As of early 2023, there are more than 3 million electric vehicles (EVs) on U.S. roads. That represents remarkable growth, but it also means more drivers are competing for charging time at public charging ports across the country.
Because the nation’s EV charging infrastructure is still growing to keep up with demand—not to mention some key differences in the process of charging EVs vs. filling your car with gas—the code of conduct around EV charging has become a hot topic of conversation. New EV drivers can quickly grow frustrated to find non-EVs in their charging spaces, cars overextending their stays at charging stations, and more.
8 rules of EV charging etiquette
Whether you’re a new EV driver or you simply want to get better at sharing the road with those who have made the switch, there are a few things you can do to learn proper EV charging etiquette.
1. Try to charge less often
While the national charging infrastructure catches up to charging demand, one of the best things you can do is to avoid charging in public unless you truly need to do it. Installing a home charger will largely help you avoid public charging, and there are numerous federal and state incentives available to make this affordable.
If you expect to drive a lot most days, you may want to consider purchasing a car with a longer battery range or a fast-charging battery. This will help you rely on chargers less often and save money by charging at home instead of charging publicly.
2. Never unplug someone else’s car
This is one of the most important EV charging etiquette rules to remember. Just as you wouldn’t grab the gas pump handle from someone else’s car, you shouldn’t pull the plug on another driver who is charging, even if it looks like they’re finished.
Some drivers are kind enough to leave a note giving permission to unplug. Otherwise, leave their car alone unless it’s a dire emergency.
3. Don’t hog an EV parking spot when you don’t need it
A typical Level 2 charger takes anywhere from five to 12 hours to fully charge an electric vehicle. The good news is that you don’t need a full charge to get back on the road, and you can charge up to 80% in as little as 20 minutes with Level 3 DC fast chargers.
Nonetheless, charging an EV requires much more time than refueling a gas-powered car. That means you should leave spots for those who need them and move on quickly when you’re finished. Don’t park in an EV charging spot if you don’t need the juice (and never park a gas-powered car there).
4. Don’t charge fully
When you have the charger, you may feel tempted to squeeze every last drop out of it. However, staying for a full charge is often inconsiderate of other drivers who are waiting—and your battery generally performs best when charged to no more than 80% anyway.
If you absolutely need a full charge, consider using a fast charger to get to 80%, then moving to a Level 2 charger to top it off. That frees up the most efficient chargers for those who need them most.
5. Monitor your progress
Public EV chargers are more conveniently located than gas stations. It’s easy to knock out some shopping or grab a meal while you charge, and that’s a huge bonus. However, it also makes it far too easy to overstay your welcome at a charging port.
To make sure you remember to unplug, set a timer or use the charging network app to monitor your progress. When you’ve got what you need, unplug and move your vehicle, even if you have to pause your shopping to do it.
6. Put the connector back when you finish
This one shouldn’t be difficult, as you’d never just haphazardly hang a gas pump. Unfortunately, though, some drivers have been careless when placing EV connectors back in their holsters, and this can cause damage to the plugs and make them unusable for other drivers. Be sure to hang up the plug properly as a courtesy to others.
7. Don’t top off
Charging stations should be reserved for those who need them. Adding an extra 10% to a mostly full battery isn’t a good use of charging time, and it will ultimately cost you more than it would to wait and charge at home. If you have more than enough charge to get to your destination, leave the charging port for someone else.
8. Communicate about problems
Many charging network apps allow you to communicate important information to other drivers. If a specific charging port isn’t working correctly, for example, you can hop on and warn others in the network to look elsewhere. This earns you extra EV charging etiquette points and helps make the charging experience better for everyone.
Follow the new rules of the road
Learning to be considerate of other drivers is Driver’s Ed 101. The shifting landscape of electrified vehicles has just changed what consideration looks like. Now, every driver—even those who aren’t yet in an EV—must learn basic EV charging etiquette.
By following these eight tips, you’ll be ready to share the road in the decades ahead. So, go charge up—and be kind while you do!