Last year, nearly 6.5 million electric cars were sold worldwide. In December alone, nearly 1 million plugin vehicles were registered. EV sales have been growing quarter after quarter and year after year, and there’s no indication that will stop. With so many new EV owners, there are countless who are looking to install a home EV charging station. We’re going to try to help out with this part of the EV ownership process. In this article, we’re going to discuss how to install an EV home charger, how much a charger costs, what a Level 2 charging station is, what other charging options are out there, EV home charging solutions for non-homeowners, and more.
As with many topics, with home EV charging, there are well known basics, commonly held misconceptions and false assumptions, and even popular myths. The aim here is to be comprehensive yet concise, and to bust mistaken assumptions while illuminating the full platter of options an EV driver has for home charging.
Also, while many resources focus on home EV charging options for homeowners, note that renters have an array of options as well. I’ll be sure to highlight those.
What Is A Level 2 Charging Station?
First of all, note that Level 2 charging stations are not the only charging options in town. I will discuss some other options in the next section. However, when people think of home EV charging stations, Level 2 charging stations are often what they think of. They are the most common option for home EV charging. They are small charging boxes that can be hardwired into a wall or plugged into a 240V electricity outlet. Once installed in one of those ways, they include a charging cable and plug that you can plug into the charging socket of an electric car to charge the car. All electric cars on the market have the ability to charge using a Level 2 charging station.
From our recent report on EV chargers and EV charging, here’s a somewhat more specific and technical summary of Level 2 charging:
“All Level 2 chargers use 240V, but charging speed can vary based on a charger’s amperage and electrical current. Most EVs can take in about 32A, adding around 25 miles of range in an hour. If you need higher charging speeds, you may be satisfied with a faster 50A charger that can add about 37 miles of range per hour of charging. You’ll be able to charge faster with a higher charger amperage only if your electric car can take the power delivered by the EV charger. A 40A charging station will not let you charge faster than a standard 30A if the power acceptance limit of your electric vehicle doesn’t go beyond 30A. There are some EV charging stations that can deliver more power, but not all electric vehicles can accept it.
“A standard home EV charging station will provide passthrough AC power to charge the vehicle. The vehicle will then convert the AC power to DC power, using it to recharge the battery. The actual charger is located onboard, inside the electric vehicle. After connecting to the vehicle, the charging station will send information to the vehicle about available power and its level. From that point, it is the vehicle that takes full control of the power transfer.”
Basically, a Level 2 charging station — also sometimes called EVSE — is used to transfer more electricity to your electric car than you can transfer using a plug connected to a normal 120V electricity outlet.
But before you go ahead with a 240V EV charger installation, read on.
What Are Other Types Of Charging Stations?
Aside from Level 2 charging, there’s Level 1 charging and Level 3 charging.
With Level 1 charging, you are plugging into a normal, basic, 120V electricity outlet like you use to plug in your TV, computer, toaster, or lamp. The benefit is there is no extra cost at all. The downside is that this provides very slow charging. Level 1 charging will just add about 3–4 miles of driving range in an hour. This is considered acceptable for many EV owners, but most owners think that speed of charging is too slow and opt to buy a Level 2 EV home charging station (EVSE) to plug into a 240V outlet. I personally use Level 1 charging at home, but I can see how that wouldn’t work for some people’s lifestyles and charging needs. (Note that some EVs actually come with a complimentary Level 2 charger. See dealer for details.) You can also skip an electric car charger home installation by sharing a 240V outlet to charge an EV using a Smart Splitter. I’ll come back to that later in this piece, but this option can provide power for 15–30 miles of driving range in an hour.
Level 3 charging is a whole other beast. Whereas Level 1 charging is much slower than Level 2 charging, Level 3 charging is, logically, much faster. While Level 2 charging may add 25–40 miles of driving range in an hour, Level 3 charging can add 200 miles of range in an hour or even 200 miles of range in 15 minutes in the case of very fast chargers. Naturally, Level 3 charging stations are large, expensive, and pull an enormous amount of power at a time. These types of charging stations are not for home installation and use. (Well, there are some rare cases where they are used at homes. I once found out while in the UAE that the vice ruler of Dubai has a Tesla Supercharger at his house. But we are not all vice rulers of rich states.)
Generally speaking, Level 3 charging stations are used on road trips. However, for those without home charging and with Level 3 stations near their homes, Level 3 charging can also be a way to “fill up” once or twice a week similar to how people driving gas-powered cars fill up at the gas station.
How Do You Install An EV Home Charger?
Okay, yes, some people do install their own home EV charging stations, but mostly that is left to a qualified professional electrician, especially if you need to have a 240V outlet installed. We’ll get into the details of a home electric car charger installation in the next section, when looking at costs, but the bottom line is that if you aren’t simply plugging a charging unit into a 240V garage outlet, you need to hire a professional to do it in a safe, secure, and effective way.
Also note that there’s a middle ground possible that doesn’t require hiring an electrician or need any expensive installations. If you have a 240V outlet in or near your garage, instead of having another one installed, many times requiring a panel upgrade, you can buy and personally install (that is, just plug in) a 240V “Smart Splitter” that adds another outlet to your existing one. The 240V splitter has built-in automatic power switching and an internal software breaker for safety.
In short, if you don’t have an existing 240V outlet near your desired charging location then you’ll want to consult a licensed electrician to get one installed, if you do have a 240V outlet, there are options like the 240V Smart Splitter that allow you to safely use your existing outlet between two devices.
How Much Does It Cost?
A Level 2 charging station is not just the single cost of the station — which can vary greatly. There are several associated costs. Aside from the charging station costing a few hundred to several hundred dollars, there may be a permitting cost ($100+ or even $200+), associated electric materials and equipment like extra wiring, electrical panels, breakers (potentially several hundred dollars extra cost), electrician labor costs (don’t ask), grounding costs (potentially a few hundred dollars).
In other words, yes, compare charging station features and costs — we’ve got a comprehensive guide to the options currently on the market. However, also consider the additional costs before making a decision and see if you can figure out what those extra costs are if you need to install a whole new 240V outlet and electrical panel.
Cost To Charge An EV Overnight?
We’ve covered the basics of an EV home charger installation, and the basics show that they aren’t free (except in the case of using slow Level 1 charging). But that doesn’t mean charging an EV costs more than fueling up a gas-powered car. In fact, you can quite quickly get those costs back thanks to the lower cost of powering an electric car.
An electric powertrain is 3–4 times more efficient than a gasoline-fueled powertrain. That doesn’t mean it’s 3–4 times cheaper, since gas and electricity are separate products in separate markets, but it does turn out that electric motor efficiency helps to create lower “fuel” costs for electric vehicles. There is no standard rule on this, though, since fuel and electricity prices vary from region to region and the fuel economy of cars, trucks, or SUVs EV drivers are replacing are not the same either. Furthermore, with some utilities, EV drivers can benefit from special EV rate plans that provide them with very low electricity rates at certain low-demand times of the night or day.
Nonetheless, despite all of these variables and the fact that we can’t make any across-the-board claims about fuel savings, let’s look at a few examples using electricity data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and gas price data from AAA:
- average price of electricity = 18¢/kWh;
- average price of gas (regular) = $4.64;
- cost to provide 40 miles of electricity for a Tesla Model Y = $2.02;
- cost to provide 40 miles of fuel for a Lexus RX = $8.44.
- average price of electricity = 10.06¢/kWh;
- average price of gas (regular) = $3.345;
- cost to provide 40 miles of electricity for a Tesla Model Y = $1.13;
- cost to provide 40 miles of fuel for a Lexus RX = $6.08.
- New York:
- average price of electricity = 14.87¢/kWh;
- average price of gas (regular) = $3.547;
- cost to provide 40 miles of electricity for a Tesla Model Y = $1.67;
- cost to provide 40 miles of fuel for a Lexus RX = $6.10
- average price of electricity = 8.97¢/kWh;
- average price of gas (regular) = $3.151;
- cost to provide 40 miles of electricity for a Tesla Model Y = $1.01;
- cost to provide 40 miles of fuel for a Lexus RX = $5.73.
As you can see, no matter where you’re located, there are large operational cost savings to driving an electric vehicle. There are practically countless comparisons you could make here, changing various assumptions with regard to electricity costs, gas prices, electric car model and its efficiency, gas car model and its fuel economy, but the overall story is the same: it’s much cheaper to operate an electric car, and that can quickly make up for the extra cost of an EV home charger installation if you choose to get one. (Electric car maintenance costs are also typically much lower than gas car maintenance costs.)
That said, there’s a middle solution between a full Level 2 EV home charging point installation and Level 1 “trickle charging” from a 120V electricity outlet. I’ll mention that option in the final two sections of this piece.
What About Non-Homeowners?
Most of the above focuses on what homeowners can do with regard to EV home charging stations. What about home renters? Non-homeowners have a few different options. First of all, if a basic electricity outlet is accessible and slower charging works for them, they can use Level 1 charging. If a 240V garage dryer outlet is available to them, they can get a fairly cheap 240V Smart Splitter and charge at a higher “Level 2” charging rate. They could even put in a portable Level 2 charging station. If they want to hardwire a charging station or have a 240V outlet installed, then they surely need to consult with the landlord and see if that is permitted. Or, as I did for a few years, if no EV home charging is available at all, they can use public Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations for all of their needs — ideally, located at work, at grocery stores they frequently shop at, or at restaurants and coffee shops they love to go to. In my case, due to the local market (all stations in my area offered free charging for years), I paid $0 for such charging, but if such public charging isn’t free (it often isn’t), then the cost of charging could be much higher than if you charged at home. Also take into account time costs (getting to and from such chargers) and the fact that free charging at a retail establishment will often entice you to spend more money at that establishment, including on consumer products, treats, or high-priced coffee that you really don’t need.
There’s another interesting option. Say that you’ve got a 240V garage dryer outlet but it’s in use. You could, theoretically, unplug the dryer every time you want to charge the car and unplug the car every time you want to use the dryer. But that would be a total hassle. Also, this is said to be very unsafe, and you are advised to not plug and unplug 240V plugs very often due to the higher electricity flows and risk of shock. A more convenient option that doesn’t involve paying an electrician hundreds or thousands of dollars to install a new 240V outlet is to get a Smart Splitter that turns one outlet into two. The last section below covers the Smart Splitter that I am familiar with and can heartily endorse.
The NeoCharge Smart Splitter
The NeoCharge 240V Smart Splitter, which is UL safety certified, unlocks the ability to safely charge an EV from an existing 240V outlet at home. This includes sharing power between a dryer (or other appliance) and an EV home charging station. It will automatically charge the car after the dryer is done, ensuring you don’t need to worry about overloading your circuit or plugging and unplugging your devices.
You can also use the Smart Splitter to conveniently and safely charge two electric cars. One car will charge after the other is done (you choose which has priority) or they can both charge at the same time by splitting the total power. That effectively means the two of them get half the power (Level 2- 20A/4.8kW) if they both need to charge, or one EV can charge at full speed (40 Amps).
The 240V Smart Splitter has an internal software breaker for current and heat safety, built-in automatic power switching, adheres to all NEC power ratings, and is the only UL safety certified 240V splitter. One of the big benefits of the NeoCharge Smart Splitter is that buyers can avoid expensive installs, like electric panel upgrades, while being able to expand their EV household.
Whatever you choose as an EV owner — whether a full electric vehicle charger installation, using a simple 120V garage outlet for your electric car’s charging needs, or something in between like the Smart Splitter — just be sure to think things through before installing a power outlet for your electric car.
This article is supported by NeoCharge.