There are seven ways that you can charge your electric vehicle, but they boil down to three main categories: home installation, public installation, and solar charging. You can also use multiple methods to charge your electric vehicle, even within the same charging cycle.
Where To Charge an Electric Car
There are options for you either at home or in public. In public, you have paid public charging stations that are connected to a charging network, then you have the included charging stations that can be found at dealerships and hotels.
For home charging, you have the option to have a charging station installed in your garage or outdoor depending on your situation. If you do not have a garage, you can still have a home charging station but it will be outdoors. It will also be ideal if you have a dedicated parking space for this upgrade.
How to Charge An Electric Car At Home
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.
You might be surprised to learn that there are actually two tiers of level 2 charging. The lowest tier has been available for a longer period of time and offers 40 amps, while the next tier provides 75 amps. The difference in charging power is 10kW compared to 18kW, which is a noticeable change. The biggest advantage of a hardwired level 2 charger over a removable charger is that it can handle 75 amps, while the removable is offered at a maximum of 40 amps.
For the small price increase, the 75 amp version provides much more charging power than the 40 amp version. I recommend the JuiceBox Pro 75A from Amazon. The installation cost is going to be the same, so you might as well go for the best.
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 level 2 charger is similar to a hardwired version. They both have 240 volts, though the amperage on a removable level 2 charger is limited to 40 amps for a total of 10kW of charging power. This is a great option if you plan to unplug and move it with you, whether as a portable charger or selling your home and relocating.
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.
Out of all the level 2 removable chargers on the market, the best one is definitely the JuiceBox Pro 40 which includes a 240 VAC 50 amp receptacle NEMA 14-50 with the charger.
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.
How much does a home charger cost?
There are two types of charging stations that can be installed at your home: the Tesla Charger and any other charger.
For a Tesla Charger, Tesla states that this will cost you $1,500 which includes the unit and installation cost. This can be purchased and used by other electric vehicles through an extra J1772 adapter, although it is intended for Teslas as they will get the most benefit out of the charger.
As for the other charging stations, you have the choice of features and brands from which to pick. These can range from $300 to $1000, with an average cost of $600. One of the home chargers that I like is the Juicebox, check Amazon for the price. For the installation of the 240V plug in at your garage or at a parking space, this could cost around $500 to $700 for a licensed electrician to complete. This could total between $1,000 and $1,500 depending on the charger and what the electrician needs to do for the installation, like the length of wire to run, and if there needs to be a panel upgrade due to space limitations.
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 on the floor for charging to begin.
How to charge an electric car away from home
There are two options for public charging: paid or free. The free option is more like pre-paid as it is integrated into another offered service price. There are many charging networks that span across the nation. The largest networks are Tesla, ChargePoint, EVConnect, and Blink. Those are only a few of the big ones, though there might be more in your area.
Where are public charging stations located?
Keeping track of the ever-expanding network of public charging stations is quite the undertaking. Luckily there are two good resources to locate the public charging stations: PlugShare and ChargeHub. I’m not going to say that either one is better than the other since each has their own pros and cons for features. Both of these charging resources try to find your current location. They were made to help you plan out a trip in your electric car starting from where you are now. Both sites have their own mobile app which is available for Apple and Android.
PlugShare’s standard screen shows the location of public chargers, high power, in use, and under repair. A drawback is that it doesn’t visually indicate the Tesla Supercharger stations.
ChargeHub is simplified colored pins which indicate the charge level from light blue, blue, and orange. The icons indicate if it is a standard charging station or the Tesla T for the Tesla SuperCharger stations. On the inside of the pin between the color and the icon, there is either a green ring for an available charging station or red ring for busy. The majority are without a ring detailing the status, so it could be either.
This is one of the issues with a service like this: the accuracy of the charging status of the charging station.
If you find a charging station that is not on the map you can add a public charging station location to either service or even share your home charger on PlugShare. This feature I found a little easier on PlugShare as the button is within the legend, while on ChargeHub it is in the menu. I have looked throughout the map and cannot find anyone sharing their home charging station to the public. To submit a missing charging station on either service you will need to register before you can add.
Both PlugShare and ChargeHub have additional filters that let you select the desired charge level, type of plug connection, and even a specific charging network. This way if you already have a network specific charging card you can find those charging stations for your journey.
A little tip for when you are planning a hotel stay or a shopping trip, you can filter out the places that offer a charging station as part of your stay. This might change your mind on who you stay with, which is the exact reason they provide this extra amenity for guests and is similar to a hotel having a swimming pool or complimentary breakfast. It can make the decision between a less expensive place that doesn’t have what you need compared to a place that has it all for slightly more.
Charge An Electric Car in Public
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.
Change An Electric Car Anywhere
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.
Charge An Electric Car With Solar Panels
7 – Smart Home Charger
There are some higher-end home charging stations that will check the current price of electricity and will use this information when charging your electric vehicle. When looking at home charging stations look for wifi connectivity for this added feature.
Usually, when you have a charger with wifi compatibility, it can also be accessed with a mobile app. This allows you to check the battery and charging status of your electric car from your phone.
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.
The Tesla Powerwall does not actually charge a Tesla directly though, that is what the Tesla Charger is for. Rather, the Powerwall stores the electricity during lower demand times so you can charge your Tesla or another electric car during peak demand times. This is a pretty cool function that could end up saving you money in the long run.
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.
How much does it cost to charge an electric car?
It depends on where you charge the electric car. As you can imagine it costs a lot less to charge your car at home versus a public charging station. The average cost for a home charge is $0.13 per kilowatt hour, but this can range between $0.10 and $0.15 per kilowatt hour. There is no standard price for public charging stations but it can cost around $1.00 per hour for a level 2 charging and $15.00 per hour for level 3 fast charge.
The overall cost also depends on a couple of factors: the battery capacity, and the remaining charge of the battery pack. If you have a 60 kWh battery capacity and you are sitting on a half charge, you will need 30 kilowatts hours. For this example, it could be around $4 for the charge at home which would be the same as the 4 hour rate of a dollar an hour for level 2 charging. Either way, it will cost you the same amount roughly.
Plug’n Drive describes it a little differently by using the charge time for each level to provide an estimated distance equivalent.
Charger Safety Features
All chargers, excluding the Tesla Powerwall, are standardized to use the SAE J1772 plug and receiver. Don’t worry though you do not need to know what the J1772 standard plug is, or even why it is important. The wonderful thing about the standard plug is that it is exactly that, standard. There was a time when electric vehicles were produced and there was not a released standard for the plug and receptacle.
This would be the equivalent of not having a standardized gas pump nozzle and tank receiver. I could not imagine that type of scenario happening today. Unfortunately, this is what happened with the infamous General Motors EV1. When the EV1 was originally released in 1996 it had an inductive charging coupler compared to the now standardized conductive coupler, or plug, when the J1772 was released in 2001.
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.
If you are interested in learning more about solar panels, check out diy solar panels for your home.
When you are charging at a public charging station be courteous to others with EV charging etiquette.