How to buy an electric-car charging station: buyer's guide to EVSEs Page 2

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Size comparison of electric-car charging stations (EVSEs) on sale today, March 2016

Size comparison of electric-car charging stations (EVSEs) on sale today, March 2016

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All EVSEs listed below are either NEMA 3 or NEMA 4 rated for either indoor or outdoor installation. The difference is that NEMA 4 can be hosed down and is a little more weather resistant.

For an outdoor installation, it is probably best to have the J1772 connector at the end of the cable (the device plugs into the electric car's charging port) rest in a holster that protects it from the elements.

It may even be worth having a carpenter build a little roof over your outdoor charging station, just so that it feels some love.

Physical size

Some charging stations are remarkably large and bulky. The Leviton unit, for example, is 24 inches high by 16 inches wide. Some are heavier than they look, too.

Most garages have room for this on a wall, but the unexpectedly large size has still caught some owners by surprise.

Older ChargePoint electric-car charging station

Older ChargePoint electric-car charging station

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If you are looking for something small, consider the JuiceBox which is only 10 inches high by 6 inches wide.

The image at the top of this article shows the EVSEs covered here at the same scale, so their differences in size can be better appreciated.

Brands and models

There are a lot of EVSE choices in the market, almost too many. The good news is that they all seem to work well now, despite some problems experienced in the earliest days of modern electric cars a few years ago. No matter which brand you choose, you are unlikely to regret it.

Note that often the same manufacturer offers multiple units and variations. Where possible, we chose charging stations with a 25-foot cable, a plug connection, and 30 amps or more of current.

Many companies offer less-expensive 16-amp versions of their product, but buying one seems slightly short-sighted. For only $100 more, you can get faster charging capacity and future-proof your hardware somewhat.

2015 BMW i3 REx charging at Crevier BMW, Santa Ana, California [photo: Jeff Pantukhoff]

2015 BMW i3 REx charging at Crevier BMW, Santa Ana, California [photo: Jeff Pantukhoff]

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Received wisdom says EVSEs are ridiculously expensive for what they do. This is likely true, and prices are trending downward.

For the moment, the choices for a new electric-car owner come down to: 1) pay $400 to $800 for a good Level 2 EVSE, 2) stick with slower 120-volt overnight charging, or 3) find a lower-cost open-source EVSE option.

Including installation, the Level 2 charging station is likely to set you back somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000. I feel this is well worth it to get the best use out of an electric vehicle.

After reading hundreds of reviews and talking to many people about their EVSEs, not a single person expressed regret of having spent the money.

Rebates, tax credits, incentives

The Federal government offers a 30-percent credit on your income taxes for the purchase and installation of a electric-car charging station at a personal residence, up to a maximum amount of $1,000. (There are separate rules for businesses.)

As always, consult your tax professional about your specific situation. Still, this incentive might take some of the sting out of the cost of an EVSE.

Some states and localities have had various incentives to install EVSEs as well. Again, check with a tax professional after you do your research.

2017 Chevrolet Volt

2017 Chevrolet Volt

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This review is long, so here's some quick advice if you don’t want to spend a lot of time reading the details.

 If you don’t want to think too hard about your choice of a charging station, get a ClipperCreek HCS-40. The reliability and the company’s customer support, both verified with long-time owners, make this unit the go-to choice.

If you want a more fully-featured unit with internet connectivity and the ability to schedule your charging (to take advantage of overnight rates), the ChargePoint Home 25 is likely your best choice.

If price is your main consideration, the $399 GE DuraStation is going to be tough to beat—and despite its low price, the unit is reliable and does the job.

And now, on to the detailed listings!

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