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Electric Cars: How Should You Charge Them?

Electric Cars: How Should You Charge Them?
Skip out on paying for gas with these alternative methods

Jena Kehoe/Web2Carz

More and more companies are including electric cars in their product lineups, and while running a car on electricity is certainly eco-friendly, is it convenient? How on Earth do you charge up? Are there different ways to do so? Where? Can you do it at home?

The great thing about electric cars is that because they're becoming so popular, more and more places are offering charging spots for them. Places like Walgreen's and Whole Foods have charging stations in their parking lots, and we imagine plenty more will be adding to that. And if you're stuck somewhere unfamiliar, you can look up charging stations on your GPS-enabled cell phone using the Charge Point Network.

As of May 2012, the U.S. had almost 10,000 public charging stations, many of them provided by electric utility companies. There are a few different levels of charging, as well as three different connection cases, and four plug types. Confused yet? Don't be—it's relatively simple. The four different levels range from slow to fast charging, either with or without specific EV protection sockets. Three connection cases refers to the way the charger is set up—either connected to the main supply cable, an on-board charger with a main supply cable that can be detached, and a dedicated charging station with which the supply cable can be permanently attached. Finally, the four plug types have to do with the mode of charging—different plugs for different speeds of charging.

Charging can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes to six-to-eight hours, depending on the setup you're using, and as far as charging your electric car at home, you definitely can. Ford is just one company that offers a home charging station, one that was developed with Leviton and plugs into a 240-volt outlet. It recharges the Ford Focus EV in around three-and-a-half hours, and will be compatible with all of Ford's upcoming electric vehicles.

Unfortunately, installing a home unit from Ford will cost you an extra $1,499, and that's pretty comparable to other companies' options—for example, the Chevy Volt's 240-volt charging station will charge the car in four hours and costs roughly $1,900 for the pack and its installation, and the Nissan Leaf's home-charging station runs about $2,200.

If you're a one-percenter, though, and you live in Japan (it's not available here...yet?), you can also look into getting a charger for the Leaf that will cost you $17,730, but will charge your car in less than 30 minutes.