How to charge your car in public

Of course, you will mostly be charging your electric car at home or at work, but sometimes you have no choice but to use a public charging station. Although the procedure is the same as at home, it is advisable to keep the following tips in mind.

By the year 2020, Flanders must offer 7,400 charging points or 3,700 charging stations. In Brussels, PitPoint will receive a concession to expand and operate a network of charging stations for a period of ten years and in November, Wallonia allocated €750,000 to install more charging stations along its highways. In other words, the number of charging stations is growing rapidly. Although most of these look virtually the same, there are some differences to look out for.

Determine your charge rate
The forest of charging stations offers a wide range of charging options. These stations all have a certain charging capacity. These days, most charging stations offer a charging capacity of 22,000 watt, which means you can charge up to 150 kilometres per hour. However, older charging stations may offer a lower charge rate.
The available power of the charging station is not the only important factor. The type of car you drive also determines how quickly you can recharge your battery. An electric car charges its battery in much the same way as a laptop: the power outlet produces an alternating current, yet the battery uses a direct current. That is why there is always a transformer there as well (the black box). Your car is equipped with a similar box with a limited capacity. That limitation determines your maximum charge rate.

The well-known superchargers inject a direct current straight into your battery, which allows for higher charge rates. A modern supercharger has a minimum capacity of 50 kilowatt, which means you can charge at a rate of circa 250 kilometres per hour. Tesla drivers can use the Supercharger network that offers a capacity of 120 kilowatt, which can easily charge 250 kilometres in just thirty minutes. In other words: for longer trips, stopping to recharge a bit sooner or taking a small detour can ultimately save you a lot of time if doing so means you can use a faster charging station.

The right card
In recent years, the number of charging station operators has grown exponentially. They, along with other organisations, offer charging cards with which you can pay for your charge. As you might expect, however, not all charging stations accept all cards. To avoid nasty surprises on the road, it is advisable to use a smartphone app to help you find a charging station that will let you use your card to recharge your car. Some of these apps will even tell you if a certain charging station is currently being used by another driver.

Be careful when using a charging station located on private property
These may be accessible at any time or be placed behind a barrier on a company parking lot; there is no hard-and-fast rule. In some cases, the charging station is only available to employees, while others cut the power after working hours. An increasingly important network consists of charging stations in public parking structures. Most of these structures do not charge anything extra if you want to charge your car. Some shopping centres also feature charging stations. Note, however, that most of these stations are only available during opening hours and for customers who have spent a certain amount in the store.

February 12, 2019

The number of charging stations is growing rapidly. Nevertheless, it is advisable to keep these tips in mind before connecting your car to a public charging station.

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Who can park at a charging station?

You can easily recognise a parking spot where electric cars can recharge by the blue sign with a white P that has another sign underneath it with a power plug symbol on it. In addition, the parking spot in question is often painted blue or green with a power plug symbol in the centre to clearly indicate the fact that the spot is reserved for electric cars only.

By parking a car with a conventional combustion engine on a spot reserved for electric vehicles, you risk a fine of €55. Moreover, your car may be towed and you may be liable for the costs of the towing procedure.

Do you have to charge there?
Are you actually required to charge your car when you park in one of those spots? The law is not entirely clear on the matter. Minister of Mobility François Bellot has left the choice in the hands of road authorities: “This allows local governments to draw up their own policies, based on their knowledge of the situation.”

The same goes for the maximum parking time: road authorities will use signs to indicate the maximum parking time, whether plug-in hybrid vehicles may use the spots as well and whether charging your car is mandatory or not.

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