Once you have a home charger for your electric car, you’ll also probably want a way to charge it up in public while you’re out and about. The United States now has almost 20,000 public charging stations. But while most plugs fit any electric car, it’s not as easy as just pulling up and using one.
Most public charging stations are connected to one of a handful of networks. And to activate them, you have to essentially be a card-carrying member, identified through RFID or bar-code scanning technology.
Of course, a few chargers are free, and an increasing number can be activated directly by credit card. Charging networks are also beginning to post 800 numbers on their chargers, so that EV drivers who aren’t members can call and get signed up or pay for a charge. But the effort to build charge stations that don’t require memberships or use a universal membership is growing in fits and starts, according to EV drivers and networks operators we talked to at last month’s Electric Drive Transportation Association meeting in Indianapolis.
Most of the charging networks have merged their payment systems into a single EZ Charge card. But Chargepoint doesn’t participate. The EZ-Charge card will activate ChargePoint chargers – but pricing is not guaranteed, and the charger isn't even guaranteed to be accessible.
Tesla doesn't participate either, but its Superchargers are free to Tesla drivers. So, yes, it is a bit complicated.