An Overview of Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations

By Kristi Brodd | November 1, 2020

Historic Electric Vehicle

In the early 20th century, electric vehicles (EVs) made up close to 40 percent of the U.S. vehicle market. They were smooth and easy to drive, and they silently zipped around cities. Despite their early success, though, they began to disappear from the streets after just several years.

As roadways improved beyond city limits, people wanted to get out and explore, and EVs were not an ideal fit. At the same time, gasoline cars were improving and becoming more accessible and affordable. By 1930, EVs had mostly vanished from roads.

Interest made a bit of a resurgence in the mid- to late-1900s, but it wasn’t until recently that a more substantial EV push developed. EVs were reintroduced to the U.S. market in 2010, and each year more shoppers are choosing to forgo gasoline models for new battery-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Battery-electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Model 3, are powered solely by electricity stored in a battery pack. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, like the Toyota Prius Prime, have a smaller battery pack and travel shorter distances on electricity but have a gasoline engine for backup.

Switching from a gas pump to a charging cord can be a big decision, but more than 1.5 million drivers across the U.S. have already made the swap, and there are numerous reasons to do so. For example, you’ll save money on fuel and maintenance (electricity prices are cheaper and more stable than gasoline, and EVs have fewer parts), get a fun driving experience (EVs have instant torque and offer an exciting yet quiet ride), and support the environment and cleaner air (EVs produce no tailpipe emissions when driving on electricity).

Plugging in to Fuel

EV owners have flexibility when it comes to charging their vehicle. Most charging occurs at home, but there are also tons of public charging stations throughout the country.

Charging is often categorized into three levels: Level 1, Level 2 and DC fast charge. All EVs come with an adapter to plug into a standard 120-volt outlet, which is known as Level 1 charging. Level 1 charging provides the slowest charge, around three to five miles of range per hour.

Many EV drivers opt for a Level 2 charging setup at home. Level 2 charging uses a 240-volt outlet and provides 12 to 60 miles of range per hour. Level 2 charging stations are also commonly found in public locations, including shopping centers, downtown communities, multifamily housing and workplaces. They are a great option for areas where people may be parked for a few hours.

DC fast charge stations provide the quickest charge, adding about 60 to 80 miles of range in 20 minutes. DC fast charging is usually located in high-traffic public spots and along highway corridors.

There are multiple apps and websites that drivers can use to locate public charging stations in a specific region or on a travel route. Popular examples include the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center and PlugShare.

The Future is Electric

EVs have come a long way in the last decade. All major car manufacturers now offer or are developing electric models, and they’re arriving with longer ranges and lower price tags. In the coming years, EV and charging station growth is expected to continue, allowing people to travel the country cleanly and quietly with plenty of options to plug in along the way.