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Electric Vehicle information for Atlanta and Georgia

home charging station purchasing advice for EV owners

EV charging jargon

Up front, I’ll assume you know what Level 1 and Level 2 means. If not, click here for some quick background. FYI, the official industry term for the charging cordset is “Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment” or EVSE.

You charge at home, and generally don’t charge anywhere else

Owning EV fundamentally changes your “fueling” routine. Instead of stopping at a fueling station once a week, you charge up at home every night and leave every morning with a full battery. For most people, by far, all you need to do is spend a few seconds every night plugging in, and a few seconds unplugging in the morning. It becomes as natural as locking and unlocking the door to your house.

If you are having a particularly long day, with a lot of errands or perhaps a road trip, then you’ll need to make use of public charging stations. See the public charging page for more on that. This page is all about your options for charging at home.

Your Level 1 cord might be good enough

For charging, you can easily get by with just using the 120 Volt (“Level 1″) cord that came with your car, plugging into a regular wall outlet. Initially I did exactly that with my first electric car, and about half of EV owners just use the Level 1 cord and never bother upgrading to Level 2 capability. A typical EV will gain about 40 miles of range in a 10-hour (overnight) charging session, more if you have it plugged in longer. So you really don’t need to purchase a faster charger, especially if your daily commute is 40 miles or less (or if you got a PHEV or REx car like Chevy Volt which has a smaller battery than the pure EVs do).

However, being able to charge faster than Level 1 is useful if you regularly drive more than 40 miles in a day. Faster charging is particularly useful on weekends, when you might run a bunch of errands in the morning, then charge up in the afternoon, and then head out in the evening again. Or you might forget to plug in the car the night before (it happens), and when you discover your error the next morning, Level 2 vs Level 1 could be the difference between running a little late and upending your day’s plans completely.

Installing a Level 2 station also gives you redundancy. If the Level 1 cord is all you have for charging at home, you’re going to be in a real pinch if that cord should break (it happens). If you get Level 2 installed, then you can keep the Level 1 cord as a backup. This also makes it easier to use your Level 1 cord at work every day, if you’ve been doing that — you only have to unpack/pack it once a day instead of twice.

So you should consider installing a 240 Volt (“Level 2″) charging station near where you park your car at home.

Level 2 charging stations

Unfortunately, I personally recommend against the chargers that the carmakers endorse — e.g. GM and their SPX models, Nissan and Ford and their Aerovironment models, etc. Further, I’ve heard unflattering reports about the Bosch unit, which a lot of people ask about because it has been the low price leader in the market.

Some chargers offer neat features like LCD screens and internet connectivity. In my opinion you should avoid all of that — your CAR will have that connectivity and advanced functions like charge timers. Leave the complexity in the car, and keep the wall charger as simple and robust as possible.

Clipper Creek LCS-20 and LCS-25

Clipper Creek LCS-20 and LCS-25

On that note, I recommend that you get a Clipper Creek charger. Clipper Creek has been in this EV charging business for many years and they make very reliable gear. The best value will come in the the compact LCS-25, which you can get from local distributor Metro Plugin (no kickback for me, but tell Jeff and Greg I sent you!). The LCS-25 requires a 25 Amp circuit from your breaker panel, and delivers up to 4.8 kW to your car. Metro Plugin can get you in touch with an electrician who will already be familiar with the installation process, which often includes pulling a city permit for the outdoor circuit.

Besides the LCS-25, Clipper Creek also make the slightly cheaper LCS-20, which charges your car a bit slower, but still plenty fast enough to fill your battery overnight, even if you start completely drained. The LCS-20 is good option if you are using an existing 20 Amp circuit, since your electrician won’t have to replace wiring or the breaker in your panel. This is actually what I initially installed at home, because I reused an old 20 Amp circuit that was no longer in use. Eventually I upgraded the wiring and was then able to upgrade the EVSE.

Clipper Creek HCS-40

Clipper Creek HCS-40

If you want to step up from the LCS-25, the HCS-40 will charge your car faster. It delivers the full 6-7 kW that most cars can absorb, but requires heavier wiring and a 40 Amp breaker. It’s quite a bit bulkier than the LCS models.

plug or hard-wired?

When you are placing your Level 2 charger order, one of the first questions you will encounter is whether to get a hardwired model, or one that plugs into a wall receptacle. The latter is useful because you can easily remove the charger off the wall and take it with you on a roadtrip, plugging in at RV parks (that’s a whole other story). However, you should not plug/unplug from the wall every day! These 240V wall receptacles are not designed to handle daily plug/unplug cycles — over the long term, the receptacle will weaken and may create a safety hazard. Just leave it plugged in, and unplug it only for the rare day that you need to take the charger with you. Here’s a good reference on NEMA receptacle types — NEMA 14-50 and NEMA L6-30 are two common receptacle types used for EV charging stations.

Installing the EVSE with a plug also makes it easier to take the EVSE with you if and when you move out of the house. The outlet will remain with the house for the next owner.

Finally, getting a pluggable unit simplifies the work for the electrician. You just tell him that you need a NEMA 14-50 outlet (or whatever kind of plug you’ve settled on). He doesn’t need to read the EVSE manual, he doesn’t need to wire directly to the EVSE, he just needs to install a NEMA 14-50 outlet like he’s done a hundred times before. Then just mount the EVSE on the wall above it!

That said, you can choose to hardwire it in — the EVSE gets directly wired to the circuit, with no intermediate wall receptacle and plug. Officially the National Electric Code (NEC) requires the EVSE to be hardwired, not plugged in, if it’s going to be used outdoors, although many people ignore that rule. If the EVSE location is directly exposed to rain, it’s better to hardwire it. You can always hardwire it now and then change it to pluggable later.

EVSE tax credits and incentives

Georgia Power will give you $250 to install a charging station!

Georgia Power is the primary, regulated power utility for the state of Georgia and increasingly a solid supporter of electric vehicles and EV infrastructure. On their EV page they have information about their new EVSE rebate program — scroll to the “For Your Home” section and see the PDF links there for complete details. Highlights from the website and documents:

– $250 rebate for each new residential charger purchased and installed
– Must be a Georgia Power customer
– 208/240-volt Level 2 charger
– Must have a dedicated electrical circuit
– Must be new EVSE (not used, refurbished, rented, etc.)
– Single-family homes
– Third-party vendors or EV charging businesses not eligible

Self-installation is OK, as long as you adhere to the applicable codes like a real electrician would. In that case, you don’t need to send in a copy of the installation invoice, just the EVSE purchase invoice.

For now, the rebate is due to expire at the end of 2016, so unless they extend it, you need to get it done this year.

It’s worth noting that NOT all Georgia residents get their power from Georgia Power. Many regions, especially exurban or rural, are served by an “EMC”, which is a more local entity that basically resells the Georgia Power energy. This rebate program only applies to direct customers of Georgia Power, not EMC customers.

There is a federal tax credit for purchase and installation of an EVSE. It offers a 30% credit back to you (when you file your federal tax return) on the expense of purchasing the EVSE hardware AND having it installed by an electrician. This credit has been around for a few years, although it keeps expiring and then getting renewed by Congress (usually retroactively, which creates plenty of confusion). For now, the federal tax credit is available through the end of 2016. Get your EVSE installed by then and you’ll get a credit when you file your tax return the following year.

if no Level 2, be prepared for Level 1 failure

Again, though, you don’t necessarily need to get a Level 2 charger at all, instead relying on the Level 1 cord that came with your car. If you don’t get a Level 2 charger, I do recommend that you at least get an extra Level 1 charger, just like the one you got with the car. Keep one at your house (garage) and keep one in the car for show-and-tell or using when convenient. It’s good to have a backup unit, because if you only have one cord, and the cord stops working (which has happened to some of us), suddenly you may have no easy way to charge up.

Alternatively, make sure you know how to use the nearest DC Fast Charger (see the public charging page for more on that) so you can fall back onto that if your home charging setup fails on you.

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portable EVSE considerations and notes

If you really want to live on the bleeding edge, read on …

One place where the Level 2 EVSE market is still evolving is portability. A portable EVSE is typically used when you are attempting a roadtrip in your EV, through areas that have no EV charging infrastructure at all (e.g. rural areas). In that case, people will often make use of RV parks, which typically offer high-power 240V receptacles like the NEMA 14-50. Or perhaps you want to plug into someone’s electric dryer outlet. So you carry a portable EVSE with you, one that has that 240V plug, and perhaps some adapters for dealing with other receptacles.

This is something that I’ve been interested in for a while, and below are my notes so far, as of Dec 2014. I haven’t bought one yet. EDIT: I bought an OpenEVSE model in August 2015, but haven’t had a chance yet to update the notes below. It’s working great though, both at home and on roadtrips!

portable needs:
– 30 Amps delivered (not just circuit size), to match the capability of the car; 32 Amps is even better (a few cars absorb 32A)
– adjustable current, to manually force current draw lower (to deal with flaky RV park breakers, for example)
– not too bulky, so it can go on roadtrips
– UL listed / tested?

Clipper Creek HCS-40
– 32 Amps delivered
– NOT adjustable
– bulky, 19.7″ x 8.9″ x 5.3″

JuiceBox
– $500 including power input and long output cord
– 40A circuit, 32A delivered
– Pro model (+$100) offers wireless + smartphone app
– current is adjustable in Pro model
– https://www.facebook.com/eMotorWerks
– not UL listed, might never be
– V8.9 boards will have hardware GFCI
discussion on MNL

OpenEVSE
– $330 assembly kit, components already soldered
– needs input and output cords, ~$150
– up to 50A delivered
– compact, 8.75″ x 5.25″ x 3.24″
– max current IS adjustable, pushbutton LCD menu
– note: unit is not fully assembled
discussion on MNL

JESLA
– $1000 or $300 plus donor UMC
– max 40 Amps delivered
– multiple adapters for all receptacles
– current draw follows plug type automatically
– no manual current override
– sometimes sold out
– newer version in the works?

Manzanita Micro P3:
– $750
– 30 Amps delivered
– adjustable current via knob
– not UL tested, no GFCI?

EVSEupgrade:
– Panasonic $650
– 20 Amps delivered
– adjustable current via scary paper clip method

Sources for adapter cords:
http://www.corddepot.com/ — great web tool that lets you select each end of the desired cable, instead of paging through dozens of adapters
www.camco.net — good source for NEMA 14-50 plugs and receptacles, purchase via online retailers (Amazon, eBay, etc.); however do NOT buy their adapter cables because they can be faulty; only get loose plug/receptacle parts that you can assemble and inspect yourself