So you’ve decided to go green and switch to an electric car—congratulations! Or you’ve decided you never want to pull into another gas station again except to get snacks. Either way, with the purchase of your an electric vehicle, you’re likely looking into a secondary purchase: an Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE), or as we like to call them, electric car chargers.
You’ll first have to decide between a Level 1 and Level 2 charger. Go with a Level 2 charger that is 240 volts. A Level 2 will cut charging time from 18 hours to under 3 and is a good investment for any future EV you may have. If your car can only handle 110 volts at a time, don’t worry; a Level 2 will still work with any model.
Unless you are skilled with electricity and wires, we highly recommend leaving the installation to the professionals. The wiring involved is extremely dangerous. But what we can help you with is the purchase and understanding what kind of EVSE you need.
On average, your EVSE will cost around $500-$1,000 depending on the amperage, cord length and utility features you choose. This cost won’t include installation, but some manufacturers offer free installation or a discount with the purchase of a unit.
Most chargers are built to be permanent installations in your home. However, this is extremely inconvenient if you move. You can either purchase a unit that is portable (confusingly marketed as permanently installed, removable) or you can make your permanent unit portable. Ask the installer to first install a NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) 14-50 outlet (like the one you use for your dryer). Then they can mount your EVSE next to it and plug it in. This can be done at no extra cost and avoids hard wiring. However, if you are mounting your unit outside, some laws insist that the unit is hardwired to the grid.
Except for Tesla, All EV and Plug-ins use a SAE-standard J1772 plug, so this is the kind you should buy. Also, if you are planning to install your EVSE outside, select a model that stands up to the elements and has a NEMA rating of at least 4X.
Level 2 charger come in two amperages: 16 or 30 amps. We recommend going with the 30 amps for maximum speed and universality. 16 amps works with the Chevy Volt, but not much else. Even if you only need 16 amps, go with the 30 amps so that your charger will work with any future EVs you have as well as friends who may visit and need a quick charge. For a 30 amp unit, be sure to get a 40 amp circuit breaker.
5. Cord Length
A 16-18 foot cord is your best bet, but make sure by measuring the distance between your car’s outlet to where you want to install your unit. Be cognizant of where you’ll be parking your car, if you plan on parking in and/or outside your garage, and where the car’s outlet is. One of the most likely locations will be at the front of your garage.
6. Consult an Electrician To Install Electric Car Charger
Finally, before you install your new EVSE, consult with an electrician. You may have to extend your home’s wiring to your garage, or reinforce it, or any number of electricity-based things in order to make sure your house can safely support the load of charging an EV or Plug-in. If you do have the necessary skills, you can consult the National Electrical Code 625 and local and state codes to install it yourself. The rest of us will consult a phonebook.