Electric car charging stations might be coming down in price, but a team of enthusiasts have now successfully completed the first tentative charging cycles of a 2011 Nissan Leaf using a completely home-built charging station.

Started as a weekend project in response to the high prices charged by electric vehicle charging equipment manufactures, the project has produced a prototype unit capable of charging an electric car at both 120V level 1 and 240V level 2 rates. 

When electronics hobbyist and electric car fan Chris Howell started the project back in February this year, he was one of the many expectant Leaf owners awaiting a delivery date for the all-electric hatchback. 

In fact, Howell had to wait until June before his own Leaf arrived. 

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

The time waiting for his car to arrive was well spent. Howell and his team of electronics volunteers from mynissanleaf.com tested, built and tested hardware and software to produce a compact electronics board capable of ultimately allowing a J1772 compliant electric car to be charged anywhere a mains power outlet could be found. 

Rather than make the project completely open, Howell vetted each volunteer to ensure they understood the implications of working with high voltage equipment and understood how to build and debug both hardware and software before welcoming them onboard.

Nearly five months after starting, Howells reported on Friday that he had successfully charged his 2011 Nissan Leaf using the hand-built equipment. 

But while the charging equipment designed by Howell and fellow enthusiasts is certainly cheaper to build than a factory-built charging station, there are some caveats which need to be observed before jumping for that soldering iron.

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

Firstly, messing with mains electricity is dangerous. That’s one of the reasons Howell and his team vetted new volunteers before allowing them to work on the project. 

Secondly, while plugging a modified electric car charging station into your expensive electric car is unlikely to cause any problems, you do so at your own risk. 

Thirdly, since the project is essentially a homebrew creation, there’s no official safety listing for the device. If things do go wrong, you may have a tough time convincing your insurance company to pay out. 

With that over, those confident enough in their electrical skills and wanting to build their own charging unit should give the project a look. Those without the skills wanting a portable charging unit should look into the unofficial modified Nissan charging unit being offered by third-party firm EVSEUpgrade.

If that still scares you, we’d recommend you stay safe - and chose one of the many commercial charging stations now on the market.