Buying Guide: Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Electric vehicles are available in a variety of models with different ranges and capabilities. What makes them so popular is that they trade a gas pump for a plug, which is more convenient, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly. Electric vehicles can be operated and recharged in all types of indoor and outdoor conditions as long as they are connected to an EV charging station. Generally, about 95% of electric car charging is done at home, and there are a couple of common ways to do this. One is to simply plug into a standard electricity outlet. All electric cars are equipped with an “onboard charger”, making it easy and convenient to connect your car to a source of electricity with a charging cord. However, there are other types of chargers that can charge your EV quicker than a standard outlet.

What’s a home EV charging station?

Most people refer to electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) as a “home charger,” “wall charger” or “home charging station,” but in reality this can be any device that brings AC power to your car via the car’s onboard charger. It’s a combination of various types of cords that can be used to charge a car. There are several sets on the market that can be purchased from the car manufacturer or a third party.

Because all electric car manufacturers are different. electric car onboard chargers will also vary.  Before you decide on a home EV charging station, it’s important to consider the maximum charging capacity of your onboard chargers, and approximately how many “miles of charge” or miles of driving range can be added to your cars in one hour when charging on an EVSE.

Types of Charging

Owners of All Electric Vehicles (AEVs) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) can choose between three levels of charging, which are as follows:

  • Level 1 Charging: The slowest form of electric car charging is set at 120 volts. It has low installation costs and utilizes the same 120-volt current found in standard household outlets. Conveniently, it can be performed with the power cord and equipment that most EVs come with. It is simple and easy to install on any property as all you need are dedicated 120 volt outlets in the parking lot. Its low impact on electric utility peak demand charges is a significant benefit, although charging time is slow at about 3-5 miles of range per hour.
  • Level 2 Charging: With a mid-range of 240-volts, Level 2 allows for faster regeneration of an EV’s battery system. However, you will need to install a home EV charging station and electrical wiring capable of handling higher voltage power. It is more expensive than Level 1 charging, but it offers faster charge time of 10 – 20 miles of range per hour of charge and is more energy efficiency. You can shop around from different EV manufacturers for a variety of products suitable for your specific EV.
  • Level 3 Charging: The Society of Automotive Engineering refers to Level 3 as DC Quick Charging or DC Fast Charging as it can deliver around 40-60 kW. The fastest type of charging available provides EVs with an 80% charge in 20-30 minutes by converting high voltage AC power to DC power for direct storage in EV batteries. There are three specifications for DC fast charging plugs: the CHAdeMO, SAE Combined Charging System, and Tesla Supercharger standard. Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicles rely on CHAdeMO while other US and European manufacturers have SAE CCS ports. Tesla’s Supercharger equipment is only compatible with Tesla models.  Several EVSE manufacturers are currently developing equipment with both the CHAdeMO and SAE CCS port connectors for increased compatibility. Although it drastically improves charge times, Level 3 Charging is significantly more expensive than the previous two, and there are complications when charging during cold weather. The competing standards of EVSE manufacturers can also be confusing to potential EV buyers and home EV charging station owners.

Which Car Dealerships offer EV charging stations?

As sales of plug-in vehicles like the all-electric Nissan Leaf or plug-in hybrid versions like the Toyota Prius and Honda Accord have increased, charging stations have started appearing all over the country. In California, there are almost 2,000 public electric-vehicle charging stations while in Texas there are over 600 EV charging stations. The U.S. Department of Energy says California is home to about 21.6% of the estimated 8,514 EV charging stations nationwide.

The country’s rapidly growing EV charging infrastructure corresponds with burgeoning sales of plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S and the hybrid Chevrolet Volt. One of the more popular models is Nissan’s Leaf, which has topped the U.S. market with the brand’s “No Charge to Charge” campaign, offering two years of free public charging at EV stations to buyers.

Which Third parties sell EV charging stations?

Over the last decade, home EV charger companies have multiplied, with names such as Blink Network, Car Charging Group Inc., NRG eVgo, ChargePoint and ClipperCreek Inc., dominating the market. ChargePoint is currently the nation’s largest EV charging network with a market share of more than 70%. PlugShare, however, is the most popular EV charging site/app, which lists all types of charging stations (level 2, CHAdeMO, SAE Combo, Supercharger) and stations from different EV charging station companies/networks (ChargePoint, Blink, EVgo, GE, SemaCharge). Drivers that access the platform can find information on individual chargers, such as a description, cost, hours of accessibility, photos, types of plugs present, and user feedback.

How to choose the right charging station for your needs?

If you are looking to buy a home EV charging station, there are a few things to consider. First, it is wrong to assume that you need to spend a lot of money on a good charger. You can pay up to $1,000 (plus installation), but $700 is usually enough for a good EVSE. Installation should be performed by a certified electrician.  Generally, it is best to get recommendations on a qualified professional from your car dealer or salesperson.

Portable home EV charging stations have some advantages over permanently mounted ones. If you decide on move, the portable charging stations can come with you, portable charging stations cost roughly the same as mounted ones. It is recommended to buy at least a 30-amp EVSE, although a 40-amp one or higher is advisable. Some utilities have special electricity rates for homeowners with electric cars, so be sure to check with your utility provider. This can save you a lot of money, and you could even end up with a lower electricity bill after installing a home EV charger. Evaluating your driving needs and understanding EV charging will help you make an informed decision on a suitable home EV charging station.