Charging your EV at home: Is Level 2 Right for You?
If you’ve landed on this page, it’s safe to say that you’re a new EV owner. More than 1.6 million plug-in electric vehicles are on the road today across the U.S., according to Inside EVs — and the number is only rising. When you own an electric vehicle, a residential EV charging station is a “convenience” that borders on being a necessity.
The average EV driver does an estimated 88% of their car recharging at home, which is why it is important to know your options for residential charger installation and how much it’ll ultimately cost you per charge. A recent study by J.D. Power found that "overall home charging satisfaction is highest among EV owners who install a Level 2 permanently mounted charging station.
What Is a Level 2 EV Charger?
An EV charging station, or EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) is equipment that supplies electric energy to recharge an electric vehicle’s battery. A Level 2 EV charger allows you to fully charge your electric car in just a few hours while you sleep, work, eat or enjoy time with your family.
What’s the Difference Between Levels 1 and 2?
While a Level 1 and Level 2 charging both deliver power from your home’s electrical system to the vehicle, there are a few differences. A Level 1 charger only requires a 120 VAC (or, 120 volts of AC power) standard outlet while a Level 2 requires at least a 240-VAC installation. Level 1 chargers might take more than 29 hours to fully charge, while a Level 2 charger is typically 2 to 10 hours. A Level 1 charger is provided with your vehicle, whereas you have to purchase a Level 2 charger and have it professionally installed.
You like numbers? Well, if you have a standard Level 1 12A 120-volt charger, you can charge for 1 hour and get 4-5 miles, 4 hours and get 18 miles or 10 hours and get 45 miles. With a Level 2 16A 240-volt charger, the respective distances increase to 10 miles, 40 miles and 100 miles. These figures are approximate, but you can see clearly that a Level 2 charger will charge faster and take you farther.
Why Should You Install a Level 2 Charger?
Why spend the extra money when your car comes with a charger already? Because having to charge your car for more than a day on a standard household outlet to get a full battery will quickly reveal the limitations of that Level 1 life. A Level 2 unit can charge your car from fully depleted to fully charged in a few hours. It’s three to five times faster than Level 1, so you get more miles for your charging time. Level 2 charges are safe, reliable, and also energy efficient — plus, you can save money by charging your vehicle during off-peak times of the day and take advantage of off-peak rates from your energy provider. Your utility provider may have special EV programs you can take advantage of, such as rebates or special energy rates. J.D. Power reported that cost-saving utility programs are underused by consumers.
Additionally, by having an adequate EVSE at home, you can precondition your car before you leave for the day. That means you can set your car’s climate control to precondition the cabin, at a predetermined time, with heat or air conditioning. The car will use your home’s provided power to do this so that your vehicle’s battery remains at 100% for your day’s commute.
What to Consider When Choosing a Level 2 Charger?
Now that you’re over the hump and know you want to a Level 2 EV charger, here are some things you should consider before you buy:
Features of Level 2 Charging Stations
With a smart charger that’s Wi-Fi-enabled, you can manage it via an app on your tablet or phone, enabling you to set a charging schedule (nightly or during off-peak hours) and get reminders when you need to charge. Some apps can let you know exactly how much you’re spending on charging, and can track charging costs and miles driven.
Outdoor Rated Charging Stations
Some people don’t have a garage they can park their vehicle in every night, so their charging station must be mounted outside. If that's the case for you, make sure you get a station that’s outdoor rated. Charging stations typically have either a rating by the National Electrical Manufacturer Association of NEMA 3 or NEMA 4. Both are acceptable for outdoor use, but a NEMA 4 enclosure provides additional protection against a blast of water from a hose — a benefit in areas that have blowing rain or wind-driven snowstorms.
Some charging stations also have a built-in remote-connector holster, so the plug is protected while not in use. Other stations simply direct the user to drape the cord over the body of the unit when not in use, leaving the connector hanging unprotected. It’s recommended to ensure that the connector is properly protected when not in use in order to keep the dirt, water and other debris from damaging your charger and connector.
Level 2 Charging Station and the Cost
Installing a Level 2 charging station can vary in price. The charger (approximately $500 to $650) plus hiring an electrician for a simple wiring installation can cost around $1,400, but it can go much higher depending on the existing electrical system in your home.
With more and more motorists purchasing electric vehicles, it's important for car shoppers to understand that there are also disadvantages:
The Information Gap
While charging your vehicle isn’t difficult, in and of itself, things can get confusing when three different chargers yield three different charging speeds.
Not Enough Fast Chargers
There are more than 20,000 EV charging stations in the U.S. and counting, which sounds like a lot ... until you try to take a road trip and realize that finding charging stations where you’ll need them along your route is prohibitive, if not impossible.
The Time It Takes to Charge
It might take 5 minutes to fill your gas tank, but even on a DC fast charger (or a Level 3, which is not available residentially), you’re lookin’ at an hour for a full juice-up.
So Many Maps, So Many Apps
Say you’re getting ready to go on a road trip and you're mapping out your course for charging stations. One may appear on one app but not on the other, and so forth. So, you’re having to use several apps and maps just to take a simple drive from point A to point B.
For all the reasons you purchased your EV and all the reasons mentioned above, it makes sense to make the investment in a Level 2 charging station for your home. Start every morning commute fully charged and worry-free.