It Takes Less Time Than You'd Think to Charge an Electric Car

©. Ed Robinson/Shell

Because people don't charge like they fill up their tanks.

As electric cars go mainstream, prepare yourselves for the inevitable onslaught of naysaying articles:

"There'll be nowhere to charge them! "— Nonsense, says Lloyd.

"They run by burning coal." — Horsepoop, says Sami.

"They take too long to charge!" — Hmm, on this one, you may just have a point.

After all, when drivers are used to filling up their tanks in just a couple of minutes, are they really willing to sit around a highway gas station for half an hour or more before they can get back on the road?

But is that really the case?

Surprisingly enough, we plug-in car drivers rarely charge from close-to-empty to completely full in a public charging setting. That's perhaps the most pertinent point in video blogger James Cooke's recent episode about Shell's new Recharge offering below.

According to a company spokesperson in the video, when Shell originally planned on launching 50kW charging stations at its gas stations, it assumed most drivers would fill from empty to 80% most of the time. But as the drivers in the video attest, and as the spokesperson herself confirms, charging is often as much about comfort and security as it is fully juicing up to go on long distance trips. Stopping in for a ten-minute coffee before you get on the road is often enough to get where you need to go, and then you charge at your destination before heading back home.

True, for real-world road tripping in a country like the United States, genuine fast charging will eventually become a need. But actual, proper long-distance road trips are and always will be an extreme rarity for most of us. Most of the time, we're more likely to need a quick top-up fast charge to allow our 80-mile Nissan Leaf to comfortably make a 100-mile trip. Or to let our 230+ mile Chevy Bolt to do 250 miles before needing to stop for a longer charge. And the same will be true of a 300+ mile Model 3. As a general rule, I suspect most drivers will stay within or close to their car's overall range, 90 to 95% of the time.

The time it takes to charge should only be seen as time "wasted" or "spent" if you're sitting there when you would rather be doing something else. Charging while socializing with friends at a brewery? That's no real time out of your day. Topping up while shopping at Target or pigging out on Ikea's (veggie) meatballs? Oh, you poor, poor thing.

The way I see it, you're actually gaining time compared to what you used to spend on filling up at the gas station. That's doubly true given that, for most drivers, most of the time, you'll actually be charging at home as you sleep.

So what are we going to do with all this time we'll suddenly have on our hands?