With the many public charging sites available in cities and on major highways, there is no reason an EV cannot be used for an enjoyable road trip, so buckle up!