How Electric Cars Work

By: Cherise Threewitt  | 

How to Charge an Electric Car

Tesla charging station
Charging stations, like this Tesla Supercharger network in a parking garage in Delaware, make it easy to charge your car while you're at work or running errands. Nadya Kubik/Shutterstock

If you're pulling into a gas station to fuel up, the biggest variable you must consider is whether there's a line at the pump. Charging an electric car isn't that easy. At a public charging station, the time commitment — at best — is 30 to 60 minutes, and that depends on many factors.

First, battery size and charging speed vary by car — often even by trim level. Charging speed also depends on the type of charger, the age of your car, the weather (yes), the temperature of your battery when you start to charge, and even if you stay in the car while it's charging.


Note, too, that a DC fast charger will deliberately slow down to a trickle once your car's battery reaches 80 percent. Why? To both to preserve battery life and to discourage EV owners from occupying public chargers beyond the point they really need to. Public charging stations are designed to get you on your way as quickly as possible.

The best-case scenario might be to charge an electric car overnight at home. With a level 1 (120-volt) or level 2 (240-volt) home charger, you can recharge an EV battery overnight in about 9 to 13 hours.

But a 2022 Stanford University study disputed whether overnight charging is the right option for the electrical grid, especially if there's a charger available during the workday. Researchers said the influx of electric cars will help reduce emissions, but by 2035 the electricity demand from car charging could increase by as much as 25 percent.