Electric Vehicle Buyer's Guide

  A 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E and a Ford F-150 LightningTM are being 
charged in a garage at night while a man stands on a balcony looking at a
woman below, who is looking back at the man.

One of the many benefits of owning an all-electric vehicle (EV) is that you'll never need to visit a gas station. And charging it is as simple as plugging in a power cord, just like any other household electronic device.

But since electric vehicles are essentially a complex, self-contained power plant, there's value in understanding the various aspects that affect charging performance, battery health, and cost of ownership.

Keep reading for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the charging and regular maintenance of an all-electric vehicle.

What Are the Basics of Charging an Electric Vehicle?

Every electric vehicle can be charged by plugging in the appropriate cable into any household power outlet. This method is called Level 1 charging, and is accomplished with the power cord that's included as part of the lease or purchase of the electric vehicle.

This is the most convenient form of charging because all you need is access to a standard electrical outlet found in the garage or on the outside of your home - there's no setup or modifications required. But since the battery capacity of an electric vehicle is quite large, and household electrical systems aren't industrial strength by nature, Level 1 charging is the slowest method of replenishing power.


What Is Level 2 Charging?

Waiting nearly two days to charge your vehicle is obviously not ideal, which is why all electric vehicles offer a faster charging speed obtained via Level 2 charging. This higher power delivery is most commonly found in commercial parking lots in malls or shopping centers, and also designated EV parking spaces in office complexes.

Some Level 2 charging stations are offered as complimentary perks, but others may require a paid subscription or one-time payment to activate charging - the electricity you're using isn't free after all.

Level 2 charging significantly speeds up the process, with many electric vehicles reaching an optimal operating range after about 4 to 8 hours of being plugged in. Keep in mind that the power delivered by Level 2 charging stations can vary, and ultimately, your vehicle is in control of how quickly it can charge.

The speed and convenience of Level 2 charging can be had in your home too, but it may require professional installation of charging equipment, and possibly modification of your home's electrical panel if there isn't enough capacity.


What Is Quick Charging?

"Quick Charging" or Level 3 charging is the fastest form of recharging available today, and can only be found at dedicated stations which require a subscription or payment. But the benefits are well worth the cost, especially if you're taking a long road trip or forgot to charge your vehicle the day before.

Today's newest electric vehicles are really able to take advantage of Level 3 charging. When connected to a 350 kW DC fast charger, your electric vehicle will charge the fastest!


Where Are Charging Stations Located?

With electric vehicles becoming more popular, charging stations are easier to find than ever, especially if you live in a large metropolitan area. Many major malls, grocery stores, and office buildings have dedicated EV parking spaces with charging stations, and more "EV rest stops" are popping up alongside America's most popular freeways.

EVgo, Electrify America, and ChargePoint are examples of the growing networks of charging stations in the country, and finding specific charging stops is as simple as visiting a website or mobile app. Many EVs will already have these charging locations programmed in the navigation system, and Android Auto or Apple CarPlay will also have this information on-hand.


When Is the Best Time to Charge an Electric Vehicle?

In some ways, EVs are just like your smartphone, in that the best time to charge it is, honestly, whenever you have convenient access to power. This could be when you're at work, shopping for groceries, or simply parked at home for the evening.

Because the element of time is unavoidable with electric charging, I personally like to always top off whenever I can so I don't end up with a low battery and "range anxiety." When charging at home, utilize the EV's built-in scheduling function to automatically charge during non-peak hours to reduce electric bill costs and network load.


What is MPGe?

In the past, the vast majority of vehicles on the road were fueled by gas or diesel. So it made sense to measure efficiency by how many miles a vehicle could travel on a gallon. Hence the  familiar MPG on the window sticker.

But when the automotive industry began to pivot toward electric vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needed a new measurement. MPGe stands for "miles per gallon equivalent." In creating the MPGe standard, the EPA based it around the fact that the energy in a gallon of gasoline was equivalent to 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh).

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