Before You Buy, Know These At-Home EV Charging Basics

Forget gas stations – you can 'fuel up' your new EV at home, but it's not as simple as plugging in a power cable. Know these home-charging basics before you buy.

man charging electric car at home
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A massive benefit of EV ownership is that most, if not all, of your 'fueling up' can happen right at home. No more gas station visits means no more noxious emissions, no more gas fumes at the pump and no more dealing with high and/or wildly fluctuating prices. Charging an EV at home can be as easy as plugging in your cell phone to charge – depending on your needs, some extra equipment and effort may be required to get you fully set up.

Nearly every new EV will be sold with the basic equipment required to charge it. This basic setup will satisfy some owners, but there are many benefits to upgrading your home charging system. Here's everything you need to know to make that decision.

Equipment

Chargers, EVSE, Connectors and Adapters

First, some terminology. EV charging setups are comprised of two parts: a charger and an EVSE, or "electric vehicle service/supply equipment." Confusingly, what we typically refer to as a 'charger' – a sleek, wall-mounted box mounted to a garage wall and/or a charging cable itself – is an EVSE. It is, essentially, a fancy AC adapter designed specifically to regulate the flow of electricity from your home to your car. Your EV's charger, on the other hand, is part of the car itself and is accessed via a port that resembles a conventional gas cap/fuel door.

An EVSE will be included with your EV purchase, typically in the form of a simple cable that plugs into and draws power from a conventional wall outlet. This is the simplest (and slowest) charging setup. Wall-mounted EVSEs are a much more versatile option, as they can be located almost anywhere and often are wired directly into your home's electricity. They can handle higher power levels, translating to faster charge times. (They also look cool.)

The connector is what plugs into your car's charging port – it's at the end of the cable that either plugs into your wall outlet or originates in a wall-mounted EVSE. Almost all connectors are a specific type called J1772 and will fit any EV's charging port. If a vehicle's charging port does not accept a J1772 connector, it will come with an adapter that does work.

Charging Levels

Levels I, II and III – and What Your Car (and House) Can Handle

"Charging level" refers to the speed at which an EVSE can charge your EV. There are technically three charging levels – I, II and III – though at-home setups will only involve levels I and II, as Level III is reserved for direct current applications, which are not found in residential settings.

Level I charging utilizes a standard electrical outlet like those found throughout your home, rated at 110-120 volts. The EVSE cables that come with most EVs are Level 1 devices. Level 1 charging will slowly top up your EV's battery, adding about 2-3 miles of range per hour. This may be adequate for owners who don't drive much since an overnight charge will net only 30-40 total miles of range.

Level 2 charging is significantly faster and requires special electrical outlets rated at 220-240 volts. These are the same outlets that powerful appliances like clothes dryers require. Some Level II EVSEs can be hardwired directly into your home's electricity, while others are designed to plug into an outlet; either way, your parking area/garage will need to be properly wired to provide this amount of power. Level II charging is fast, though speeds vary widely: depending on what your EV can accept, this method can add between 12 and 60 miles of range per hour.

Other Factors To Consider

Tax Credits, Logistics and Utility Bills

Especially considering the potential tax credits, at-home charging can be extremely cost-effective. Consider all the options, crunch the numbers and get amped to never visit a gas pump again.

  • Budget: EVSEs cost anywhere from a couple of hundred bucks to over $1,000.
  • Tax Credits: A provision in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act "allows taxpayers to claim up to $1,000 for EV charger hardware and installation."
  • Logistics: Plug-in EVSEs are portable and require no installation; hardwired units require a professional electrician's handiwork.
  • Cable length: This may seem obvious, but it's... pretty important. Make sure you purchase a unit whose charging cable is long enough to reach from the EVSE to your car.
  • Cost to charge: According to Kelley Blue Book, it currently costs about "$56 per month to charge an electric car at home."
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