There are seven ways that you can charge your electric vehicle, but they boil down to three main categories: home installation, public installation, and portable charging. You can also use multiple methods to charge your electric vehicle, even within the same charging cycle.
Home Charging Installation
The most common way to charge an electric vehicle battery is to have a charging station installed at your home. The vehicle charging station is called an electric vehicle service equipment, or EVSE. There are multiple companies that provide electric vehicle service equipment. This might seem a little daunting once you start looking into all the different EVSE or chargers that are available. A level 2 charger is the most common charging station, which means that the rated voltage of 240 AC is the maximum along with the maximum amperage.
1 – Hardwired Level 2 Home Charging
You have two options when it comes to chargers: a permanent hardwired connection, or a 240 VAC receptacle. With either option, it is recommended that a professional electrician performs the installation. An electrician will determine if the house electrical service is capable of handling the installation of the 240VAC connection with the current service amperage. I do not like to make generalized statements, but this does depend on the house: when it was built, and how much room for expansion is available on your current electrical service circuit. Even if you have empty spots in which to physically install the circuit breaker, this might push the total amperage of the whole circuit panel over the service rating. The worst-case scenario involves having all your household appliances running at the same time as charging an electric vehicle. This would draw an amperage over the total service panel. A licensed electrician would not allow this scenario to happen as they allow for some buffer to exist taking into account spikes in current draw.
2 – Removable Level 2 Home Charging
A removable charger is identical to a permanent or hard-wired charger but it can be unplugged easily. The main advantage is that you do not need an electrician to remove the EVSE in the event of a failure or selling your home. You will; however, require an electrician to install a 240VAC outlet in your garage and to make any other updates to your service panel, if required.
In the event of an upgrade requirement to a higher service level, an electrician would be able to install the upgrade easily within a few hours. This would be the perfect time to think about future expansion in terms of how many plugs you may want. With electric vehicles currently trending, adding two 240 VAC receptacles in a two car garage could be a good selling feature in the next decade as more people transition into electric vehicles. Deciding to include an additional receptacle would save a few hundred dollars from upgrading the panel twice, and you would also save the additional cost of hiring an electrician to do the work again. Instead, they will be able to install both receptacles in relatively the same time as running the wires for one.
3 – Wireless Level 2 Home Charging
A more convenient way to charge an electric vehicle is with wireless charging. This can be done in a covered garage at home or, if there is no garage, an outdoor unit can be installed in the concrete or pavement. Wireless charging has three main components: the electric vehicle service equipment will be installed outdoors or inside a garage, a transmitter buried in the floor, and an adapter plate attached to the electric vehicle to complete the wireless charging circuit. A wireless charging system will provide the equivalent of level 2 charging without the need to plug in at home. This can be used in a parking spot that also has gasoline vehicles parked at times without causing an issue. The electric vehicle needs to be parked directly above the transmitter in the floor for charging to begin.
Public Charging Installation
4 – Paid Public Charging
Public charging stations are expanding at an ever-growing rate. These charging stations are for public access and require payment to start the charging process. They are typically located near larger shopping centers in order to entice electric vehicle owners to take advantage of multiple hours of downtime for the vehicle. One of the largest one-stop shopping stores IKEA has been introducing charging stations close to the entrance to their stores.
5 – Pre-Paid Public Charging
Pre-paid public charging is a bit of a misnomer as pre-paid does not necessarily mean that you have actually paid for a charge. A better description might be a value-added service that is covered by facility fees. For example, there are more hotels that are offering prepaid charging to valid guests. The hotel lumps the expense of installation and electricity costs in with other complementary services such as a swimming pool.
6 – Portable Level 1 Charging
The easiest and most common plugs are 120VAC, which provide a level 1 charge. This is why it is always a good idea to have a portable charging cord with you: the charging time is much longer than level 2 but is available at every residential house. Keep in mind that you should always get permission to plug in your electric vehicle and work out the particulars for your charge with the property owner. Non-electric vehicle drivers may not know how long your vehicle will need to be charged and should be compensated for their electricity and access to a charge. Another option for those on a tight budget is a Walmart parking lot. To get a full charge you may have to stay there overnight for a proper charge at level 1.
When you buy an electric vehicle, most salespeople will include this in with the vehicle as a bonus. If not, it can always be purchased from the dealer or from a reseller like Amazon. This can be seen as the replacement of the jerry can for an electric vehicle.
7 – Smart Home Charger
A smart charger, like the Tesla Powerwall, can charge your electric vehicle with the electricity produced from solar panels. Not only can the Powerwall store your solar power but it can also put power back on the grid if you so desire.
One of the main features, when you do not have solar power connections, is to use the smart functions that charge the electric vehicle based on the grid tiered electricity cost structure. During normal working hours, the demand for electricity is highest and will cost more, followed by a few hours before and after peak demand at the medium cost level. The lowest electricity cost is typically between 7 pm and 7 am as demand is its lowest. This is the ideal time to charge your electric vehicle.
If you had solar panels and used the smart charging features of the Powerwall or multiple units, you have the possibility of a net zero cost charging every night. This is after the initial investment for this equipment and installation.
If you think you are the type of person to forget to plug in an electric car after parking at home then wireless would be the best choice for you. Check out the wireless charging from Plugless Power for information on what is involved.
If you missed what the charging levels are, check out electric vehicle charging levels to learn more.
When you are charging at a public charging station be courteous to others with EV charging etiquette.