Here's all you need to know to charge an electric car.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Understanding how charging works is important for anyone who drives an electric vehicle (EV), but the process breeds anxiety for many. We're here to help.

Why it matters: Plugs vary (depending on the car) and chargers have different power levels (which affects charging time).

  • It can all be overwhelming, and education is an important step toward charging equity.

Of note: Teslas use a proprietary network, which makes charging pretty straightforward. The tips below are for non-Tesla drivers.

Charging is easiest if you can top off at home and you don't drive long distances.

  • Just plug the cord that comes with your car into a standard 120-volt outlet overnight and you'll get about 40 miles of range — enough for most daily driving.
  • Recharging from empty this way, however, would take at least a day and a half.

A better option for EV owners: Install a so-called Level 2 charger at home.

  • It uses the same 240-volt household connection as your clothes dryer.
  • You might need some electrical prep work first. Expect to pay anywhere from $500 to several thousand dollars.
  • Your electric bill will go up, of course. But at least you won't need to buy gas.

By the numbers: The average price for residential electricity is about 16 cents per kWh. It's higher in some places, such as the Northeast and Hawaii.

  • A full Level 2 recharge takes around 6-8 hours, and adds about $10 to your home's electric bill.

Level 2 chargers are also available at many offices, shopping centers and hotels — often as a free courtesy.

  • Think of these as a place to top off your car's battery as you would your phone when a plug is available.

On a road trip, you're going to want to charge a lot faster but you'll need to do some planning.

  • Networks with fast chargers, like Electrify America, EVGo, ChargePoint and Blink, are proliferating — but they're still not as common as gas stations.
  • These chargers can get you back on the road in 20-40 minutes, depending on your car and the charger's maximum output.
  • Some chargers max out at 24 kilowatts, while newer models are capable of up to 150 or even 350 kilowatts. The higher the power, the faster the charging speed — in theory, at least.

Reality check: Even the industry's fastest-charging cars, such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, rarely charge at their maximum possible speed.

  • The status of your battery and whether other drivers are using the same charging station can cause slowdowns.
  • EVs sometimes limit their power intake to avoid frying their batteries.

The bottom line: Set your expectations low and you won't be disappointed.

Go deeper: Pack up the electric car, honey! We're hitting the road

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