So, you’ve finally decided to go electric. Electric vehicle (EV), that is. No more stopping at the gas station, no more being held hostage by geopolitical forces and the fluctuating price of a barrel of oil, and no more spewing destructive emissions into Earth’s atmosphere for you.
Congratulations! Before you sign on the dotted line, though, have you thought about how you’re going to charge your vehicle? Do you live in a dwelling with ready access to an electrical outlet? Or are there charging stations at work, or nearby?
If you have a plug-in hybrid vehicle, a simple household outlet might be all you need for a full charge, as long as you have access to it for several uninterrupted hours.
But wait – what’s this? You’re going for a full-on EV with a big, gigantic battery, like a Chevrolet Bolt EV? You’ll need more than just a few hours and a Level 1 wall outlet.
Fully charging a Bolt EV with juice from the same 120-volt plug that you use for your vacuum cleaner will take about 48 hours to get from a completely depleted battery to a full charge. That’s two full days that the car would have to sit in the driveway or garage if you want to see the “Battery Full” icon on the dashboard. Who has the time?
If you make the commitment to buy an all-electric vehicle, it only makes sense that you would want a Level 2 240-volt charger at home so that the car can fully juice up overnight while you’re sleeping. For the Bolt EV, a home charging station will replenish the battery in about 9.5 hours. That’s much better.
Choose the Right Charging Station
There are plenty of EV charging stations for home use on the market, but ClipperCreek and ChargePoint are probably the best-known names*. It’s worth the extra cost to buy a reputable product since we are talking about something that will be used every day to channel large amounts of energy. Prices run between $400 and $800, depending on your needs, and not including installation charges.
Here are some variables to consider:
- Make sure that your charging device is safety certified with Edison Testing Laboratories (ETL) or Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and comes with an earth ground connection. You need to determine where your home’s meter and breaker panel are, and where you’d like to mount your charger. Then you need to determine how long a cord you need to easily reach your EV’s charge port.
- Most people put their charging stations in the garage, where their cars are stored. You can install a charger in your driveway, but since it will be exposed to the elements, it will have to be a unit that can stand up to moisture and pollutants. You’ll need a National Electrical Manufacturer Association (NEMA) rating of 4X if you want it outdoors.
- Figure out what amperage you need to best serve your vehicle. An ampere is a unit for measuring electricity, and how fast the current flows. In a lower-cost 12A (12-amp) device, the current will run slower, and recharging will take more time. The higher the amp, like 40A or 50A, the faster it charges, and the pricier the charging station gets. Most pure EVs with a big battery, like the aforementioned Bolt EV, will require at least a 40A unit for the shortest charging times.
- Beyond basic EV chargers, there are new innovations like plug-less chargers that eliminate the need to plug in every night, similar to a wireless smartphone charging pad, but for your car. Some devices can also communicate with your smartphone so that you can check on your charging status from wherever you are. See what features are right for you.
This handy chart from ClipperCreek shows the differences in charging times for various vehicles and charging stations with different amps.
Call a Professional; It’s Not DIY
Now it’s time to install the new unit, which isn’t exactly a charger because the actual charger is already on board your vehicle. The charging station is a means by which to deliver electricity from your home to your car. And in order to get more power faster, you need a 240-volt rather than a 120-volt setup. You probably already have large appliances in your home, like air conditioners, that use a 240-volt current.
Unfortunately, installing a home charging station isn’t as easy as simply purchasing an appliance and plugging it in. You have to call a skilled electrician to come out and install it. I contacted a few of my local electric companies and requested a quote to install a 240-volt, 50-amp circuit. They all cost between $300 and $400 for a skilled electrician to come and perform a basic installation.
Can’t you save the money and do it yourself? There must be tutorials on YouTube, right?
Not a chance. If you’re not well-trained and experienced in working with electricity, do not even think about trying to install a charger yourself. One mistake could cause life-threatening injuries to you or others, not to mention the risk of burning down your house. It’s just not worth it. Call an electrician.
What your friendly electrician will need to do is determine if your home is able to handle a charger and a new 240-volt outlet. Older homes with a hinky, antiquated system may need a new meter and breaker panel along with all new wiring so it may cost even more for the electrician to update everything so that it’s up to code and safe.
Once it is determined that all your home’s electrical system is ready, installation should take just a couple of hours. Keep in mind, though, that cost varies depending on how far your charging station will be from your main breaker panel. The longer the wiring, the more it will cost.
OK, All Done. Now What?
Congratulations, your home is now a charging station! Get ready to enjoy a nice, fully charged electric vehicle in the morning no matter how close you came to running out of battery the night before.
Remember, though, that electricity isn’t free, and every watt costs money. To minimize the cost to recharge your EV, try these tips:
- Determine when your electricity rates are off-peak, and plan on recharging then; it’s usually at night. In many markets, you’ll pay the highest rates when demand is the highest, like on very hot days when everyone is running their air conditioner.
- Consider going solar. It won’t matter when you plug in, and many people report that solar panels help lower their electricity costs.
- Check to see if your electric utility company offers incentives and rebates that can cover the cost of the installation – and even the charger – making this a lower-cost venture than you thought. It really depends on where you live, so do some investigating.
One of the local electric companies I contacted told me that their home charging station business is booming, largely due to ever-increasing demand of new EV owners that want to install chargers in their homes. After all, EVs seem to be the way of the future. With a bit of research and some money up front, you can be prepared today for what is coming tomorrow.
*Tesla vehicles are on their own proprietary system, and the required home chargers can only be purchased through Tesla and installed by an official Tesla-certified company.