Maps & Apps: How to Find Charging Stations in the Wild
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
This site is a combination charging station map and blog about the same. It currently lists 721 stations, nearly all in the US.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
This iPhone app is by EV Charger Maps.com and is similar to the website; it is very California-centric. Android support: None.
Regional map by EV enthusiast Desmo Dave lists dozens of locations in the Seattle area where you may be able to plug in.
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.
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.
New to EVs? Start here
Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
Buying Your First Home EV Charger
You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.