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How to Find EV Charging Stations

The best charging solution for electric vehicles is a home charger for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it is the most practical and cost-effective method of refueling and that public options in the US are still inaccessible and lack a variety of networks, capabilities, and payment options. But whether you wish to travel outside of your range comfort zone or you simply find yourself with an unexpected need for juice, you will eventually require a public charger. In that situation, there are numerous services and apps that may assist you in finding a fast boost or planning a longer getaway.

Automaker Apps and Software

The first source of assistance is the car, some of which are excellent and others of which are developing. Tesla’s own app, in-car software, and huge network of Supercharger and Destination charging stations come the closest to a flawless all-in-one experience. Within the Tesla ecosystem, owners of Tesla vehicles may locate charging, locate fast-charging sites (including real-time availability), plan routes that include charging stops, and plug in and pay (at a fixed cost). Although it isn’t ideal, it is unquestionably the most developed fusion of app functionality with a DC fast-charging network and payment simplification.

Other EV automakers are working quickly to develop comparable experiences with the EV software and applications for their brands. In order to establish ad hoc networks under their unique brand names, they are negotiating agreements with fee-based network partners. The goal is to create a full OEM app and in-car software that can offer real-time station availability, route planning assistance depending on the car’s charge level, and a quick, automatic payment process at the charging station. It’s a communication protocol, more widespread in Europe presently than in the US, that enables one-click (or no-click) convenience for charging and paying at EV charging stations. The majority of automobile systems, despite their quick evolution, are still under development, so you’ll need some extra support.

Individual Charging Network Apps

To discover and utilize their chargers, each charging network has its own app with registration and payment processes. Users would probably want at least a few to supplement the apps made by the carmaker or by third parties. ChargePoint has the most public charging stations overall in the United States, followed by EVgo and Electrify America, who have a significant number of DC fast chargers, many of which are located at destinations and along major thoroughfares. In some areas, Volta Charging is installing chargers at retail locations that provide free Level 2 charging for 30 minutes or more (a pair closest to my D.C. home offers two hours). In addition to its vast network, ChargePoint boasts one of the easiest-to-use apps, providing information on busiest periods at stations, the actual availability of chargers, and a queue option. When installing network apps to your smartphone, there are additional factors to take into account, such as choosing a network with chargers that are close to your house or regular routes. Across the country, chargers are not spread uniformly. For instance, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center of the Department of Energy, California was home to 31.4% of all public chargers in the United States as of August 2021.

Third-Party Options

Even though some of the network-branded apps mentioned above do assist you in locating chargers for different networks, you should probably supplement your network-specific informational resources. There are numerous, some with unique specialties or advantages. Here are a few things you may start with:

  • apple and google maps You already have a fast way to look for charging on your phone. You may look for charging stations nearby or close to another area using Google Maps or Apple Maps, and they both offer some station details including network, access, and directions. Despite being quick and simple, I’ve found that both frequently miss some of the chargers in my neighborhood and leave out crucial information. For example, a charger close to me in a parking garage does not indicate how much it costs to enter the garage and lists it as having 24-hour access without mentioning that it is closed on Sundays.
  • An Improved Route Planner. The modestly called app can help you plan a trip, including breaks for charging, and easily modify it on the fly if traffic, weather, or other variables change your original plans. The free version of the program can be sufficient for sporadic use; a premium version ($5 per month) adds more features like real-time weather. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are compatible with the app.

  • PlugShare. This helpful and well-liked free app—seven out of ten EV owners, according to the company—maps and aggregates information on stations from the majority of public charging networks, as well as off-network chargers and privately owned residential chargers that owners are willing to share. Filtering options for charging networks, plug types, power outputs, whether a garage location requires payment for admission, and local facilities like Wi-Fi, restaurants, shops, and restrooms are among the many possibilities available. Additionally, it indicates if the station is in use where data is available and enables app users to share photographs and additional information (useful if the charger is hidden in an obscure corner of a parking structure). Consider the app as a hybrid of Wikipedia and TripAdvisor for chargers, where users may modify station details, flag broken ports, and score their overall experience. Additionally, the app permits payment at outlets that utilize its Pay with PlugShare feature (you can filter for that, too). A trip-planning component has been added, and the app is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but with certain restrictions for use in the dash. It should be noted that the charging network EVgo recently purchased the business that created this app, but the companies claim that PlugShare, which has been independent for more than ten years, will continue to function as an independent information source. The ChargeHub app is a free alternative with comparable features and a comparable vibrant user base.
  • Hotels EV If you travel frequently, have strong hotel preferences, or want to remain within a specific hotel chain’s brands to boost your rewards points, this app’s current pricing of $2.99 might be justified. In addition to filtering by other criteria like plug type or power level, it especially discovers charging outlets at hotels that are occasionally challenging to locate in other apps. The ability to look for chargers within a certain walking distance of a hotel you would like but doesn’t have on-site charging is another helpful tool.

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