Electric Car Charging | Shelter Insurance®

Charging an Electric Car

Image: Man standing at electric car charging station while it charges

Time for a new car? If you're looking for something fuel efficient, you might be considering an electric vehicle (EV). There are certainly more on the road than there used to be. Because an EV is battery-operated, it does require charging, and that takes a lot more time than filling up at a gas station. Even rapid charging points can take up to a half hour to get an EV battery up to an 80% charge. Depending on the type of charging station, it can take 30 minutes to 12 hours to charge an EV.

Different Levels of Charging
There are three different charging levels for EVs:

  • Level 1 (120 volt) – Look at the outlets in your home. Chances are they are all the standard 120-volt outlet that you use for your lamps, TVs, hair dryer, etc. You can plug an EV in to this type of outlet, but you will probably have to charge it overnight to get a full charge. On the upside, electricity is cheaper per kilowatt hour (kWh) at night because demand is usually lower.
  • Level 2 (240 volt) – Have you ever noticed that the outlet you plug your dryer into looks a little different from the others? It's because it's a 240 volt outlet. If you have a 240 volt outlet in your garage, you can plug your EV into it and charge it in half the time. If you have a home charging station for your EV or take it to a public charging station, you are likely plugging in to a 240 volt outlet.
  • Direct Current (DC) Fast Charging – DC fast charging is only available through certain public sites because they require dedicated high-power lines. This is the fastest way to charge an EV.

Consider Your Lifestyle
The mileage you get out of a tank of gas in a gas-powered vehicle varies, and depends on the size of the vehicle, driving habits, air pressure of the tires and more. EVs are no different. There are various factors that determine how far you can go on a single charge, but most average anywhere from 112.5 miles-142 miles. If you drive a lot and only plug in to a 120-volt outlet at home, you might want to count on plugging it in every night before you go to bed so it's ready to go the next day. If you have a 240-volt outlet, you could plug it in when you get home and unplug it before you go to bed to have a full charge the next day. If you don't think you'll remember to do that, you might be better off with a hybrid or a gas-powered car that gets good mileage.

If you are going on a road trip, or even visiting a town that's 100 miles away, you'll have to plan your route and find out where there are charging stations along the way. Fortunately, there are apps for that. Some are free, and some charge. If you can't be certain you'll find charging stations on your trip, you might want to rent a car instead.

Cost of Charging
Again, a lot goes into the average annual cost of charging an EV. According to pluginamerica.org, the average cost of electricity in the US is 12 cents per kWh. If you drive your EV 15,000 miles a year on average, your electric bill will increase about $540 a year. Compare that to how much you would have spent on gas in a year when you consider the increase.

Some EV drivers have installed Level 2 charging stations at their homes. You get a faster charge that way, but on average, installation costs about $674, which you should factor in to the cost of owning an EV. Solar EV charging stations may qualify for cash rebates and a 30% federal tax credit to help offset the cost, but those are still very costly to install and would need to be included to get a picture of your true cost of EV ownership.

You can sometimes find free public charging stations, which would reduce the cost of charging your EV. Other charging stations charge a fee, and some require an upfront membership fee.

More employers are installing charging stations in the parking lot. It might be worth it to see if your employer has plans to do that in the future. If more charging stations are available and the cost of charging stays low, EVs may become an attractive transportation alternative for drivers in the U.S.

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