But now there’s a more fundamental issue to grapple with: what does it take and how much does it cost to furnish your home for an EV?
Do I need to buy a charger before I get an electric car?
Actually probably not. Almost all electric vehicles come with a so-called level 1 charger. These chargers plug directly into a standard wall outlet. But while they require minimal effort and money, they also charge a car battery slowly. You may be able to add tens of miles of range with an overnight charge, but it takes more than a day to fully charge a depleted battery. You also need to make sure that your home’s electrical system can handle the added burden of charging a car in addition to, for example, doing laundry or using a microwave (more on that below).
When you hear about installing an EV charger at home, those conversations are usually about level 2 chargers. Because they’re more powerful, consumers can charge their batteries overnight and add tens of miles to range by plugging in the car for an hour. . Level 2 chargers require a different type of plug (think of the outlet your washer and dryer use), and you’ll need to call an electrician to install one.
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“Whether you absolutely want to go to level 2 has a lot to do with how far you drive each day,” said Simon Ouellette, CEO of Mogile Technologies, an EV research firm in Montreal. Another consideration is whether you have other options for charging your vehicle. “If there is a lot” [public] chargers near your office or on the street where you live … then the urgency is not there in the same way as when you really depend on your own home to charge your car.” (According to data from the US Department of Energyalmost 4 out of 5 public chargers are level 2.)
Level 3 chargers are the fastest of them all, but because they require so much power, you rarely see one in a private home.
How do I know if my house is suitable for an electric vehicle?
First, the bad news: If you rely on street parking, your home probably isn’t suitable for an EV. As long as you have a driveway, garage, or somewhere else to park your car, you can install an electric vehicle charger. “However, some installations are more complicated than others,” said Caradoc Ehrenhalt, the founder and CEO of EV Safe Charge, a Los Angeles-based electric vehicle charging solutions company.
In general, it is much easier and cheaper if you can park the car close to an existing power source. These days you can buy chargers that come with about 25 feet of cable, so as long as you can park within that distance you should be in good shape.
But some homeowners aren’t so lucky. Ehrenhalt gives the example of a detached garage that is not connected to a power source and which is far from the house. To install an EV charger in that situation, you need to connect the garage to the electrical panel of the property. That may involve digging the cable underground and even cutting it through the surface of the driveway before refilling and reclaiming it. In extreme cases, the entire process can take several days.
If your electrical panel is in the basement, your ceiling is another factor, Ouellette says. You may need to drill holes through it to run the wiring.
The other potentially expensive dilemma for prospective EV owners is whether your home’s electrical system is equipped to handle the added strain of charging a car. A licensed electrician can help you answer that question. Harvey Faulkner, a master electrician and owner of Focus Trade Services in the DC area, says an important hint that you’ll need an upgrade is if you’re looking at your electrical panel and there’s no room for additional circuit breakers.
How much does it cost to have an EV charger installed?
Installation costs vary widely depending on where you live and how complicated the job is.
“If you literally had a panel next to where you want to park your car and you put a charger just a few feet away, that type of installation by a licensed electrician, including permits, could generally start at $500,” he says. But most installations, he says, end up costing between $1,500 and $3,000.
That total will increase significantly if your electrical panel or underlying electrical supply (the amount of electricity that can be supplied to your home by the public utility) needs to be upgraded.
An EV charging station “is really just a special power line,” explains Michael Anthony Harris, an electrician at Harris Electric Company of Washington. “And to run a dedicated line, your panel needs to be able to support it.”
If you need a new panel, expect to pay an additional $2,000 to $4,000 on top of the cost of installing the EV charger. If you need a full electrical service upgrade, expect to pay an extra $5,000 to $8,000, according to Harris.
Then, of course, there is the cost of the charger itself. With the exception of Tesla’s Supercharger (which is only compatible with Teslas), all Level 1 and Level 2 chargers available in North America have a standard plug that works with any electric vehicle. From there, the options are differentiated by size, charging speed, cord length, and whether they connect to Wi-Fi, among other things. Some have hoods or covers to protect them from snow, rain, and ice. They can cost between a few hundred dollars and a few thousand dollars. A popular model, the Juice Box 40, costs about $700, and another oft-recommended charger, the ChargePoint Home Flex, costs $749. You’ll want to talk to an electrician about which one is best for you.
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And don’t forget your monthly electricity bill, it will undoubtedly rise. But once the initial cost of buying the car and installing the charger is behind you, the gas savings will add up quickly. Plus, electric vehicles have lower maintenance costs than gas-powered vehiclesaccording to the US Department of Energy, because their batteries and motors require less attention and you don’t have to worry about changing the oil.
Can I install an EV charger if I live in an apartment building?
If your building doesn’t have an EV charging station yet, things can get tricky here. “There are so many variables that come into play,” Ouellette says, including how people pay for electricity in the building and the rules that govern the common area. “It’s not just a variable of what the physical reality of your apartment is and all that. But it is also about who is on the board and who are problem solvers?”
Even if everyone can agree, you still have to determine how much power the building can hold. For example, if the building can handle two EV chargers, in addition to powering the elevators and lighting, how are those chargers shared? If not, will the building pay to upgrade the electrical panel or service? Ouellette notes that it usually goes back to the issue of the building’s statutes and rules, and “that can be a long loop.”