Chevrolet Volt Level 2 Charging Equipment 240v Installation, Costs, Rebates, and Incentives (updated)
Original Post from 12/26/2010
On Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 just two days after I picked my #10 Chevrolet Volt from the Concord Chevrolet Dealership, the Electrician came to install my Coulomb 240v CT 500 Level 2 EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) I will break down the entire process here, but at the end of the day it cost me $400 out of pocket and an afternoon to get the equipment installed – one of the perks of being an early EV adopter I suppose!
Arranging for the Installation
The company that organizes and administers all Level 2 Home Charger installations for The Chevrolet Volt is SPX Service Solutions. While you can certainly go off the beaten path and acquire and install the equipment on your own, there are several advantages to go through SPX. Specifically, if there are any grants or incentives available in your area they take care of all of that and you don’t have to pay out of pocket for it. Here I will discuss getting a charger installed through SPX.
The first step in the process is to register for a home level 2 charger installation. The registration involves not only providing your personal information, but also information on your Volt order (they will prioritize installations based on the order the registration/request was received and as well when you expect to take delivery of your Volt) – In my case, I registered very early and was customer #81. Additionally you will need to fill out on online questionnaire regarding how your house is laid out and a photo upload of your current breaker panel configuration. This allows them to do the first level assessment remotely, but realistically to get a quote you will need to schedule an Electrician to inspect the property. SPX will coordinate all aspects including scheduling the electrician.
The In Home Inspection
After you get in line, you wait. It’s unclear really how long you’ll need to wait as there is only one company processing all the requests. The Electrician I spoke with that services Northern California (Emard’s EST) said they were performing about 2-3 installs per week , so that will give you an idea of what pace they are working at. If you don’t hear back from SPX for a prolonged period of time, you should call in periodically to check in. There seems to be a small team of Customer Service reps at SPX, when I’ve called in I’ve spoken with the same person a couple of times. As everything is a new process, you want to make sure you haven’t fallen through the cracks, but calling more frequently won’t get you moved up in priority.
Around the time the Volt was being delivered, I received the first round of calls to schedule an in-home inspection. The inspection gives you a quote with no obligation to move forward with the install. After one scheduling snafu, things got figured out and the electrician showed up promptly at the scheduled time. It took roughly 15 minutes of looking around and speaking with the electrician to make sure he understands exactly what you want to have happen. After the inspection, it took roughly 4-5 days to receive the quote from SPX.
Level 2 Charging Equipment Costs, Rebates, and Incentives
Let’s start by looking at the Electric Vehicle Level 2 charging equipment costs. Because the Chevrolet Volt has most of the charging electronics and intelligence on-board, the costs of the GM – Voltec unit is only roughly $500 and allows charging at 240 volts – 16 amps. Compare this to other equipment out there like the Coulomb CT500 which retails for $2000 shown below in the box it came in.
For the additional $1500, there are a lot of other “features” that aren’t really visible to the user, primarily the ability for it to wirelessly transmit energy usage data and it also support charging up to 240volt at 30 amps. The Volt will only take 16 amps, so no advantage to a Volt user, but potentially useful for future electric cars. The Federal Government provides a 50% Tax Credit for electric vehicle charging equipment for 2010, with an expected phase out starting in 2011. See more about the electric vehicle federal tax credits here.
In my case however, I lived in an area that was covered by the ChargePoint America Program, which has funding to provide 100% free EVSE equipment to the first 4600 residential installations in the program. Basically you have to guarantee you will keep the equipment in service for 3 full years minimum and allow them to collect data on energy usage. Small price to pay for free equipment and you are providing useful data to boot!
So Equipment costs $500-$2000. Depending on area, you may receive the unit for free like I did, or you can take advantage of the 50% federal tax credit (lower next year likely).
Level 2 Charging Installation Costs and Rebates
The other obvious component to the Charger installation is labor. This number will vary greatly depending on the type of installation work you need and whether you need to change the circuit breaker panel on your house to accommodate the EV Charging unit. In order to install the 240 volt EV charging circuit, you will need two positions on your home breaker panel (to get the 240 volts) which runs off a 40 amp rated breaker – obviously the cables need to be rated for 40 amps as well.
In my case, they had to replace my breaker panel since I did not have additional room to install the EV Charging loop. This adds materially to the costs of the install. At the end of the day I was given three quotes.
Based on the fact that I had a Two Car Garage, and that my breaker panel was located on the outside of the right side of the garage the quotes were as follows for labor and permitting costs.
$2800: New Circuit Breaker Panel, 40 feet of cable through sheetrock to the left side of the garage.
$2200: New Circuit Breaker Panel, 40 feet of cable through exposed conduit to the left side of the garage
$1600: New Circuit Breaker Panel, 12 feet of cable through exposed conduit to the right side of the garage.
Based on the fact that the circuit panel replacement took 60% of the time the electrician was there I will guess that if you don’t need a new circuit panel, your costs would be about $1000 less than mine. These install prices seem to be steep, however California Bay Area Air Quality Management Board offers $1200 towards the installation costs of your Level 2 Charger. I don’t know the program specifics, but SPX informed me of this and did all the paperwork for it, and that basically made me pull the trigger on the install. So $1600-$1200 is your $400 out the door installation.
Installation Day for Level 2 EV Charging Unit
The original installation was scheduled for 9:00am, however because Berkeley’s permitting office was backed up the electrician did not arrive on site until noon. Once on site, the electrician spent about 1 hour getting paperwork done both with ChargePoint America (because they are giving away the charger) and SPX to get final authorization numbers etc.
Noon-1:00pm – paperwork / authorizations (note this may get faster once the process is streamlined, it seems like my install being one of the earlier ones took a little longer to process)
After you sign for everything and things were in motion he started the job by shutting down power and pulling the old breaker panel off.
1:00pm – 2:00pm: Removing the old circuit panel and tagging everything to that everything in the house would back together properly took about an hour.
2:00pm – 4:00pm: Installing the new circuit breaker panel, and rewiring everything.
4:00pm-4:30pm: Quick break for food.
4:30pm-5:00pm: Running exterior conduit to garage, punching holes in the wall etc.
5:00pm-5:45pm: Mounting Charging Unit, installing mechanical power shutoff box (code requires they install a manual disconnect box near the charging station) that you’ll see in the photo below, and running the inside conduit.
5:45pm-6:15pm: Power up of unit and final calls to Chargepoint America to validate that the unit is being recognized on their wireless network.
6:20pm – Plugged in Volt to Level 2 Charger for first time. Worked great!
You’ll notice my quick and dirty bicycle hook strategy for running the charge cable over the Volt to the Charge Port. I’ll be working on cleaning that up next week as I’m getting tired of getting near clotheslined by the charging cable every day. (It’s around Eye Level for me as I’m 6 foot 2 inches tall).
Hope you found the article informative and feel free to post your experiences here of in the forums – especially grants in other areas / states for EV Equipment!
Per the suggestion of one of the reader here, I purchased a retracto overhead cable reel / return system to try and keep all the excess charge cables from clotheslining me when I walked around the garage. I managed to successfully install it -though some modifications were neccesary.
The reel itself was originally designed to be a cable management system for Golf – Cart charging cords. As such, the actual cable clamps on the reel were much too small for the 240v charger. (It takes a cable roughly 3/8″ diameter vs. the nearly 7/8″ diameter 240 v charge cable) I was about to work through it by using the ever useful zip tie to make the final attachement to the cable. Because the 240v cable shroud is relatively heavy, the zip ties don’t really slip on the cable, which is great.
One challenge I did face though was that the spring tension on the reel was a little low for the weight of the cable, so you actually need to give it a little boost to retract the reel (not a big deal) and also you need to put the plug somewhere so it does not become weight that the reel needs to hold up. (I used the plug holder from the coulumb charger)
So after about an hour of tweaking here is the final product! It works great and my head is thanking me for it!