Life is easier with home EVSE. Our road to an EV home charging station
It has been nearly three months since my husband took the leap into the world of electric cars, and leased a 2012 Nissan Leaf. And now, finally the EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) is installed at our home. We have a brand new Blink 240 Volt EV charger thanks to the EV Project. which began in late 2009.
Now, instead of charging all night through a household 110-volt outlet (Level 1 charger) the EV will go from zero to a full charge in about four hours with the 240-volt ( Level 2 charger). Yes, you need to learn the lingo, to get by.
The road we took to get here was not always easy, but I think my husband will forget the bumps along the way by the time the next electric bill arrives, not to mention that he no longer has to drag the power cord out of the vehicle trunk every night and plug it into the garage outlet. Here is what we learned:
- Start early. Contact an electrician as soon as you know that you are going to purchase an Electric Vehicle. Unfortunately, the EV Project, which provided the charger for free and covered most of the installation costs in exchange for collecting data from the chargers, is no longer accepting applications. However, this also means that you can start planning for a charger now. It took a couple weeks for us to have an electrician come out to give us an estimate, and then, it was nearly six weeks before the electrician sent the estimate, and then, another week before it was installed.
- Negotiate. Do your homework. We were able to cut the estimate by $350 by negotiating and double checking some of the assertions made in the estimate. For example, we were told that the building department requires that applications be made in person, therefore the cost would be higher than normal, however, after calling the department, my husband learned that an application could be faxed in. We were pleased by the final result, however, it took some back and forth to get there.
- Shop around for chargers and electricians. Get more than one estimate from a licensed electrician. Our choices were limited by the EV Project which contracts with specific electricians, and also uses only Blink chargers. You will have many more options. This, of course is good and bad. Competition can bring lower prices, but it takes more work to wade through all the options. Seek out advice from your fellow EV owners through dealer forums, and Facebook pages and groups such as the excellent one operated by Plugincars. Nissan Leaf has a Facebook page and if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a Nissan Leaf Facebook group for Leaf owners.
- Sign up for an off-peak electric plan with your utility. We expect the off-peak plan to significantly reduce our PG &E electric bill, which spiked after the EV arrived. My husband sets the timer on the charger or the Leaf to juice up after midnight. Off-peak hours vary by the season, the off-peak rates vary depending on how much power you use, but essentially, the more power you use, the higher your rate is.
- Indoors or out? We chose to locate our charger outdoors for several reasons. We live in a California house (read small and without a basement) therefore our garage is packed with tools, bicycles, golf clubs, and all that other stuff we just can’t seem to part with. There is no way that little Leaf is ever going to find a place in the garage therefore we’d rather avoid having a cord running in under the garage door. Also, if we decide to get generous and open our charger to other EV drivers through PlugShare, doing so would be easier with the charger outdoors. It is fun to share a cup of coffee with other EV owners, but most people probably don’t want them sitting in their garage for four hours. We also had a decent spot to locate it out of view from the street, and somewhat protected from the weather. Living on the coast, we are a little worried about what impact the salt-filled air will have on it in the long run, but time will tell on that one. Then again, we live in relatively mild California. I used to live in New England, and if I was installing a charger there, I might opt for installing the charger in a warm garage instead of battling those cold winter nights outdoors. Any sounds that the charger makes is negligible and therefore was not a big factor in our decision.
- Costs will vary, depending on the charger you choose, and whether your current electrical system needs upgrading to accommodate the charger, which requires the same voltage as a clothes dryer. When my husband first leased the Leaf, he vowed that with the EV Project, the charger would be free. In the end, it cost us $300. Hopefully, years of hassle-free charging is in the future.