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Electric Vehicle information for Atlanta and Georgia

public charging stations and roadtrips

Sections below

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, shopping malls, movie theaters.  Mostly these are 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 faster charging power means shorter charging stops.  You can drive for 2-3 hours, exhausting the range of your car, and then stop for just 25-35 minutes to charge (and grab some food, take a bathroom break, etc.) and hit the road again.  Some EVs can absorb 200 kW or 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 the cost is actually pretty much irrelevant.

  1. The carmakers usually bundle some free charging with your purchase of a new EV, typically some number of 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 — driving on home electricity costs the equivalent of $1-per-gallon gasoline!  But even on a roadtrip, using more expensive DCFC stations, the cost to charge is still about the same as driving on gas.
  3. Here’s the key about cost: over the lifetime of your car, most of your miles are put on your car during drives around town, commuting on your cheap home electricity, rather than during long roadtrips.  Therefore, a modest cost to charge on a roadtrip, using a more expensive public fast charger, still puts you way ahead on cost savings.  Even if roadtrip charging costs more than gas costs, you still come out way ahead.

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 many EV owners are happy to pay whatever the charging cost is, even if it’s more than gas, because most of their charging by far 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, called J1772, and all cars sold in North America accept that plug (Teslas accept a different plug but come with a small adapter so they can use J1772 stations too).  However, for DC Fast Charging (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 (that means Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Volkswagen, etc.) use the SAE Combo / CCS plug, and since 2015 the CCS plug has slowly but surely taken over the market.

There are three further twists to this saga.  First, Tesla now offers two adapters that Tesla car owners can buy to allow their car to charge at a) the early Chademo stations that got 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 offering 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, early in 2023 Tesla start trials of offering CCS plugs at their “supercharging” DCFC sites.  All this continues to point to general convergence on the CCS plug as the industry standard.  Third, however, is the sudden development in mid 2023 where many of the non-Tesla carmakers announced that they were abandoning the CCS plug for the Tesla plug, creating a new round of chaos. In short, though, any car with CCS or Tesla plug capability is well-served for roadtrips ; only the Nissan Leaf and Chademo plug is problematic.

When looking for a DCFC station for your car, 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 user 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 embedded here at left is a live view into the system that you can move and click around in; click on the Plugshare link above for a larger view.

The Plugshare system provides detailed information on exact location, including photos, provided by the EV ownership community.  This exact location 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 had success using the station recently.

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 the plug type, charging speed, expected range, etc.), and the beginning and end of your planned drive, and it will then calculate 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.  Note: ABRP is typically better at this then the navigation built into the car; Plugshare also offers a planning tool but it is far inferior to ABRP.

General tips on use of public charging and EV roadtripping

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

Avoid car dealerships: 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 too much drama with using a dealer station, so we recommend that you stick to truly public sites.

Free stations are a hassle: 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.

Check out ChargeWay: 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 we hope does catch on nationwide.

What’s wrong with using your smartphone to navigate (e.g. via “screen projection” like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), instead of in-car navigation?

  • Your smartphone won’t be able to tell the car to pre-condition the battery as you approach a DCFC stop. Conditioning the battery (extra heating or cooling as needed) puts it at the perfect temperature to absorb maximum power during the charging stop, minimizing your time spent there.
  • Your smartphone’s navigation directions (e.g. next turn) won’t appear in the display right in front of you, only on the infotainment system in the center of the dashboard.
  • Your smartphone won’t know how much range you have left, or how aggressively you are driving, and won’t be able to warn you when you might not make it to your destination.
  • In general, these screen projection systems can distract the driver more, not less.

What’s wrong with using in-car navigation to find charging stops, instead of the two apps above?

  • The navigation systems in most EVs are frankly terrible at picking charging stops.  It’ll pick one at a dealership (problematic as noted above), or a slow Level 2 station, or it’ll be wrong about how fast you can charge (because many operators, including Chargepoint and EVgo, are disingenous about their stations’ speeds).   A notable exception to this Tesla, which has a fantastic navigation system — see the note below about them.  Ford has identified this station quality problem and has been testing sites and only allowing the proven-good sites into their navigation system
  • Even if you know where you are going, the navigation system will calculate the distance, compare to your battery’s SOC, and give you confidence that you won’t have a range problem.  Thus you will typically find yourself entering destinations into nav even on regular routes that you are familiar with, just to get that range calc.
  • It is important for the car’s navigation system to have good multi-stop capability, meaning that you can add multiple stops along your route and rearrange them.  You will typically be planning ahead on very specific stops (not just randomly exiting the highway when you are hungry or need to fuel), and therefore you typically start the trip with entering all of the planned stops into the nav system.  Some nav systems don’t let you re-order the stops, or don’t even handle multiple stops along the route, or are generally terrible at entering destinations after you’ve already started driving.

Tesla is a notable exception to the above route planning concerns, and also an exception to most of the extra steps that you need to take below to make sure that the charging stops will work well for you.  This is because Tesla offers a vertically-integrated proprietary system where their cars’ navigation system frankly works perfectly with their own stations and their own phone app. If route planning was the only thing you cared about then choosing a Tesla would be obvious, but there are literally a hundred other things that should also factor into your car choice. Tesla is not great at everything …

Roadtrip planning checklist

As you can see from the above, the technology and infrastructure has now advanced to the point where EV roadtrips are totally possible and even common.  You do need to plan ahead a little bit, so here is a summary checklist of what you should do ahead of and during your roadtrip:

  1. Ahead of roadtrip: use ABRP to plan the route including the charging stops; using that ABRP-generated plan, then look at the restaurants near the charging stops (shown in ABRP!) and pick the best stop for your meal break.
  2. Ahead of roadtrip: use Plugshare to check each stop for recent reports from EV owners like you.  Was it working for them?  Did they get full power?  Blocked by construction?  If ABRP is suggesting a charging stop that has bad recent reports, or is a car dealership, tell ABRP to avoid that stop by routing around it (in the ABRP trip plan, click the “X” on that stop).
  3. Night before roadtrip: set your car’s max SOC (state of charge) to charge all the way to 100% (at home, overnight).  Typically you will have already set it to 80% max for daily use, because this preserves the life of the battery.  But just before and during a roadtrip, you will want to override that and set it to 100%, to get maximum range and minimize on-the-road charging time.
  4. The above three steps are the important ones, and all you need to do if you are sticking to well-traveled highway corridors.  The remaining steps are for getting extra confidence in the process, or when traveling to more remote areas of the country.
  5. During roadtrip: an hour before arriving at a charging stop, use the phone app for that station’s network operator (Electrify America, Chargepoint, EVgo, etc.) to check the live status of the stations.  If the stations are suddenly down, start thinking about a Plan B charging stop, perhaps a lot sooner than you originally planned.
  6. During charging stops: make a checkin entry on Plugshare!  During your session, note the peak power (in kW, not kWh) that you received, and enter that into the checkin.  If there are multiple stations at that site, note in the checkin which one you used (typically a station number like 03 or 2B).  Add notes in the checkin about whether the other stations were down, if nearby restaurants were good or bad, and so forth.  This information helps the next traveler!
  7. During roadtrip: keep enough range in your battery to be able to make it to a Plan B location if the Plan A site is down.  In remote areas, this can be as much as 50 miles, so don’t run your battery all the way down to empty.  In other words, on a 250-mile range car, you’d be driving 200 miles at a time and always keeping 50 miles in the battery just in case.  In more developed areas where there are multiple DCFC sites to fall back on (as seen in Plugshare) you can be more aggressive about letting your battery get low, reserving only 20 or even 10 miles for contingencies.
  8. During roadtrip: If you get in a bind with no DCFC available at all, use Plugshare to find the nearest Level 2 (J1772) site and then spent a couple hours there, charging slowly, to make it to the next DCFC site.  If you are in a very remote area with not even any J1772 stations, change  the Plugshare map filter setting to also show NEMA 14-50 receptacles, typically at campgrounds and RV parks, and you’ll use the cord that came with your car.  Be prepared to politely explain to the RV park operator why you only need to be there for a couple hours. Again this is only for extremely remote areas where your originally planned charging stops have failed somehow.

At end of a day-long roadtrip, it’s perfectly fine to arrive nearly empty!  But plug in your car (even on super-slow Level 1) before retiring for the night, so that it charges overnight.  It is very bad for the long term health of the battery to leave it sitting empty and unplugged overnight — leaving it at below 5% is especially bad.  Plug it in!

Finally, after your roadtrip is over and you are back home, remember to set your max SOC back down from 100% to 80%.  Some cars will do this automatically, recognizing from GPS that it’s back home, but double check it.

DC Fast Charging infrastructure buildout history (esp. in Georgia)

See also the DCFC technology page.

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

2012: Tesla starts deploying their Supercharging network, alongside their new Model S luxury sedan. At launch there were only six sites in California, and they only delivered 90 kW, but Tesla soon began expanding nationwide and rapidly improving their technology.

2014: Tesla’s nationwide deployment of their Tesla-only stations reaches Georgia and the US Southeast, providing sparse coverage of our interstates.  In the years that followed, they continued to spend vast sums of money to build out truly fantastic charging infrastructure … but for Teslas only.

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 rollout that started in 2018 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 consisting of two of Chargepoint’s newer CPE250 stations, each offering 62.5 kW.  The two stations can pair together to offer 80-125 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 minimally robust level as Electrify America sites described above (4 x 150 kW stations, at least).  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.  See the Georgia DOT’s website specifically about their NEVI spending plan.

2022: Tesla starts selling an adapter that allows Tesla car owners to charge at CCS sites.

Early 2023: Tesla starts equipping their supercharging DCFC sites with CCS plugs via their new “Magic Dock” technology, which allows non-Tesla cars to charge there.  Initially this rollout starts in California and New York state, but will eventually roll out to the entire country, with Tesla saying they would have 3500 CCS-capable supercharger stations completed by end of 2024.

Mid 2023: For many years, Tesla had claimed that their plug standard was available for other manufacturers to use in their cars (and stations), but nobody had taken them up on it (likely for legal/IP reasons) and the entire non-Tesla market had been slowly converging on CCS for a decade.  Starting in May 2023, however, suddenly all of the major manufacturers, starting with Ford, announced their abandonment of CCS for Tesla’s plug, which Tesla has dubbed the North America Charging Standard (NACS).  Actual standards activity began immediately, including via the SAE who assigned it the number J3400.  Expect this process, including supply chains of receptacle and station hardware, to take multiple years to settle out.

Outreach note: this page is designed such that the most important information fits on the first two pages when printed out, so that you can print those two pages double-sided on a single piece of paper, and then hand out copies of that at outreach events.  You don’t need to print out the entire thing, just the first two pages, up to the “checklist” section. You might need to shrink the pages a little bit (in the print dialog) to get it to fit.