Are you on the market to buy an electric car charging station? This is the guide for you. In it, we’re going to examine the exact requirements to install an electric charging station in your home or commercial property. The process behind an electric car charging station installation involves electrical components, basic construction techniques, and additional work as necessary.
If you’re just planning on installing a charging station in your home, then this guide will help you get started by helping you determine which supplies and contractors you need to get the job done. Read on to learn more about charging stations!
The Basics Behind Home-Based Charging Stations
First things first: If all you need to do is charge your vehicle and you don’t care how long it takes to do its work, then you can simply charge your EV with a 120-volt charging capable. This type of cable can charge your vehicle’s battery from a basic household electrical socket if you have no other choice.
If you don’t like to wait decades for your vehicle to charge, then you’ll want to investigate 240-volt Level 2 charging station technology. Level 2 charging stations can charge your vehicle up to 4 times faster than a comparable 120-volt cable hookup.
So, which type of charging station is right for you and your vehicle? If you have a basic plug-in hybrid with a low electric-only range, then a standard 120-volt charging line may be all you need to get the job done. If you’re trying to charge a full electric vehicle, then you’re going to want at least a 240-volt charging cable and appropriate hookup.
What Do You Need to Install a 240-Volt Level 2 Charging Station?
The basic science behind 240-volt charging stations won’t confuse your average electrician. However, you are going to need hire one if you aren’t licensed to perform electrical work. Before proceeding further, let’s clear up a couple definitions so that you have a better understanding of what exactly a charging station is and how it functions:
- Chargers: To be completely transparent, a charging station doesn’t include a charger. Your electric vehicle has the charger itself built into the design.
- EVSE: An EVSE is Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. EVSE is what people mean when they say “charging station” in the common vernacular.
When you’re shopping around for a Level 2 charging station, then you’re on the market for a 240-volt EVSE. Searching for EVSE on your favorite search engine will doubtless turn up several commercial and home-based charging options.
Before you can do anything else, you need to get the proper electrical work in place, including wiring. You’ll want to hire an electrician that you can trust to get the job done. While you’re hunting around for an electrician, make sure you qualify him or her by asking them about their previous experience with installing the type of wiring necessary to power an EVSE. That will help you to make the right contractor decision.
You’ll also want to consider asking your electrician to install a dedicated circuit that can carry at a minimum 50 amps. While it may cost you more money in installation and wiring costs, this type of circuit will future-proof your electrical setup by allowing you to charge at a faster rate than what is currently available on the market today.
Hardwiring vs. Plugging In
There are two basic types of EVSE configurations:
- Integrated 240-volt plug: Buying an EVSE with an integrated plug allows you electrician to install an outlet without the actual EVSE in place already. This means that you can install a new EVSE yourself. The 240-volt plug also functions as a service disconnect which can get around some code problems if your home’s main circuit box is not in sight of the EVSE. Another benefit of having an integrated plug is that you can easily dismount it and relocate it to another location.
- Hard-wired pigtail or knock-out panel: A hardwired EVSE requires an electrician for issues with the hardware or for new upgrades. However, this type of approach offers a cleaner installation. You won’t need a junction box or plugs.
Ultimately, the right approach – whether that’s hardwired or plug-based – depends on whether you plan to outsource the work to an electrician anyway. You may find that the hard-wired approach works fine for you since you don’t plan to do any installation yourself.
Amps and Code Compliance Issues
Some EVSEs claim to have 40 amps. However, some systems use this claim as clever advertising because they connect to a 40-amp breaker. In reality, many of these systems tend to deliver around 30 amps. Avoid the confusion by paying attention to code compliance.
In general, city codes tend to require that a device must operate at 80% of the max capacity that the circuit can deliver if it will be operated continuously for many hours. Be sure to keep this in mind while you’re shopping for an EVSE.
Enclosures: Inside or Outside?
The next factor to consider when you’re shopping for a charging station is the enclosure. There rare different levels of enclosures, including NEMA 3 and NEMA 4. We’ve listed the enclosure ratings below to help you make an informed decision on which one would be best for your installation:
NEMA 3: Ideal for indoor installations since they do not have the same water and weather resistance of higher levels.
NEMA 4: You should opt for a NEMA 4 EVSE if you plan to install your charging station outside. These types of enclosures can ensure that you can hose down the unit and that it will resist more severe weather than NEMA 3 enclosures.
You may also want to build a roof over your charging station if you plan to build one outside as this will protect it further against the elements. You could also hire a carpenter to perform this service for you. Finally, outdoor installations should also make use of a J1772 connector to protect the cable and charging port.
The Size of the Unit
In the old days, a typical EV charging station could take up a lot of space in your garage or other space. And while there are still plenty of bulky charging stations out there on the market today, it’s also possible to find slimmer units that offer a great size profile for smaller spaces, including smaller garages.
One of the slimmest EVSEs on the market today is the JuiceBox. It measures in at 10 inches high by 6 inches wide. Ultimately, the right unit size for your own specific situation will depend on the space you have available and how large of a unit you are willing to tolerate.
Choosing the Right EVSE Brand for Your Home
With many brands and models available on the market today, you’ll have to choose the right EVSE brand for your home. Most of these brands follow the same basic engineering principles, which means there won’t be a tremendous number of differences between the different brands when it comes reliability and product quality.
Although the early days of electric cars saw problems with charging stations and equipment failures, you’ll be well-served today by the variety of options brought on by greater consumer demand more competition on the supply side of the equation.
There are a few things to keep in mind with EVSE brands. First, a given manufacturer may offer the same unit in many variations. You should choose the right cable length, plug connection, and amp value that you want for your personal installation.
Many of these brands also offer a lower-powered 16-amp version of their main product. While you could save a hundred bucks or so by buying one of these types of 16-amp chargers, you’ll run into problems later down the line since you’ll have to sacrifice your charging speed for affordability. It may be best to future-proof your investment.
Pricing, Tax Incentives, and Government Rebates
Historically, EVSE prices were too high given the value that they provided to consumers. The good news is that the price tends is pointing downwards thanks to increased competition on the supply side and the growing demand for electric vehicles and charging stations.
These days, you’ll expect to pay anywhere in the range of $400 to $1,000 for a high-quality Level 3 EVSE. However, you can also opt for going with a standard 120-volt charging setup for free – or a low-cost open-source EVSE that you would have to build yourself.
The Federal government in the United States offers consumers a high-percentage tax credit for the purchase of an EVSE. You’ll want to talk to your tax professional to learn more about the different types of incentives available to consumers who want to take advantage of these financial incentives.
Finally, many state and local governments offer additional incentives for consumers who want to install an EVSE. Again, it’s important to clarify these issues with your CPA before proceeding further.