This post, part of a series we're running all about electric cars, was written by Kristen Hall-Geisler from HowStuffWorks.com.
If you've looked into electric car ownership at all, you've probably seen the estimated charging times: About 8 hours at a 220-volt outlet, which is a workday or overnight. Not so bad, right? Until that day you need to drive a little extra…
This is the point where most people start to panic. They run to the garage, throw themselves onto the hoods of their cars, and promise to never, never doubt their devotion to fossil fuels and a 300-mile (482.8-kilometer) range in the gas tank.
Portland General Electric (PGE) in Oregon is leading the way. In August of 2010, they installed the nation's first quick-charge station. It can take an electric vehicle from dead to nearly full -- about 80 percent charged -- in under half an hour. Charging no longer takes a full workday -- this is like charging on a lunch break. PGE promises 2,000 quick-charging stations by 2013, which is handy, since the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle will be in the state in early 2011.
Speaking of the LEAF, Nissan is ready to relieve your range anxiety by providing roadside assistance should you find yourself rolling to a halt and out of juice. Companies like AAA will have mobile rapid chargers powered by the truck's engine that can help you out in a pinch. (You'd be better off heeding the LEAF's computer, which will help you find charging stations and plan your trip.)
These rapid chargers are known as Level III chargers, and they use something on the order 500 volts to charge a car 50 percent in just 5 minutes -- enough to travel about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers). Just as a comparison, the outlet where your TV is plugged in is Level I, with 110 volts, and your dryer is plugged in to a Level II outlet, with 220 volts. But rapid chargers take so much extra energy that it's likely they won't be installed in home garages. They're more likely to be in public places where you'll need a quick charge while you're shopping or dropping off your dry cleaning.