GE WattStation Electric Car Charging StationEnlarge Photo
No, this isn't a paid ad.
With roughly 17,000 plug-in electric cars sold in the U.S. this year, and likely a multiple of that number next year, many owners will be installing charging stations in their garages.
Not all plug-in cars will need a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station, mind you. It all depends on the size of the lithium-ion battery pack, and how much energy is required to recharge it when fully depleted.
The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, for instance, only takes about 3 hours to recharge its 5-kilowatt-hour battery pack on 110-Volt current. Likewise, you can charge a Chevy Volt extended-range electric car--which uses only about 10.4 kWh of its 16-kWh pack--overnight on 110-Volt electricity.
But a fully depleted Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle takes about 20 kWh to recharge its pack fully, which can take 16 hours or more on 110-Volt current. There, a garage charging station is probably a necessity--as it is for the new 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' and anything made by Tesla.
No, this article was prompted by a friend's e-mail. He had searched online for details of the "EV Charger Alliance," and noticed that the first paid link on Google was an ad showing that Home Depot now sells several nationally-advertised electric-car charging stations.
Read specs carefully
Specifically, the Home Depot site lists five separate Level 2 charging stations under "electric car chargers" (they're technically not chargers, which are in the car itself):
Shipping is free for all five charging stations. There are also two related products listed: a Leviton charging-station installation kit ($79) and green 110-Volt receptacle with light ($29).
Home Depot offers electric-car charging stations, December 2011Enlarge Photo
It's important to read the specifications sections carefully, since not all of the text descriptions give the amperage, which can range from 12 to 30 Amperes (we've added them in above). That's an important figure, since your garage has to be wired to supply suitable power.
You also need to check the specs to see which stations can be plugged into a standard 220-Volt wall socket (two of them), which are hard-wired (two more), and which are portable 110-Volt units (the Leviton 12-Amp model).
Don't try this at home, kids
Different municipalities may have different building codes, with some requiring hard-wiring and others not. You should plan to consult a local electrician to understand the applicable code requirements.
Home Depot also offers installation services through its "authorized independent professionals," who will provide--according to the site--a free in-home consultation. The store's toll-free number for scheduling that consultation is 800-466-3337, and callers should enter code 267.
And don't be fooled just because you can order a charging station by mail: To be safe (not to mention legal), unless you're a licensed electrician yourself, you should contact a professional to make sure your wiring is up to snuff.
As our friend noted cynically, "So much for installation anxiety and lack of supply chain (as well as possible breaches in complying with local electric codes when you can get it in the mail from Home Depot). Duct tape, coat hanger mounting brackets, and wire nuts sold separately."
We're eager to hear from readers and electric-car owners who have purchased charging stations outside the arrangements offered through Nissan and Chevrolet dealers.
Leave us your experiences with charging-station purchase and installation in the Comments below.