Charging Your Electric Car At Home: What You Need To Know

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Nissan's 50Kw Charger for the 2011 Nissan Leaf.

Nissan's 50Kw Charger for the 2011 Nissan Leaf.

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One of the most important aspects of electric-car ownership might not be how they drive, or how far you'll go on a charge, but how you'll actually charge it in the first place.

That's why we asked "What comes first, the car or the charger?", with many potential EV owners waiting for a public charging network to appear so they can be sure they'll have somewhere to recharge.

Yesterday we dialed in to a phone conference hosted by the Electric Drive Transportation Association, where representatives from groups including ChargePoint America, ECOtality, the Eaton Corporation and General Motors offered their views on the future of recharging for both the public and businesses alike.

So how will you be charging your own EV? Here we concentrate on home charging - as this will be the place the majority of charging will occur.

Level 1: 120-Volt

There will be three levels of charging. The most basic, level 1, will be the typical 120-volt home system that doesn't necessarily require any special hardware. In essence, your EV can be plugged straight into a normal three-prong wall outlet using a special charging cord.

Every home will have access to such an outlet and it won't need any special installation, nor any electrical safety check. You can hook up your EV and go.

What level 1 charging won't offer is a particularly fast charge. The typical estimate for a car like the 2011 Nissan Leaf is around 8 to 12 hours, which may just about give you 100-percent recharge if you plug in directly after work in the afternoon and don't set off too early the next morning.

Level 1 charging may not be sufficient for more frequent journeys, unless you're using your EV exclusively as a second car and only going on short trips. In this respect, a car like the range-extended 2011 Chevy Volt will be less compromised by the slower charge times.

Level 2: 240-Volt

If you want a quicker charge--and many potential EV owners probably come under this category--then a level 2 charger will likely be for you.

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

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Level 2 runs at 240 volts and around 30 amps, cutting the level 1 charge time in half as a result. A 4-6 hour charge time becomes suitable for a great many more applications, including commercial as well as personal residential use.

For home usage, you'll have to get a charging system installed by a professional, and the installation will then need to be tested for electrical safety by your local authority.

Steve Schey, director of stakeholder services at ECOtality, tells us that the contractor charged with the installation will request a permit, and once it is granted they will complete the installation, with inspection and approval to follow before you can use the charge point.

Residential level 2 chargers will all be wall-mounted - inside your garage or car port, for example. Some customers will be lucky enough to have one installed for them: GM, for example, will soon announce their partner in a home-charging setup program. Clean energy company ECOtality will provide 8,300 free level 2 chargers as part of a large study into electric vehicle usage trends.

We asked the company representatives in the EDTA conference how much customers should expect to pay to get a level 2 charger installed in their homes. Steve Schey told us the chargers they offer retail at $1,195 (you can find more about these on their charging network website blinknetwork.com).


 
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