The 10 Best Electric Vehicle Chargers
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A Brief History Of The Electric Car
It seems like we've been waiting forever for electric cars, so it may surprise you to learn that the first electric automobile was actually invented at almost the same time as its gas-powered cousin. While Karl Benz is widely credited for inventing the modern car in 1886, an American named William Morrison developed the electric car just five years later.
By 1897, the streets of New York began to see electric taxis roaming up and down its streets. These cabs were fairly quiet, which was a problem that would soon be solved by the invention of the car horn in 1910. The vehicles' popularity crested in 1900, when 28 percent of all autos manufactured were run by electricity.
Around 1920, however, the gas-powered vehicle had become undisputed king of the automobiles. The electric car just couldn't compete with its distance, and the ready availability of oil kept driving cheap for most motorists. For a while, it seemed as if oil belchers would stay on top forever. Then its side effects reared their ugly heads, and Americans experienced things like an energy crisis, pollution, and the terrifying possibility of Peak Oil.
All of a sudden, a cleaner, renewable alternative started to look a lot better!
Attempts at electric cars had been made throughout the 20th century, but it wasn't until global warming provided the threat of an existential crisis that the pursuit was undertaken in earnest. Congress passed the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act in 1976, which was designed to fund the development of the next generation of cars.
The first truly successful electric car was the hybrid Toyota Prius, released in 1997. For several previous years, large, gas-guzzling cars had been all the rage, including the monstrous Hummer. However, high gas prices hit many people hard in the wallet, and suddenly fuel efficiency started to seem sexy.
By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, all-electric cars were starting to be developed by more and more car manufacturers. While the future looks bright for the electrified horseless carriage, there are still many hills to climb, including high prices, limited range (still!), and a lack of supporting infrastructure.
But hey, it's still better than dropping half your paycheck at the gas station.
What To Look For In A Charging Cable
If you've taken the plunge and gotten yourself an EV, the next step is figuring out the best way to keep it charged. Most vehicles come with a cable included, of course, but that can be a pain for traveling–what if you forget it at home? That's a good way to find yourself stranded.
That's why purchasing a second charging cable is a good idea. You can store the second one in the car at all times, so you never have to worry about being caught without it. Of course, many of the options out there have more bells and whistles than the factory models, so we won't blame you if you decide to replace that one as well.
One simple thing to look for that many people overlook is cord length. Have you ever parked just a little too far away from the gas pump, then had to deal with fighting the hose for every inch of slack? Yeah, you'll be doing that every time you recharge if you buy a short cord.
Another thing to consider is how long it takes to charge. Not all chargers are created equal in this regard, so if you don't want to be stuck twiddling your thumbs while you wait for your ride to be ready, look for one that's labeled as a 240-volt Level 2 station. Just so you know, for these, you'll likely need an electrician to help install it, so this would be your home model and the factory-issued one would live in the car.
Finally, consider whether you need one that's rugged enough to stand up to outdoor use. Many options are indoor-only, but then again most people will be installing these inside their garages, so it may not be worth paying extra for a little weather resistance.
How To Boost Your Car's Range
While your new charging cable is sure to make refueling a breeze, the fact of the matter is you'll still want to spend as little time topping off your ride as possible. Also, just because you're not wasting gas doesn't mean you can suddenly forget about fuel efficiency, as the juice coming out of your wall still costs money, and still harms the environment.
The first thing you're going to want to do is collect and analyze your driving data. That's right, your driving style has the single biggest impact on your fuel consumption, so if you're a speed demon or if you don't maintain your car, it'll cost you in the end. Luckily, most modern EVs give you tons of information about your driving, and many come with custom driving modes to handle situations like low battery life.
Keeping your car inside is important as well, since being in the sun can cause the battery to degrade much faster than normal. If you live in the desert, or if you know that your chariot will be baking on the asphalt for much of its life, take that into consideration before you buy, and look for a model with a formidable cooling system.
Of course, keeping your car cool on the inside contributes to battery rundown as well. If you can't imagine life without the A/C on full blast, you can expect to need to charge your vehicle more often - and should maybe consider a hybrid model instead.
One of the biggest benefits of electric cars is that they're on the cutting edge of technology, and so, as you might expect, there is a host of apps out there for drivers. You can start your car, regulate the temperature, find a charging station, and monitor the charging status, all from your smartphone. Keeping tabs on your car in this manner–as well as regularly maintaining it–will go a long way towards making sure you stay on the road.
After all, what's the point of having an electric car if you can't make all those poor saps stuck on the road in gas guzzlers jealous?