How to find electric vehicle charging stations

Electric vehicles and plugin hybrids are finally breaking out of the niche enthusiast market into the main stream. Although EV’s have been around for over 100 years now, networked charging infrastructure is a very new thing. The ability to find these stations, determine whether they are operational, book a charging appointment and pay for electricity is becoming a reality but the market has become segmented just like with mobile phones… think AT&T vs. Verizon.

First things first! Are you trying to charge an old school EV like the Electric Ford Ranger or something newer like the Tesla Roadster? What about the Nissan Leaf or the Toyota Prius Hybrid? Unfortunately, you’d need to use a different charging standard for each of these examples ranging from Small Paddle Inductive (SPI) for the Ranger to a Tesla specific charger for the Roadster to the newest standard, SAE-J1772, for the Leaf and Plugin Prius. The good news is most EV’s can fall back to the standard 120 Volt wall outlet but the downside here is that it could take upwards of six hours to fill all the way up.

So our question actually has two parts now: which charging type do you need and where do you go to find those stations? Thankfully there are several great resources out there that break all the charging standards down in more detail but the short answer is, if you’ve got anything newer than a Tesla and you live in the United States you want SAE-J1772 as shown below.

Now that you’ve got an idea of which type of charger to look for, you need a map! One more thing, once you actually find a charger you might also need a subscription to that network in order to use it. The leading charging networks in the US are GE Watt Station and Coulomb ChargePoint. There are several other smaller brands but those two are the leaders and they each offer a mapping utility for their customers along with spiffy mobile apps to help you on the go. That’s all well and good but if you’re making a cross country trip or trying to decide which network is best before you sign up you might want to check an all encompassing map of EV chargers. That’s where third party mapping websites come in:

Good luck finding those stations and choosing a network! If you plan it out right you might not have to join a network at all. Many campsites and dealerships are putting in EV charging infrastructure that’s free to use! Nissan in particular is putting in top of the line quick chargers as a sort of promotion for all of its new Leaf vehicles to use.