Buying Your First Home EV Charger

By · October 24, 2014

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Close-up EVSE

It may surprise EV newbies to learn that an electric car’s charger is found on board the vehicle. It’s the equipment buried in the guts of the car that takes an AC source of juice from your house, and converts it to DC—so your car’s battery pack can be charged.

This fact doesn’t stop nearly everybody from calling the wall-mounted box that supplies 240 volts of electricity a “charger.” Actually, that box, cord and plug has a technical name—Electric Vehicle Service Equipment or EVSE—and if you have an EV, you’re going to want to install one at home.

So, it’s slightly misleading to say we’re providing guidance about chargers, because we’re really talking about buying an EVSE—which is essentially no more than an electrical device allowing drivers to safely connect an electric car to a 240-volt source of electricity. It’s not rocket science, and you should not overthink the selection and installation of an EVSE.

That said, there are important differences between the various home chargers (uh, I mean EVSEs). And there are a few best practices to keep in mind.

An AeroVironment installer goes to work on a home unit.

An AeroVironment installer goes to work on a home unit. (AeroVironment photo)

Cost

The general consensus among experienced EV drivers is that a capable and durable EVSE will cost around $600 to $700. You could spend a little bit less, or twice as much, but that’s the ballpark. This does not include installation. Read on to see which key features—such as portability and connectivity—can send the price higher, or can be avoided to reduce the cost.

By the way, from 2010 through early 2013, many EV drivers could get a free EVSE, courtesy of The EV Project, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. But as of March 11, 2013, the program reached its threshold for handing out residential charging equipment, so no more freebies—you’ll need to buy one on your own.

Amperage Capacity

You should buy an EVSE that can handle at least 30 amps. The rule of thumb is that 30-amp service will roughly give you the ability to add 30 miles of range in an hour—just as 15 amps will add about 15 miles in an hour of charging. (These range numbers are somewhat optimistic.)

Keep in mind that most plug-in hybrids (and the Nissan LEAF prior to the 2013 model) don’t take full advantage of the faster rate. That’s okay. It’s still wise to have the capacity to charge at least at the 30-amp level, even if your current car can't fully utilize the higher amperage, so you don’t have to upgrade in a few years if/when you buy a new EV that has a faster on-board charger. Also, it’s nice to allow friends with faster-charging EVs to get a full charge from your garage.

Note: A 30-amp EVSE will need a circuit breaker rated for at least 40 amps.

Length of Charging Cable, and EVSE Location

Before you buy an EVSE, imagine where your electric car will be parked. Think about the ideal location for this piece of equipment. Now measure the distance between where the EVSE will hang on your wall, and where the charging port is on your car. Cables usually run from approximately 15 to 25 feet. Make sure your cord can easily reach where it needs to go, and think about its length for a potential second plug-in car in your driveway or garage.

Depending on where you locate your EVSE, an electrician might have to run just a few feet of conduit—or dozens of feet. Longer copper runs will add installation cost, but because you’ll charge almost every night, you want it to be as convenient as possible.

Portability

If it’s possible, don’t permanently install your EVSE. In other words, have an electrician install a NEMA 14-50 outlet or something similar (types of outlets used for things like clothes dryers). Then put a matching plug on a pigtail mounted to your EVSE. You can then mount your EVSE right next to the outlet, and simply plug it in. If the time comes when you move, or decide to relocate your EVSE, simply unplug it—and plug it back into another NEMA 14-50 outlet.

This approach costs exactly the same as a hard-wire installation, and makes the device instantly moveable without additional expense. If your EVSE is outside—because maybe you don’t have a garage—then local code might require that you hard-wire the charging equipment. Otherwise, keep your options open.

Connectivity

In this age of smart phones, smart grids, smart this and smart that, you might feel compelled to buy a Wi-Fi-enabled EVSE. That might not be so smart after all. While these fancier products sound cool because they have timers, meters, touch screens and capabilities for monitoring and changing charging events over the web, most long-time EV drivers believe that connectivity adds unnecessary complexity, as well as cost. In some cases, when connectivity is lost, the EVSE can shut down. Besides, many of these remote controllable features are available directly on the car, or from mobile applications. So, the smart money is on dumb but durable EVSEs.

If tracking electricity usage of your EV (for work or tax purposes) is an absolute must, you'll want to either meter your charging separately, or keep your eye open for add-on devices that perform this function via integration with the smart grid. These solutions are currently being evaluated in pilot projects.

Popular Choices for EVSEs

Okay, we’re finally ready to talk about specific EVSEs. There are at least a dozen different manufacturers, but we won’t cover all of them in detail. Instead, we’ll focus on the EVSEs most highly recommended by the EV intelligentsia. We’ll also briefly mention a few others worth considering.

Clipper Creek HCS-40

Clipper Creek HCS-40

When we reached out to experienced EV drivers, nearly all of them put Clipper Creek equipment at the top of their list. The company has been making these units for more than 15 years. They equipment doesn’t necessarily get the highest marks for aesthetics, but the same words keep coming up in those recommendations: durable, robust, and even indestructible. No screens, no software, no problems. In late 2013, Clipper Creek came out with a more affordable unit, well-suited to private garages: the HCS-40, and selling for $590 on the Clipper Creek website. It has a compact size, the necessary 30-amp limit, and a 25-foot cord.


Aerovironment Chargers

Aerovironment EVSE RS-Plug-in

As an alternative to Clipper Creek, you could opt for the slightly less revered AV charging station. It has about the same specs and footprint, and a nicer cord handling system that wraps around the unit. Some reviewers feel it’s a bit cheaper in feel. Aerovironment offers a full service installation program, better user guides and documentation and a three-year warranty. The hard-wired version starts at $999, with portable versions dropping to $899 for a 25-foot cord, and $799 with a 15-foot cord, both allowing for the portability discussed above. AV offers an online shop, or convenient toll-free number for sales and service: 888-833-2148. And if the offer lasts, free shipping.

Buy on amazon.com.


Bosch Power Max

Bosch EVSE

Bosch offers a line of affordable hard-wired charging stations, varying from 16 to 30 amps. As we mentioned, it makes sense to go with a 30-amp home charger. The Bosch Power Max, available on eBay, Amazon and other outlets, is a good deal for just under $600. The unit has a nice style, and is compliant with all of the major EVs on the market. This affordable unit comes with an 18-foot cord, which if you want with a 25-foot cord, bumps the price to $750. Purchase of a Power Max includes a free Trained Vehicle Charging Advisor who does on-site cost estimation, then works with the customer on installation and inspection. Bosch Automotive Service Solutions is the former SPX Service Solutions, which Bosch acquired in December 2012.

Buy on amazon.com.


GE Watt Station 30A

GE Watt Station EVSE

The GE WattStation Wall Mounted 30A is offered on Amazon for $799 with free shipping. It’s an attractive station, although the price is higher than competitors, and some users see the unit as too big. Others have complained of a louder than normal buzz or hum. The power button allows for zero energy consumption when the unit is not in use, when other units—especially those with connectivity—continue to drain energy. An LED ring surrounds the plug inlet and will illuminate white when the charging station is powered on or in standby mode. A green backlit charging icon will illuminate to signal that the EV is in the process of charging. The cord for this unit is slightly shorter at 16 feet. Make sure it reaches all the way around your electric car. In sum, this EVSE is fancier and therefore pricier.

Buy on amazon.com.


JuiceBox

JuiceBox

JuiceBox is an open source 15-kW Level 2 charging station. It’s currently priced at $449—well below the competition. Electric Motor Werks, the manufacturer based in San Carlos, Calif., is offering this charging station as a pre-configured 32-amp unit, supplied with a 25-foot J1772 cable and a six-foot input cable with 14-50P plug. The chief benefit—beyond its lower price point—is the open source flexibility of the charging station. It’s built around an Arduino microcontroller, with open source hardware and software. That means JuiceBox is highly flexible—and ready to adapt with future enhancements such as special screens, Wi-Fi, or other modifications being dreamed up by the developer community.

Buy directly at Electric Motor Werks.


Schneider Electric EVlink 30 Amp Generation 2.5 Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Schneider

Manufactured by Schneider, a well-established brand associated with Square D products, the 30-amp Level 2 charger hits the competitive purchase price of $600, while earning consistently high rankings from EV drivers. While some mention that the body is made of relatively cheap plastic, nearly all owners believe that’s a minor issue, because the unit is effective, reliable and affordable. Its low-depth (it doesn’t protrude far from the wall) and overall small size mean that it doesn’t take up any more room than necessary. This unit is available from Home Depot, which provides free in-home consultations about installation.

Buy on amazon.com.


Siemens VC30BLKB 30-Amp Bottom Fed VersiCharge Electric Vehicle Charger

Siemens

At a reasonable although not class-leading price of $800, the Siemens 30-amp Level 2 charger gets very high rankings from consumers. It has a high-quality German-built finish, good cable management, and is smaller and lighter than some competing products. Its 20-foot cord is adequate, and users appreciated the “charge-delay” function. Some EV owners have reported incompatibility issues with the Ford Focus Electric and Toyota RAV4 EV, but those are rare and have been reportedly resolved. The only serious ding against the product is poor customer service, in the rare occurrences of problems covered by the three-year warranty.

Buy on amazon.com.


Eaton RLC EVSE

Eaton EVSE

The Eaton RLC EVSE Level 2 30-Amp Wall Mounted Single Electric Car Charger, with 24-foot cord, is listed on Home Depot and Lowe’s websites for $999. We can’t see a compelling reason to spend a few hundred dollars more for this Eaton charger.


Leviton Evr-Green 300

Leviton

Selling for more than $1,000 on Leviton’s website, the Evr-Green 300 Level 2 charging station with 18-foot cord is not competitive priced. It comes with a three-year limited warranty, that is fairly common, but which Leviton says is “industry leading.”

Buy on amazon.com.


A Word about Electricians

There’s some debate about whether or not you should use a contractor referred by your dealership. The general view is that any qualified electrician can handle the installation, and that you’ll avoid premiums charged by so-called EV installation specialists. The key is if you can absolutely identify a skilled electrician—because a bad electrician can mess up the job.

EV owners who aren't certain of their ability to judge the quality of an electrician are advised to go with a manufacturer's recommended certified installer.

The cost of installation will vary depending on installation quality, distance that wires and conduits need to run from the breaker box (a.k.a. service panel) to the EVSE, and labor rates of the electrician. Some jobs can cost as little as $200, if the EVSE is mounted next to the breaker box. Or the installation can run as much as several thousand dollars if a conduit needs to be run from another part of the house, or if new or upgraded electrical service is required at your home.

DIY is a low-cost installation option, with a big caveat: don’t take on this job if you don’t know what you are doing. It can be dangerous. Besides, local codes may require permits and inspections to be carried out on your EVSE installation.

As long as we’re talking about DIY alternatives, some EV drivers swear by low cost alternatives from these groups:

One last note: Keep your receipts. In some locations, the cost of an EVSE and installation qualifies for state or local incentives.

Thanks to all the EV experts who contributed to this article. We encourage you to add your own feedback and guidance in the comments below, and we will continue to make revisions based on new information and products.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

"It’s still wise to be able to charge at least at the 30-amp level now so you don’t have to upgrade in a few years when you buy a new EV."

When you say "have to upgrade when you buy a new EV", it implies that the new EV will not be compatible with a 15-amp EVSE. This is not true - the charge rate will be limited by the EVSE, not the car. You may want to reword this, or at least expand on it. I understand what you're trying to say here, but I'm not your target audience ;)

But to take it a step further, if 15A works for someone today, it will still work in the future, unless their driving patterns change.

· · 1 year ago

Clipper Creek has a crazy sale on the residential LCS25(it pumps out around 5kwph). It's under $600 for a limited time. I use it to charge my Volt and it works great with an ultra small footprint. I think it may be the smallest on the market. A local licensed electrician should be able to install a system for less than $300.

You will have to upgrade eventually to a 100amp system once the battery density or batty size increases in EV's like the 85kw battery pack in the Tesla Model S.

Great article! We shared it on the EVSPY Facebook and twitter feeds! Hopefully it helps get the word out!

· · 1 year ago

Forgot to mention, Brian you are correct when you say 15amp is fine. The only downside is unacceptably long charging sessions .

· · 1 year ago

EVSPY,

Define "unacceptably long". For many people, home charging will happen over night. 15A is roughly 10-12 miles of charge per hour for the 2012 Leaf. If you're plugged in for 10 hours overnight, that's 100-120 miles of charging per day. No, it won't charge an 85kwh Tesla Model S from empty to full overnight, but how many people are really driving more than 100 miles per day? Some, for sure, but they are the exception.

Take a typical driver, averaging 40 miles per day. At 15A, it should take 3-4 hours to recharge. At 30A, it should take half that, or 1.5-2 hours. For an overnight charge, the difference is meaningless. For a charge during lunch on a busy Saturday, it becomes more meaningful. But as batteries get larger, the need to charge during the day becomes less. For most, a large battery like 85kWh either needs to be supercharged (road trip) or can essentially be trickle charged at 15A.

That LCS25 is a slick little unit! 5kW is right in the middle of the typical 3.6kW or 7.2kW units, and I suspect will work very well for most people.

A small side-note, you really mean 5kW, not 5kwph. You could say 5kWhph (5 kilowatt-hour per hour), but that's just 5kW. kwph is a nonsensical unit which implies that the power output of the unit continues to increase as time goes on. It most assuredly is constant.

· · 1 year ago

I would rather charge directly from a NEMA 14-50 outlet without passing through an extra device. It is simpler, straight forward and cost nothing. It is also available in many locations.

· · 1 year ago

@Brian - Good suggestion. I made revisions that hopefully clarify the issue. Thanks.

· · 1 year ago

@Brad Berman

1).

I know Tesla has perpetuated this myth for years, but 14-50's are *NOT* used for clothes dryers and in fact are not legal to be used with them unless the overcurrent protection is reduced to 30 amps at the serving panelboard. The dryer has no fusing of its own and depends on a legal installation necessitating the 30 ampere limitation.

Nema 10-30, or lately, since it is no longer legal in new installations to use the "Neutral" as the equipment ground for household appliances, 14-30, are used for household clothes dryers. I have *NEVER* seen for household use, an "Electric Dryer on Steroids", which is certainly legal to make, I just never saw multiple load dryers being sold for houses. Probably because they will exceed 36" and there is no way to get them physically in the basement.

Its a small detail, but I wonder why Tesla specified as their "Default" outlet, one with a Neutral since they are obviously not using it, as can be seen by their permission of Welder Outlets, which, incidentally is the Leviton default.

It would be nice if we could have an article that shows exactly what products work with which cars. The Rav4EV incompatibility article was a big step in this direction.

2).
Some manufacturers of EVSE's don't even market a 30 amp unit in the US. Voltec is 15 amps, Pass & Seymour (LeGrand) is 16 amps. This is not so much of a limitation since GM appears to be standardizing on 3.3 kw as well as Via, Mitsubishi, Fisker, etc.
An individual homeowner may decide on a 30 amp charging docking startion (I call them charger docks), but HOA's and common areas of apartment buildings may decide to only have 15 or 16 amp charging stations.. Why? Because they don't want to pay high demand charges unnecessarily and therefore want to incentivise the tennant (and so does the serving utility, thats the reason for demand charges in the first place) to spread the charging activity over the entire nighttime.

A Landlord who decided to proivde landlord owned Rfid credit card enabled chargers for his tenant base could only hook up 5 or 6 30 amp units but could hook up 10 charger units if they were all like the Leviton 160's (16 amps), off of a simple 200 ampere single phase feeder. Granted it would not be THAT model, but an RFID enabled 15 or 16 amp unit would be wanted by a great deal of EV driving tennants under the general principle that "Something is better than Nothing".

· · 1 year ago

@Brian Schwerdt

Nobody's told me but since the LCS25 is also rebranded "Sun Country Highway" for our Canadian Friends, I suspect the reason for this model is that Canadian electric codes allow a 25 ampere fuse or circuit breaker on 12 gauge copper. Their standard appliance circuit.

Therefore, a 'continuous load' could run at 80% or 20 amps, and hence the 4.8 kw charger is born. So, although also sold in the US, its primarily a Canadian product.

· · 1 year ago

Why are you assuming everyone needs or wants a Level 2 EVSE. There was an article I read in the past week or so about how BEV owners are realizing they don't need to charge everyday. I read somewhere that (at least where the gov't wasn't paying for free ones) 30% of Leaf owners just use the 120 Level 1 EVSE that comes with the car. For me, and I drive over 68 miles per day, I just charge my 2012 Leaf overnight at home on my Level 1 (trickle-charge) and then on the same at home or work during the day. I drive more miles a day than 95% of Leaf owners, without a Level 2 EVSE. This perception that folks need to fork over the time and money for a Level 2 EVSE discourages folks from buying BEV. When people realize that the EVSE that comes with the car, and a standard three-prong outlet, can get the job done for most people, that will also cure the faux ailment, "range anxiety". 12,000+ miles and going strong.

· · 1 year ago

@Mauileaf

Yes you are absolutely corect that if you can get by without purchasing a Level 2 product, then that is great.. These companies also sell many level 1 products for roughly the same price, or even MORE, which totally confuses me. What comes standard with most cars is just fine, unless the customer permanently mounts his L1 charger that came with the car nicely and therefore wants to have second "portable" one in the car. Utilities would prefer you charge as slowly as you can consistent with getting you enough charge in time, and on larger installations ( say, 10 landlord owned EVSE's for an appartment complex) they will save money by limiting things to 16 amp charging docking stations due to limiting the demand charge.

My volt actually charges just fine at the default 8 amps 120 volts, although if I'm going out after dinner I will 'fast charge it' on the 240 EVSE so that I have enough for the evening without reverting to gasoline.

But if level 1 products do it for you, bully for you!

· · 1 year ago

@Bill Howland,

I have the LCS-25 from Clipper Creek. It is a great little product. Pretty compact and light and NEMA 4X rated enclosure. It is also on sale for $600 right now. I know that it also works down to 208V and never get hot. I like it a lot.

· · 1 year ago

Thanks for the kind word about ClipperCreek products. I did want to point out that you compared our commercial product to other residential products. Our residential LCS-25 is offered at $595, which makes it not only the best product on the market, but also one of the lowest priced.

· · 1 year ago

TL; DR. So, I didn't read if you mentioned the controversy over the VERY EXISTENCE of EVSEs.

If TESLA, I repeat, T E S L A, makes it so I don't need an EVSE, why am I going to be happy and believe that an EVSE is in any way a true technical requirement and not a way for legal gatekeepers to extort money from me?

Every single thing an EVSE does can and usually IS DONE by the vehicle's charger. There is no technical reason for the EVSE to exist as a separate device.

THIS IS A USELESS PERIPHERAL AND A WASTE OF MY MONEY.

AS A CONSUMER IN THE EV MARKET, I DEMAND THAT MY OEM DOES NOT REQUIRE THIS "THING".

Tesla does not require an EVSE, neither does the Smart Electric Drive (with an electric drive train Tesla primarily designed). Thank God Leaf has a minimal "brick-in-the-cord" EVSE that can be upgraded to 240V very inexpensively by a third party.

Investigate this farce further, PluginCars, pelase.

· · 1 year ago

Anderlan, Tesla's mobile cord is every bit as much an EVSE as anyone elses. Please note there are several EVSEs that plug into outlets like the Tesla cord. The only difference is that you can buy various adapters from Tesla so you can plug in to more than just one NEMA type of outlet. With a little care you can make your own adapters so that you could plug just about any EVSE into various outlets too. The Tesla cord is also just as expensive as many of the other EVSEs on the market.

· · 1 year ago

@Anderlan

Not much to investigate that hasn't been said here already many times. The reason for the EVSE is due to collusion between electrical equipment manufacturers and the National Electical Code (NFPA 70).

Its not such an unliveable situation as you portray

I was going to purchase a "evse - less" Universal Mobile connector for my roadster for $1500.

I wanted public station j1772 interoperability and the umc wont do that.

I bought a 30 amp evse for $725 and tesla's adapter j1772 for $750 instead. So I saved myself $25 and I got the public station charging capability I wanted all along.

So life really isn't all that bad.

· · 1 year ago

There's another home charger on the market now - www.TucsonEV.com/TucsonEV-SE.html

It can charge either Level I or Level II, depending on how you set it up and up to 240vac 30A for now. We have plans to increase the Amps in the future.

AND the best thing is the price - $675 plus shipping.

Check it out.
Thanks
Rush

· · 1 year ago

As a New York real estate developer, I would like to put this a new building. Any suggestions?

· · 1 year ago

nyc hi,

Following (and supporting) Mauileaf's observations above, I would recommend to you to simply make sure every parking spot has access to a *regular* 15A 110V outlet. This will enable all residents to trickle-charge at their spots. It will also:

- be the cheapest installation option for you
- be the best value for your residents, since their daily recharge needs (most people drive <50 miles/day on most days) will be fully met at their parking spot without having to worry about fighting over a precious faster-charging spot every night
- be the best for electricity load, since much if not most of the charging will take place during late-night, low-load hours.

In addition, I would also install a pair of L2 chargers in a public location, accessible to both residents and visitors. Those are the ones discussed above in the post and most comments, costing around $500-2000 each depending upon the settings and brand. Given the rapid advance in EVs, they should probably be with the top capacity for L2 right now (so 50A plug protected by a 60A breaker for each). Depending upon your personal perspective you might choose

- To leave this as a contingency rather than an actual installation. I just returned from an extensive East Coast trip, and boy you guys are light-years behind the West Coast in EV market penetration. OTOH if you want to be part of the change, installing the spots right away would be a nice addition especially if you make them available to the public.
- Set them up to be fee-based. I don't know much about how this is done, but I'm sure many companies will be glad to walk you through the process - you might even get them to install the L2's for you for free or reduced price.

Disclaimer: Nissan Leaf has been our main car for the past 11 months. We bought it almost on a whim, and based on the online and marketing chatter we were sure we'd need an L2 charger. Fortunately, our home is a bit complicated for that, so before we got around to do it we'd already discovered that trickle-charging (110V plug, using the cable that comes with the car) would meet all our needs for nearly all the days. The people who really need a dedicated L2 at their home are a minority among EV drivers right now. At public locations it's a different matter - hence my advice to you to install a pair out front in your public parking area.

Good luck!

· · 1 year ago

Hi,

Struggling with selection of unit. I have focus electric coming and have 20 amp 240 service already in garage (and a new run to panel is hard through finish basement) so I figure instead of going 32 amp wall unit I go 16 amp and instead of 3.5 - 4 hours I get 7-8 for full charge and all is well. (I need most of charge each day)

If I buy a 32 amp wall unit someone was telling me car charging circuitry is smart enough to know its a 20 amp circuit and limit to 16 amps. Is true? What will happen day I hook up 32 amp unit to 20 amp? Breaker trip? How to know? I can buy 16 amp wall unit but I need longer cord only available on 32 amp unit. Maybe I buy replacement part (cord) for 32 unit and install on 16? Compatible with longer cable is a mild concern.

Experience with this would be appreciated

· · 50 weeks ago

There are several 30 Amp chargers available on Home Depot's website for well below $1000. There are two below $750 and three below $850.

· · 50 weeks ago

@NewEv
The charger is actually built into the car. The discussions here are simply power sources. The chargers in the car have a rating in kW (kilowatts). It will adapt to the voltage and current supply that you plug it into. The best you can do is deliver to the car what it can handle. I believe the 2014 Ford Focus has a built in 6.7kW charger meaning at 240V it can take 27.9A. Thats why you want a 30A power source to maximize its charging capability. To answer your question in general, I would not wire a 30A power unit onto a 20A circuit because it will likely try to pull 30A and trip your breaker. I would ask this question to the specific manufacturer of the unit you are intending to buy.

· · 50 weeks ago

Another thing to consider is that your 120v garage outlets may have weak circuits. My home, for example, has all of the outside sockets, garage sockets, and most bathrooms on a single GFCI in an upstairs bathroom. If I'm charging the car and someone plugs in a hair dryer--boom. And the circuit must be pretty long. I measure a 10-volt drop using a Kill-A-Watt at the socket when charging my Leaf. The max drop is supposed to be 3%. I checked how the socket was wired. It was wired with the fast option of jamming the stripped wire into the hole on the back of the socket. This has caused problems elsewhere in my house. I rewired to the screw connector, but that didn't change the drop by much.

Note: If there's arcing when the cord is unplugged, that can lead to pitting of the plug blades. This increases resistance that can cause heating at the socket. I have seen a Chevy Voltec 120v EVSE plug that got pitted like this, and melted the plastic of several sockets before the owner notice. Always unplug at the car first. The J1772 standard is designed to avoid arcing by cutting power before the power wires disconnect as the J1772 connector is removed.

And that brings me to another point. Some commenters have criticized the EVSE as useless expense that is proven unnecessary by Tesla. Well, there are several good reasons for the EVSE:

1) Smart cord has power only when the car is connected (safety in wet areas; no arcing)
2) Negotiation between car and EVSE for maximum available current
3) Ground-fault interruption (the typical 240v socket does not have this!)
4) Cold Load Start Random start up (helps substation/neighborhood circuits after a power outage)

And as some posters noted, Tesla built much of this into the cord.

· · 50 weeks ago

@NewEv
In case you have not gotten the answer to your question: do not wire a 32 amp device to a 20 amp circuit. This will fail. The intelligence that limits the current a car will draw is between the EVSE and the car, not between the EVSE and the circuit. So if you installed a 32 amp on a 20 amp circuit, and plugged in a car that can use more than 20 amps, you will overload the circuit. A 32 amp EVSE requires a 40 amp circuit (NEC 80% continuous-load rule). But if you install a 16 amp EVSE on your 20 amp circuit, the car would limit its draw to 16 amps because that's the maximum that the EVSE will advertise to the car. I believe there are a few EVSE models that can be field modified to limit the capacity they advertise to the car, but these are at the very high end (70~90 amps) or build-it-yourself open designs.

Tesla builds this intelligence into their cord and the ends you can plug into it. Each end has a NEMA rating for voltage and current—the car adjusts accordingly. And, the operator can tell the car to use less than that, which is really cool for a lot of reasons.

As for the cord length, this is a major factor in the price of an EVSE. You may have found that buying the longer replacement cord is ~$200. Consider extending the circuit and mounting the EVSE as close as possible to the car's charging port. This will not only save you money, but will save you time cumulatively over the thousands of times you will plug in the car. And the cable and you will stay cleaner if it is not being dragged a long way across a garage floor.

I am very happy with my Schneider Electric 30 amp EVSE, and my 2012 Nissan Leaf with a 3.3KW charger. I bought a larger capacity EVSE for the possibility of getting a future car with a faster charger (as noted in the article above). I had two reasons for installing a hard-wired 240v EVSE: 1) not having to unpack/pack the 120v charger every charging cycle, 2) having a backup in case one of the EVSEs fails. The circuit is also on an off-peak meter, for which some power companies require the EVSE to be hard wired.

Note: the control box for my off-peak service is limited to 30 amps (designed for electric water heater). For higher current, the output of the control-box relay can be used to control a higher-rated relay. That’s an extra cost to consider.

· · 49 weeks ago

So what kind of wall is required? If I have a timber weatherboard garage with plaster interior walls will this not cause a fire risk with the high voltages that a part and parcel of an EV wall charger? Would I need brick walls?

· · 47 weeks ago

I have a stucco house with wood frame and drywall. no problem if all the above electrical needs are addressed.

· · 45 weeks ago

"If I buy a 32 amp wall unit someone was telling me car charging circuitry is smart enough to know its a 20 amp circuit and limit to 16 amps. Is true? What will happen day I hook up 32 amp unit to 20 amp? Breaker trip? How to know? I can buy 16 amp wall unit but I need longer cord only available on 32 amp unit. Maybe I buy replacement part (cord) for 32 unit and install on 16? Compatible with longer cable is a mild concern."

The car will adjust its power draw to whatever the charging station tells it, but the station must be configured properly for the electrical circuit. Most charging stations are not adjustable, so you must get a charging station that matches the available circuit. However, there are adjustable charging stations. The only commercial one I know of is the Siemens VersiCharge. It has an internal adjustment that allows the station to draw 6, 7.5, 15, 22.5, or 30 amps. You can find the installation manual here:
http://w3.usa.siemens.com/us/internet-dms/btlv/Residential/Residential/d...

Strangely, the installation instructions say that you must size the wire and breaker for 30 amps. This pretty much defeats the purpose of the adjustment. In any case, you can set the VersiCharge to 15 amps and safely use it on a 20 amp circuit. A standard 30 or 32 amp charging station would trip the breaker when a vehicle that could draw more than about 18 amps were charging. The danger comes in when the breaker is defective and the wire between the charging station and the panel is undersized for the station. The wire could overheat and cause a fire.

· · 45 weeks ago

I LIKE !

· · 42 weeks ago

@NewEv
There is at least 1 other adjustable EVSE (charging station), which happens to be the one I have been using with our Focus Electric for about 1 1/2 years. Used to be through spx, now looks like same device through Bosch, called "Power Xpress".
I re-set mine down, from 24 A. to 16 A., mainly because the connector seemed to be getting a bit warm to my hand. (I am an EE and like connections to stay cool.) The lower current may (perhaps) help the battery last a bit longer (?).
With your 20 A. service in garage, this 16 A. setting is fine. (Advice above about 80% de-rating for safety is good.)
The Focus will take either 16 or 24 A. just fine, depending on the EVSE it is connected to. The extra time to charge is OK with me.

· · 41 weeks ago

Here are a few items that the Siemens unit also features; amperage adjustment dial (limits the max charge) and a small I/o block that can be used to control versicharge by something else in your house (for the home automation guys). Lastly, Nema 4R rating for both indoor and outdoor installations.

· · 39 weeks ago

@Priusmaniac

I like the idea of a dumb cable, but nobody seems to sell a SAE J1772 to Nema 14 dumb cable. Did you make your own (i.e. attach a Nema connector to an SAE J1772 cable)? Will most cars charge without the signaling protocol active?

· · 39 weeks ago

Very interesting and informative article, Brad, and great comments and guidance from all the techies. I'm building a house and therefore have a blank slate to design our garage to enable 2 plug-ins. Here's my question: should I get the electrician to install 2 NEMA 14-50 outlets for 2 EVSEs…since I have the option? I understand, from your debate in this comment stream as well as others on this site, that we can use the level 1 outlets in the garage for overnight charging, but should I set up the garage to have the capability for level 2 charging? Appreciate your thoughts!

· · 39 weeks ago

I had 110 charging for a few months for my volt and 2 weeks ago put in a clipper creek 240 EVSE. I am so happy with the quicker charging capabilities. My electrician pointed out that the 240 is cheaper for a really good "sciency" reason I am unable to pass on--- not big savings but savings nonetheless. If I was setting up a garage from scratch I'd go for it. My friend calls this the five most expensive words in English. "While we are at it."

· · 39 weeks ago

I Strongly recommend getting set up for Level 2, after you do some planning. (Level 2 is not just faster, but a bit more efficient and allows more possibility for automatically charging When you want it, such as when electricity cost is less. Also allows some cars to warm up while plugged in, which can be a real help.)
You should plan needs based on the car and the EVSE. For example, some do not need the 4 wires of a NEMA 14-50, so make installation cheaper and easier. (Mine is 3-wire, through a NEMA 6-50.)
Some are set up just for direct wire, not plug-in.
Plan also where you want the cord to coil up, and where it will rest while connected to the car (you don't want to trip over it).

· · 37 weeks ago

So just a QUICK QUESTION, can someone who has run a line for a 220 electric heater hook one of these things up? Does the units have INSTRUCTIONS on WHAT gauge wire to use and WHAT amp breaker to use? And any other pertinent info?

· · 37 weeks ago

Quick answer: yes.
But, it would be smart to learn about things like building codes for your area.
I found a licensed electrician to add new breakers + outlet for my garage, after I had picked the specific device. He had a good way of bending and installing proper conduit to a convenient location, for example.
Instructions are available online. Search (google) for EVSE and a manufacturer you are considering (Siemens, Bosch / spx, GE, ...). Many offer complete manuals to download. I like the spx (now through Bosch) manual I used.

· · 37 weeks ago

The Blink HQ is also available for sale. This residential EV charger offers charging 4xs faster than the cord that came with your EV, a delay timer to optimize charging rates, an 18 foot indoor/outdoor cable, and a $100 bonus credit for public Blink EV charging stations. Quantities are limited, so order yours today at www.BlinkHQ.com.

· · 36 weeks ago

I have a portable Leviton level 2 charger. True that Leviton is slightly more expensive but we have a cabin and I only had to buy one charger for both places. Have a 2011 Leaf with 30k miles.

· · 36 weeks ago

EMW JuiceBox Base Edition $448
60A / 15kW Level 2 charging - 2x faster than most EVSEs
http://www.emotorwerks.com/products/online-store/product/show/44-juicebo...

This is cheap and offers higher power levels suitable for charging a Tesla or other longer range electric vehicle.

· · 35 weeks ago

Thanks for this very useful article. As you imply, the landscape for EVSE incentives is always shifting. For example, right now in southern California LADWP has two EVSE rebate programs available through 6/30/15 (subject to available funding), Anaheim Public Utilities has an EVSE rebate program for customers, and Chargepoint is accepting applications for one more week for its program to provide free EV Chargers for apartment buildings, condos and co-ops in the San Diego area (application deadline is 3/1/14).

At the federal level, the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Income Tax Credit is available for EVSEs placed in service before 1/1/14. However, the credit has expired and is not currently available for EVSEs placed in service after 12/31/13. At PlugIncentives we are researching available credits for EVSEs and EVs and providing updates on legislative incentive-related activities, including the possibility of Congress passing tax extender legislation to renew the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property credit.

· · 33 weeks ago

I leased my 2013 Nissan Leaf in Jan. 2014, so I did not qualify for the tax rebate. However, I wanted to get a L2 charger for the added flexibility and convenience. I ended up buying the portable 20 amp Clipper Creek LCS-25P with a NEMA 6-30 plug for $549, and I couldn't be happier.

I got a quote from the dealer referred installer that was offering a "free" Bosch station. The quote was for $1,500, which would include a new breaker panel to make room for a dedicated 50 amp line, 15 feet of conduit to the station, and the hardwired Bosch station. That seemed a little steep and overkill for what I wanted.

I did a little on-line research for options. I have a gas dryer, so I have an available 30 amp line, which was for an electric dryer. However,the plug was old style without a ground. The portable Clipper Creek stations require a ground. I bought a NEMA 6-30 outlet for $15, 6 feet of grounding copper wire for $4, and a grounding clamp for $3. In three hours, I was able to replace the plug and ground it to the washer water pipe. I was halfway to my goal.

Because of demand, Clipper Creek had recently started to offer the portable station for 30 amp outlets. Thank you Clipper Creek for recognizing the niche. It arrived after one week instead of several days because it was back ordered. They called and were very apologetic. It didn't matter to me because it was a week-end project. That delay has probably gone away by now. Within 30 minutes of starting, it was installed and charging my car. It comes with 25 feet of cord, so it can charge my Leaf no matter where I park it in my 2 car garage. I can even park behind a car and reach outside my garage.

With the 20 amp station, full charging from square zero takes about 6 hours versus 4 hours for a 30 amp station. I charge starting at midnight to take advantage of lower night-time rates in the San Francisco area, but I have no issue reaching a full charge before morning. That saves me about $25 a month.Spending the $1,500 to rework the wiring just did not make sense.

All in all, I reached a happy compromise between cost and charging speed. And if we ever move, I won't lose my station. This solution won't work for everyone, but it is definitely one option to consider.

· · 32 weeks ago

Article is interesting and comments are too... but I don't understand how many volt and ampere your sockets carry, and I don't thimk the power provided by an EVSE depends just on EVSE!
In Italy we have 240V/16A mains, so how could I get any advantage from installing a 30A or 40A Evse?
What's the story in USA and Canada? I read about 240V EVSE connected to 120V/16A mains... but wouldn't they just provide 8A?

· · 32 weeks ago

@jumpjack
In USA you usually need to install a new dedicated circuit to serve a 240V EVSE. The only common existing outlet that would be useful is an outlet for an electric clothes dryer, if it was in the garage. This is relatively common for California homes built in the 1960's and 1970's. That outlet would be 30A, which would only serve EVSE units of 24A and below.
The other relevant difference between USA and EU electrical systems is that USA uses circuit ratings that are based on intermittent use while EU uses continuous ratings. So, an American household outlet is commonly 120VAC 15A, which you can only draw 80%, or 12A for electric car charging. I believe in Italy and other EU countries you can pull the full 240V/16A continuously from existing household mains sockets. Just don't plug in a kettle that shares the same circuit.

· · 28 weeks ago

@Bill Howland - NEMA 14-50 outlets aren't normally used for home dryers in the US (or anywhere else I'm aware of), but electric stoves (a.k.a. ranges, cookers) that integrate both a cooktop and an oven usually run off a 120/240V 14-50R outlet; thus these are common. These are four-prong - hot, hot, neutral, and ground - allowing for either 240V (sometimes 208V) between the two hot wires or 120V between either hot and neutral.

So an EVSE is basically a fancy 240v extension cord that plugs into a 50A outlet and has a 30A fuse, with a gas-pump-shaped plug? THAT costs $700?

· · 28 weeks ago

I'm going to need to install my charger on an outside wall, and I'm concerned that leaving a 12' to 20' piece of copper wire dangling out in the open will be too tempting for a scrapper with a wire cutter. Is the theft of charging cables a problem? Does anyone know if there are there charging stations that have a locked enclosure for the cable?

· · 26 weeks ago

As a California state certified C10 electrical contractor we specialize in installations of electric vehicle charging stations in the San Fransisco and greater bay area. If any one needs any instalation help please give us a call.

Auto Charge Electric Inc
415 578 2401
Autochargeelectric@gmail.com

· · 23 weeks ago

Question,
Where would be the best place to market solar electric with EVSE to reach the EV customers.
We are in Southwest Florida.
michael@suncommercialsolar.com
239.218.2280

· · 19 weeks ago

Brad... Thanks very much for this excellent article. I wish I had this information two years ago when I bought my Volt because as a "newbie" to a plugin car, there learning curve was pretty steep and all the new jargon was nearly overwhelming. I made the big mistake when i bought my first EVSE, an SPX Xpress, installed by a professional electrician (I could have done it myself, I once built an airplane, installing the engine, electronic ignition, engine, fuel system-etc and flew it) but SPX would not offer a warranty if a customer didn't have a "pro" to the instal. The SPX started failing about 7 months into service and refused to honor their warranty (horror stories are on the internet about this disreputable company and they are no longer in business) but I replaced the SPX with a GE WattStation (I now have two at two residences we own and installed both GE WattSations myself) and I love the GE WattStations, but as I am looking for a third level 2 EVSE, I'll probably go with the Clipper Creek.

This is such a great article you have here that I'm going to provide the link on Facebook because lot's of folks out there just getting into a plug in car, need clarity on this subject.

· · 16 weeks ago

Tried the Bosch charger and it failed on me after a few charges. Installed the Aerovironment Charger and works perfect. Put in a 40amp breaker with 8 gauge wire. Drilled out the hole on the bottom and installed a dryer plug. Very easy install.
of General Electric WX9X35 4-wire Range Cord, 4-foot
1 of Leviton 279 50 Amp, 125/250 Volt, NEMA 14-50R, 3P, 4W, Flush Mounting Receptacle, Straight Blade, Industrial Grade, Grounding, Side Wired, Steel Strap, Black
40 Amp Double-Pole Interchangeable Circuit Breaker
However how many feet of wire you need.
L1 and L2 your hot wires. Neutral not used. Ground green.

· · 11 weeks ago

I would like to double up on the importance of where the EVSE is mounted in the garage/parking place. In my garage I have the Schneider Electric EVLink mounted on the wall right next to the driver's side where I get out. So where the plug rests in the wall mount lines up exactly 1 foot away from the charge port on the driver's side of my Chevy Volt. So it takes exactly 5 seconds to plug in every time. I can imagine if it was on the other side of the garage and I had to walk the plug over every time it would be a hassle. I would probably get one of those tool retractors and hang it from the ceiling so I could just pull down the charge plug where it hangs just above the drivers side. So the closer you can get your plug to the actual charge port on the EV (every one of them has it in a different location - Volt = driver's side, Leaf = the nose) the easier it will be to plug in and the less hassle the better. Plugging in your EV should be WAY easier than pumping gasoline. It's one of the selling points to an EV!

· · 3 weeks ago

Why couldn't I purchase the proper plug for my car and wire it directly to a 240 junction? If the charger is built into the vehicle, all I would need to do is supply it with power? Or does the EVSE have some sort of protection hardware that would benefit me in the long run?

· · 1 week ago

@hidiver - It's not that simple. The J1772 plug is designed with several ingenious interlocks to allow safe charging when it's raining, to prevent drive-off's if the charging cable is plugged in, etc. If you like charging your car without being electrocuted, that's probably a benefit.

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