A rising number of car buyers are turning to electric cars for their next vehicle, but public charging stations haven’t kept pace with demand. Even the most advanced electric vehicle requires significantly more time to charge than gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles need to refuel.

With many different types of public chargers available and increasing numbers of EV drivers jockeying for the same public Level 2 and Level 3 DC fast chargers, it is important to know about charging manners so you won’t short-circuit if other drivers don’t play by the rules.

Plan Ahead: Know Where to Charge Your EV

Before heading to the charging station, it’s essential to know the specifications of your electric vehicle (EV) such as whether it has DC fast-charge capability.  Even knowing something as simple as the location of the charge port door can save time and hassle.

For local drives in familiar neighborhoods, even a novice electric car owner will soon know where to locate local charging stations and the number of available plug-in points. But trips into unfamiliar areas, it is prudent to plan ahead.

Using the EV’s navigation system is a quick and easy way to find charge points during extended trips. There are also apps from EV charging networks such as EVgo, ChargePoint, and Electrify America that will direct you to compatible charging stations. The same methods apply to locate the nearest Supercharger station for owners of Tesla vehicles and other EVs that have access to the Tesla Supercharger network.

Charging Etiquette Tips

  • Park at the correct plug. When you find a public charging station, make sure you park at the right type of plug-in point. For example, if your vehicle isn’t compatible with DC fast charging, then a Level 2 (240-volt) station is what you’ll need.
  • Avoid skipping the line. Check your surroundings and ensure you didn’t accidentally skip ahead of other EVs waiting their turn.  If someone is waiting ahead of you at an electric car charger it is usually pretty evident.  Don’t be afraid to ask a fellow electric car driver where the line starts or if there is one. 
  • It’s not a resting place. A charging station does not serve as a daylong or overnight resting place for an electric car. An EV owner will often use a charge point as an hours-long parking spot versus a place to recharge and go. Free chargers are especially in high demand. To discourage resting, public charging stations usually charge extra fees if the system detects a car is charged but still docked. Besides, resting for extra-long periods of time tops off the battery, which is not optimal for EV performance.
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    2 hour limit sign

    Pay attention to signs. If a parking sign says there’s a 2-hour limit, abide by the rules. Don’t leave others hanging.  If you cannot abide by the rule, find another charger if less limitations.

  • Resist temptation. Drivers of gas or diesel-powered cars can be the culprit, too. In a crowded parking lot, the sight of any open electric car charging spot can be too tempting for some to resist. It sounds obvious, but if your car isn’t an EV, please don’t park in electric car charging locations. Better yet, consider getting an electric vehicle for yourself!  If you are an EV owner and you find a gas or diesel-powered vehicle in an EV space, check to see if a station attendant is available, alerting them to the situation. But that could potentially get the driver towed or fined. Otherwise, your choices are likely limited to leaving a note on the guilty vehicle’s windshield, preferably one that politely states the given spot is intended for electric vehicle charging.

Charging Guidelines to Follow

  • Be considerate. The golden rule applies to EV charging, too. You’ll encounter times when an electric car camps out at a charge point all day or a fuel-guzzling vehicle parks at a plug-in point. Remember, humans are equally fallible at gas stations. So, don’t expect perfection because you’re driving an electric vehicle.
  • Try not to be impatient.  Sometimes that is easier said than done - especially if cars seem to be left alone and you need to charge and get on your way.  If time is of the essence and there are no other charging stations around, you can tell how much longer an EV needs to charge by reading the digital readout on the charger stating the EV’s current degree of charge and the length of time for its charging. Also, many electric cars boast a visible lighting system with glowing blue or green bars that flash or glow solid during recharging. These can be visible through the windshield or at the plug-in port itself.  This may give an indication how long the car has been charging and, hopefully, if the owner should be returning soon.
  • Never unplug a neighbor. One vital piece of electric car etiquette: Resist unplugging another vehicle. Would you walk up to someone in the middle of refueling with gasoline and take the nozzle away because you’re in a hurry? No matter how tempting, never unplug a vehicle, even when its owner abuses a charging point. It is best to grit your teeth and find an alternative.
  • Emergencies only. If your electric car gets desperately low on battery and there’s nowhere to turn, leave a friendly note explaining the situation should you absolutely need to unplug another vehicle and can’t explain it in person. No one likes to get unplugged. But emergencies happen.
  • Spread some positive EV karma. When using apps like PlugShare or Electrify America, alert other EV owners of any pros and cons at the charging stations you visit. This can alert other drivers to inoperative stations, the rates for charging, and even what amenities might be available (or not) at a given location. Paying it forward to other electric vehicle drivers works best for everyone down the road.
  • Track your progress. Smartphone apps are a great means of tracking your real-time charging progress to see if your electric car is ready to roll or if additional recharge time is needed. This is offered via smartphone apps from electric car charging networks such as ChargePoint, EVgo, and Electrify America. You can also use the apps designed by automakers for their specific EV models.
  • Consider not topping off. The closer your EV’s battery gets to a 100% charge, the slower it takes to gain those last few bars or percentage points of energy. This applies to all charging levels, including Level 3 DC fast chargers. Unless you truly need every ounce of driving range available in your vehicle, consider unplugging your electric vehicle when it has reached 80 percent charge or an acceptable charge level for your immediate driving needs.
  • Leave a note. Many need to step away from their EVs while charging. That’s perfectly acceptable. But if the charging station is bustling with electric cars, it might be a good idea to leave a note saying you made a quick pitstop and will not camp out too long.