Here's a scenario you're likely to face as an EV driver: you're driving along when you realize you'll soon need a charge. You check for nearby charging stations, and there's only one convenient option along your route. When you arrive, you see it's an EVSE that belongs to a network you haven't heard of. There's no payment option on this station, so now you'll need to download the network's mobile app, create an account, assign a payment method and activate the charging session. That can be frustrating when you're just trying to get somewhere. The good news is, you can sign up for accounts with the major networks in advance, so when the day comes that you need one of their charging stations, you can pull up and plug-in without much fuss.
Below, we cover the major charging networks you should be aware of.
ChargePoint is the largest charging network in the USA, with over 122,000 charging stations. The majority of those stations, however, are Level 2 with J-1772 plugs. That means this isn’t the network you’re likely to lean on if driving coast to coast, but it IS a great ally when topping your car up at the grocery store, mall, or office.
Many ChargePoint stations don’t have a credit card reader, meaning you’ll have to pay by signing up for an account online and assigning a payment method to your account. Once you do that, you can use their app to tap your NFC-enabled phone on the charge station to begin a session, activate a session within the app, or tap an RFID membership card that they send you in the mail.
Tesla’s network is mostly restricted to Tesla vehicles, although in 2023 they have started opening up select stations to other vehicles that use the CCS plug. The Supercharger Network is one of the largest DC FAST networks in North America, offering ease of travel all over the country on a single network. It’s also one of the largest networks in the world, and remains one of the fastest growing networks.
Tesla’s network is somewhat unique in that it is deeply integrated with the software in their cars. Tesla drivers can punch in their destination on their car’s GPS, and the car automatically calculates routes with charging stops and charge times along their journey.
All the driver needs to do is pull up to a bank of charging units and plug in - Tesla Superchargers automatically recognize the car and bill the credit card that the Tesla owner has on file. When the car is charged enough to reach their next destination (not necessarily waiting for a full charge), it alerts the driver that they can continue.
If you're driving a car that isn't a Tesla, you'll have limited options around which Tesla Superchargers you can use. First, your car will need to use a CCS connector. Second, you'll need to find a station that Tesla has retrofitted with CCS adapters. You can find these locations by checking the Tesla app.
Founded by a subsidiary of Volkswagen, Electrify America is one of the fastest growing networks in the US. The majority of these stations are DC FAST plugs with both CCS (up to 350kw!) and CHAdeMO connectors, although they do have some Level 2 J-1772 stations.
Electrify America is an open network that anyone can use. These stations allow you to pay at the plug with a credit card, but it will be easier to sign up in advance and keep their mobile app on your phone. Electrify America has partnerships with some manufacturers like Audi, Harley Davidson and Lucid Motors for reduced charging rates, with reduced rates also extended to paid monthly members.
Blink has a network of over 23,000 plugs, including both Level 2 (J-1772) and Level 3 (CCS & CHAdeMO) connectors depending on the location. While Blink has many locations, they’re not yet a network that you can rely on from coast to coast like Tesla or Electrify America, but they are a strong supplement to those networks in the areas that they operate.
To use the Blink network, you’ll either need a Blink Guest Code from their website or app, or you can sign up for a free account for easier access and reduced rates.
Like Blink, EVgo is not a network that you can use continuously from coast to coast, but it is a growing network that supplements others well.
EVgo emphasizes DC FAST stations, with both CCS and CHAdeMO plugs at most of their locations.
With EVgo stations you can swipe your credit card at the plug, activate a session using their mobile app, or scan with an RFID membership card that they’ll send you after signing up. Accounts are free, but they also offer reduced rates and longer charge times for members who pay a monthly fee.
There are many smaller networks in the USA and beyond, some run by private companies, some by local municipalities, and still other charging stations that may not belong to a network at all.