When you pull up at a gas station, you can pay cash or swipe a card, no problem. Unfortunately, the EV charging landscape isn’t quite so simple. If you go on a road trip and need somewhere to charge, you can easily find yourself downloading half a dozen apps for different charging networks. For many stations, a smartphone is required. None accept cash.
5 Largest EV Charging Networks in the US
Want to download as few apps to your phone as necessary? These are the five largest charging networks in the US, whose stations you can find throughout most states.
1. Electrify America
Electrify America is the largest DC fast charging network for the majority of EV models. They’re open to all EVs with a CCS charging connection (the industry standard) and, for the time being, the few vehicles that still use CHAdeMO like the Nissan Leaf. Tesla vehicles, which use their own proprietary connector in the US, can connect to Electrify America and other DC fast charging networks using a CCS adapter.
Electrify America stations are the fastest available in the country, providing up to 350kW of electricity in an hour. This is faster than any current vehicle on the market can take in, though not by much. The Lucid Air can receive up to 300kW.
For vehicles able to charge at over 100kW, you’re looking at charge times around half an hour or less at an Electrify America station. As more vehicles arrive that can charge at over 200kW, that time will creep closer to what people have grown accustomed to at gas stations.
This network’s charging stations tend to appear near Interstate exits, often in the parking lot of a partnering store such as Walmart or Sheetz. There’s an app you can use to initiate and pay for charging, or you can swipe a credit card instead.
For Nissan Leaf owners, Electrify America can be a bit of a risk. While there is usually more than one station available at each location, only one comes with a CHAdeMO port. If another car is occupying that station, even if they’re not using the CHAdeMO port, you need to wait for them to move.
2. Tesla Superchargers
Tesla’s Supercharger network is the largest in the country, with less distance between stations compared to Electrify America. The catch? Tesla’s network is currently only available to Tesla vehicles. Yet, since Tesla sells the most EVs, a substantial proportion of electric cars on the road are able to stop at Supercharger stations.
The Supercharger network is known for having the smoothest charging experience. Since Tesla already has your payment information, you simply plug the charger into your car and watch the charging begin automatically. It’s actually smoother than using a gas pump. The downside? There’s no option to charge at Supercharger stations if you don’t have a Tesla account, an option some privacy-minded people might prefer.
Tesla Superchargers have a lower max speed than Electrify America’s, but this is largely a theoretical limit for the time being. The fastest Superchargers can technically reach 300kW, though they are capped at 250kW. This is faster than the majority of cars on the road can take in, Tesla or otherwise.
Tesla is experimenting with opening up the Supercharger network to non-Tesla vehicles and currently conducting trials outside the US. If this happens, that would be a big step toward a world where any EV capable of fast charging can charge at any DC fast charging station.
DC fast charging isn’t limited to road trips. For example, many of us live where we can’t charge at home. In such cases, there’s a need to have fast chargers located around town. EVgo is the largest DC fast charging network in America, catering to this demand.
EVgo stations tend to charge at around 50kW. This translates to a charge time of around an hour to reach 80%. That’s a long time when making multiple stops on a road trip, but it’s not bad when you’re charging as you shop or dine at a restaurant. For some vehicles, EVgo charges as fast as their vehicle can handle, as with the Chevy Bolt. For Bolt owners, it makes little difference whether they charge at Electrify America or EVgo.
EVgo has an app, but it also offers the option of swiping a credit card. EVgo is the friendliest network for cars that use a CHAdeMO port. Each EVgo station has one CCS and one CHAdeMO plug. So if there are four stations at a charging location, that means four potential places to charge, even if you own a Nissan Leaf.
Chargepoint has the largest charging network in the US, yet relatively few of these are DC fast charging stations. Rather, ChargePoint stations tend to provide around 6.6kW of electricity per hour, the type of Level 2 charging you can achieve through a 240v outlet or charging station at home. These chargers provide around 25 miles of range per hour.
ChargePoint’s business model is a bit different from the aforementioned examples. These stations appear at apartment complexes, hotels, stores, and other businesses. You may also come across them at public libraries or parks. At these destinations, where you may stay for several hours, your car has time to sit and recoup much of its charge.
There are some DC fast chargers on the ChargePoint network. These aren’t as fast as what you can expect from Electrify America or Tesla, but some stations do come decently close. You may come across the occasional 125kW fast charger, though more are capable of 24kW to 62kW. To find them using the app or website, you will need to filter out Level 2 chargers that make up the overwhelming majority of ChargePoint chargers.
While not as large as ChargePoint, Blink is another large charging network mostly supplying Level 2 chargers. You can find them at hotels, businesses, and the like. When Blink acquired SemaConnect, a comparably sized charging network, this substantially increased their footprint across the country. Even if you don’t like such consolidation, at least that’s one less charging app to install.
Like ChargePoint, there are a few DC fast chargers available on the Blink network. But the options here really are slim pickings. There simply aren’t that many Blink fast chargers, and those that do exist provide around 50kW of power.
Blink is the kind of charging network you’re less likely to actively seek out and more likely to stumble across as the only charger available at the place you’ve decided to visit. Of course, if you already have the app installed, then you’re good to go.
Are There Other EV Charging Networks?
Absolutely, and more options are likely to continue to appear. Oil and gas companies are starting to get into the mix. Shell Recharge, for example, is a large network with plenty of fast charging stations across the country.
Unfortunately, even if you download all the apps above, the apps you need will depend largely on where you live and the options along your route. A network may be common in one state and largely absent from the next. Yet, for many EV owners, these networks will remain something they rarely interact with, thanks to the ability to charge at home.
Post time: 2023-05-06