$6 Million in Charging Money, and Not One Penny for Level 1?

By · November 26, 2013

Level 1 Charging

This Washington, D.C. charger combines Level 1 and 2. That makes sense, doesn't it? (Flickr/Washington, DC DOT)

The good news is that the California Energy Commission, as part of an encouraging new flood of incentives for EVs, is making $6 million available to subsidize charging stations in the state. Applicants, with a deadline of January 28, can score as much as $500,000 each for destination, corridor or workplace charging (providing the parking offers public access). But grants of up to $200,000 are also available for locations such as company parking lots.

The bad news is that the program as currently constituted fails to provide any support for Level 1 charging—specifically the kind of low-cost solution that might work in workplaces where employee cars are sitting all day. The solicitation covers only Level 2 and DC fast charging.

A Rodney Dangerfield Solution?

Basically, 110-volt Level 1—which could be as simple as a glorified wall plug on a stalk—gets no respect from government officials. In a blog post, Marc Geller of Plug In America points out that Level 1 is “the simplest, least expensive and least disruptive way for employers who provide parking to answer growing requests for charging from their employees. The employer has no 'system' to manage, and employees don’t have the distraction of having to move their fully-charged cars to open up the spot for someone else…The one workplace charging solution that is cheap and easy and proven to work is disallowed in a solicitation intended to encourage more people to switch to plug-in cars.”

Geller says that some California municipal employees are even specifically “forbidden” from using existing 110 outlets. This seems a bit crazy, because Level 1 chargers can be put in at a fraction of the cost of Level 2. And if cars are parked for eight hours at a time, 110 volts really should be enough to top off their electrical tanks. According to the Department of Energy, typically Level 1 adds from two to five miles per hour of charging time, so a workday could add 40 miles of cruising—good enough for most commutes.

Barry Woods, a California-based Plug In America member, adds that with Level 1 "the electricity cost per hour is low and the length of charge-time, given the car is parked for a work day, is ample to recover range expended in the commute.

It’s worth pointing out that faster Level 2 doesn’t add that much if you’re charging, say, during a short shopping trip. I hooked up a Smart Electric Drive at the local Whole Foods recently, and after 20 minutes in the store had added one mile of range. Was it worth finding an employee with the key to unlock the station?

Level 1 Widespread in California

It's possible that the California Energy Commission will eventually amend the specifications to allow Level 1 subsidies. In a statement, CEC told me, "As a result of public comments received at last Friday’s workshop, the Energy Commission is reviewing Program Opportunity Notice 13-606 and will be posting the public’s questions and answers, making minor technical corrections, and incorporating an addendum. These changes are in review and will be posted online next week."

It’s interesting, though, that a study by the California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative entitled “Amping up California Workplaces” finds widespread use of Level 1 in the state. There are 390 public Level 1 stations, 26 percent of the total. Combination Level 1 and 2 accounts for nine percent, and Level 2 only (946 installations) is 64 percent. Only eight Level 2 DC fast chargers are in place, for just one percent of the total. The survey was conducted last spring.

In the poll, only eight percent of respondents said that Level 1 alone was sufficient to meet charging needs, but 31 percent supported a combination of levels (such as stations that offer both Level 1 and 2, or 2 and 3).

It’s kind of a no-brainer that Level 1 should be part of any charging infrastructure. All EVs come with handy Level 1 chargers—all they need is handy places to plug in, especially at work. Why not allow Californians with smart plans for incorporating Level 1 charging into their workplaces to bid on that $6 million?

Blink Back on Duty

In other important charging news, the CarCharging Group said Tuesday it has restored service to the vast majority of out-of-order Blink stations it acquired a month ago. "Approximately a third of Blink's public EV charging stations with known service needs when CarCharging acquired the Blink Network have been serviced and are now available for use," the company said. That translates into 95 percent of the network being online, and 99 percent predicted by the end of the year.


· · 20 weeks ago

Jim, I'm surprised to see such a poorly informed article being filed under your byline.

If you plugged in a smart ED for 20 minutes and only got one mile of range, you were charging at 120v, not 240v, or a 240v circuit dialed way back, or failing. It's very simple math. You also omitted that Level 2, 240v chargers can deliver from 20 amps to 80 amps, so there's a very big difference in the range you can get on a one hour charge. Part of the equation is what the capacity of a given car's charger is.

Level 1 public charge points usually don't make sense because people usually aren't parked in a spot all day. (Workplace charging may be an exception, but even there, you might want to go to lunch or run an errand).

In a typical scenario, an EV can get 20 miles of range in 1 hour. Some Leafs, Volts and Spark EVs get half that. Charging at slower speeds means you have to wait longer, not what most people want.

Shared charging spots should be used for charging, and then the vehicle moved.

Keep the slow charging at home, where you sleep.

· · 20 weeks ago

I agree that L1 charging at work often makes a lot of sense. It is so cheap to install that you can practically supply an outlet at every parking spot. In fact, in some very cold places, this is already done for block heaters.

But L1 is so cheap to install, does it really need to be subsidized? Let's use that money for faster chargers.

· · 20 weeks ago

B/c at the end, the L2 stations can track e-usage and end up as "fee" based system.

It is harder to track an outlet.

Eventually in order for the charging system to be successful, it has to be a "fee based" system where people pay for it at work or public places....

If NOT, "hogs" will ruin the system for all...

L1 doesn't justify the cost for fee based system, L2 does somewhat....

· · 20 weeks ago

My guess is that ab structure's circuits are designed with specific max amperages (power levels (kw)) which wouldn't have any hope of having even a tenth of of a garage charging at 1-2kw each. Therefore, even rolling out 20 110's isn't as cost/trouble-free as you might think. So, if you're going to get have to get an electrician out there, there's no darn little point in wiring up 110 circuits instead of 220s. If my workplace announced charging in our deck, and I came and found it was just 110s, I'd be fit to be tied.

· · 20 weeks ago

Why call it a "Level 1" outlet, it's really just a "standard wall outlet"? An EV using an EVSE on 110V outlet can be said Level 1 charging, but nothing special about the wall plug.

The issues for Level 1 charging is more of policy and regulation at work and at multi-unt dwellings. A plug receiving funding for Level 1 is harder to ensure it remain available for EV use (as has no dedicated function). A charge point with a dedicated EV outlet will be less likely misused.

Additionally, attention needs to focused on Watts, vs Volts. Watts correlate to miles an EV can travel for a set period of charging. Level 2 AC charging can provide up to 20 times more "charge" capacity in the same amount of time. This could make a difference if working a half day, or need to make a mid-day trip (eg: doctor appointment). Finally Level2 charging infrastructure will be more future proof.

Don't get me wrong, there are many valid reasons and location for supporting Level 1 charging. Putting public funds into building networks of standard wall outlets is just not the best longterm investment for EV infrastructure.

· · 20 weeks ago

Any word from CarCharging on their strategy (or timeframe) to re-enabling 6.6 kW charging at Blink charge points? The Blink Level 2 charging equipment that had been reduced to 3 kW by ECOtality related quality issues.

It would be greatly appreciated if the available kW capability be listed for each CarCharging location. Listing a charge point as "Level 2" lacks the info required when planning a stop for charging; as Level 2 can vary from 3 kW to 20 kW.

· · 20 weeks ago

This charging infrastructure is a nightmare and no one are driving long distance trips with a bev except for some media or blog freaks there and there. Stop harassing me with bevs and bring the serious hydrogen stuff. Im paying for my internet connection and im working with it and i need to get out of costly gasoline and pollution. Can you picture this: i might die tommorrow and i will not be free of gasoline and pollution in this lifetime. This is dangeurous postponing hydrogen and promote petrol use with this flop that represent battery vehicle that are sponsored by the same folks that promote petrol.

· · 20 weeks ago

@Brian Schwerdt
The problem with outlets designed for block heaters is that they may not be sized correctly for charging. Block heaters draw a max of about 600 W where L1 charging could pull about 1200 - 1300 W. If the cable is too small, that could mean cable melting and catching something on fire. So that wouldn't be recommended unless you know that it can handle that amount of amps.

· · 20 weeks ago

What makes you think, gorr, that all these hydrogen stations are going to have the same format nozzle? What guarantee do you have that there won't be a format war there as well? It's naive to think that these competing auto manufacturers and/or hydrogen suppliers are going to move lock step on something like this.

The stations themselves might cost as much as $3 million a piece . . . about 100 times more expensive - and that's no exaggeration - than a quick charge 440V DC installation. Who is going to pay for them?

Also . . . you keep equating battery vehicles with something that the oil companies are promoting. Yet it's hydrogen that is intrinsically tied to the fossil fuel industry, not lithium batteries. Most of the hydrogen produced today comes by way of steam reforming natural gas. The oil companies LOVE hydrogen!

And . . . hydrogen still requires more energy to produce than can be extracted from using it. It's like tripping over $20 bills to pick up a buck off the pavement.

All that said, you might enjoy reading Brad Berman's New York Times article on hydrogen cars . . .


Regarding L-1 (our topic here) . . . it does make sense in places like long term airport parking lots, where cars may sit for several days or more.

· · 20 weeks ago

Marc Geller has it just right. It doesn't matter if a few outliers can't get by with L1 for 8 hours. They can deal with it. The vast majority, i.e., low hanging fruit, is what we need to go after. Anyone needing L2 for work is living waaaay too far from work. That, or they are trying to get 100% of their charging from work instead of 50%.

You don't need to make some elaborate charging mechanism for getting your money back, just make it a $30/month charge or something like that and everyone will be happy. If you can't deal with that, then you are too bureaucratic and you should calm the f*ck down and look at the big picture.

People are dying because of oil. Keep THAT in mind if you can't get the big picture.

· · 20 weeks ago


Installing a 240V circuit is only marginally more expensive than installing a 120V circuit, I will give you that. But what are you proposing is attached to the end of the 240V circuit? Something like a nema 14-50 outlet would be inexpensive, but not many people have portable EVSEs which will use that outlet. Yes, they can be purchased, but all EVs today come with one that plugs into a nema 5-15 outlet. If, on the other hand, you install a fixed EVSE with a J1772 handle, then the cost shoots up very quickly.

@Jesse Gurr,

Noted, but my greater point was regarding the ease of installing outlets. The difference between an outlet that can handle 15A and one that can handle 5-6A is simply a thicker wire.

· · 20 weeks ago

The main thrust of this article was that Level 1 charging is not only appropriate for workplace charging but may be the preferred method(if costs factor in to the decision). No money has been allocated in public funding to encourage workplace Level I and that is a shame. It is painfully obvious that most of us park our cars for 8 hours at one location. My commute is 16.2 miles each way. With a simple Level I set up, I could easily recharge in a little over half a day, even at 110V. How could that not be a good thing? Yes, there are some who travel 2X's that distance to work, but even so, they could be completley charged by the end of a day. Unfortunately, most workplaces on the East Coast have only a few EV drivers, so the cost to install Level I charging would be minimal. I recall an article about a company promoting Level I units, and although the price seemed high for what you got, it was considerably less than the Level II units. Frankly, I'd prefer a Level I setup, where I can pull in, plug in and leave the car there, knowing that no one else is waiting for that spot to charge their car. All the other arguments against level I are not really looking at the reality of what people need---we just need a place to plug in the car and get juiced up. We don't want or need fancy stations, we are happy with a 110 outlet and an extension cord if that's what we end up with. It's what I use at home, works great. Down the line, when all EV's have QC capability and there are sufficient DCQC stations in all regions, this whole discussion might be moot. But today, in the here and now, Level I is a great way to go.


· · 20 weeks ago

I agree there needs to be a huge push for L1 charging in the workplace. The 2 main costs are installation and electricity. Although it is pretty much a "regular 110 outlet" it is a bit more complicated. Most employers will need/expect some incentive to spend even a dime, but for what you get I think it's acceptable to subsidize. As for electricity, there needs to be a universal standard whereby the electricity is automatically billed to the driver's home utility account, that way the employer isn't on the hook and coworkers don't feel like EV drivers are getting special perks, which lowers resentment and EV backlash. I also like Tesla's model of separating the nozzel from the actual charge equipment, allowing multiple parking spots to be serviced by one unit. Imagine a row of L1 outlest (or induction charging pads) all connected to a much smaller number of actual charge controlling units. There would be less chance of getting ICE'd, and you wouldn't need to worry about running out to the parking lot on your 10 minute break to move your car.

· · 20 weeks ago

120 Volts is not significantly cheaper to install than 240 volts.

· · 20 weeks ago

@jamcl3: L1 not significantly cheaper? You're living in an alternate universe. Level 2 EVSEs are hugely overpriced. "Level 1" can mean, as noted in the article and several comments, just a conveniently placed 110 outlet - the owner can supply their own EVSE. We're talking an outlet vs.some guilded EVSE toy (I know - I am the proud owner of one). No comparison.

Beyond that, there is a real question of load. In terms of managing the grid, it's less of a nuisance to support a lower-level 8.5-hour charge than double the current for 4 hours. Especially for workplaces, where parking lots are secured and cars parked for 8+ hours in one place, L1 makes a lot of sense, especially when L2 might often mean a heavy draw in the morning and nothing in the afternoon. Some L2 would be fine, with special parking permits issued for those workers with longer commutes - this is manageable.

@Ben: very kind of you to take gorr seriously enough to reply.

· · 20 weeks ago

It's important for EV enthusiasts to recognize that the 99% of people who haven't bought an EV yet don't necessarily think as rationally as you about what they really need for a vehicle. While I agree that Level 1 charging overnight is enough to handle most daily driving, 15+ hour charge times do not sell EVs to the as-yet unconverted. And frankly, even as an EV enthusiast myself, I know I would make the effort of installing 240V in my garage because I'd want the flexibility to be able to handle unplanned trips. Same goes for workplace charging.

· · 20 weeks ago

@mustang_sallad: I was with you up until "Same goes for workplace charging." I'm not so sure about that. I want L2 at my house so that I have the option of "topping off" mid-day, and that's more convenient at 10 mi. added range per hour of charging than 5 mi. But the workplace is different because I'm more or less committed to being there for over 8 hours. Even at L1, that's going to tack on 35-40 miles range for nearly any EV out there, more than enough to make the difference for a lot of commuters. Because many workplace lots are secured, it's minimal risk for EV owners to use their own personal EVSEs to hook up to cheap 110v outlets, and that's a pretty big savings in capital outlays on the part of the employer.

In terms of the cost of the supporting electrical system, as I alluded to earlier, one needs to build capacity to support peak load, and cars charging at L1 obviously are drawing at a much lower peak than those charging at L2. I'm willing to take on that cost for my own convenience at home. Given that the overwhelming majority of L2 EVSEs in workplace parking lots would sit idle in the afternoons after the EVs finish charging, I don't think it unreasonable for my employers to be less free with their spending on what is really an amenity.

· · 20 weeks ago

A good start would be availability of an electric metering unit that can be plugged into an outlet and allow the charging plug to be plugged into the unit. If an employer could easily assess the cost of the electricity being provided to the employee (what would probably average pennies to a couple of dollars per day), they may be more inclined to allow or encourage L1 use.

· · 19 weeks ago

Agree with the article and some of the comments; If the workplace can afford the L2 charging then of course, that's a better choice. but L1 charging shouldn't' be ignored; it helps the employee from the need to move their cars and saves money for around $4k per (commercial) charging stations that the installers quotes here in MD.
I have been trying to get either charging installed at my workplace, here at MD for a while. I tried to explain to them if they can't go for L2, they should at least consider L1, as the garage already has bunch of 110v outlets. But the ignorant and non-technical building owners rep failed to budge; kept repeating how the how the whole breaker might blow up if people started plugging in their car. Explaining how plugging in the car was no more different than plugging in a room heater, didn't' help either.

· · 19 weeks ago

As for the comment from the person regarding the people "who live too far away", the one who has determined that 50% of their charging needs should be met by the workplace, but not 100%. I think relying on chargers at work for even 50% is wrong-headed. How many chargers will this require? I see maybe 2 in some parking lots. What happens when that 3rd person gets an electric?

Forget about level 1. They are everywhere. What an unnecessary issue to write about. The only thing that makes any sense installing are Level 3 chargers. You know, the DC quick chargers that, if you call them level 3 you get corrected by people with nothing better to do? I suggest We just call them what they are; if it bothers those who would correct you then that's just a bonus. Anyway, a level 2 charger is great for home, but makes no sense for use while out on the road. A level 2 will serve 1 person a day. They will park in the spot, hook up, and unplug when they go home 9 or 10 hours later. A level 3 will let someone plug in for 10 or 15 minutes on those days when they find they need a top off before driving home. I get to work and back on 1 charge 90% of the time. If you can't make it to work and back on a single charge, an electric isn't for you. Having level 3 chargers allows for those rare occasions when someone NEEDS a little extra range because they had to run a few errands on lunch or whatever. The etiquette here is obvious: stay with your car while its charging, and limit use to 30 minutes max, with 10 or 15 minutes being preferred. That should get you an extra 30 - 75 miles of range driving on the freeway.

· · 19 weeks ago

The reason people correct you when you refer to all of DC charging as "Level 3" charging is because it was decided that there would be Level 1, 2 and 3 for both AC and DC charging:

DC level 1 is up to 36kW
DC level 2 is up to 90kW
DC level 3 is up to 240kW

The 22kW or 44kW AC fast charging that you hear about from Europe is called AC level 3.

· · 19 weeks ago

Does's the photo show that the story is wrong? Most of these public L2 chargers also provide ordinary outlets so you can do L1 if you want.

· · 19 weeks ago


That picture is from Washington, DC, but the article is about California. Is it true that public L2 chargers also provide outlets? That certainly is not the case around here. Also, the article seems to be more focused on stand-alone outlets, since they are much cheaper than anything with a J1772 handle.

· · 5 weeks ago

An 120 volt socket when installed according to the National Electric Code will be equipped with either a 15 or a 20 ampere circuit breaker or (rarely) a fuse.
A 20 ampere circuit breaker will be connected to 12AWG wire. The 20 ampere circuit breaker is designed to provide 20 amperes of current for three hours or 16 amperes forever without tripping.
Without allowing for losses due to the conversion to DC and various electrical resistances and impediences, this means 2,400 and 1,920 watts respectively.
A 15 ampers circuit breaker will provide 15 amperes for three hours and 12 forever. It will have a 14 AWG wire attached to the socket. Thus, it will provide 1,800 and 1,440 watts again without allowing for losses.

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