There’s a new car in town and it doesn’t need gasoline to go-go. In fact, there’s a variety of new electric cars offered by a number of car makers. From the domestic American made Chevrolet Volt to the Japanese Nissan Leaf, these new models of electric cars are going to change the way we drive.
The EVs, as they are called, will require an electric charging station. Think of it as a gas station right in your own garage. Better yet, EV charging stations will soon begin appearing all over the nation. Any commercial parking area today will have the option to install EV charging stations for the convenience of their EV driving customers. The dealerships will also need charging stations to demonstrate the new electric vehicles.
So, which EV charger is the right charger for your home? You do have a choice. There is the 120 volt charging system that can plug right into any household wall socket, preferably in your garage. This charger can fully charge your EV in 10-14 hours. This standard charging system comes standard with all of the new Electric Vehicles.
How would you like to have to stand at a gas pump for 10 hours pumping gas? Obviously, you’re going to have to plan your driving habits. Your EV will have to be parked at least 10 hours per day, most likely while you sleep.
What if you could fully charge your EV in 4 hours? What would that be worth to you? Let’s face it; these cars aren’t cheap to begin with! To fully charge your EV in 4 hours, you’ll need a level 2, 240 volt rapid electric vehicle charging station rated at 20 amps. These are available from the EV manufacturers as well as from a number of 3rd party providers.
In order to install a 240 volt level 2 rapid charger in your garage, you’ll need a licensed electrician or electrical contractor. Both the Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet VOLT require the use of one of their own certified electrical contractors. Soon you may be able to hire your own electrical contractor if you sign a waiver, however initially the electric vehicle car manufacturers want you to use their certified installers who have been trained to their specifications. The electrician will need to install a 240 volt electrical outlet in your garage and also to install the charger on the wall near the outlet.
So what’s involved if you decide to purchase the optional 240 volt, 4 hour charger?
First you will need to purchase the rapid charging station either from the electric car dealership or from a 3rd party provider (if allowed). Then you will need to hire either the dealers electrical contractor of one of your choosing.
The electrician will need to acquire a double pole, or 240 volt circuit from your electrical panel. This means that there must be space in your panel to accommodate 2 additional circuit breakers. A 240 volt circuit breaker is commonly referred to as a double pole breaker. If there isn’t any room for additional circuit breakers, sometimes the existing breakers can be replaced with tandem breakers. Tandem breakers are 1/2 the size of a standard breaker. Two of them will fit in the space designed for one full size breaker. By doing this, it’s possible to create enough space for a new double pole circuit breaker. Once that is established, a 240 volt copper wire, size 8 gauge, is installed from the panel to the garage to carry the power required for your 240 volt EV charger. Eight gauge wire is recommended by the manufacturer. The manufacturer also recommends installing a sub-circuit panel in the garage for the charger, but I do not believe that is absolutely necessary.
So how does the electrician get the 240 volt circuit wire from the panel to the garage? Often times, the panel is a combination circuit breaker panel and electric meter box all in one. In a perfect world, this box will often be found on an exterior garage wall. However, it can also be located on the opposite side of the house! If the panel is on a garage wall, the installation is much easier and less costly. The closer the circuit panel, the less time and material it will require. If it’s not on a garage wall and is located further away, then creative measures may be necessary.
If your house has a crawl space either above or below, that’s the best case scenario. In that case, a short section of electrical conduit will be installed out of the bottom or top of the panel and turn into Hot Springs the crawl space to carry the wire across to the garage. Worst case scenario, is when there is no access above or below the house. These are the most challenging.
You will want to hire an experienced electrician that takes a great deal of pride in his workmanship. The electrician will be required to install electrical conduit from the panel to the garage. Exterior wiring of 120 volts or higher must be protected inside electrical conduit, either metal or PVC. Usually the conduit will be fastened to the exterior of your home. Sometimes, to avoid what some may call an unsightly addition to the exterior, the conduit may be buried in the ground.
I have installed miles and miles of electrical conduit on the exterior of people’s homes over the years. If your electrician is proficient at bending and installing metal or PVC conduit, then he can do a good job without detracting from the appearance of your home. Knowing how to properly bend electrical metal tubing (EMT) has become a lost art among many of the younger residential electricians.
If you plan to install a 240 volt rapid charger in your garage for your EV, and you will be required to run electrical conduit on the exterior of your home, then you’ll want a conduit expert in order to get a nice, neat job. Conduit can be painted, but a neat installation is critical. Bad conduit installations can really “ugly up” a house. Not all electricians are skilled at conduit bending. It takes a lot of practice. Many handymen and even some less reputable electricians will simply staple plastic jacketed cable (Romex) right to the exterior of the house. It serves the purpose, but it’s not legal. All exterior 120 volt wiring or higher must be inside electrical conduit. This is also the rule when running exposed AC wire on a surface wall indoors as well.
If you can live with a 10 hour charge time, then you won’t need to spend any additional money for a level 2 rapid charging station. If you wish to fully charge your EV in 4 hours, prepare to spend a little more money. I think things will evolve as time goes by and maybe the charging systems will become more efficient and less charging time will be required. Only time will tell.
If you are located in the San Diego area and would like to discuss installation of a level 2 rapid charging station in your home, we would be glad to discuss your options with your. Currently is certified to install level 2 charging stations for several of the different chargers on the market.