When we're talking about charging a plug-in vehicle at home in North America, there are really only two ways it can be done: you can use a standard 3-prong wall outlet (110-120 Volts, called 'Level 1'), or you can opt for a faster, higher voltage wall mounted unit (220-240 Volts, called 'Level 2').
The Chevy Volt, just like the Nissan LEAF and the upcoming Ford Focus Electric, will come equipped with a cord to be able to charge from a Level 1, 3-Prong outlet (see the video below), but if you want access to the higher speed charging station you'll need to pay extra—significantly extra. Again this is the same setup as with the Nissan LEAF, and, presumably, all of the first generation electric cars coming to market in the next few years.
According to Chevrolet, the Level 2 charge station available for sale side-by-side with the Volt will be supplied by SPX Solutions. And while the hardware itself is a relatively affordable $490, the expected installation costs of about $1,500 will bring the total cost up to about $2,000. This is very much in line with what Nissan has estimated for the installation of its Level 2 home charging station supplied by AeroVironment.
In the case of the Volt, it will take 10 hours to charge the battery from empty to full (about 40 miles of range) on a standard Level 1, 3-prong outlet. If you want to reduce that 10 hours to about 4 hours, the only solution is to get a Level 2 station installed. Although Chevy is marketing the SPX solutions charger, $2,000 is a lot of money to invest right up front... even with the federal tax credit for 50% of the purchase and installation costs.
So, as many of us move forward into the future of the plug-in vehicle, it's important to keep in mind that these Level 2 charging solutions that are bundled with each manufacturer's vehicle are not required. Nissan has said explicitly that LEAF purchasers don't have to go with the AeroVironment chargers and that, if they do want a Level 2 charger, they can buy any one of the plethora that are springing up over the next few months. With that competition, prices should come down pretty quickly... especially when you've got competition over the installation price. It really seems like $1,500 to install is pushing it in terms of what a homeowner should reasonably expect.