Straight Talk Articles
Power Up! 4 Steps to Home-Charging Your Electric Vehicle
Dear Pat and Brad: I’m seeing more and more articles about new electric vehicles with longer ranges that might even be affordable. Is it worth making a switch? How would I charge the battery at home? – Damien
Dear Damien: You’re right, electric vehicles are getting more attention lately, for a few reasons. Electricity as a vehicle fuel is typically one-half to one-third the cost of gas or diesel and the batteries now enable longer ranges. The upfront price of an electric vehicle is still higher than its gas-powered cousin, but the cost is coming down. The Chevy Bolt, for example, has a range of up to 238 miles on a charge and costs about $36,000 (1) before incentives. The number of models is also increasing all the time – we could even have an electric pickup truck option sometime soon.
You might also have some upfront costs to charge your electric vehicle at home, depending on which charging option you select. Let’s think through home charging.
STEP 1: PICK YOUR VEHICLE
Let’s be clear which type of plug-in vehicle we’re talking about: the fully electric vehicle (EV) or the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which can run on an electric motor or its gas engine. Unlike the gas/electric hybrid that started with the Toyota Prius in 2000 (2), where the battery assists the gasoline engine yet the car is fueled solely by gasoline, the PHEV features a larger battery which fuels an electric motor that can power the car independently of the gas motor. A PHEV can run purely on electricity for a range between 15 to 50 miles depending on the model.(3) This electric-only range may be sufficient for running errands or for some commuters.
STEP 2: SELECT YOUR CHARGING LEVEL
There are two levels of charging you can look at for your home.
A level 1 charging unit is the most basic. It’s usually included in the vehicle and plugs into a typical 120-volt outlet, so it is the easiest and cheapest home charging solution.
A more-powerful Level 2 charging unit needs to be purchased separately. It plugs into a 240-volt outlet, the type used for large appliances, like a dryer or welder, which most of us don’t have in our garages or outside our homes, so there’s a cost to have the outlet installed.
STEP 3: KNOW YOUR NEEDS
Most EVs travel three to four miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh)(4). Level 1 charging units distribute charge to the battery at 1-2 kWs, giving the battery roughly 3-8 miles range per hour of charging(5). So if you drive your car 40 miles or less during the day and can charge it for ten hours a night, this will probably be adequate. Level 1 charging makes the most sense for PHEVS or early EVs with small batteries and short ranges.
Level 2 units typically supply power levels from 6 to 12kW, depending on the amperage of the circuit and the power level the EV can accept.(6) This means the level 2 charger will provide between 18 and 48 miles of range per hour of charging.(7)
STEP 4: COUNT THE COST
A level 1 charging unit comes with the car and will meet the needs of most PHEV and early model short range EV owners. A level 2 charging unit can cost $500 to $700, with installation between $500 and $2700(8) depending on how far your electrical panel is from where you will be charging and if you need to upgrade your electric panel.
Now that you know the basic options you should talk to your co-op before making your EV charging decision. We see more and more interest in electric vehicles from electric co-ops. Some of them offer special deals for members installing Level 2 chargers or members willing to schedule EV charging during non-peak hours.
This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on home-chargine your EV, please visit the August 2019 more information page.
(6) Source: Conversation with Jon Jantz, electric vehicle expert at Collaborative Efficiency,