How do I Buy and Install a New EV Charger?

Leviton Evr-Green Products

Leviton Evr-Green Products

So you've heard all of the buzz about the new Electric Vehicles coming from auto manufacturers and you're ready to take the plunge?  Before placing your order for the Volt or Leaf, there is some prep work you need to do.  Buying a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or battery electric vehicle (BEV) requires doing research on how you plan to charge your new vehicle.  As we covered in our post about preparing for the arrival of the electric car, you're not going to find fast charging stations at every street corner yet.  You'll need to follow a few steps to get your home ready to take delivery of those shiny new wheels!

  1. Researching Tax Incentives Can Save you Lots of  Money - Not only are there rebates and incentives for purchasing an EV, there are also tax breaks for buying and installing an EV charging system in your home.  Depending on what state you live in, Uncle Sam may cover the complete cost of purchasing and installing your EV charger!  There are two programs funded with ARRA funds that are managed by ECOtality and Coulomb Technologies that are focused on deploying EV charging stations across the country.  The Department of Energy keeps an updated matrix of tax incentives where citizens can research what is offered both at the federal level and for their individual state.  There are pretty good federal incentives that will help with the purchase and/or installation anywhere you live.
  2. Do I buy the charger from the auto manufacturer or are there other options? - Now that the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has released a standard for EV charging, there are a few independent charging solutions coming onto the market that will work with the major PHEV and BEV offerings.  You are looking for SAE J1772 compliant chargers.  You will also need to verify that the specific J1772 charger is compatible with your new vehicle.  If you are purchasing a Chevy Volt, Tesla or Nissan LEAF, they should be supported but make sure to ask.  Hopefully, the independent charging solutions will help bring down the cost of EV chargers for states that aren't covered by generous tax incentives.
  3. Where do I plug in my charger?  Will a dryer plug or regular wall outlet work? Most J1772 compliant charging systems require 240 volt 20-40amp circuits.  If you find a charger that will support the J1772 120 volt outlet, charging times will be more than double the time for a proper 240 volt circuit.  You will also need a dedicated breaker for charging.  Chances are you will have an electrician visiting your home to install a new breaker and outlet for the EV charging station.  Leviton will be offering an EV charger Pre-Wiring kit later this year but it will also require installation by a trained Leviton Evrgreen installer.  You can get on their site visit list by filling out a form here.
  4. Is there anything special I need to tell my Electrician? Since Electric Vehicles are not mainstream yet, there will be a learning curve for most electricians.  Make sure you do your homework or find an electrician that is interested in renewable energy and has the enthusiasm to do the research for you.  Once you pick your EV charging system, make sure you get all of the specifications from the manufacturer and even consider setting up a conference call between the manufacturer's installation team and your local electrician.  This will save you headaches such as a damaged EV charger or, even worse, a blown battery pack!  My EV charger will use a NEMA-6-30 outlet on a 30 amp circuit.  I plan on having the electrician run wire rated for 60 amps so I have plenty of wiggle room if I upgrade my charger in the future.  (I don't want to fish wiring through studs and walls more than once)

The Mapawatt team will be publishing future installments to this article with more detail on specific charging solutions as they become available.  Visit our Community and tell us about your thoughts or experiences with planning for a new Electric Vehicle.

For a little fun, visit our Mapawatt Youtube Channel and watch the "White Zombie," the world's fastest street-legal EV.  And don't forget to practice saying, "ZZzinngg!" instead of "VVvrrooom!"

- The Mapawatt Team

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A bit more info to supplement your excellent article on installing EV chargers. Consumer Reports estimates that installation of a 240 volt charger costs about $2,000. More if your electrical panel doesn’t have sufficient capacity and needs an upgrade or if the circuit needs to be run an unusually long distance from the panel. This is called a “Level 2 charger” and is the type that Nissan, Volt, or other new car dealers will arrange for you to purchase and will get installed for you. Will charge your Volt in 4 hours or Nissan Leaf in 8 hours, overnight, empty to full. Or you can go less expensively, but slower, and use the “Level 1 charger” that comes on a complimentary basis with your new EV. Then, either you’ll need a dedicated circuit (meaning, that serves no other appliances), that uses ordinary house current (120 volt), with a GFI (safety) outlet in your garage, and just plug your Level 1 charger in. Takes 10 hours for the Volt, empty to full, or 20 hours for the Leaf, empty to full. The good news is that some utility companies, for example, both big electric companies in Los Angeles --SCE and DWP-- lower your rates for charging EVs at night. They’ll install a separate electric meter so that you can take advantage of their better rates for charging. We’re electricians in Los Angeles and can inform our installation clients of the tax benefits and rebates for installing an electric car charger. <a href="" rel="nofollow">The Electric Connection</a>
News Flash! $2,000 rebate offered when you install a electric car charger -- to first 1,000 qualified customers. This is part of a research project by Los Angeles Dept. of Water &amp; Power (L.A. DWP), so you need to also install an electric meter that monitors power use by your electric vehicle. L.A. DWP announced this offer April 27, 2011. The rebate must be applied for soon after purchase of your electric vehicle (EV) or installation of your charger. Installation cost runs about $2,000 (excluding electric meter) but amount varies depending on distance of your new charger in your garage or carport from your electrical panel. Also cost will depend on whether your electrical panel will need to be upgraded to handle increased power requirements of your EV. An electrical contractor can give you an estimate for installation cost of an electric car charger, so you can see how much of your installation the rebate will cover.
Hi Guy, Could you let me know how you work out the 80 cents / charge? Thanks, TK
ckmapawatt's picture
I'm guessing he calculated how many kWh the battery stores, and then multiplied that by the rate he pays for electricity. Or he has an energy monitor on the electrical line that charges the battery and then he multiplies that amount of energy (kWh) by his electrical rate.
Hi Guy, Could you let me know how you work out the 80 cents / charge base? Thanks, TK
FYI, the Chevy Volt comes with a 120 Volt charging cable in a storage cubby under the rear floor of the hatch back. It will fully charge the Volt in 9-10 hours. For most users this should be fine since you can just leave it on charge all the time. Most people drive less than 40 miles a day (the Volt electric range) and an overnight charge will "fill 'er up" nicely at a cost of about 80 cents (@ 10cents/KWh).

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