One of the biggest benefits of electric cars (EVs) is never having to go to a gas station and being able to “refuel” at home. Unlike traditional internal combustion engines, electric cars don’t need gasoline or diesel to run but rely on electricity stored in batteries to operate.
If you’re an electric car owner or an EV driver, you probably don’t want to spend a good about of your valuable time trying to figure out what to do with your time while waiting for a public charging station to replenish your EV’s battery. Public charging is inconvenient and can quickly put a dent in your wallet. In this brief article, we’ll show you how to charge an electric car at home and the best way to do it!
Yes, you can charge an electric vehicle at home! There are two options. You can charge with the cable that came with the purchase or lease of the EV or install EV charging equipment at your home (more on the types of EV charging stations later). The first option is not recommended – it’s too slow for most EV drivers. Installing an EV charging station at home will make charging your EV more convenient and worry-free.
Like your smartphone, an EV needs electricity to operate. If your phone’s battery doesn’t have a sufficient amount of charge, your phone won’t work. An electric car operates in the same way. An EV depletes its batteries’ charge when it is in operation and those batteries need to be charged for it to continue to operate.
When you plug in your phone, you’re using a charger that converts the 120-volts of alternating current (AC) from a standard wall outlet into an electrical current your phone can use to replenish its battery life.
With an EV, you plug in as well but into an electric vehicle charging station. The EV charging station converts the 120-volt or 240-volt (depending on what type of EV charging station you have) AC power into direct current (DC) power, which is the type your car’s battery system can use to power the EV.
EV charging stations come in three types: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 or DC Fast Charging.
Level 1: A Level 1 charger comes with the purchase or lease of the EV. The charging cable plugs into a standard 120-volt household outlet – the most common type of outlet you’ll find in your home – through a three-prong plug.
Level 1 charging is almost never enough for an EV owner. Level 1 charging times are pull-your-hair-out type of slow. It can only add three to five miles of range to your EV per hour. This means if your car has a 200-mile driving range it can take 40 hours to completely recharge the EV.
Most electric vehicle owners find a level 1 home charger is not sufficient even when they leave their cars for an overnight charge. Most EV owners want a Level 2 charger installed at their homes so they can have enough juice in their car batteries and not have to figure out a way to charge when they need it.
Level 2: Level 2 charging stations charge an EV up to fifteen times faster than Level 1 chargers. The speed is why homeowners want them at their residences and why businesses want them on their properties.
A Level 2 charging station uses a 240-volt circuit, which is the same type usually used for an electric clothes dryers. While most U.S. homes have 240-volt circuits in the laundry room, unplugging the dryer and then plugging in an EV charger and somehow finding a way to get the car close enough to the charging connector is obviously not practical.
Level 2 chargers need to be installed by a professional electrician that can install a 240-volt circuit and outlet in the garage or driveway. This requires installing a dedicated circuit on the panel and running it to the garage or driveway. While hiring an electrician can be an added expense, it is well worth it. A home EV charger is safer, more convenient, and more reliable than a public charger.
Residential Level 2 chargers can be plug-in or hard-wired. Wired are plugged into your outlet and are portable, while hard-wired are tied directly to the home’s electric service and cannot be relocated.
Smart chargers are residential Level 2 EV charging stations that have Wi-Fi connectivity. Having Wi-Fi allows the EV owner the ability to remotely initiate a charge, monitor the car’s energy usage, and stop a charge, among other perks. EV owners usually control and communicate with their smart chargers with smartphone apps.
Commercial Level 2 charging station stations are similar in that each charging station in the system will need to have a dedicated circuit for each charger installed. At a minimum, a dedicated 40, 50, or 60A circuit will need to be installed for every EV charger.
Commercial charging stations require more electricity and, in turn, electrical infrastructure upgrades. Electricians performing work for commercial Level 2 charging installations usually have to lay conduit and pull wire through, and more than likely do some trenching as well.
You will find commercial EV charging stations at multi-unit dwellings (MUDs), retail sites, hospitality locations, universities, and at the workplace. Workplace charging is the second most popular way for U.S. electric vehicle owners to charge their cars.
Level 3: Level 3 EV charging, DC fast charging, or DC rapid charging can charge 80% of an EV’s battery in as quickly as 10 minutes. A DC fast charger requires 480-volts and significant electrical infrastructure improvements.
DC fast chargers are used for commercial applications. You’ll see them along highways or at commercial fleet depots. Homeowners don’t need that fast of a charge – a Level 2 EV charging station is sufficient since most EV drivers charge overnight. Not only that, some EVs are not compatible with DC rapid chargers. DC fast chargers are also considerably more expensive than Level 2 EV chargers and you probably won’t have the electrical capacity to support a DC fast charger at your home.
Learn more about EV charging levels here.
How much it costs to charge an electric car depends on where you live and how much your utility charges for electricity. Many EV owners take advantage of off-peak demand rates when charging at home. Some utilities, like Southern California Edison, offer electric rate plans made especially for EV owners. Their Time-Of-Use (TOU)-D-PRIME plan has lower peak rates and a higher fixed daily basic charge than their other TOU plans.
For general estimates, we can use data from the Comparing Energy Costs per Mile for Electric and Gasoline-Fueled Vehicles report from the Idaho National Laboratory. According to the report, the average U.S. residential electricity rate is about 11.7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). As you are familiar with, electricity rates fluctuate all the time and some states, like California, have notoriously higher rates which could easily be twice the national average.
The price you’ll end up paying depends on the efficiency of the EV, or how much electricity is used to travel 100 miles. If we take a look at the graph included in the Idaho National Laboratory report you’ll see that using the average national residential rate, it costs between $0.03 to $0.07 per mile to charge an electric car at home.
How does that compare to the cost to drive a car with an internal combustion engine? The cost per mile ranges between $0.13 to $0.22 per gallon and that’s with gas prices at $3 to $4.
A home electric car charger should not be installed on your own. For your safety, you’ll want to hire a professional electrician to install a dedicated circuit for your Level 2 EV charging station. Electric car charging at home should be an easy and stress-free process. You’re getting a home charging station to alleviate range anxiety (the fear one’s EV battery will run out of charge and leave the driver stranded), after all!
The market is full of choices – it can be difficult to choose which electric vehicle charger is right for your home and lifestyle. Then, you’ll have to find an electrical contractor to do the job correctly, safely, and on time.
WattLogic has made charging an electric car at home a pain-free, quick process. Take our 7-minute survey and we’ll provide you with a quote. Then, we’ll send a certified electrical contractor with the ideal EV charging station for you to your home. It’s that easy!
Ready to embark on the ultimate charging journey?