My First Time Charging an EV

It was eye-opening to see how easy it was to charge an electric car at public stations. I had read and written extensively about charging stations, chargers, and other details about EV charging. However, it is not always easy to try something new with your hands in the real-world.

You can read my experience using electric car charging stations for first time.

Locating EV Charger Locations

According to the U.S. Department of Energy more than 80% of electric vehicle owners charge at home. Some employers offer charging stations at their company parking lots. And a growing number of public chargers are available for EV drivers when they’re out and about running errands or when traveling away from home.

A few charging stations are located near my Atlanta suburbs neighborhood. There were chargers available in two nearby parking lots for shopping centers. My electricity provider also offers public chargers in its office, which I learned a long time ago.

Before I took a 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV on a test drive, I did some research. searchable map of almost 48,000 U.S. station locations on the DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center website. It turns out that there are more charging options near me than I knew of — and there are other apps to locate them.

It’s possible to get Level 2 charging free of charge

My first charging spot was in a parking area at a shopping mall with a grocery shop and other storefronts. It has two Level 2 charging units, which are free to use. I pulled into a spot and both were there.

Level 2 chargers provide the same voltage (220-240-volt) as a residential electric clothes dryer. The chargers can charge at approximately 6 kilowatts (6 kW), which adds about 20-25 miles to the Bolt’s range per hour.

The charging cord felt more heavy than a gas hose. The connector type was the J1772 type. I opened the Bolt’s charging port door on the left front panel and snapped the connecter into place. It wasn’t difficult, but the cord is more rigid than a gas hose, so my first try wasn’t as smooth as wielding a gas pump nozzle. The charging station’s digital screen said it was working, as did the car’s information display. I went to the grocery shop to buy a few items.

My quick shopping trip took only 15 minutes. The car’s lithium-ion battery gained 5 miles of range while I shopped inside the store.

Free Level 3 Charging

2022 EV battery charging status on the Chevy Bolt

My next charging session was at Level 3 charger. These fast chargers (DCFCs, or DC fast chargers) provide between 400 volts and 900 volts of power and can charge at 50 kW. There are many factors that affect charging speeds. Chevy claims that the Bolt can travel up to 100 miles per hour in just 30 minutes. A Level 3 DC fast charger.

The station I visited is located on the property of my electricity provider. It uses a system that is shaped like a flower to generate electricity for the EV charging station. Visitors can charge their electric vehicles free of charge at the solar flower garden.

The Bolt’s battery received 11.7 kWh to reach the recommended 80% capacity. The charge added 35 miles to the range in 25 minutes of fast charging — with no fee. I could have enjoyed a picnic at the solar flowers, if I had brought my lunch.

Important EV Charging Lessons Learned

These are some valuable lessons from an experienced electric car driver who was charging at this station. His assumption that this was my first time charging an EV wasn’t too far off. Because I was fiddling with my phone to install an application, he assumed I was a newbie at charging.

EV Charging Apps

I was wrongly under the impression that EV charging apps were only for regular chargers. This is similar to the loyalty programs offered by many retailers. That’s not the case. Instead, different networks maintain charging stations — akin to gas stations of the same brand.

Shortly after I arrived, the Nissan Leaf driver pulled up at the station. He said that the apps are required for payment and not to earn perks. Electrify America and EVgo are just a couple of the major networks operating in the EV charging market. These companies’ apps allow their users to wirelessly pay for the energy they receive from the charging stations.

Even if there isn’t a fee, as is the case at my power company, apps are often needed to initialize the charging session. I now have four EV charging applications installed on my smartphone so I can use most of the stations in my area. The grocery store station where I had my first EV charging experience wasn’t networked, so no app or registration was needed.

Charging Dos and Don’ts

The enthusiastic EV driver at a solar flower garden charger shared other insights. He briefed me on charging etiquette — use common sense, be friendly, and don’t leave your car in a charging spot longer than you need to.

He also warned me about being “ICEd.”This is the situation in which an internal combustion engine car uses the designated parking space for EV charging.

Fast Charging for a Fee

2022 Chevy Bolt at a DC fast charger

I stopped at another station the next day to test fee-based fast charging via another network. This charging session cost $6.63 and delivered 11.1 kWh in 21 minute. The range increased was 23 miles. The location was convenient. The location was convenient. There was a coffee shop, pizza, fast-food, ice cream, and book store within a short distance.

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