Size comparison of electric-car charging stations (EVSEs) on sale today, March 2016Enlarge Photo
Like any consumer product, it's important to consider safety when buying a charging station for an electric car.
While plugging the vehicle into a station is straightforward, the large amount of current carried over the cord from the power source to the car makes caution worthwhile.
Even safety-conscious consumers may find choosing the best charging station difficult, however.
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That's because not every home charging station on sale in the U.S. has received third-party safety certification.
As with household appliances, there are formal safety standards for electric-car charging stations—but no requirement that they be tested to determine that they meet those standards.
Many charging stations sold on Amazon are not safety tested, according to a recent investigation by Charged EVs.
2016 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
Unlike such chain stores as Best Buy and Home Depot, which sell home charging stations, Amazon does not require all products sold on its website to have the relevant safety certifications.
Like other electrical appliances, the job of ensuring that charging stations meet standards typically falls to third-party testing laboratories.
These Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories include Intertek and Underwriters Laboratories.
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You may have seen the "UL" mark or Intertek's "ETL" mark on various household items that have been certified as compliant with safety standards by these laboratories.
Those marks also appear on safety-certified charging stations.
UL 2594 is the primary safety standard for electric-car charging stations sold in North America.
GE WattStation Electric Car Charging StationEnlarge Photo
But these certifications do not appear on Amazon listings, and of course it's impossible to inspect a product offered online for a UL or ETL mark while browsing.
Amazon itself makes no official claims regarding safety certifications. That is up to the individual sellers offering products through its website.
At the same time, no easy-to-access database of safety-certified charging stations exists.
That means buyers must do quite a bit of homework, something they may not be motivated to undertake even if they realize the need.
2017 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
Last year, charging-equipment supplier ClipperCreek conducted a survey asking customers what they thought the most important features for a charging station were.
Safety certifications ranked dead last on that list.
But that may be because consumers assume that—like other electrical appliances—all charging stations in the U.S. are safety certified, ClipperCreek's marketing and communications director Suzanne Guinn told Charged EVs.
That is not an assumption shoppers should make, at least when buying charging stations online.
In other words, look for stations that are UL-certified to ensure that a knowledgeable third party has deemed a specific model to comply with basic safety practices.