When considering electric vehicles (EVs), there is usually one question on the top of everyone’s mind: how would I charge it? Although the thought of a vehicle without the conveniences of gasoline may be daunting, with some basic understanding of EV charging, you’ll see it’s as easy as fueling with gasoline, just a bit different.

Coffee and Climate: EV Charging

Cashel Stewart, South Portland’s sustainable transportation coordinator, at one of the city’s 11 municipal electric vehicle charging stations. Courtesy photo

Interested in learning about types of EV charging, where you can charge in Portland and South Portland, and the future of EV charging? Join us Friday, June 10, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for this month’s Coffee & Climate on EV charging with special guest Molly Siegel of Efficiency Maine. Sign up for this event at oneclimatefuture.org/events.

Charging basics?

The battery in your EV is much like the battery in your phone. When you get into your EV and turn it on, you’ll see a battery percentage icon on the dashboard. Much like your phone, your EV tells you not only the battery percentage remaining, but also a range estimate, updated in real-time, of how many miles you have until you’ll need to charge again. Most standard EVs these days will give you around 250-300 miles of range.

Once you need to charge you can find just about every publicly-available charging station at www.plugshare.com. Conveniently, most new EVs inform you of the nearest charging station right on the dashboard using GPS. The charging network in Maine is increasing in size with every passing day, but it can take some orientation to know what to look for.


Charging levels

You’ll find that you don’t always need to charge fast to make an EV work for you. Home and work are the most common places people charge, and Level 1 charging and Level 2 charging are often sufficient to get you charged up overnight or during the workday.

Level 1 charging uses a standard 120V AC outlet and charges vehicles at a rate of 4-5 miles per hour. Level 2 charging uses 240V AC power and charges a vehicle at a rate of 12-80 miles per hour. Level 2 chargers are also common at businesses and places where you might spend an hour or more.

For those longer trips, or any time you need a quicker charge, there is Level 3 charging, also known as DC fast charging, which can typically charge a vehicle to 80 percent in approximately 20-30 minutes. These chargers tend to be located along popular travel corridors such as interstates, and are increasingly found at quick-stop locations such as gas stations or rest stops.

Charger connectors

There are four common connector types used in the United States. The J1772 connector is the most widely used and works with any EV on the market for Level 1 and Level 2 charging. The CHAdeMO connector is used for Level 3 charging on Nissan and Mitsubishi models, and for Teslas with an adapter. The CCS Combo connector is used for Level 3 charging on every other make besides those three.


Tesla has a connector unique to their own vehicles and prevents any other vehicle from charging, however, its network is incredibly widespread.

Charging for charging

Occasionally, EV charging is free and you can simply plug in and get a charge, but increasingly EV chargers require payment to charge. Much like you would pay for fuel by the gallon, you pay for electricity by the kilowatt hour (kWh). Generally, it costs less than half as much to drive an electric vehicle. There are many different networks, from EVgo to ChargePoint, that typically allow you to pay for electricity right at the station or on an app on your phone.

Our Sustainable City is a recurring column in the Sentry intended to provide residents with news and information about sustainability initiatives in South Portland. Follow the Sustainability Office on Instagram and Facebook @soposustainability. Cashel Stewart is sustainable transportation coordinator for South Portland.

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