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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 the basic background from Plug In America; it was written in 2011, at the beginning of this EV revolution, so it’s a little dated but also generally accurate. The US Dept. of Energy also offers a good introduction to EV charging levels. 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 gas 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, or plugging in your cell phone once a day.

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 Level 1 cordset will deliver about 4 miles of range per hour plugged in. A typical EV will thus gain about 40 miles of range in a 10-hour (overnight) charging session, more if you have it plugged in longer. So you may not 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 the Chevy Volt or Ford Energi models which each have a smaller battery than the pure EVs do).

Before plugging in your Level 1 cord, you should determine what else is on the circuit that feeds the outlet you are about to plug into. Typically, multiple wall outlets will be daisy-chained and fed from a single breaker in your house’s electrical panel. Figure out what other outlets share a breaker with your EV-charging outlet. Then make sure that no high-power devices are plugged into those outlets. Examples of devices that draw high power (typically 1000-1400 Watts) are chest freezers, dehumidifiers, table saws, vacuum cleaners … and EV chargers! Only one of these kinds of devices can be drawing power at a time.

why to spend extra for a Level 2 charging station

Being able to charge faster than Level 1 is useful if you regularly drive more than 40 miles in a day. If you’ve got a long commute, then you really don’t have a choice: you need a Level 2 charger. (The funny thing is, people with long commutes tend to be more interested in EVs, because the fuel savings can be so dramatic — the more you drive, the more you save.)

Faster charging is also particularly useful on weekends, when you might run a bunch of errands in the morning, then get back home and charge up during the afternoon, and then head out again in the evening. 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.

A Level 2 charging station will deliver up to 30 miles of range per hour plugged in. A typical EV will thus charge up completely during an overnight charging session, even if you got home late that night and had completely emptied the car’s battery, and you’ve got a big battery (long range) car like a Tesla or a Chevy Bolt. That Level 2 station will fill the car up overnight, no matter what.

if no Level 2, be prepared for Level 1 failure

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 while the Level 1 cordset that comes with the car may suffice, you should plan on eventually installing a 240 Volt (“Level 2″) charging station.

If you don’t get a Level 2 charger, make sure you know how to use the nearest DC Fast Charging station (see the public charging page for more on that) so you can fall back onto that if your home charging setup fails on you. Stop by and test it out so you’re familiar how it works, before the day comes when you really need it.

picking a Level 2 charging station

OK, so you’ve decided to go ahead and get a Level 2 charging station. Unfortunately, I personally recommend against the chargers that the carmakers supply — e.g. GM and their SPX models, Nissan and Ford and their Aerovironment models, BMW and its huge design-forward model, etc. Further, I would steer clear of the low price leaders in the market, whether it’s Bosch or Siemens or Duosida. This device is going to become pretty important to your day-to-day life and you don’t want to cut corners on this.

Some chargers offer neat features like LCD screens and internet connectivity. In my opinion you can safely 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. However, if you like a lot of cool features, check out JuiceBox and OpenEVSE.

Clipper Creek LCS-20 and LCS-25

Clipper Creek LCS-20 and LCS-25

Generally, you will find that EV veterans invariably recommend the Clipper Creek chargers. 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 Shane that 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 needed for its original purpose. 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 the order for your Level 2 charger, 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 is by far the most common receptacle type 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 installed. 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 instead of using a plug — 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.

All of the Clipper Creek units are available in either hard-wired or pluggable forms.

tell the electrician what size breaker and wiring you need

The electrician will want to know what current amperage (in “Amps”) to size the new circuit for, which determines what size wire and breaker to use — literally what size components he brings with him and installs in your house. A NEMA 14-50 receptacle can handle up to 50 Amps, but it is quite common to wire a 40 Amp circuit to it, because that is what most EVSE models need. The installed circuit amperage should be sized to match (not exceed) the EVSE’s circuit requirement.

Therefore, BEFORE you have the electrician do the work, know exactly which EVSE you’re getting (Clipper Creek whatever, Tesla HPWC, etc.), and check what amperage circuit the EVSE is sized for. Note that Tesla HPWC stations are configurable between 15A and 100A, so for those you can have the electrician install whatever amperage you’re willing to pay for. A 100 Amp circuit can get very expensive, because those wires can get really fat and copper isn’t cheap. Further, a really high power install like 80-100 Amps can even overload your HOUSE (your breaker panel’s “service” connection from the street) so if you really want 100A, you might also have to pay to have the breaker panel and utility service upgraded — BIG bucks.

A 40 Amp circuit is the most common and is typically enough for anyone, as it’s enough to fully charge any EV overnight.

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 Georgia Power’s EV page they have information about their new EVSE rebate program — scroll down to the “Get Current” section and see the “Flyer” and “Rebate Form” 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 (not Level 1)
– Must have a dedicated electrical circuit feeding EVSE
– 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.

Some EVs come with an EVSE that can plug into a NEMA 14-50 (240V) outlet, notably all Tesla models since Day One and Nissan Leafs since 2018. If you’re just getting an outlet installed to go with the plug-in EVSE that you already got with the car, you can still get the rebate for that install cost. On Georgia Power’s rebate form, just put in “Tesla EVSE or “Nissan EVSE” for the make and model, and if there’s no serial number just enter the model number again. Or whatever. Georgia Power really isn’t picky about this. As the form states, just make sure to include the copy of the installation invoice that you got from the electrician.

The rebate officially expires at the end of the year, but Georgia Power keeps extending it. Check the site above to see if it’s still available, and if it is consider getting 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 used to be a federal tax credit for purchase and installation of an EVSE. It offered 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. That tax credit died at the end of 2017.

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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 have not updated the notes below, and the information below is sorely outdated.

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:
Cord Depot — they have a great web tool (“Product Finder” / “Product Filter”) that lets you select each end of the desired cable, instead of paging through dozens of adapters
Camping World — with locations across the country, Camping World is a great local source for adapter cords in a hurry
Camco — 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