How to Choose the Right Electric Vehicle Charger for Your Needs
If you've recently purchased or are considering buying an electric vehicle (EV), one important aspect to consider is how you will charge your vehicle. While public charging infrastructure is available, many EV owners find it convenient and cost-effective to have a home charger. This article will examine the key factors to consider when selecting the right electric vehicle charger for your needs.
Do You Need a Home Charger?
Before delving into the specifics, it's essential to determine if a home charger is necessary for you. While it may not be feasible or essential for every EV owner, a home charger offers convenience and ensures your vehicle is always ready to go. Consider the following factors when deciding if a home charger is right for you:
- Charging Availability: Do you have access to public charging infrastructure or charging stations at your workplace? Depending on your driving habits and the availability of chargers in areas you commonly visit, you can rely on public charging and a Level 1 charger for occasional top-offs.
- Driving Habits: Evaluate your daily driving needs. If you don't exceed a range of approximately 30 miles per day, a Level 1 charger might suffice. However, if you have longer commutes or prefer the convenience of faster charging, a home charger becomes more beneficial.
Types of EV Chargers
When it comes to electric vehicle (EV) chargers, there exist three primary levels that vary in terms of their features and abilities. Gaining insight into these distinctions will empower you to make a well-informed choice:
Level 1: Trickle Charging
Level 1 chargers are typically included with new electric vehicles. They use a standard wall outlet and provide a slow charging speed of around 4 miles of range per hour of charge. Level 1 chargers are suitable for short commutes and can be supplemented by public charging options.
Level 2: Home Charging
Level 2 chargers require professional installation and use a dedicated 240V circuit. Depending on the power rating of the charger unit and your vehicle, it delivers accelerated charging speeds, enabling you to gain up to 25 miles of range per hour of charge. Level 2 chargers are ideal for those with longer commutes or who prefer faster charging at home.
Level 3: DC Fast Charging
Level 3 chargers, also known as DC Fast Chargers, are not installed at home but are found at dedicated charging stations and public places. They offer rapid charging, making them suitable for longer road trips and situations where home charging is not feasible. However, not all EVs support Level 3 charging, so ensure your vehicle is compatible before relying on this option.
Considerations Before Purchasing a Home Charger
Now that you've determined a home charger is the right choice for you, here are essential factors to consider before making your purchase:
- Charger Compatibility: Identify the connection type your vehicle's charging port accepts. Tesla vehicles, for instance, use their proprietary Supercharger standard. At the same time, other EVs in the United States adhere to the SAE J1772 (CCS) or CHAdeMO standards.
- Maximum Charging Rate: Take note of your vehicle's maximum charging rate. Newer electric vehicles often charge at 7kW or more, while older models and some plug-in hybrid EVs may charge at lower speeds, such as 3.3kW. Buying a charger that supplies more power than your vehicle's charging rate might only be necessary if you plan to upgrade your EV in the near future.
- Upfront Cost and Financing: Home chargers typically range in price from $200 to $800, excluding installation. Consider your budget and explore financing options offered by some companies, allowing you to pay in small monthly increments over the course of your electric vehicle lease. Additionally, local rebates from electric utilities help cover the cost of the charger and installation.
EV Charger Installation
The next step is installation once you've chosen the right home charger. Here are some key considerations for a smooth installation process:
- Selecting an Installer: Look for qualified electricians in your area specializing in EV charger installation. Seek recommendations from friends, family, or online platforms like Amazon or Yelp. Collect multiple bids to compare prices, as they can vary significantly.
- Installation Types: There are two primary installation methods for Level 2 chargers: hardwired and plug-in. Hardwired installation involves running a conduit from an electrical subpanel directly into the charger. In contrast, plug-in installation utilizes a NEMA 14-50, 240V outlet, allowing for portability if you move.
- Installation Costs: The installation expenses varies depending on the contractor, the need for subpanel upgrades, and the distance between the charger and the nearest subpanel. On average, installation for modern houses costs around $1,200 and takes 2-4 hours to complete. Obtain estimates from electricians in your area to get an accurate idea of the costs.
Charging from an HOA or Multi-Family Unit
If you live in an HOA or multi-family unit, installing a charger can present additional challenges. Consider the following factors when dealing with shared electrical resources:
- Lack of Assigned Parking: If parking spots are not assigned, securing a parking spot next to a charger might be difficult. Discuss charging infrastructure options with your HOA or building management.
- Distance from Electrical Closet: Sometimes, available parking spots may be too far from the electrical closet, making charger installation more complicated. Explore solutions that allow for extended cable runs or alternative charging arrangements.
- Energy Usage Tracking: When utilizing shared electrical resources, you might need a solution to accurately track your charger's energy usage. This enables fair compensation for the additional electricity consumed by your EV. Companies like GreenLots and ChargePoint offer solutions to simplify the process.
Choosing the right electric vehicle charger involves assessing your charging needs, considering charger types, and evaluating installation factors. Understanding your vehicle's compatibility, maximum charging rate and installation options will help you make an informed decision.
Whether you opt for a Level 1 charger, invest in a Level 2 home charger, or rely on Level 3 DC Fast Chargers, selecting the right charger for your needs will enhance your EV ownership experience and ensure your vehicle is always ready for the road ahead.