Maps & Apps: How to Find Charging Stations in the Wild

By · July 19, 2011

If you drive an EV, you may occasionally want to plug it in somewhere other than your garage. All you need to do is find a charging station. Many modern EVs such as the Nissan LEAF come with telematics systems that include charging station data. This is the simplest way to find a charging station. However, new charging stations are appearing every day and built-in systems are not always up to date. So how can you find the newest, latest, greatest scoop on charging station locations? Maps and apps!

There are online maps and smart phone apps that have charging station locations. In some cases they let you know if the site is available or in-use. Some are crowd sourced and might even include an outdoor outlet on someone’s garage that they are willing to share with fellow EV drivers.

There is no single map or app that contains all of the places that you can plug in. The sources that do aggregate other maps together often drop important data like the type of plug/connector or station availability info.

Recently, there has been a rash of maps and apps appearing. There is a demand, no clear leader, and new contenders appearing every day. These maps and apps are being created by several types of sources. Some are by local EV groups that are trying to share local data, others are by charging station vendors that want you to use their product so maybe the site will buy more of them, yet others are trying to sell apps or bring traffic to their site.

You should know that many of these charging stations require a membership card to activate them. Even when charging is free, the membership card may be required. These are generally $10 or less, in some cases they are free. The cards help reduce vandalism and lay the groundwork for fees to be charged at a future date.

Below is a list of the current maps and apps that I could find. If you know of others, please leave a comment.

 

EV Charging Maps and Apps

Maps

  1. Google Maps

    In March 2011 Google added EV charging station search support to Google Maps, just use the term "ev charging station". Currently this search results in 999,855 hits. Although there are nearly 1 million hits, only 96 of the results have details about the station. You can add photos and details to these locations. You can search in your area or planed destination with the near keyword, e.g., “ev charging station near 97207” will show you stations in downtown Portland, OR.

  2. US Department of Energy

    The Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center of the US DoE has an interactive map that allows you to look for many types of alternative fueling stations including electric. The site allows you to search by charging speed (Level 1, Level 2, or DC Fast Charge) and you can search for public or private stations.

  3. Open Charge Map.org

    This online map and database is attempting to be the Linux of charging station information. Their database has an open API allowing any other map or app service to take this data and share it as if it were their own. This map has charging station data from around the world. Station data is collected by user input. Listing a public charging station here will allow it to be found by many people since this data is utilized by others. You can consider them an “upstream source that flows to many distributary streams.”

  4. Blink Network

    Blink charging stations are being installed by ECOtality as part of the government funded effort called “The EV Project”. To access a Blink station you will need a Blink Network card, these are available for free on their website.

  5. ChargePoint Network

    Coulomb Technologies has installed nearly one thousand ChargePoint stations across the US. This map allows you to search by power Level (1, 2, or 3) and by station availability and price. Coulomb has made this map very usable, but for even more features, you need to use their smart phone app. Coulomb has also published the APIs to their charging station network data. This will allow other map and app developers to easily integrate the ChargePoint stations.

  6. Recargo.com

    This crowdsourced online map site and smartphone app was started by the founder of Dictionary.com. The site currently has 1,575 stations listed. Registered users can submit new stations, add photos, leave comments, and register check-ins. The real-time comments can allow you to find out if a station is down before you need it, tell you how to navigate a complex parking structure to find the stations, or tell you about a nice restaurant that is nearby. For more info about their app, see below.

  7. EV Charging Locations.com

    This site is a combination charging station map and blog about the same. It currently lists 721 stations, nearly all in the US.

  8. CarStations.com

    With comments like “carstations is the most accurate in my area” and “carstations is the best site I've seen”, this site has a few fans. When your content is primary crowdsourced, a loyal following is priceless. The site has a great educational section on connector types, including Avcon, J1772, CHΛdeMO and others. It is important that people entering data understand these connectors. One feature I would like to see added is a filter to allow searching by connector type. Currently, the site just shows all the stations it has for a given region.

Apps

  1. ChargePoint App By Coulomb

    This feature rich app is available for iPhone and Android.  It allows you to:

    —Find & Reserve charging stations.

    —Get turn-by-turn directions to charging stations.

    —See the real-time availability of charging stations.

    —Start and Stop charging sessions.

    —Get directions back to your vehicle.

    —See energy and other data on your charging sessions.

    —Receive real-time notifications of your current charging session.

    ChargePoint membership is required.

  2. Recargo.com

    With both an online map and a smartphone app Recargo is on this list twice. The app has all the features of the website and more. You can share photos and leave real-time comments. The 1.5 version of the app was release in June. In this update Recargo partnered with our very own PluginCars.com for a news feed within the app. This provides news and reviews by industry experts as well as EV journalists and how-to artricles about owning and operating plug-in vehicles. “The health of the electric car market heavily depends upon well-informed early adopters sharing their candid, real-world experiences,” said Brad Berman, editor of Plugincars.com. Recargo apps are available for iPhone and Android.

  3. Plug Share

    This free smartphone app boasts over 2,500 charging sites in its database. It is a crowd-sourced app and anyone can share their own outlets. Contact info or allowed access times are listed. This app is currently only available for the iPhone with Android support “coming soon”.

Regional Maps & Apps

  1. EV Charger News.com and EV Charger Maps.com

    These California-centric companion sites are two of the older charging station lists on the web. They were built in the late '90s for that generation of EVs. They have made steps to add support for Tesla charging stations but are lacking J1772 charging infrastructure data used by modern EVs.

  2. EV Charge Finder

    This iPhone app is by EV Charger Maps.com and is similar to the website; it is very California-centric. Android support: None.

  3. Washington State

    Regional map by EV enthusiast Desmo Dave lists dozens of locations in the Seattle area where you may be able to plug in.

  4.  

  5. Shorepower Technologies

    This page has two maps. One for long-haul truck electrification used to reduce idling and the second for plug-in passenger vehicles. Both maps are dominated with northwest US locations.

  6. Portland General Electric

    Portland General has actively been installing renewable energy powered charging stations within northwest Oregon. This maps lists PGE’s stations and several others in the area.

Comments

· · 2 years ago

Great info Pat. I would like to include a condensed version in the Winter issue of the Green Living Journal (with your approval and credits).

· · 2 years ago

That sounds cool to me Gary.

Here is another one for the list from reader Scott F via facebook
http://www.chargingstation​s.com/

· · 2 years ago

Also http://carstations.com/ is another fairly good one.
Unfortunately no one site is 100% complete or sufficient for planning yet.

· · 2 years ago

Just for fun, I typed in my home town (Tucson, Arizona) into all of the above web site maps. Results varied, but the one I think is most accurate is ex-EV1's entry, carstations.com. The US Department of Energy's one is also very good. I like the fact that this one also functions for locating other alternative fuel (biodiesel, etc) refilling stations.

Google's EV charging map brought up the obvious regional EV charging locations I already know about, but the search engine - confused by the word "charging" - also found a few places that have absolutely nothing to do with replenishing the batteries on an EV.

My personal favorite on Google is 9855 E. Speedway Blvd. in Tucson (try it out and click the Street View when you get there.) I'm wondering if that's a Level 2 or Level 3 mesquite tree!?! In fairness, I guess there is supposed to be a ChargePoint brand station out there eventually. Maybe I'll drive out that way later this week to investigate and confirm.

This collection of sites is a nice start, but, yes, they could all use a bit of work. I'm almost of the mindset, though, that a few of these sites should simply share their data with their "competitors" and then throw in the towel. Better have two or three sites that really do it well than seven or eight where half of them are somewhat hit and miss.

· · 2 years ago

If you locate an EVSE not listed on the LEAF nav you can add it very simply. The benefit with being nav based is it provides the nearest EVSE with turn by turn directions.

How did you get that Blink RFID card? I requested mine months ago. I even talked to their customer service and still nothing.

· Chris C. (not verified) · 2 years ago

A few comments:

The Google Maps "search for EV charger" method has worked terribly for me. I have yet to see it provide anything but both false positives and false negatives! A real disappointment so far.

Similarly, a lot of die hard EV folks like to point to EV Charger News and their map, but it's just awful for anything outside California, and has seemingly no J1772 info even inside CA. Bad interface, looks like it was designed by a child, etc. I'm being harsh, I know, I'm just disappointed that a nice DIY effort like this has failed.

As mentioned above, so far http://carstations.com/ has been the best site I've seen. Shows all the stations I know of here in not-West-Coast land, scales beatifully, provides interface details, well done!

It would be good if your writeup would clarify whether the map sites / apps show ALL charging locations or just a subset, like the Blink or Coulomb stations.

I'll soon be putting these maps to the test in a 9-hour road trip from Atlanta to West Virginia in my Chevy Volt! I won't NEED to charge ... I'm just going to be stopping by the stations and checking them out, much to the chagrin of my wife I'm sure!

· · 2 years ago

http://carstations.com/ does look pretty good. Sorry I missed it. Thanks ex-EV1 driver and everyone else that mentioned it.

At first I was going to write this as a comparison "Which charging station locator tool is the best..." but that all depends on where you live and what you are looking for. As Benjamin said, they could all use some work.

indyflick asked, How did you get that Blink RFID card?
It came in the mail about a week ago. Over the last 10 days or so there have been many reports on mynissanleaf.com of the cards arriving. At least some are getting mailed now. But to let you know the *full* story I picked up a couple of them (that I will now give to local EVers) at this event 6 weeks ago.

Chris C wrote, "It would be good if your writeup would clarify whether the map sites / apps show ALL charging locations or just a subset".
Good point. That would be a good clarification. Even if the Coulomb functionally great, they will never list Blink stations or NEMA 14-50 outlets.

Benjamin wrote, "a few of these sites should simply share their data".
OpenChargeMap.org and Coulomb both have open APIs to allow other sites to aggregate their data. I agree that more of them should play nice.

· · 2 years ago

Brad,
Links to these sites might be a good service that plugincars.com could provide. Folks could then comment specifically about their merits too.

· · 2 years ago

@Chris C,
Don't be too hard on evchargernews.com. Remember this site is over 10 years old. As recently as a year ago, California was the only place with any significant number of public charging stations.
The good news is that the rest of the world is finally catching up and there are new websites. evchargernews.com is pretty much not trying to keep up with J1772, leaving that to the new guys and, instead, focusing on supporting the legacy EVs that made today's J1772 EVs possible.
Personally, I find that recargo.com and carstations.com, being run by legacy EV drivers who also own new J1772 EVs, are by far the best sites out there since their owners have personal interest in completeness.

· · 2 years ago

ex-EV1 driver said, "Links to these sites might be a good service that plugincars.com could provide."

I think that is a great idea. I wrote this article because I could not find just such an item. After getting a smart phone, I wanted to know what to install and I could not find a list, reviews, or comparisons. I think this could be a good fit under guides, maybe an "EVSE Locator Guide".

· · 2 years ago

@Patrick,
If a smart phone sparked your interest, I understand why you missed carstations.com. They don't have a smartphone App. You must go to their website. My experience is that their website doesn't work well on an iPhone though, only a PC with broadband connection.

· · 2 years ago

I missed many things that a better researcher would have found, e.g., Recargo had a press release on June 1st for their v1.5 SW release. One of the features that touted was that they "partnered with PluginCars.com, which provides news and reviews by industry experts as well as EV journalists and how-to’s about owning and operating plug-in vehicles." Seems like that would be worth mentioning. :)

· · 2 years ago

Yes, there's a tab on the Recargo app that brings you directly to plugincars.com. This lets you easily get the latest plug-in news while you are charging at a location that Recargo helped direct you to.

· · 2 years ago

Brad agreed to allow me to update this article. Both Recargo sections are updated and CarStations.com has been added. The update should be posted soon.

· · 2 years ago

PlugShare for Android is here!
https://market.android.com/details?id=com.xatori.Plugshare

· · 2 years ago

Another iPhone app for the list: http://www.plugsurfing.co.uk/

· · 2 years ago

I'd be cautious about relying on carstations.com. It seems as if it assumes that any Nissan Dealer must have J1772 charging. They list the dealer nearest me as having one and I've been there and they don't, nor do they have any plans to put one in (Nissan won't allow them a Leaf franchise because they are too small and rural).

I need to call around to some other dealers in my area and see if they are listed incorrectly also.

· · 2 years ago

@dgpcolorado,
I wouldn't worry too much about Nissan dealerships having charging. The big dealerships are seldom in a place where anyone would actually want to hang out while charging and they are seldom available 24 hours per day.
With the possible exception of your needing a charging place for your supply runs into town (both of which are clearly too small to be of any concern to Nissan corporate wonks), I can't really see much use for dealership charging.

· · 2 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver, While I agree that hanging around a dealer for charging isn't an ideal solution, having dealers who don't even offer charging appear on J1772 maps is misleading. In my case I was looking to see if there were any charging options in my area and every one listed on carstations.com seems to be one of these phantom dealers. They happen to be ideally located to greatly expand my range were they "real". But they are not. [I was also excited that perhaps some of the dealers in my area were going to sell and service Leafs, saving me a 300 mile trip to Denver for service.]

I'm back to your original suggestion some months ago: put in my own charge stations where I need them (or persuade someone else to do it). But I am going to be cash strapped for awhile after purchasing my Leaf (probably in March, based on current delivery estimates).

· · 2 years ago

@dgpcolorado,
They're not all phantoms. I was pleasantly surprised when I stopped by the Huntsville AL Nissan dealership when I was there on business recently and they proudly showed me their J-1772 charging station. They lamented that they don't expect to get their first Leaf for a long time.
Carstations.com got a list of Nissan dealerships that are planned to get them and have been calling around to verify but there are a lot of dealerships and carstations.com still isn't making any money so I'm sure they are way behind.
IMHO, the best single site is recargo.com but carstations.com is in second place for J1772 sites. There is no site that is good by itself and I highly recommend verifying all sites that you want to use by calling and looking for check-ins. Even then, its a dicey business.
The only thing one can really count on for long-distance trips is RV parks.

· · 2 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver, The downside of RV parks here is that they tend to be closed in winter, when I am more likely to need a bit of extra charge!

· · 2 years ago

Blink app for Android and iPhone
http://www.blinknetwork.com/mobile.html

· · 2 years ago

Recargo's Android app is available
https://market.android.com/developer?pub=Recargo+Inc.

· bryan38401 (not verified) · 2 years ago

This is bryan haynes im am owner of Charge-A-Lot a charging network and installer in columbia tn. It is my personal opinion that carstations is by far the best. they will allow you to list ALL brands of stations.The major players in this GAME only want you to know about there stations.But what I have found is the list only stations that they can charge for. I have many stations not listed on there sites that are operational but are FREE PUBLIC access and they seem to not want you to know about them.As a PLAYER in this game it makes me mad.I drive a red leaf and as a ev owner I want access to any and all stations that are public access no matter what brand or free or even if you have to pay. so I have personal listed competitors stations for ALL to see.I think all ev owners should list stations on ALL sites that they come across. If they are not listed already so all of us may know about them we have over 20 public acccessable stations in our little out of the way county

· Robert Braly Sherrod (not verified) · 1 year ago

Evjourney is the most advanced website on the Internet for EV route planning, and maintains an EV charging station database that collects data from the U.S.D.O.T. database and other sources.

It uses Google Maps.

· Robert Braly Sherrod (not verified) · 1 year ago

Evjourney.com is the most advanced EV route planning site on the Internet, and uses an EV charging station database that it maintains from a variety of other databases.

· TipCharge (not verified) · 1 year ago

www.tipcharge.com is a new website that gathers charging stations around the world across providers... TipCharge is also a smartphone app, and it is easy to find the nearest charging station and navigate there.

· TipCharge (not verified) · 1 year ago

TipCharge for android:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.vg.tipcharge&hl=dk

also remember to visit the website www.tipcharge.com that gathers charging stations across provider. It's free for all, and it is easy to add a charger to the map.

· · 1 year ago

@Tipcharge,
Thanks for the attempt to help EV drivers find charging stations. I wish you success.
Unfortunately, this site is of no use in the Los Angeles area. After a quick look, it appears that you've gathered data bases from LADWP and Chargepoint.
The LADWP info is useless since their chargers are mostly locked behind locked gates and are all either obsolete LPIs, SPIs or have been removed altogether. No information regarding this is available at all.
The webpage doesn't work very well with Apple's Safari browser.
Unless the database gets updated and corrected, it won't be useful. The radio button for users to update it don't work but perhaps one has to register to be able to update it.

· TipCharge (not verified) · 1 year ago

ex-EV1 driver
Thanks for The comments. We are still working on making www.tipcharge.com better and we appreciate the comments we get. We will definitely look at this, and of course Tipcharge work in Safari browser.

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