Charging capability is among the top considerations when purchasing an EV. For most drivers, the ability to charge a vehicle at home is a necessity. Fortunately, with just a little homework, you can ensure your home is equipped to safely and effectively charge your new EV.
Choosing the Right Charger
There are three types of EV chargers. A Level 1 charger provides power through a standard household plug (120V) and gives 3-5 miles of range per charging hour. Level 2 provides charging through a specialized 240V outlet, gives an average of 32 miles of range per hour, and must be installed by a qualified electrician. Level 3 is the fastest charging option and is likely not available for residential installation.
When deciding between Level 1 and Level 2, consider when you’ll charge your car, the length of the charge window, and how far you plan to drive your EV each day. Most people don’t actually need the maximum charge rate, considering the average person drives about 37 miles per day — not enough to fully deplete an all-electric vehicle’s battery. If you plan to charge your car overnight like the vast majority of EV drivers, the time you get home from work to the time you set out the next morning gives roughly 12 hours of charging time.
Equipping Your Home
Examine your home’s existing electrical service. Older 60-amp systems will require an upgrade. Similarly, if you have 100-amp electrical service and all electrical appliances, including central air conditioning, your home may not be able to support a Level 2 EV charger. If you have the latter with limited electrical appliances (gas cooking, furnace and water heater), you should be able to have an EV charger installed. If you have 200-amp electrical service, your home is ready for EV charger installation.
If in doubt, hire an electrician to perform an electrical load calculation. Once that is determined, the maximum EV charger amperage can be calculated.
EV Charger Compatibility
All new EVs will come with at least a 120-volt charging cable (Level 1). Upgraded chargers (Level 2) are usually available for purchase from the vehicle manufacturer or, in a few cases, are included.
Most manufacturer-provided cables for EVs in the U.S. use a standardized connector called Combined Charging System Type 1 (CCS1). Along with Tesla’s unique connector, these two plug types cover 96% of EV cars in the U.S.
Exceptions include the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Kia Soul EV models, which feature two connector slots — one for Levels 1 and 2 charging (J1772), and the other for Level 3 (CHAdeMO). These manufacturers are starting to — or likely will soon — phase out their non-standard plugs in the U.S.