Beginners Guide to Electric Vehicles
Electric Vehicle Types
Choosing an Electric Vehicle
Charging Your EV
Solar and Ways to Reduce Your Bill
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Home Electric Vehicle Charging Practices
For some people a Level 1 charging station that adds 4 miles per hour to the battery may work fine. For the majority us we need a Level 2 charging station that can add many more miles to our electric vehicle. Now the question is just how fast of a station is needed.
The first thought for most owners is to go over to Amazon.com and buy the biggest station that is available. The price difference between low and high capacity stations is negligible. Stop! This is not the way to buy a station. There could be some huge installation costs involved with choosing a high amperage station over a lower capacity model.
You first need to figure out what kind of service panel and feed you have coming into your home. Your service panel is the box on the side of your home or in your garage that accepts the electrical feed from the power company and feeds it through various circuits in your home to power outlets, your air conditioner, dryer, kitchen range, and maybe even your clothes dryer. There is a good possibility that your service panel will not have enough capacity to service your house and a high capacity electric vehicle charging station. This especially true if your house is older than 20 years old. If you overload your service panel you could start your home on fire if you don’t trip a circuit breaker first.
Does your service panel look something like this? This is an older 100amp panel from a late 1960s home. There is no space for expansion, and installing an ev charging station in this home will either require a panel upgrade, or disconnecting the clothes dryer and using that for car charging. Replacing this panel with a higher capacity model will be $2000-$3000.
For most people an entry level 16 amp, Level 2 station will work fine. Generally, this size station will add 12-15 miles of range per hour. Most of the time you will be topping off the car overnight so speed is not all that important.
Another option for many people is an electric dryer outlet in the garage. Dryers are wired to accept power from a 30-amp circuit. If you don’t use your dryer, you could connect a charging station to this circuit. If you still want the ability to use the dryer you could use transfer switch to split the circuit between the dryer and the charging station. The way this works is you pull a handle on a disconnect switch to select where to direct the power to. I have a page outlining this project that can be followed under the "Helpful Links" section of the page.
The most common station size is the 32 amp, Level 2 charging station. This will add about 25 miles an hour to most cars. If you have anything less than a 200 amp service panel you will most likely need to upgrade your panel. Replacing a service panel is an expensive project costing $3000+ to complete.
In some areas utility companies offer the option of installing an electric meter dedicated to electric car charging. These meters come with the lowest electricity charges, but there is a higher installation cost than a standard charging station installed off your main service panel. Plan to budget about $3000 to install a second power meter. I have a page showing the meter installation process when I performed it within SCE territory back in 2013. See the links area of the page for more information.
Charging Costs and Time of Use
Charging your electric car can be inexpensive if you live in a state that offers low cost electricity. Prices for electricity vary widely between states so you will want to check your utility’s web site for specifics.
My Tesla Model 3 will travel for about 4 miles on a kWh of electricity. You can compare the cost to a similar sized gasoline powered car by multiplying eight times the cost per kilowatt hour charged by your utility. This will give you an equivalent cost per gallon gasoline. For example, I pay $.13 a kilowatt hour during the night, for a total cost of $1.04 per gallon equivalency. In neighboring Oregon, the cost is around $.40 gallon equivalency.
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