A beginner's guide to EV ownership

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Driving an EV for the first time? Here are some need-to-know basics.

1. First charge

Check that your new EV has a way to charge it at home, such as a portable three-pin charger. They're around $500 and quite handy and while a lot of new EVs come with them; not all do, so it pays to check first.

2. Don't go low

It's very easy to drive an EV like a petrol car: use a tankful, top it up. But EVs are different: treat it like a mobile phone and take charge when you can get it. It's called graze charging.

For day-to-day, it's best to keep the battery between 20-80 percent State of Charge (SOC). Going to the shops for 30 mins, plug it in. And if at home overnight, plug it in, as you never know what will happen, from a morning emergency to a blackout, where the car could be used to power the home.

3. Big trips, plan ahead

If going on a big drive, plan ahead with charging stations. Use ChargeNet or PlugShare apps to find chargers as they can ID broken chargers and even if it's being currently used.

And set up an account before you leave with a credit card, it only has to be done once. It only takes a few minutes, but it's always less stressful to arrive and plug-in. And don't bank on using the 'last' charger on your journey, as it might be in use or broken.

4. Know your connectors

Most EVs use a connector called the Combined Charging System (CCS), with "combined" referring to the two types of plugs incorporated into the larger plug: the connector for DC fast-charging, and the Type 2 connector for slower AC charging. An EV with a CCS plug can use both fast public DC chargers and slower AC home chargers (like the three-pin charger or a Wallbox home charger).

While some older Japanese vehicles might have a larger Chademo connector, these are becoming rarer on new cars. Most public charge stations still have Chademo plugs for fast charging, but EVs with Chademo plugs generally also come with a Type 2 plug as well for slower charging.

5. Charge speeds speed vs battery longevity

while DC fast charging is great to get a big amount of electricity into an EV in a relatively short time, it is hard on the battery. Just like keeping the battery between 20-80 percent will help it maintain charge for longer, so too will charging it at a slower rate.

Exclusively charging your EV at public fast chargers to save time will see the battery degrade faster than plugging it in at home overnight for 10 hours, as the load on the battery is far less at the slower rate. It's best to think of fast chargers as an occasional convenience and get into the habit of plugging in at home overnight, or grazing regularly from slower public chargers.

6. Public charger etiquette

Any times listed on a public charger should be treated as absolute maximum parking times, not a target. While some networks charge a separate per minute for parking as well as a rate for the actual amount of electricity, not all do. This charge is to discourage people from leaving their EVs plugged into a charger longer than it needs to be, therefore inconveniencing anyone else wanting to use it.

If people are waiting, be considerate of them and consider exactly how much charge you actually need - if you are close to home, you don't need to charge to 100 percent after all. Also, use the charging network's app - queues can be reported to save others (and yourself) frustration.

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