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Free Electric Vehicle Home Charging Stations? Think again.

March 2, 2013

Today, driving my husband’s Nissan Leaf, I was starting to think, wow. maybe my husband was right _ this electric vehicle life is great. With my gas-consuming car low on fuel, and a full charge in the Leaf, I knew I could easily make the 40- mile round trip to my destination with battery charge to spare, and without using a drop of gasoline. (Any trip over 60 miles on the winding and hilly California Highway 1 would put me in range anxiety mode).

Then, I arrived home. For the record – and not to rub it in too much – but I want to remind everyone that I was the skeptical one in the family when my husband persuaded me that it was a good idea to lease a 2012 Nissan Leaf for three years. For the complete story about our initiation into life with an electric car, click here. He promised that we would receive a free charging station at home thanks to the EV Project, and that we would receive $2,500 of our $3,500 deposit back. So far, however, only half of that promise has come true. Last week, we received a $2,500 rebate from the state of California. That is the good news. And, yes, my husband gets points for that.

But when I got home this afternoon, and plugged the EV into our household 120-volt electrical outlet, my husband explained the bad news. We finally received the estimate for the installation of a Level 2 Blink charger at our home, which would mean we would not have to drag the charging cord into the garage every night, and wait all night before we have full charge. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, we qualify for $1,200 (less in areas outside of the greater San Francisco Bay Area) to cover installation costs and receive the 240-volt Blink charger for free. Here’s my San Jose Mercury News story about the program, and other tips for installing a home charging station

The estimate which landed in my husband’s inbox on totaled more than $1,900! The installation, it turns out, would not be free after all. We would have to pay $740 out of our pockets. And, this is for an uncomplicated installation. We do not need to add a new electrical panel or do any major upgrade to install the charger which will cut our charging time in half, and also hopefully, reduce our electric bill.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that we we waited more than a month to receive this estimate, and the electrician wants an answer by Monday or we risk getting no EV Project help at all because the program – which operates in nine states and Washington D.C.- is winding down.

The actual labor cost is only $330, and the materials are only $100. But we are getting hammered in other areas. The estimate includes $440 for building permit processing, another $130 for a building permit fee and $275 in administrative costs. The company blames part of the high cost on the city where we reside because it requires that the building permit be must be applied for in person, and that the company purchase a year-long license to operate in the city. The company also added charges for travel and overhead.

The electrician says we could reduce the bill somewhat if we applied for the building permit ourselves, but frankly, I am at a loss about what that entails, and what risks we would face if we did this, not to mention the time, hassle, and paperwork.

The frustrating part is that there is little competitive bidding in this process. Either we negotiate a lower estimate with the electrician, accept the bid as is, or go off on our own and lose the $1,200 EV Project assistance.

In fairness to the company, the folks there are frustrated by the rush too. The president of the company said they are being pressured to get the installations finalized even before the project ends in late March.

Still. this is $740 we did not include in the budget or in the promise of living an EV life. Needless to say, my husband is contemplating his next move, trying to figure out how to get this estimate lowered. Who can help him?

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7 Comments
  1. Shinya permalink

    It sounds like a rip off to me. Try calling Campbell Electric who did mine and others Blink install. Perhaps they can do it lower and talk to ecotality to switch the contractor to them.

    Other option is if you have 240v for washer/dryer, get your 120v EVSE upgraded to 240v compatible. That would be cheaper option although having a blink would be better…

  2. Olivier permalink

    Another recommendation for Campbell Family Electric here. After like 2 months on L1, I’m very happy I had them install a real EVSE. They did an excellent job.
    I don’t remember which company Blink steered me to first (Sprig?), but I was quoted so crazy high admin fees I requested an alternative, which unsurprisingly turned out much cheaper.

  3. I guess it’s too late for you now, but we’re looking at this option, which comes to only about $300 out of pocket: http://evseupgrade.com/
    But, I don’t understand why Nissan doesn’t have these available with the cars already!

  4. EVnut permalink

    I encountered the same. This is the electricians scamming the government hand-out. They know people will pay more so they just charge more. The truth is that even the most complicated installation can be covered by the grant when you look at the hourly rate of the electrician. You just need to push-back and force them to get it done on the grant alone, or walk.

    You can buy a charger (which is actually just a relay in a box) and have any electrician install it. or just install a 220 outlet next to it and you screw on the plug.

    Take control. It is a sad scam the electricians are perpetrating on what was a well-intended and worthwhile government subsidy. I wish someone was policing it.

  5. Mitchy permalink

    This is not the production some people make it out to be. Essentially, you need the same outlet as an electric dryer in your garage. From there, I have seen prices on 240v chargers from $380 and up. If you have the correct outlet in the garage, it is no more complicated than plugging in a clothes dryer.

    I look at it this way .. if you tell people you want to have a wedding reception they charge you $1500 for the room. If you tell them you are having a family party, the cost is $800.

    In my town, if the value of the improvement is less than $400 no permit required. Do the majority of the work yourself and watch some YouTube videos. The only thing I plan to do is have an electrician make the final connection in the box … It will take him 10 minutes and I will be well under the money grab from the city.

  6. who needs a permit to install and electrical device?

    You don’t need a permit to install a EVSE.

    What you do is:
    1. Electrican brings a 20/30/40amp 208-240 circuit to a L6-30 or NEMA 14-50 recepticle.
    — he may be able to bring from an unused 220v electric dryer circuit on the other side of a wall if you use a gas dryer
    2. You buy a charge that has the appropriate plug.
    3. You plug in the unit – just like youare plugging in an applicance- after mounting it on the wall.

    You do not need a permit. The government wants you to get one because they want to satisfy other government agencies- but if you are not pulling new wire from the box – no.

    These $2000 installs were rippiung off the taxpayers- we had a Volt – now we have a Benz B class – the Voltec charger for the Volt was $499 if I bought it myself and $699 if I got it ‘free’ but paid for installation. We had a plug on the other side of the wall – we brought power through the wall – used the same circuit – voila – total cost $700 including the EVSE.

  7. you don’t need a permit to install the charger, but you do need one to get the inspection sign off if you want to get the gov’t rebate. We tried doing the installation ourselves, which was fine, but trying to get the rebate when you are not the licensed contractor is really difficult if you don’t understand the electrical code and don’t have the ability to draw up ‘to-scale plans’ of your property, which is one of the requirements. For us it looks like we would actually have to spend so much money to get the qualifying documents for the rebate, that there is not really a point in bothering. And now I’ve just wasted the last two days of my life sitting around the permit office trying to find this out. boo.

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