Charging Locations

The concept of filling up your “tank” at home may seem strange, but the majority of EV recharging today is done that way. Overnight charging is most common and meets the needs of most commuters. Since two-thirds of all drivers travel less than 40 miles a day, the typical EREV or BEV will not need recharging during that time – although a PHEV may benefit from a recharge at work depending on the length of one’s commute.

As discussed earlier, most EV charging is done by plugging into a conventional 120-volt home outlet (AC Level 1)  or a special 240-volt charger (AC Level 2) that cuts charging times in half. Both of these options use a standard SAE J1772 connector that plugs into the vehicle. However, AC Level 2 charging does require the installation of a dedicated electrical circuit.

How much does a home charging station cost?

Charging equipment installation costs vary depending on the configuration of the home and electrical circuitry, local code requirements and the type of equipment installed. A licensed electrical contractor should be consulted for a cost estimate. This expense may be offset by a federal tax credit equal to 50 percent of the installation cost, with a $2,000 maximum credit per charger installed. Certain states also offer tax benefits, and some utility companies offer rebates and incentives on charging units. To find the charger that is right for you and for your car, use the GoElectricDrive Find an EV Charger.

Steps to Install a Home Charging Station

If you are considering having an AC Level 2 charging station installed at home for your EV, here are five important steps to consider:

1. Research your vehicle/charger purchase. The dealer you buy your EV from will have information on recommended chargers that you will need to know when you discuss potential incentives with your local power company. Your dealer can also recommend a charging system installer who may also be familiar with any available incentives. Once you know the total cost of your vehicle and its charging equipment (after applicable rebates and incentives), you may be able to negotiate on the selling price of the vehicle

2. Select your charger. The auto manufacturer will provide a list of preferred chargers for your vehicle. Charging stations are simple, convenient, and come in a variety of styles, including pole-mounted, wall-mounted and free-standing units. Any charger you purchase should be certified to Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards by a nationally recognized safety-testing laboratory. You also want to make sure the charger you select uses an industry-standard SAE J1772 connector to attach to the vehicle.

3. Check with your utility company. Your local electric utility company can advise you on the charger installation process, recommend qualified installers and share ways to get the lowest rates for charging. Your utility company may also want to know if you plan to install an AC Level 2 charging station so that they can confirm that sufficient electrical power is available in your neighborhood.

4. Hire an electrician. The National Electric Code requires that an electrician licensed for the electric vehicle service equipment class “electrical devices” be consulted for charger installs. Check with your auto dealer or utility company for installers in your area who are trained to install EV home charging stations. Make sure the electrician you choose is licensed and insured, and be aware that charger installation will typically require a building permit and field inspection of the new circuit, depending on local city or county building codes.

5. Have a home power assessment. While AC Level 1 charging can be done with a standard 15 or 20 amp wall outlet, AC Level 2 charging requires a dedicated 40 amp circuit. An electrician can determine if your home’s electrical service has the capacity to support the added load of an EV charging station without additional (and possibly expensive) upgrades. While homes built in the last 10-20 years have electrical services that can provide more power than those in older homes, being fully informed in advance will prevent any unpleasant surprises later.

Charging in Multi-Unit Housing Locations

If you live in a multi-unit dwelling such as an apartment or condominium complex, you will need to investigate the options for charging your electric car at home. Your landlord, management company or condo/coop board may have special rules for EV charging.

If you can access a standard electrical outlet where you normally park your car, it will likely support AC Level 1 charging and approval may be easier. However, if you want to install a faster AC Level 2 charger, building management will need to hire an electrician to assess the available electrical capacity and other factors before approving installation of the equipment. They may also require that a separate electric meter be installed to track and bill you for the power used in charging your vehicle.

In a larger development where several individuals have EVs, an alternative might be the installation of a commercial charging station. Most such units provide charging through individual user accounts, which allow the property owner to recoup the added electrical costs by billing each EV owner for the energy consumed in charging their cars.

Public charging stations provide the flexibility to “top up” your EV’s battery while you shop, attend events or sightsee. As of  March 2014, the AAA Maps site listed more than 7,500 public electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S. and Canada. To find a charging station, launch the TripTik® Travel Planner , and select show electric vehicle charging stations on your route.The network continues to rapidly expand thanks, in part, to the U.S. Department of Energy which is providing more than $115 million to fund construction of an EV charging infrastructure.

Local municipalities, employers, retail businesses, EV equipment manufacturers and others have applied for monies to install some 15,000 public charging stations. Major U.S. metropolitan areas that have been targeted include: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento CA; Austin TX; Detroit MI; New York NY; Orlando FL; Redmond WA; Charlotte NC; and Washington D.C. In Canada, cities planning to install significant numbers of EV charging stations include Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Several private sector initiatives have been completed leveraging available government funds to help grow the charging infrastructure. These  include both public and private AC Level 2 charging stations, along with roadside fast-charging units. ChargePoint America, a program sponsored by Coulomb Technologies, is working to provide electric vehicle charging infrastructure in nine selected regions in the United States.

As EVs proliferate, charging stations are also becoming more common at workplaces to allow recharging during the day. Many large and small companies, including AAA, Bank of America, Cisco Systems and Google have installed or announced plans for charging stations. Employers, garage owners, and other public entities also qualify for federal tax credits to install business-based charging stations.

Prices for public EV charging are at the discretion of the charging site owner, within limits established by utility regulators. Payment methods include subscriptions, credit and debit cards, pre-paid smart cards, radio or infrared identification tags, or cash. Charging also can be included as part of the parking fee or paid via your smartphone. Some locations, such as those at shopping malls or other businesses, offer free EV charging as a way to entice consumers to visit. Over time, market-driven forces will likely make the EV charging and payment process both convenient for motorists and financially sound for property owners.

Many companies that operate vehicle fleets are considering the economic benefits of EVs. Large fleet operations such as UPS, Frito-Lay, and Coca-Cola are leading the way, and their efforts will help build a knowledge base that will benefit fleets of every size. General Electric, for example, has set a goal to deploy 25,000 EVs by 2015.

The federal government has approximately 11,000 hybrid cars and trucks in its fleet, according to the Department of Energy. The resulting improvement in energy efficiency will reduce petroleum consumption by an estimated 7.7 million gallons of gasoline or 385,000 barrels of oil. Our military branches also are transitioning to EVs for many non‐tactical vehicles. All federal agencies working under two executive orders that mandate an annual two-percent reduction in fuel consumption through 2020 (EO 13514), and an annual ten-percent increase in alternative fuel use through 2015 (EO 13423).

Fleet use of EVs benefits from careful advance planning. The number and type of EVs in a fleet will determine its ongoing charging requirements. Installing the appropriate number and type of electrical circuits during initial construction (along with any needed additional capacity) will minimize costs in the long run. Fleet managers need to carefully plan the charging schedule of their EV fleet to ensure adequate availability of vehicles and charging equipment. It is also important to consider the location of the electrical service relative to the charging station, and any relevant federal, state, and local code requirements. A computerized Fleet Recharge Management System (FRMS) can help manage the cost and efficiency of charging an electric vehicle fleet.

Although most charging of plug-in vehicles occurs at home, there will be times when you may need to use a public charging station. These AC Level 2 charging stations, and the occasional DC Level 3 fast-charging station, can provide the charge you need in a reasonable amount of time. The U.S. Department of Energy, through the Alternative Fuel Data Center, is helping lead the way in the creation of a centralized database that lists publicly accessible charging stations.

This rapidly evolving database helps drivers search for charging stations and provides information to third parties such as auto manufacturers, navigation providers, auto clubs and others that in turn share the data through their own applications. For example, the location-based services built into most EVs (and their smartphone apps) will provide the locations of nearby charging stations. In addition, EV charging stations can be found using the online AAA TripTik® Travel Planner, or the AAA mobile app which is available for both iPhone and Android platforms.