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www.ElectrifyAtlanta.com

Electric Vehicle information for Atlanta and Georgia

public charging stations and roadtrips

Charging around town

Most EV owners charge at home and rarely need to use public charging. They plug in when they get home, charge overnight, and have a fully charged car every morning – does your gas car do that? For most people, by far, this satisfies their charging needs, and they don’t need public charging that much. But for the occasional long day, and general peace of mind, there are EV charging stations all over town.

If you can’t charge at home, you will need to use public charging.  Typically this happens when you live in a multi-unit building where they have not yet installed EV charging for their residents, or you don’t have a driveway or garage.

Fortunately, there are now literally hundreds of EV charging stations across metro Atlanta.  Typically they are located at retail complexes that you are going to be at anyway — grocery stores, shoppnig mall, movie theaters.  Initially these were Level 2 stations that take a few hours to charge your car, but increasingly we are now also seeing DC Fast Charging (DCFC) stations which can charge
your car much faster, on the order of minutes rather than hours.

Charging on roadtrips

Roadtrips in EVs are now possible!  DCFC stations started getting deployed across the country (on interstate routes) in the 2010s, and every year brings more of them.  Most EVs sold since 2019 or so can absorb up at least 100 kW of charging power, and most new DCFC stations can deliver at least that much power.  This means that you can drive for 2-3 hours, exhausting the range of your car, and then stop for just 20-30 minutes to charge (and grab some food, bathroom break, etc) and hit the road again.  Some EVs can absorb 200 kW or even higher, and when paired with a similarly capable DCFC station, the charge time can drop to just 10 minutes!  This is truly a game changer and eliminates the last annoyance of driving electric.

Cost to charge at public charging stations

These charging stations are not free, but there are three factors that make the cost irrelevant.

  1.  The carmakers usually bundle some free charging with your purchase of a new EV, e.g. a certain number of dollars or kWh (miles, basically).
  2. Driving on electricity is generally far more efficient (and thus cheaper) than driving on gas.  This is definitely true when charging at home, where your electric cost is roughly one third the gas cost (the equivalent of gas costing $1 per gallon).  But even on a roadtrip, using more expensive DCFC stations, the cost to charge is still about the same as driving on gas.
  3. And here’s the key: over the lifetime of your car, most of your miles are put on your car during drives around town, commuting, rather than the occasional long roadtrip.  Therefore, a modest cost to charge on a roadtrip, even if it works out to be a little more than gas cost, still puts you way ahead on cost savings.

Essentially, the fact that these stations even exist, regardless of cost, means you can buy an EV and use it as your sole car, even for roadtrips.  For that reason I am happy to pay whatever the charging cost is, even if it’s more than gas, because by far most of my charging is actually done at home for pennies.

DC Fast Charging plug types

In the early 2010s, the car industry agreed on a Level 2 charging plug standard, J1772, and all cars sold in North America accept that plug (Teslas have a different plug but come with a small adapter so they can use J1772 stations too).  However, for DCFC, the carmakers did not agree at first and so we started the 2010s fighting out a DCFC standards battle.  Some of the DCFC sites offered “Chademo” plugs (for  the Nissan Leaf, mostly), Tesla deployed their “Supercharging” sites (for Tesla models only), and eventually the rest of the auto industry developed the “SAE Combo” plug standard (also known as the Combined Charging System or CCS plug).  Literally every other carmaker besides Nissan and Tesla (Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Volkwagon, etc.) use the SAE Combo / CCS plug, and slowly since 2015 it has gradually taken over the market.

There are two further twists to this sage.  First, Tesla now offers two adapters that Tesla car owners can buy to allow their car to charge at a) the Chademo stations deployed by Nissan and b) the CCS stations getting deployed since 2015.  Most public charging stations are “dual standard”, typically offering Chademo and CCS plugs, but not the Tesla plug.  However Tesla owners can buy one of the adapters mentioned above, which  means that those dual standard charging stations effectively cover all three kinds of cars.  Second, by the end of 2022 Tesla plans to start offering CCS plugs at their “supercharging” DCFC sites.  All this continues to point to general convergence on the CCS plug as the industry standard.

When looking for a DCFC station, you should be aware of the three competing standards.  Fortunately, Plugshare makes this easy for you — you just tell the app what kind of car you have, and it will then only show you DCFC stations that are compatible with your car.

Use Plugshare to find stations and see reports

       

Plugshare ( www.plugshare.com ) is a crowd-sourced system, available via web browser and smartphone app, that provides information about all charging stations, not just those for a one particular network (like the Chargepoint or EVgo systems do).   The map shown here at left is a live view into the system that you can move and click around in, but click on the link above for a larger view.

The Plugshare system provides detailed information on exact location, including photos, provided by EV ownership community.  This information is crucial because these stations usually aren’t huge and obvious like a gas station, and can be hard to find at first, e.g. tucked around the side of a building.  Further, Plugshare has a user “checkin” feature where EV owners like you can report how well the station worked for them.  When planning a roadtrip where you will rely on a particular station, it is crucial to “check the checkins” to make sure that others have been using the station successfully.

You can then use the charging network’s own system/app (Chargepoint, EVgo, Blink, etc.) to check live status of the station and to authorize a charging session.

Use ABRP to plan long roadtrips

A Better Route Planner

Another great website / app to use for roadtrips is A Better Route Planner (ABRP).  You tell ABRP what model car you have (thus what the expected range of the car is), and the beginning and end of your planned drive, and it will tell you exactly which charging sites to stop at along the way and even how many minutes you’ll need to be charging.  It is highly configurable to match your preferences, such as how fast you like to drive (i.e. faster means less efficient), whether you want more or less frequent stops, what ending state of charge (SOC, e.g. 10%) you are comfortable with, and so on.  It even shows live status of the stations and shows the walking distance to nearby restaurants.  It does take some learning to use all the features but is quite valuable as a roadtrip planning tool.

Final tips about use of public charging

When charging at a public station, you should be aware of proper charging etiquette.

Many auto dealers offer charging stations, however those locations will often have limited hours, and each dealer franchise will have its own policy on whether they allow the general public to charge. Check the Plugshare listings for user “checkins” on a particular dealership before counting on it.  Frankly, there’s usually to much drama with using a dealer station, so we recommend that you stick to truly public sites.

If you hunt around in Plugshare you can usually find some stations that don’t cost any money, however you will often find those stations being hogged by people trying to get a few pennies of electricity for free.  Consider that using only those stations is perhaps really only free if your time is worthless.

People new to EVs tend to get pretty confused and frustrated about the different plug types and power levels offered by these stations. ChargeWay is a marketing company in Oregon that came up with a way to simplify the world of EV charging, using a color code and a number. Check out the Green Car Reports article on the ChargeWay concept, which I hope does catch on nationwide.

DC Fast Charging infrastructure buildout history

See also the DCFC technology page.

2011: Nissan starts deploying their Chademo-only stations to their dealers

2014: Tesla’s nationwide deployment of their Tesla-only stations reaches Georgia, providing sparse coverage of our interstates, but which they have continued to expand every year since.

2015-2017: Georgia Power deploys their first phase of DCFC around the state, offering both Chademo and CCS plugs

2015-2017: EVgo (formerly NRG EVgo) deploys their first phase of DCFC around metro Atlanta.  Initially these were Chademo-only stations with Nissan as a funding partner, but later they were upgraded to also offer CCS plugs with funding from BMW.

2018-2019: Electrify America, the massive rollout funded by Volkswagen as part of the Dieselgate settlement package, rolls out the first phase of their charging network. EA stations feature a minimum power of 150 kW, and up to 350 kW, and offer a minimum of four stations at each site. Contrast this with the prior waves of DCFC, such as the Nissan, Georgia Power and EVgo deployments above, which offered 50 kW and typically had only a solitary station at each location. The EA was the true game changer that finally made EV roadtrips possible.  (Note: Tesla owners had already had this capability starting in 2014.)

2019: Georgia Power starts deploying their second phase of DCFC around the state, with each new site typically consiting of two of Chargepoint’s newer CPE250 stations, each offering 62.5 kW.  The two stations can pair together to offer 125 kW if only one car is present.

2021: EVgo starts a second phase of deployments in metro Atlanta, with DCFC sites consisting of 3-4 stations, each offering between 100 and 350 kW of power.

2022: The Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passes into law in August, and includes funding for a new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) effort.  NEVI will fund the deployment of high-power DCFC across the country, at the same robust level as Electrify America sites described above (4 x 150 kW stations).  All of Georgia’s interstates will get upgraded to meet NEVI standards, and two new non-interstate corridors will also get built out with DCFC: US route 82 from Albany to Brunswick, and US Route 441 from Clayton to Dublin.