There’s never been a better time to be in the market for an electric car, with a wide range of strong models from manufacturers around the world. Electric vehicles, or EVs, offer guilt-free, zero-emission driving, and though gas prices are down at the moment, the freedom from the filling station is liberating. From the selection of vehicles available to incentives offered, an EV is a great option.
But the first and most important question you need to ask yourself is, “How will I charge it?” The number of public charging stations offered by cities and businesses is on the rise, but the network is still spotty compared to gas stations. Charging at home is a necessary part of owning an EV, and fortunately, there are plenty of options for getting it done. Nevertheless, the options and incentives can be overwhelming, and you also need to consider the tax advantages, which offer up to $1,000 in incentives.
Read on to learn about the different home charging options, and how to not get overcharged, overtaxed, or underpowered along the way.
Option one – 120V Cord
Your EV will likely come standard with a 120-volt charging cable. It has one end that fits into your EV’s unique charging outlet on the actual vehicle. The other end is a typical grounded plug that plugs into any grounded wall outlet.
The insides of these cords are copper, and copper does not come cheap. If the brand you’re looking to buy from offers multiple cable lengths, the longer ones will be more expensive. Consider how far you’ll need to go to charge when looking at cables (more on that later).
A 120v charger will work as your primary charger, but they’re not terribly efficient. A full charge for exhausted batteries can take more than 12 hours. If you’re not driving your EV frequently, you might be able to live with just the 120v charger, but chances are good that you’ll need something a little more robust.
Option two – the 240v or “Level 2”
An extended range EV like the Volt will charge in 10-16 hours on a 120v cable, and full EVs simply need more juice. A Tesla Model S adds only 3-4 miles of range per hour charged on the wall outlet, so something more is needed. It’s time to “Level Up.”
As the name implies, a 240 volt charger doubles the output of a 120 volt charger. The bad news is that they’re typically optional from the manufacturer, and they need to be installed by a licensed electrician. It’s not an expensive job, though, running about what it would cost to install an outlet for an electric range or dryer.
Steps to Installation
Contact Electrician: Very soon after purchasing your EV, notify a certified electrician. Tell them you are interested in installing a 240 volt charger for an electric car in your garage or near a spot in your driveway.
Site Visit and Estimate: To get a true estimate, an electrician will likely have to come in person. Installation cost is based on how far your garage is from your house’s main electrical service, and whether the contractor needs to do any extra work to make the connection. Take notes if they get load calculations on various circuits. Note the estimate, and contact multiple electricians to get the best price.
Installation: The installation itself could take less than a day, although some larger projects may require more than one visit. The electrician may need to meet with an inspector for an on-site inspection at a later date.
Cost of Installation
On the Nissan Leaf page at NissanUSA.com, you’ll find a home charging unit from AeroVironment that goes for $999, and $1999 with professional installation. But Anthony Lambkin, manager of EV infrastructure for the Leaf is quick to point out, “We don’t have a specific partnership for home charging.”
Nissan is among several automakers that are compatible with a number of third party products, like the ChargePoint Home, which starts at $549, and goes up depending on charging needs. There are many on Amazon closer to the price of ChargePoint’s product than to AeroVironment’s.
With any new technology, installation prices were high at first. But as electricians become more familiar with the procedure, prices have come down. “The installation cost for my Leaf’s charging station was $300,” explains Lambkind. Anything over $1000 and you’re paying too much.
To cut costs, have the electrician just do the circuit. Once that is done, you can plug and mount in the 240V charging station hardware on your own.
Location of Charger
This is a bit of common sense, but is sometimes overlooked in the installation prices. Think about which way you typically park your car when you get home in the evening. Do you park the same way every night? Now think about where the charger is on the EV.
EVs have their charging ports in different places. The Nissan Leaf has it on front, while the Chevy Bolt and Volt have it immediately ahead of the driver’s door. The port on the Tesla Model S is located in the outer corner of the left rear taillight. All are different so check these placements when initially shopping for EVs.
Those in warmer climates might park their EV outside at night. If you go for an outside installation, make sure it has the appropriate weather and water protection.
If you are looking at an EV, there’s a good change you are looking at other means of reducing your carbon footprint. That could mean pairing a home charging station with solar cells. But it’s not as simple as putting panels on the roof and letting the savings come in.
You may charge at night, but solar works during the day, so you’ll need solution. Battery packs used to be expensive, but as the technology advances, the prices come down. Installation prices could vary based on the product and how familiar electricians in your area are with solar.
Pick a Plan, Start Charging
The most expensive time for electricity consumption is between Noon and 6:00pm, while the least expensive time is between midnight and 6:00am. Many EVs allow you to set up charging times that take advantage of the lowest electrical rates in your area.
Some energy providers also suggest a dedicated smart meter, which could reduce load during peak hours. This could be more expensive for you depending on your charging and driving habits, but could also cut down long-term cost.
In the end, you’ll need to find the solution that best meets your driving habits, budget, and lifestyle. Armed with the information we’ve provided, you can confidently discuss your options with both your auto sales representative and your electrician