If, like most modern homeowners, you are committed to sustainability and embrace green technology, a modern home car-charging station may be the answer to your dreams. Or, it may simply represent a step forward in convenience and a way to simplify your life. Either way, there are some things you will want to consider before you call the electrician.
While both pure electric vehicles and hybrids can be charged through standard home 110-volt outlets, it is generally faster and more efficient to recharge an electric vehicle’s battery with with a Level 2 EVSE, more commonly known as a home charging station. It depends in part on both the type of vehicle you have and the distance you drive on a regular basis.
With a hybrid model that is only used for short distances as a full-electric vehicle, or a car driven on an irregular basis, plugging it into a standard home outlet overnight may suffice. However, if the goal is to use the vehicle to full capacity on a single electric charge, or if there is a frequent need for a quick recharge, a Level 2 charger makes sense.
Basic Things to Know
Before proceeding, there are three points to consider, according to Tom Konrad, author of a fairly exhaustive discussion of the benefits of a Level 2 home charging station.
- Location of the nearest electrical panel, the existing electrical service to the home and the availability of open circuits,
- Make, model and year of the vehicle,
- The vehicle’s electric range, or the average distance to be driven between charges.
Once you determine the capacity of the vehicle’s charger, and you consider the way the car will be used on a continuing basis, you will be able to determine the size and details of charging stations to meet your needs.
Questions and Concerns
While hybrid vehicles are not new, dedicated home charging stations are still relatively uncommon, so there are some things that you might initially consider.
Several reputable brands are available for personal use, and you will want to compare features in addition to cost. Some factors worth investigating include required electrical circuit size for a particular model. It is recommended that usage (power draw) not exceed 80 percent of the circuit capacity.
Some users recommend over-sizing both the circuit and the charging station capacity for some fairly obvious reasons. First, installing a 240-volt electrical circuit is often pricey; it is wise to have additional capacity available for future needs, or for charging a second vehicle. In addition, most brands of chargers have only limited history in terms of performance and durability. Running electrical appliances at less than optimum operational ability is generally smart.
Consider future needs as well as current specifications.
In addition, some home charging stations are hard-wired while others may simply be plugged into an outlet. Although they may not be truly “portable,” they could easily make a move to a new home, along with other personal belongings and optional home amenities. How much set-up you’re willing to do may determine which type of product you purchase.
Making the Right Decision
The final choice is an individual one, but most home charging station owners agree that they make economic sense only if the vehicle’s range is sufficient to allow you to “charge and drive” at will, or as often as you wish for short trips.
Before buying and installing a charging station, determine the features that make sense: An outdoor rating is important only if you do not have a garage, and programmable charging time may be senseless unless your utility company bases rates on peak and off-peak usage. The length of the cord may or may not be important. Charging speed and cost are important.
Konrad recommends that potential buyers do some comparison shopping before making a final decision, obtain competitive bids for installation, and then consider “sharing” your charging station with other electric vehicle owners. It might be, as he notes, a good way to make new friends (and a way to split up costs)!