It isn’t hard to grasp the perks of owning an electric vehicle. No more gas stations! Fast and silent acceleration! Better for the environment! But before you start test-driving models, you should probably think about where you’re going to park your EV—and how you’re going to keep it charged.
To help put you in a cutting-edge car, we researched everything from EV chargers to what you need for installation. Here’s what you need waiting at home before driving your new wheels off the lot.
Figure out where to park and charge your electric vehicle
There are a few things to think about before deciding on the final placement of your EV charger. For starters, where will you park your car? If you have a garage, do you always park in it, or do you use the driveway more often?
Whether you decide to charge in the garage or on the driveway, the area should be easy to access and clutter-free. You don’t want to be dodging junk while also worrying about tripping or running over the charger cable. And you need to have clear access to the home’s main electrical panel.
Types of chargers
Typically, EVs come with a basic Level 1 charger. But it provides only about 3 to 6 miles of range for every hour of charging, meaning you could wait 11 to 20 hours to get a full charge.
If you don’t drive very often, that might work out perfectly. Otherwise, you might want to invest in a Level 2 charger.
“A Level 2 charges an EV in roughly two to eight hours, so you can plug in your charger at bedtime and wake up to a fully charged vehicle,” says Lowry Stoops, president at Qmerit Network, an EV charger installation service. “This eliminates the ‘range anxiety’ a lot of people have about EVs.”
If you want to go a shade greener, it’s possible to pair your EV charging station to a rooftop solar system. The average cost to install solar panels falls between $15,000 and $25,000. The gap is due to the vast difference in soft costs (e.g., labor, permits, and administrative fees) across the U.S. However, federal, state, or local tax credits may offset those costs.
Types of charger installations
A Level 1 charger doesn’t require any particular installation. You plug it into a standard 120-volt wall outlet, and you’re ready to go.
But there are two main types of charger installations for a Level 2, and each has its pros and cons.
Hardwire charger: This is wired directly from the electrical panel to the Level 2 charger itself by a licensed electrician and is usually permanently affixed to the wall. If you decide to move, you’ll need an electrician to disconnect it.
On the plus side, hardwired chargers provide faster and more consistent charging, says Stoops.
Plug-in charger: This is powered directly from the main electrical panel with a plug akin to the outlet you use for large appliances. As a result, these chargers are portable, and you can easily take the charger on vacation or to another home when you move.
But most EV charger manufacturers don’t recommend relying entirely on a plug-in Level 2 charger due to the regular possibility of nuisance tripping (i.e., your breaker shuts off) requiring frequent resets—sometimes at the worst possible times.
Charging in the garage vs. the driveway
If you do decide to charge inside the garage, consider the current outlet location, or if necessary, where a new outlet installation will be.
However, that doesn’t mean the charger has to line up on the same side as the charge port on your car, like when you’re fueling up at the gas station. Typically cables are available from 12 to 25 feet. In addition, a holster can keep the charger out of the way when not in use.
Driveway: You may not have protection from the elements, but you can still easily charge your car outside.
“You can mount the Level 2 charging station on the outside of your home or install a pedestal mount to hold the charging station next to the driveway,” says Stoops.
But suppose you use the basic Level 1 charger instead of a watertight Level 2 outside. In that case, Campbell recommends installing a ground-fault circuit interrupter receptacle (which helps prevent electrocution) and a weatherproof bubble cover close to the parking spot. Don’t set up your charger near water hazards such as a pool or hot tub, and always wrap the charger cable around a holster when you’re not using it.
Research permits and installing costs
Many cities and municipalities require homeowners to obtain electrical permits whether for a new circuit breaker for the garage, a dedicated 240-volt service, or other wiring-related work. Your electrician or EV charger installer may include that in the cost of installation.
Note that some companies offer turnkey installation, which includes the cost of the charger and wiring. Or you can buy a charger and have an electrician do the wiring.
According to Campbell, a new 120-volt outlet 6 to 10 feet from the panel will cost around $350. A 240-volt dedicated outlet will run approximately $600 when it’s 6 to 10 feet from the panel. The cost varies depending on the panel type and how far the charger is from your electrical panel. The farther away the charger is, the more costly the installation.