Panic was setting in. Years ago, I was driving a first-generation Nissan Leaf, with my wife and two kids aboard, after dark. We had 20 miles to go before reaching home, and the Leaf was telling me it had 31 miles worth of juice left before the battery would be empty. And there was a mountain range between our home and us.
We made it, the Leaf displaying 6 miles of charge left when I plugged it into the Level 1 120-volt outlet on our porch, and then went inside for a cocktail to soothe my frazzled nerves.
“Range anxiety” is the emotion electric vehicle (EV) owners experience when their car’s battery is running low and they’re not sure where they can go to recharge. It’s not fun. Especially when your family is with you, it’s dark out, and mostly rural highway stretches between you and your destination.
How to Find an Electric Vehicle Charger
Range anxiety isn’t as much of a problem in 2019 as it was half a decade ago. Here’s why:
- EVs offer significantly more range than that first-generation Leaf, with many models offering 225 miles or more of driving range.
- The network of charging stations has grown, making it easier to find one when you need one
- Both vehicle telematics services and smartphone apps can show you where the closest charging stations are, what type of connector they require, and whether they are available to use.
Typically, but not always, EV charging stations are located at or near shopping centers, business parks, municipal buildings, and commuter park-and-ride lots. While you can guess with some degree of accuracy that these locations will provide access to a charging station, it is best to consult your vehicle telematics system or a smartphone app to be sure.
What’s a telematics system? Think OnStar from General Motors, or Blue Link from Hyundai. These are subscription-based services that can help to make your life safer and easier. And they can help you to find an electric vehicle charger.
The photo above shows the infotainment screen of a 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Electric. When equipped with the Guidance Package of Blue Link services, which is free for three years with Limited trim and costs $99 annually with base trim, the car can locate a charging station and program the navigation system to take you there.
Smartphone Apps Make EV Ownership Easier
As useful as Blue Link might be, most people likely prefer to use a smartphone app to find an electric car charging station.
Some of these, like PlugShare, simply help you to find a charger based on the type of connector with which your EV is equipped. Others, like ChargePoint, will help you to find a charging station and allow you to activate the charger and pay for the electricity using the app. You’ll also get a notification letting you know the car’s battery is charged.
EVgo is a company specializing in Level 3 DC fast chargers that can give your car an 80% charge in as little as 30 minutes, depending on your vehicle and its battery capacity. It offers a pay-as-you-go model, as well as a subscription model providing discounted rates and free charging minutes. The app also tells you whether or not a nearby station is open and available, and works to find Level 2 chargers, too.
When searching for electric car charging stations, one thing to remember is that the Tesla Supercharger network is only for Tesla Model 3, Model S, and Model X owners. The charging connectors are specific to these three models, so even if you tried to use one, you wouldn’t be able to.
Range Anxiety is a Thing of the Past
Last year, I had to drive a Kia Soul EV across metropolitan Los Angeles from Orange County to Ventura County. At rush hour. On a hot Friday afternoon. The Soul EV’s official range was 115 miles, and the journey was 84 miles. That left some cushion, though with mountains to traverse and the need to use the air conditioning, the trip could induce range anxiety.
That didn’t happen. Southern California, compared to most areas of the country, has plenty of charging stations, making it relatively easy to find one that’s open. Plus, I didn’t have to be home at a specific time, which certainly helped keep range anxiety at bay. If the charge got low, I’d whip out my smartphone, consult my EVgo app, and grab half an hour of charging along the way if need be.
As it turned out, the Soul EV made it home with plenty of range to spare.