How to Charge Your Electric Car at Home

Jeff S. Bartlett

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Unlike most owners of conventional gas cars, EV owners can “refill” at home—just pull into your garage and plug it in. Owners can use a standard outlet, which takes a while, or install a wall charger for a much quicker charge. All electric vehicles come with a 110-volt-compatible, or Level 1, home connector kit. It’s essentially a fancy extension cord that allows your car to be plugged into a standard outlet on one end and into the car on the other end.

Consumer Reports recommends that most electric vehicle buyers, especially those purchasing a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with a small battery, start with just the included cord, rather than invest in a 240-volt, or Level 2, wall-mounted charger.

“Most PHEV owners will not need a Level 2 charger,” advises Gil Tal, director of the Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis. “The Level 1 charger that is provided with the car can charge the battery back to 100 percent overnight.”

Tal adds that Level 1 may be sufficient for many EV owners if they don't drive more than 40 to 50 miles a day. That’s farther than the average daily commute for American drivers.

It’s worth investing in a wall-mounted charger if you need juice quicker than 110 volts can provide and you don’t have convenient access to a public or workplace charger.

Wall units are available online through Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe’s, among others. The cost is typically $500 to $700. Some automakers, such as BMW, offer advice on chargers and coordinate installation. Others leave it for the consumer to figure out.

You’ll need an electrician to install a special 240-volt receptacle, like the ones used for most clothes dryers, in your garage. HomeAdvisor shows that parts and labor, beyond the charger itself, can cost up to $2,000. 

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the September 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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