Everything You Need to Know About Charging an Electric Vehicle

Here’s a quick look at where to find public charging stations, how much they cost and how to use them

A woman is shown hooking her car up to a charger

One of the reasons Canadians shy away from electric cars is the fear that, one day, they’ll run out of juice on the highway or a lonely back road.

But that range anxiety could soon be a thing of the past. In the last year, a raft of companies, from Volkswagen to Petro Canada, have announced plans to build public charging stations, a sign, analysts say, the electric vehicle (EV) industry is coming into its own. “You’re going to see a whole lot of growth in the next little while,” says Cara Clairman, the CEO of Plug’N Drive, a non-profit group that promotes EV use. Here are the basics of EV charging.

What you should know about EV charging

A car is parked on a street at a charging station

There are 5,000 public chargers in Canada and, according to ChargeHub, a website and app that tracks the machines, more than 580 within a 15 kilometre radius of Toronto. (Nationally, there are about 12,000 gas stations.) If you’re planning a road trip, Clairman says it’s super easy to find chargers along the Windsor–Quebec City corridor. Chargers are not just in big cities either. You’ll find them in scores of small towns across Canada, including tiny Mount Lorne, Yukon.

How to find a charging station

A map showing charging station locations is shown on a smartphone

Unlike gas stations, chargers are hard to spot with the naked eye. Many are tucked away in parking garages and the far reaches of parking lots. To find them, download PlugShare and ChargeHub, a pair of map-based apps that each show the location of thousands of charging stations. Also, many EVs come with onboard navigation systems that can direct you to the nearest charger.

Breaking down EV charging costs

A level two charger is shown hooked up to a vehicle

There are two types of public chargers: Level 2 and Level 3. A Level 2 charger, which delivers a trickle of electricity and is ideal for topping up your battery, will typically cost around $1 an hour, according to Plug’N Drive. Level 3 machines are much faster and can usually charge your battery from empty to 80 per cent in under 45 mins. Those cost around $15 an hour.

What to expect for charging times

A woman is shown operating a level three charger

While the process can vary slightly from one charging company to another, topping up a battery is simple. Pull up to the charger, pay for your electricity (many companies will let you do that with your phone), pop open your charging port and insert the charger. Oh yeah—then wait. Most electric cars will take an hour-plus to fully charge from empty.

The average travel distance on a single charge

a screen on the dash of a Tesla displays data

Just a few years ago, you’d be lucky to wring 150 kilometres out of a typical EV battery. But today’s electric cars can routinely go 350 kilometres on a charge, with high-end models, like the Tesla Model S, eclipsing 500 kilometres.

Charging options at home

A level two charger is shown mounted on the wall of a garage

One of the benefits of owning an electric car is that you can charge it at home. All you need is a 240-volt outlet and a home charging kit, which can cost as little as $900 for a reputable brand. Clairman, from, Plug ’N Drive, says about 80 per cent of electric car owners do their charging at home and only use public stations on road trips.

CAA can help

Got a dead EV battery? CAA’s Roadside Assistance service can help by towing you to the nearest charging station. Click here to find out about joining CAA today.

Plus, watch our video about how to charge an electric vehicle.

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