DIY Guide Helps You Build Your Own Electric Car Charging Station

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Charging Cable and Socket

Charging Cable and Socket

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Over the past year, electric car charging stations have gone from being overpriced products with extortionate installation costs to items you can pick up at your local hardware store and install yourself.

But if driving to your local Lowes and installing a pre-built unit seems a little easy or still too expensive, there’s now a third option: Self-build. 

Thanks to the hard work of group of electronics-savvy electric car fans, the Open EVSE project uses the popular hobbyist Arduino microcontroller as the basis of its home-made, portable electric car charging station.

Better still, a technically-proficient hobbyist could build one at the fraction of the cost of a commercially-made unit.

But before we tell you more, we have a duty to give you the following disclaimer:

Building your own electric car charging equipment requires a fair amount of electronics expertise, from being competent with a soldering iron to being able to troubleshoot electronics circuits. On top of that, if anything goes wrong with your home-built unit, any damage caused by the fault is your responsibility to fix. 

Using an off-the-shelf Arduino main board, a blank prototyping board and readily available electronics components, the Open EVSE offers a portable charging solution for anyone with a suitable 230-volt outlet. 

Open EVSE's Arduino Charging Station (Creative Commons 3.0)

Open EVSE's Arduino Charging Station (Creative Commons 3.0)

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When loaded with the open-source code that accompanies the project,  the Open EVSE can not only negotiate the correct power requirements with the car it is plugged into, but also comes with safety protocols designed to switch power off should anything go wrong. 

If the thought of charging your very expensive electric car from a home-built charging station doesn’t fill you with dread, has a very comprehensive guide to building the unit and testing it.

For the even more technically-minded, the project’s homepage should tell you all you need to know. 

We don’t normally cover home-brew projects on GreenCarReports, so why this particular one? 

It’s simple. Even if you’re not a fan of home-made charging stations, the team behind the Open EVSE have proven that it is possible to make an affordable electric car charging station.

That gives commercial EVSE suppliers one option: to make cheaper, smaller charging stations.

Ultimately, both those who want to make their own charging stations and those who want to buy them get to benefit. 

That’s got to be good.


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Comments (3)
  1. The photo looks like just the control electronics, not the power contactors. And the all important MOVs for surge suppression.

    Good work, I will check it out. But why do I have that old Talking Heads song playing in my head, the one called "Burning down the house"?

    Just remember boys and girls, take off all metal jewelry when working around 240 volts. And remember the code for AC power connections does not allow conventional electronic solder, it requires high temperature solder. If you install one of these in a garage with a gas car it should be at least 18 inches off the floor or in an explosion proof box.

  2. Jim… You are absolutely correct extreme caution should be taken when working with 240V.

    I am one of the primary developers of "OpenEVSE" and the builder of the Arduino Charging station. Safety is the primary concern, we don’t want anyone to get hurt, damage their car or burn down their house… OpenEVSE is fully compliant with J1772 unlike most commercial EVSEs. Diode check is implemented as is the often ignored Ventilation required state (both missing from the Nissan EVSE). We also have implemented GFCI, TVS on the pilot, Ground monitoring, L1/L2 detection and stuck relay detection.
    The project is Open source so Schematics and source code is publicly available. Check them out on the Open EVSE site , we we

  3. What you left out of the "inexpensive EVSE" equation is that even an OpenEVSE is not particularly inexpensive. The budget for the parts is on the order of $400 or so (in 2013). By far the largest portion of that budget is the J1772 plug cable and the 240v plug and cable.

    Now, a manufacturer of EVSEs will be able get volume discounts on these parts, but they will also have to get UL and/or regulatory approvals and so on.

    Keep in mind, as well, that this is a niche product. A vanishingly small number of car owners own EVs, and not all of them are going to be able to install their own EVSE (apartment and condo dwellers, etc).

    In the end, I am not sure we're going to see cheap EVSEs any time soon, regardless of the success of Open EVSE.

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