How to Charge an Electric Car


Charging an electric vehicle.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are powered by batteries that provide energy to electric motors, driving motion to the wheels. Keeping the battery charged is key to keeping the vehicle moving and is just as easy as filling up on gas in a gas-powered car.

We’re here to explain all you need to know about charging an electric vehicle: step-by-step instructions, where to charge, how long it takes to charge and how far a charge lasts. We’ll also cover the different charging station output levels, the average cost of charging an EV and how to monitor your charge status.


How does charging work?

Charging occurs by connecting the EV to a power source known as a charging station. Once connected to the charging station, EVs use their charging port and onboard charger to convert the external power into battery charge. While all-electric cars (BEVs), such as the Tesla Model 3, must be repowered at a charging station, hybrid vehicles (HEVs and PHEVs) can be recharged at a charging station or refueled at a gas station.

Please return your EV rental with its battery charged to at least 10%. If you charge at a Tesla network station, we’ll pass through charging-related fees to the credit card you used to rent your Tesla.* And if you charge at a third-party charging station, just pay on the spot.

Looking up how to charge an ev
Public Ev Charger


EVs are able to charge at three different levels of power output. These different output levels impact where you can charge (home or public location) as well as the equipment and time required to charge. Home chargers use Level 1 or Level 2 charging equipment.

Level 1 uses a standard household outlet (120-volt connection).

EVs come with a standard 120V charging cord so you’ll be able to charge if you have access to an outlet.

Level 2 uses a higher 240-volt power source and can be compared to the power grid your oven is plugged into and charges much quicker than a Level 1 outlet.

DC fast chargers are found at public charging stations. These provide quicker charging times than Level 1 and 2 stations and are ideal if you require a boost of power in a shorter amount of time.


EV batteries also receive power through a process called regenerative (regen) braking. Regen braking uses torque to slow the car, recapturing energy that is normally lost in non-electric cars by using an inverter to invert energy from the brakes.

While regen braking does improve the battery charge, it is not the primary source of recharging for all-electric vehicles (BEVs). For maximum performance, a charging station is required to repower the battery.

The Difference EV
Charging EV in a sunset


Recharging an EV is just like filling up with gas, but rather than inserting a nozzle at a gas station, you insert a connector at a charging station. Use the following steps to charge Model 3:

  1. Open the charge port cover via the touchscreen or by pushing on the cover.
  2. Remove charging station connector from dock and insert into the car’s charge port. While charging, the charge port logo will flash green.
  3. The touchscreen will inform you of charge percentage and estimated time remaining. To optimize battery performance, your rental car will charge to 90%.
  4. When complete, press the connector button until the logo turns white, remove from car and return to dock.


While Model 3 is compatible with all EV charging stations, an adapter is required when using non-Tesla stations. Each of our Model 3 rentals comes equipped with a Mobile Connector kit which includes the adapter. After using the adapter, always be sure to remove it from the charging station connector and return it to the Mobile Connector kit.


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Electric Rental Cars


Where can I charge the car?

As well as charging at home, public and private charging stations provide you with a place to recharge and restart your journey. There are currently over 40,000 official public charging stations available across the US, with nearly 100,000 charging outlets installed in public spaces. To meet the increasing demand for electric car energy, stations are rapidly being installed nationwide.

Requiring only limited space, EV charging stations can exist in similar locations to gas stations, such as off the highway or even at gas stations, and in locations not suitable for gas stations. Such locations include public parking garages, office and retail parking lots and even busy downtown streets.  

There are a variety of ways to locate public charging stations. In Model 3, Tesla Supercharger stations appear as red pins on the navigation screen. You can also touch the lightning bolt on the touchscreen or ask for location options via voice command.

Apps, such as Plugshare and ChargePoint, are available as well to pinpoint your nearest charging location. You can also visit the US Department of Energy website and use their charging station locator to find stations throughout the US.

EV Charger Display


How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle?

Electric car charging times vary depending on the size of the battery and the charging station output. The vehicle model affects the charge time as well, with manufacturers like Tesla, GM and others having different models that offer varying charge periods.

If you know the power output level of a charging station, you will know whether to expect a slower or faster charging experience. When available, we encourage you to select charging stations in the following order:

  1. Tesla Superchargers: Add up to 200 miles in only 15 minutes
  2. DC fast chargers: Ideal for longer journeys requiring short stops
  3. Level 2 (240V): Achieve a partial to complete charge in 5-8 hours
  4. Level 1 (120V): Convenient for home or local driving use, not for long trips


How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Charging an EV at home has been found to be the most affordable and common option, with owners typically doing 80% of charging at home. The average EV-owning US household pays 12 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy used to charge, adding on average $30-$60 to a monthly energy bill.

While you’re likely not home while renting a car, our Model 3 rentals include a Mobile Connector kit which enables you to connect the car to a standard 120V household outlet should one be available during your trip. Additionally, the home charging savings are worth noting when comparing refueling costs of gas-powered cars.

So how much does it cost to charge an EV at a public charging station? In short, it varies, but is always more affordable – and greener – than filling up with gas. Although free public charging stations do exist, most stations charge a fee based on kWh usage, charging time or percentage of battery charged.

The costs of charging can also vary depending on your location. Home charging, for example, varies from an average of 8.65 cents per kWh in Iowa to a rate of 32.76 cents per kWh in Hawaii. Just as home charging rates vary, rates at public charging stations can vary – even within the same city. Apps, such as Plugshare and ChargePoint, can reduce charging costs by locating free or less expensive charging stations in your area.

No matter the distance of your journey, charging an EV is sure to provide cost savings compared with fueling a gas-powered car.

How far on one charge


How far can an electric car go on one charge?

Electric cars are capable of reaching different driving ranges, depending on:

• Make and model
• Size of the battery
• How much the battery is charged

Most EVs easily travel over 200 miles on a full charge, with select Tesla models reaching beyond that. The Tesla Model 3, for example, can travel up to 260-mile range.** With electric vehicle technology advancing all the time, these ranges are estimated to increase over the coming years.

Just like a car powered by gas, weather conditions and the style in which you drive an electric car will affect how much power the car has. For example, harsh braking uses more energy whether a car operates by gas or electric. Exercising safe driving practices will stop the car from wasting vital energy that could get it further down the road.

Likewise, using power-draining instruments and accessories onboard can deplete the battery. This includes entertainment systems, lighting and air conditioning.

Monitoring your Model 3 charge can be done in multiple ways. Displayed in a prominent location on the touchscreen, the battery meter reflects the charge remaining with numerical percentage, a status bar and color changes (green to yellow to red), and the battery range displays estimated miles remaining. Using Model 3’s voice command technology, you can also ask your car for an update on its battery charge.

Although unlikely to occur if you are monitoring your charge, Model 3 provides plentiful alerts and warnings as well as suggested nearby charging station locations via pop-up notifications if a low charge is detected.

Ready to recharge and rethink the way you drive? Learn more about EVs by visiting our electric car hub for more information.

**EPA estimate according to Tesla, Inc. product specifications.

*See your EV Rental Terms to learn more

Get the most out of your electric car rental.

touchscreen video
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Touchscreen | Driving Information

Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

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Regenerative Braking

Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

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Plugging In

Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.