These Are the Best Times to Charge Electric Cars


Electric vehicles (EVs) revolutionize your driving experience. They give you excellent acceleration and movability without having to spend money on gasoline. You just have to keep the battery charged. Luckily, you can charge your electric car anywhere there is a compatible outlet. You just want to be careful of when you charge it.

The best times to charge electric cars are when electricity rates are their lowest. For most people, this means charging your car overnight at home, usually between 11 pm and 7 am. You can also get special electric car plans from your utility which can expand this range.

However, you should not charge your electric car every night. While it sounds good to keep your car’s battery completely charged all the time, it can damage your vehicle. By reading further, you will learn how often you should charge your car to ensure that it keeps its performance for as long as possible.

When is the Best Time to Charge an Electric Vehicle?

Charging the battery is the most common issue most electric car owners have. Enjoyable to drive, these vehicles can quickly eat through their batteries even during optimum conditions. As such, charge anxiety prevents their widespread use, as owners fear being stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Much of the problem is the lack of infrastructure combined with the limits of the battery technology. It can take hours to charge an electric car. Because of this, parking their vehicle in some random public charging station is out of the question for most people. Therefore, most electric car owners charge their vehicles overnight while they sleep.

However, if you are going to charge your vehicle at home, you will want to ensure you do it during the best time possible. When that time is exactly depends on numerous factors, especially since you only want to ensure your car charges to no more than 80 percent capacity. Any more than that can ruin the battery life of your car.

Some of the more important factors include:

  • Initial battery charge
  • Type of charger
  • Make and model of the car
  • Your utility service plan

How Long Does It Take to Recharge an Electric Car?

Your car and your charger are the key factors that determine how long your car needs to recharge, and therefore when you should recharge it. While the reasons for this may vary between vehicles, it usually comes down to how much energy is still in the battery and the power output of the charger.

Battery Charge

Unlike gasoline, the lithium batteries that power electric cars work exponentially. That means their power output and recharge rates largely depend on how much charge already exists. They recharge slowly when almost drained before speeding up when they get somewhere near half-charged. They slow down again once they are near full capacity.

Therefore, your car will take much longer to recharge when the battery is around 20 percent than it would at 50 percent. However, it will take as much time as it needed to reach 80 percent from zero to go from 80 to 100.

Charger Output

Electric car chargers come in three forms, though only two are available for home use.

Effectively just a plug for your standard wall outlet, Level 1 chargers can recharge about 4-5 hours of driving for each hour of charging. As the average electric car owner drives less than 50 miles a day, you can expect them to take up to 8 hours to recharge a fully depleted battery.

Level 2 chargers output more power and, therefore, can charge most electric car batteries a lot faster. Most consumer models can add 15 to 25 miles of range to your vehicle for each hour you keep your car plugged into them. These chargers can take up to 8 hours to fully charge a long-range battery, but most owners will only need about 4 hours.

Level 3 or DC fast chargers can recharge an electric car within 30 minutes, but they are too expensive for home use and are regulated to public stations. Fortunately, most electric car owners can get by with just a Level 1 or Level 2 charger.

Select the Best Charging Time

Ideally, you would have some device that would let you schedule when your electric car recharges. However, most owners must manually calculate the best time to recharge their cars. Either way, you want to do it when the local electricity rates are the lowest, which is typically between midnight and 6 am.

Utility companies offer their lowest rates during this off-peak period because most people are asleep, lowering the demand on the grid. Electric cars and other power-hungry devices can overload the grid. So, utilities try to discourage them during the peak hours of the day. They use similar reasons to adjust their seasonal rates.

Because of this, your best time to recharge your electric car is during those off-peak periods. You get the benefits of the low rates along with the reduced load. You will then have a fully charged car when you wake up in the morning.

Change Your Service Plan To Extend Your Charging Window

To encourage this behavior even more, many utilities offer electric vehicle service plans. These plans vary between providers, but they all extend the “off-peak” rates to more reasonable hours.

For instance, Pacific Gas and Electric offers the following two electric vehicle plans:

  • EV-A – Extends the off-peak range from midnight to 3 pm every day, including weekends and holidays
  • EV-B – Extends the off-peak range from 11 pm to 7 am

If you are interested in seeing if there are electric car plans in your area, you should contact your utility provider to see what they offer. If one is not available, you can simply go by your current service plan and adjust your recharge times accordingly.

How Often Should You Charge Your Electric Car?

Overnight, during the off-peak hours, is the best time to recharge your electric car. You get the reduced rates, and you get to wake up with your car ready to go in the morning. It is a simple process too. You just plug your car into the charger and let it go. However, you may not want to recharge your car’s battery every single night.

Overnight Charging and the Environment

Even if you managed to find the perfect time to charge your electric car overnight and take every precaution, you might still want to avoid it as much as possible.

While many electric car owners turn to electric cars as a way to reduce their effect on the environment, the battery power that runs them must come from somewhere. When you charge your car, that power comes from power plants.

Sure, there are power plants that produce electricity through non-carbon or low carbon sources such as solar, water, wind, and nuclear reactors. However, not all of them do. Numerous power plants still burn coal, oil, and natural gas in many parts of the country, especially at night.

Even in the greenest parts of the country, such as California, the average electric car generates about 100 grams of greenhouse gasses per mile just by sitting around recharging. Therefore, if you are concerned about your carbon footprint, you may want to limit how many times you recharge your car’s battery.

Overnight Electric Car Charging is Not Dangerous

Now, the problem is not a risk for overcharging your vehicle. Continuously charging your car through the night will not damage your car or your home’s electrical systems. Electric car chargers are sophisticated enough to shut themselves off once your car reaches a full battery.

Even before that, some electric car models slow down their charging once they reach certain thresholds, making overcharging almost impossible. Continuously charging your vehicle will not even ruin its performance either. You will find this is true for such models as the Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and all Tesla models, among others.

Fast Charging is a Different Story

However, the same cannot be said about fast chargers. While these chargers can recharge your car in minutes, they put a lot of stress on the battery pack. The stress can build up over time, reducing the battery’s performance in the process. It also reduces the battery’s effective lifespan.

Fortunately, most electric car owners will never have a Level 3 charger at home and therefore will never have this issue. Level 2 chargers are fast enough to be useful but do not stress out the battery. The only time you will typically encounter a fast charger will be at a public charging station, which means you will never have a reason to overcharge your car’s battery through them.

When Should You Charge a Tesla?

For the most part, the advice in this article applies to every electric car. There are some deviations, but the same principles apply. One of the more significant deviations comes from Tesla cars. You still get the same overcharge protection, but these vehicles have their quirks.

For instance, you should never charge a Tesla battery to full capacity every night. Tesla even made it so you can set the maximum charge of your car to 90 percent and recommends that you do so. The manuals even recommend charging the cars as often as possible to keep their batteries topped off. Many Tesla owners will recharge their vehicles even after a 2-mile trip to the grocery store.

Even then, you may not need that 90 percent charge. As most electric car chargers slow down at 80 percent, you can set 80 as your maximum charge to reduce the charging time. You can even make it lower than that if it would adequately meet your driving needs. As long as you never go to 100 percent, you can set your Tesla to anything.

Even if you do accidentally fully recharge your Tesla’s battery, you can rest assured that the charger should slow down as your car approaches 100 percent. At that point, your Tesla functions like any other electric car and will only recharge as much as it discharges until you unplug it.

Tesla Recharge Scheduler

Another critical difference between Tesla and other electric cars is the recharge scheduler. You can set your Tesla car to auto-recharge on a preset schedule. Tesla and most owners recommend scheduling an hour of recharge just before you plan to use the car in the morning.

This hour-long charging session warms up the battery as it keeps it topped off. That means your Tesla will not drain the battery in an attempt to warm up, giving you full use of the regenerative braking benefit. As such, you may not need to recharge the battery as often.

Never Let Your Tesla Drop Below 10 Percent Charge

All these special charging features exist to help prevent Tesla owners from draining their car batteries to under 10 percent. Low battery charge can seize up the battery pack, damaging it. A problem with all lithium batteries, including the one in your phone, this can be especially difficult to fix on an electric car given the high prices of the components.

Adjust Your Best Charging Time for Maximized Battery Cycles

Out of all the essential factors determining the best times to charge an electric car, the remaining battery charge cycles are among the most obscure. Battery charge cycles refer to the total number of times you charge a battery to any level, and it directly determines the lifespan of the battery. A battery with more remaining battery cycles will last longer than one with fewer.

This technological limit cannot be easily overcome. It is just how rechargeable batteries work. However, all is not lost. Charge cycle limits are products of the stress placed on the battery doing charging. This is why charging your car’s battery to 100 percent or draining it to below 10 percent is so problematic. As such, you want to find an optimum charge range for your electric car.

Fortunately, most electric cars offer nearly the same available charge cycles. That means we can give you the common estimates in the following table. These estimates only vary with the battery technology. So, they may change as the technology advances, but these values should be good enough to help you decide the best times to charge your electric car.

Percentage Charge Level RangeCharge Cycles Before Capacity Reduces to 90 Percent
50 to 1003000
30 to 804500
70 to 8012000

The chart suggests that the best time to charge your electric car is when you only need to charge your car from 70 percent to 80. If you charge your car nightly, you should easily keep your car within this range if you only have short commutes. Though, most electric car owners will fall within the 30 to 80 percent range.  

Differences Between Overnight Charging at Home or a Station

You will get the most for your time and money if you recharge your electric car overnight at home, but you can do it at a public charging station as well. It is not as convenient or as simple as home charging, but it does have its advantages.

Public stations offer higher-speed chargers that can charge your car in minutes instead of hours. Acquiring the same service for your home is expensive. A typical fast charger can set you back thousands of dollars, and that is before the price of converting your home’s electrical system to handle the additional load and stress.

Because of this, public stations make owning electric cars easy. You can quickly charge your car as needed without the additional investment. You must go out of your way to keep your car charged, but that is no different than heading to a gas station with a traditional vehicle. They set your best charging time to when you need it, letting people own electric cars even in the least ideal situations.

When Not to Charge Your Electric Car

It all depends on your driving habits. Most electric car models can go up to 200 miles on a single charge. That equivalent mileage is more than enough to cover the 37-mile average daily commute of most drivers. Because of this, most people can skip a charging day or two without issue.

In this scenario, the best time to charge your electric car will be when the battery drops to around 20 percent. Doing so will save you money and the life of your car’s battery. Then, you will only need to charge your electric car every day if your daily mileage increases.

Conclusion

Electric cars provide numerous advantages to their owners, but only if you keep them charged. While you can charge your car at any time, you may want to wait for more optimum times to do it, like during off peak grid hours. With the proper charging schedule, you can save money while always having a fully charged car when you need it.

Recent Posts