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Sustainable Next Step Blog

Tips for Charging Electric Cars When You Don't Own a Home

by Gob Greene

Electric cars have a number of advantages. They're better for the environment, they can work out cheaper in the long run and, having fewer moving parts, are expected to last longer and depreciate more slowly.

However, there have been a couple of obstacles between many people and adoption. One of them is that electric cars need to be charged. If you own a home, you can charge from a garage socket (which takes a while) or splurge on a special wall charger.

For the millions of people who rent, though, this is not an option. So, how can renters have an electric car? Here are a few tips:

Find an Apartment with EV Spots

Obviously, this involves moving, which may not be an option. However, more and more apartment complexes are starting to provide EV charging spots in their lots. They might not have one for every apartment, but as long as they have enough (and enforce rules about people not parking gasoline-powered vehicles in those spaces), then this is the perfect long-term solution.

Alternatively, you can join with other residents to put pressure on your existing landlord to put in chargers. In some states, you have the legal right to install your own charger in your own spot, as long as you meet certain insurance and indemnity requirements, but always try and get your landlord to do it first.


Charge at Work

Paid charging spots in parking lots are also becoming more and more common. Many EV owners will drive to work and then charge the car while they are at work. Obviously, this only works for people who work reasonably regular hours in a single location that is not their home. Underground garages are more likely to have chargers.

Some employers are installing charging stations in their own lots, too. Consider asking your employer to do so; if enough of your coworkers do they might be willing to, and as demand increases, charging stations will increase.


Charge During Errands

With most electric cars, you can top-up to get about 100 miles of coverage in 30 minutes using a rapid charger. If you're lucky, there may be one of these chargers near your preferred grocery store. Some rapid chargers can even give you full charge in that time, depending on your vehicle. 

This only works if you're fortunate enough to have access to a rapid charger. Many public chargers are not rapid chargers and would still take hours to charge your car. That said, if there's a charger spot available, it's wise to take it. Also look for a charger that you aren't sharing...some charging stations share power between all the connected vehicles. Also look for chargers near errands that take time, such as the laundromat, your child's school so you can charge during sports games, etc.


Use an App to Find Charging Stations

Charging stations are becoming more and more common, but not necessarily easier to find. Thankfully, developers have stepped up with apps that show all of the charging stations in your area. Some, like ChargeHub, can even tell you if the station is currently in use and what kind of station it is. (If you look at their map, only some of the stations seem to be connected to show availability, but it's still helpful).

This is particularly useful if you are going somewhere that is a longer distance and know you want to top up your car's charge en route. You might even be able to find a trip planner.

Major charge companies such as ChargePoint and EVgo have their own apps that help you locate a charging station.


Always Have a Charge Plan

Realistically, unless your apartment or regular work site has a place to charge, you are going to be looking for charging stations a lot. Having a plan and a backup plan so that you always have some place to charge your car is absolutely vital. Just like knowing where the best gas stations are, you'll eventually learn how to find the best chargers and plan your route to take advantage of them.

As long as you're flexible, it's more than possible to have an electric vehicle even if you aren't privileged enough to own your own home. You just have to have a good plan and be aware of the possibilities.

Your Next Step

Finding available charging stations for those of us without access to home charging can be a major roadblock in using an electric vehicle. But, there are resources available to help make it more convenient. Take all of this into account when you make your next vehicle purchasing decision.

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