Monday, June 18, 2012

Charging Your EV at Home: The Choice Between Level 1 & Level 2 Charging

Charging Your EV at Home:
The Choice Between Level 1 & Level 2 Charging

Not many people realize it, but one of the main factors that should be considered when choosing an electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is charging level. In the United States, you have your choice between Level 1 charging (Typical 110 Volt shown on the left)  and Level 2 charging(Higher Powered 240 Volt such as a dryer socket shown on the right).

“So what?” you may ask, “What’s the big deal and difference?”

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Using higher powered L2 charging generally means the car will be charged faster, sometimes more than 2x as fast as L1. 

L1 is nothing more than a typical wall outlet wired to provide the required voltage and the L2 is a dedicated charging station connected to an open 240V socket or hardwired directly to your electrical panel. When it comes to a regular 110V outlet, it ideally should be on a dedicated circuit with no other appliances plugged in to ensure maximum power quality.

What Are Other EV Drivers Doing?

In May 2012, OEMs made remarks saying 50% of hybrids such as the Chevy Volt fuel on L1 while 25% of all electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf fuel on Level 1. If you don't plan on completely depleting your battery during day with a short commute or have a regular alternate way to charge such as your workplace, L1 may be fine if you are driving an all-electric vehicle. In addition, many cities and retailers are considering or have installed L2 charging stations available for free or a fee. Some states such as CA, TX, OR and WA are seeing installations of DC “Fast” chargers, which can quickly fuel your EV at a very high power, greater than L2.

Details About L1 vs. L2 Set-Ups

Will Faster Charging Ruin My Battery?

All auto manufacturers offer attractive warranties on their cars and batteries to ensure we feel secure about our decision to drive an electric vehicle. However, technically, charging a battery faster generates more heat, which causes parts of the battery to break down more quickly. This means that the battery system that once allowed you to drive 100 miles before needing a recharge will slowly lose its ability to maintain the charge it held brand new. HOWEVER, this is not likely to noticeably occur for many (some estimate 10+) years to come. Most customers will not keep their cars that long, and hey, we can always lease the car!

Charging Station Considerations

When considering a L2 charging station, upfront cost is the biggest consideration. All auto manufacturers offer the option to purchase the L2 equipment and installation as part of the price of the vehicle, however some EV owners choose to buy their own equipment and install with their own licensed electrician.

The Home Depot and Lowes sell several different charging stations from Siemens, GE, Legrand and Leviton that range in price depending on the bells and whistles and aesthetics. Level 2 equipment typically ranges from $749 to $999 before installation. Installation costs tend to vary widely depending on your existing wiring and layout, but can generally range from $1,000 to $2,000. Additionally, some utilities offer special electric vehicle rates that require a separate meter. It will be more cost efficient to install all equipment at the same time. Installing  L2 charging will not only charge your car faster, but may also allow you to fully charge during the cheapest time periods if your utility offers such programs. (Stay tuned for an upcoming article and interactive tool!)

Your EV charging decision will require some thought. 
  • Do you have an outlet or circuit available that can be dedicated to EV charging? If not, how much is it going to cost to have one installed? 
  • Do you use the automaker recommendation, or your own equipment and electrician? 
  • Is there a possibility that you might move in the future? If so, you may consider of the L2 charging stations that are portable instead of a hard-wired solution. 
Also, some utilities offer rate discounts for owners of EVs. You’ll need to speak with your electric provider to see what sort of cost benefit the two charging levels can give you and what works for you!

What are your charging experiences and costs? We’d love to hear them!

Next Article: How Much Power Do EV’s Have Compared to Other Cars?

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