Like an increasingly large number of Americans, you’ve decided that paying nearly $5 for gasoline isn’t your idea of a good time.
So, with all the due care and attention that goes with car buying, you’ve swapped your old car for a brand new electric car or plug-in hybrid.
Now, your shiny new car is sitting on your driveway and you’re getting your first experience of living with a plug-in car. But what else can you do to make your transition to electric–and life as a plug-in owner–as easy as possible?
Here are just a few suggestions.
Get a level 2 charging station in your home
If you’ve just got a new car–especially a Chevrolet Volt or Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid–the chances are you haven’t yet invested in a 240-volt home charging station.
Instead, you’re content to charge using the supplied 110-volt emergency charging lead which came with your car.
For added security and convenience however, there’s no substitute for a 240-volt, level 2 charging station in your garage.
Not only will it charge your car more quickly, making it easier to grab a quick charge between errands when needed, but it will be safer and simpler to use than trailing a cable across your garage to the nearest 110-volt outlet.
For the best prices, shop around online, and ask other local plug-in car owners if they have any recommended local electricians who could help you navigate local laws, and installation practices.
If you already have a 240-volt outlet in your garage for use with power tools or a drier, you can even get charging stations which plug in to an appropriately-approved NEMA socket.
Whatever route you go, however, make sure you get your electrics checked to make sure they can cope with the demands of an electric car charging.
Join a local plug-in group, national group or online forum
The chances are that your new plug-in car is the most advanced car you’ve ever owned.
It probably has lots of neat features and tricks that you aren’t even aware of.
The best place to learn about them, and how to get the best out of your new vehicle, is at the local plug-in group, or from a friendly, online forum.
If you live in certain big cities like Washington DC, San Francisco, or Seattle, the chances are there’s a plug-in owners group well within a single charge of your home.
Mostly friendly and knowledgeable, the other members there can deal with your questions, help you find charging stations, and even help modify your plug-in car.
Meanwhile, online forums are a great place to find out more information if you’re not a sociable type or live too far away from a local group meeting.
Sign up to a charging network (or several)
Although most charging of plug-in cars happens at home, there’s nothing better than knowing you can make a trip and top your car off when you arrive at a public charging station.
Not only does it help quell those early-ownership range anxiety worries, but it ensures you always have access to a charging station when you’re far from home.
Unfortunately, however, a wide range of different companies currently offer public charging access in the U.S. Most require you to sign up for a yearly subscription of a few dollars in exchange for an RFID smart card or keyfob.
Once you’ve completed the forms and sent payment off, you’ll be sent a smart card which you will be able to use at whichever brand of charging network you’ve signed up for.
Some networks charge for electricity on a pay-as-you-charge system, while others cover the cost of charging in the yearly subscription.
To avoid a purse or wallet full of charging cards, ask other local plug-in owners which charging stations are most popular in your area, and only sign up for the networks you think you’ll use to avoid a wallet full of cards!