It’s estimated that most (up to 95%) of all-electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are charged at home. A more robust electric vehicle infrastructure remains one of the top obstacles to further demand for electric vehicles. It takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 hours or more to charge a vehicle depending on several variables. But the average vehicle charge still requires several hours.
Right now, there is no technology on the horizon enabling electric vehicles to be charged as fast as a gas tank can be filled. Until then, the logical location for charging will remain where the vehicle is parked for the longest time. For most electric car owners, this is at home, at work, parking garages, or other long-term parking spaces such as sporting events. Based on this, the market demand for home charging stations is expected to grow for many years.
Before you do anything, you need to research local, state, and federal regulations governing these charging stations. In most cases, there is a combination of building, fire, and environmental, permits and inspections. Not that these are difficult to obtain but there can be different requirements such as if the charging station will be used inside a garage or outside where it will be in contact with rainwater and other weather.
Outdoor equipment does have to be outdoor-rated. There are also other regulatory requirements such as when the station is shared at a duplex or other multi-family residence. You should expect multi-family regulations to be similar to public charging stations.
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The length of time it takes to charge an electric vehicle depends on variables such as how fast a particular battery type or brand charges, the amount of charge it holds, how depleted the charge is, and the type of charging station being used. There are two basic types of charging stations used at family homes. You want to know the basic differences between these two before deciding which is right for your needs.
The full name for what is commonly known as “level 1” is “AC Level 1.” With this charging station, you can expect to drive 2 to 5 miles for every hour of charging. Using an average of 3.5 miles per charging hour and a 10-hour charge period, you can expect to drive the car no more than 35 miles per day. As you can quickly deduce, a level 1 charging station has limited use. This is the charging station that most vehicles are sold with. No electrical changes are required at your home, and you will find opportunities to plug in at many other locations. The reason is that it only requires a standard 120v household current. At one end of the electric cord is an SAE J1772 plug that goes into the vehicle. At the other end of the cord is a standard 3-prong plug that plugs into a standard house outlet. Since this is standard issue and needs no other equipment, you can go this route until you determine that a level 2 charging station better meets your needs.
There is more to learn and understand about “level 2” (AC Level 2) charging stations compared to level 1. At the very least, level 2 requires a 240v electrical source. Although your vehicle’s batteries determine the range you can drive on a full charge, a level 2 system does charge about 5Xs faster than a Level 1 charger. At level 2, you can expect between 10 and 20 driving miles for each hour of charging. Using an average of 15 miles per charging hour and a 10-hour charge period, you can expect to drive the car 150 miles per day.
A typical house will have 240v electrical service for kitchen stoves and electric clothes dryers. However, this electrical service is not yet typically found in the garage where you park the car. This means you need to have it installed by a professional. This is also where you start getting more into local regulations. Level 2 charging stations are not all the same. Most public charging stations are level 2 but charge at a faster rate than a residential level 2 station. Most residential level 2 units operate at up to 30 amperes, delivering 7.2 kW of power. These require a dedicated 40-amp circuit. Commercial Level 2 units operate at up to 80 amperes and 19.2 kW. Although your vehicle can accept a charge from a commercial level 2 station, your house will almost certainly require an expensive electrical upgrade to become commercial level 2. Many new homes and multi-family residences now have level 2 charging stations. If you need to have one added to your older home, be surer to check for cost offsets through local, federal, state, or utility companies which offer rebates and financial incentives for the charger, installation, or electrical usage.
As with any popular technology, you can expect improvements and options to come along quickly for electric vehicles. One alternative that does have limited availability is called level 3 or DC fast charging (DCFC). This is generally only available along heavy traffic corridors at installed stations. This fast-charging option can provide between 60 and 80 miles of driving on a 20-minute charge. Recharge times vary but they can recharge an EV battery to 80% in anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on the vehicle's voltage capacity. When a vehicle battery's charge is greater than 80%, the DCFC rate slows significantly to reduce the risk of overcharging the battery. Due to this threshold, many EV manufacturers often make a claim about the length of time it takes to fast-charge the battery to 80% (rather than 100%).
A more common option is a 240-volt portable charger. These don’t have all the power of most wall-mounted level 2 stations but do charge vehicles at about 3Xs faster than level 1 chargers. A portable 240v charger can be carried in the trunk of your car but it still requires access to a 240v energy source.
There is research into making some industrial 3 phase electrical sources applicable to vehicle charging. Another alternative being explored is wireless charging known as “inductive charging.” However, this will most likely be applied to mass transit operations. Neither of these is likely to become practical for home use.
Before making any decision, first get to know your car’s energy needs and your driving needs. The bright spot is that investing in a home-based level 2 system is becoming more value-added with each passing day.
Please comment with your knowledge and experience with electric charging stations.
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