Charge It Up: Installing An EV Charging Station At Home

By Debbie Van Der Hyde, Sierra Club Green Home

Exciting, economical, and emission free: That’s the new world of electric vehicles!

Depending on where you live, you probably are seeing more electric cars on the roads, including the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Roadster, and the Chevy Volt. Other models, such as the Ford Focus, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and Mitsubishi “i” are coming soon.

image via Shutterstock

Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association have teamed up to organize National Plug In Day to raise awareness about the numerous benefits of electric vehicles (EV) this Sunday, October 16.

Since electricity is produced domestically, EVs have the potential to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. “Who doesn’t want energy independence, cleaner air, less maintenance, and lower operating costs?” asks Chad Schwitters, vice president of Plug In America.

Even with all of the benefits, Schwitters acknowledges that most people have a lot of questions about electric vehicles. Here are the answers to the two most important questions:

How do you charge up an EV?

Various approaches exist, depending on the type of EV purchased and your charging needs, such as the distance you want to drive per day and how quickly you want to recharge the car. The charging rate depends on the make and model of the car and size of the battery pack.

Beyond the home, two main options exist:

  • Public charging infrastructure. When EV owners are driving and need a charge, they can use freestanding charging stations installed in parking lots and near retail and grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, theaters, universities, city halls, and civic centers—and even a few forward-thinking gas stations. The EV Project is expected to install more than 14,000 Level 2 chargers in major markets by the end of 2011, with charging infrastructure planned across the nation by the end of 2013.

  • On the go. EV drivers can purchase a portable charging unit, which looks like a thick extension cord with a small electronics box and a set of pigtails for various 110-volt and 240-volt outlets. In some cases, car manufacturers supply this portable unit with the purchase of an electric vehicle.

For charging at home, some EV owners can get by using a standard, three-prong 110-volt household outlet, known as Level 1 charging, but it may take up to 20 hours to fully recharge a car. Most people will opt for a Level 2 charger, a 240-volt charger that averages six hours to recharge a vehicle. A Level 2 charger is typically a permanent installation with a special circuit and a higher-powered outlet made specifically for electric vehicles.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.