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Chevrolet Volt Level 2 Charging Equipment 240v Installation, Costs, Rebates, and Incentives (updated)

-Jump to Update from 1/5/2011

 Original Post from 12/26/2010

Patrick's Chevy Volt Plugged into Coulumb 240v Charger

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. 

Coulumb Charging Unit Unbox

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.

Old Circuit Breaker Panel Before EVSE Install

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.

Circuit Breaker Panel Removal

2:00pm – 4:00pm:  Installing the new circuit breaker panel, and rewiring everything.

New Circuit Breaker Panel being wired for EV Charging

4:00pm-4:30pm:  Quick break for food.

4:30pm-5:00pm:  Running exterior conduit to garage, punching holes in the wall etc.

Conduit into Garage with EVSE

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.

Coulumb 240v EV Charging Unit Mounted and Ready

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).

Volt Getting Ready to be plugged in with 240 v Chevrolet Volt Plugged into 240v Coulumb EV Charger

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!


Updated from 1/5/2011

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.

img_1627

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!

42 Responses to “Chevrolet Volt Level 2 Charging Equipment 240v Installation, Costs, Rebates, and Incentives (updated)”

  1. Jeff Taylor says:

    I just found your blog through the facebook volt site. Congratulations on getting your volt. Someday I will own one.

    One comment on your power site and location. Whiule I do not know your garage location and street access, rather than looping the powere cord over the car, why don’t you just start backing in. Then you can litterally “Unplug and go.” Just a thought.

  2. PatrickZWang says:

    Ah – the thought had crossed my mind, but yes my driveway is very inconvenient to back into and drive forward out of. It’s actually at the end of a very long driveway past the front house (I am renting an inlaw unit) with a sharp turn.

    So for now, the overhead wiring is the easiest option :)

    • Bob says:

      Now, you do have to back out the same narrow driveway when you leave? Or do you leave by another route?

      • PatrickZWang says:

        Have to back out the same way i came in.

        I’ve gotten pretty good at now :)

        The backup camera helps a lot!

        Patrick

  3. Fred says:

    Thanks for the writeup, it’s very informative. I have a question about the PG&E rates — you changed to the E9 rate plan, correct? I called PG&E to switch over but they said it will take up to 2 months to take effect, which seems way too long considering they don’t have to install any new equipment (I already have a SmartMeter). Did you experience a similar long delay to get your rate plan changed?

    • Marc says:

      They told me the same thing, but also stated that when it did take effect the rate would be retroactive to the day I requested the change.

  4. Fluke says:

    You may want to look into using one of these charge cord retractors from Gremco – I’ve been thinking I’ll have to use one in my situation:
    http://retracto.com/_wsn/page5.html

  5. PatrickZWang says:

    Hey Fred,

    Nope it was instant I just said I have a Volt and they should be able to make the rate change. Try calling again, maybe the rep was just unfamiliar? Maybe escalate to a supervisor if you keep having issues.

    Patrick

  6. Mr. Wang,

    Congratulations on your install and being a proud owner of the new Chevy Volt. We appreciate the pictures and all of the feed back in which you are supplying. Thank you for being a valued customer to Emard’s Electrical Service Technicians. P.S. Our electrician Steven Willis said you captured his bad side.

    Best Regards,

    Robert English
    President
    Emard’s Electrical Service Technicians

  7. PatrickZWang says:

    Thanks Robert!

    Steven did a great job with the install and have been happily charging recently.

    Hope your future charger installations go well :)

    Patrick

  8. Guy says:

    Hey Patrick, CONGRATULATIONS from another WIRED/Volt competition winner! :) Becky and I are very envious! It will be a few years before the Volt is available here in Maine…

    Guy

    • LARRY SALAT says:

      I HAVE A VOLT AND I AND MY ELECTRICIAN FOUND YOUR INFORMATION HELPFUL,HOWEVER I AM GOING TO HAVE TO BE SATISFIED WITH THE LESS EXPENSIVE CHARGER AS WE DO NOT HAVE ANY REBATES IN FLORIDA .HARD TO EXPLAIN WHY OUR MUNICIPALITY AND ELECTRIC COMPANY ARE NOT INTERESTED.

  9. bitguru says:

    Was it easy to remove the plug holder from the Coulumb charger?

    My Coulomb unit is mounted lower on the wall than yours, and it’s
    kind of a pain to bend down to insert it in there. I was thinking of
    removing the plug holder thing from the unit and mounting it higher.

    • PatrickZWang says:

      Hey BitGuru,

      The charging holster is a separate piece of cast aluminum. You should be able to unscrew it from the wall studs pretty easily and remount anywhere you want (probably need studs and not just drywall though. You’ll notice that my holster is actually on the ceiling.

      Patrick

  10. Matt says:

    Recently purchased a volt. Currently using a standard 120 volt 15 amp GFCI plug, takes about 7 – 8 yrs to fully charge. I was wondering if I just got 240 line and outlet install in the garage, like one installed for my dryer, wouldn’t that be all I need? What am I missing here? The volt comes with a charging station cord with a 110 standard plug. Do I need a new 240 charging unit from GM or is there a adaptor I could put on the standard plug to convert to a 240 plug?

  11. PatrickZWang says:

    Hey Matt,

    The charger supplied with your Volt is only rated up to 1600 watts, which means don’t try to use it with your dryer plug.

    Most of the level 2 chargers out there need their own 40 amp breaker and need to be hard wired with a quick disconnect for electrical code, but we are starting to see some equipment that just plugs into your standard 30 or 50 amp dryer plug.

    If you don’t want to go the hard installed unit route, you might try the following resource.

    http://evseupgrade.com/

    They sell conversions, plug adapters etc, mostly for Leaf, but it also has a good summary of the level 2 charging options outside the hard mounts.

    Patrick

  12. charlie says:

    PatrickZWang:

    I am thinking about buying a retract system. Understand you made it work. How is it holding up. Would you do something different now?

    Thanks,

    Charlie

    • PatrickZWang says:

      Hey Chris,

      It works fantastically. I plug in the car pretty much by habit now and it takes all of 5-10 seconds each time! I would highly recommend if you can rigt up a similiar setup, it saves a ton of time compared to rolling up the cables.

      Patrick

  13. Tom C says:

    Get the Voltec for $500 and use a local tech at $80 an hour to install. Takes 3 hours to run 240v and total cost to install at $250. All these posts higher than $250 for install are either people being ripped off OR they have extraordinarily difficult install issues.
    Tom

    • Philippe B says:

      Hi,

      I agree 100%! Juste received a quote from SPX: 1200 $ just for the installation of the circuit (SPX says I must a new circuit) however I do have a 240V / 30A circuit which would we OK for the Voltec charger. Only one single technician certified by SPX in Quebec.

  14. Barclay Henderson says:

    Very interesting. I am still on 120 volts and it meets my needs. Other than a faster recharge, are there any advantages to 240v? Other than time, do you get any return on your installation investment?
    Like you guys, I am very pleased with every aspect of my new car.

  15. Mike says:

    Try backing your car into the garage. Install a small block on the floor that the rear tire will nudge up against if you need to. That way it saves having to string the power cord over the car.

    It’s also safer when you leave as you are pulling straight out of the garage instead of backing.

    Just a thought.

  16. Bill Santoro says:

    Can we use on the charger supplied for the 110 a short cord with a 110 female and a 220 male to plug into a 220 20amp dedicated circuit?

    • PatrickZWang says:

      Hey Bill,

      I wouldn’t do it stock, but some companies are working on a retrofit. (Need to change out the internal electronics) try http://www.evseupgrade.com Last I checked they only do Leaf charger upgrades though.

      Patrick

      • trb says:

        Even though DTE advertises they will install a free 240V charger at your residence they will not install one at my house (due to minor technicality). Does anyone know if the Government is offering rebates/incentives for 240V chargers?

  17. Jon says:

    I just got a qoute from SPX and they wanted to charge me $1700.00 when I already have 240 in my garage and that was to move it ten feet. THey are a huge rip off plus they can’t keep anything straight. I had to call them many times over as the first quote I received they wanted to put in another 40 amp plus run 32 feet of wire. It is all there! I was also told they never look at the survey and I spent tones of time getting pictures and all the imformation for them. I would look into other systems I am looking at the Leaf charger less hastle better customer service. Or I will go with my own electrcian and forgo the warrenty that SPX gives. I love my car but not the hassels that SPX gives you. I will tell anyone that asks stay away from SPX they just want to rip people off. My own electrician is only going to charge me $175.00 to move things around.

  18. Neil says:

    Feels like I am really getting screwed by SPX. I do not need an upgrade to my panel and have a crawl space to run 70ft of wiring through. Only challenge is to punch through a cinder block wall and run some conduit. GRAND TOTAL for INSTALL – $2600. They know I am getting the $1200 rebate and a free charger so they are killing it on the quote. Anyone know if I can get the Coulomb charger for my new Volt and use a regular electrician? By the way – Love the Volt.

    • Cyndie says:

      According to the electrician that SPX referred us to, you can get your own electrician. SPX has to use union electricians that’s why they are more expensive. We plan to use our own. Is the $1200 rebate you are referring to from SPX or the Calif. rebate? I think we only get $600 rebate from SPX.

  19. Nghia says:

    I just got my charging station installed by going with SPX (VOLT). What a rip off. They jack up the installation prices to negate any incentives you may have gotten. For example they charged $1000 for the installation. The installation only took 1 hr. That’s $1000/hr and another $200 for obtaining permits. I reluctantly went with them just to get the free charging station. They would not allow me to use my own electrician. Local electrician charges only $150 / hr. Can we do anything about this? It doesn’t seem right. I tried to backing out of the install and they threat to charge me anyways since I signed the contract before realizing what they are doing.

  20. Gershon says:

    Can I have my electrician install a 240 outlet in my garage, and buy an adapter, or do I need to buy a new expensive unit?

    • PatrickZWang says:

      Hey Gershon,

      The current electrical code for the Level 2 Charging stations make them so that they need to be hard wired into your 240volt circuit. You can buy a Voltec Level 2 charging unit from GM $500, and have your electrician wire to that instead of a socket.

      There are also some state level subsidies still rolling around I believe, but I have not looked at them recently.

      Patrick

  21. Alfredo says:

    I bought my Chevy Volt in early April. Was contacted by SPX about the 240 volt charger program. Was told the unit would be free with the rebate program. After I gave them all my detailed info it took about a month to get a technician to come out to give me a quote on the install. Since I am an electrician and offered to provide all the connections and wiring to the spot where the charger would be installed he said it would still cost $400 because of all the paperwork he needed to generate. I went with it anyway being that the charger would be free. 2 weeks later SPX called to inform me the rebate program had expired and I would have to pay for the charger. Of course I cancelled it. They are a total ripoff. I believe they figured they couldn’t make any $$ off me so they backed out. Any others with this experience? My Volt is awesome.

  22. Mike Bibbey says:

    Just got my SPX estimate – over $5,000. My local electrician estimated $1,500.

  23. Kristina says:

    Any one have thoughts on whether to purchase the GE Wattstation or the Voltec? The former is nearly double the price of the latter but SPX couldn’t explain to me any difference between the two products. Thanks. Northern California new 2013 Volt Owner.

    • William says:

      My experience with the two chargers you mention are this: The Voltec is 490.00 to Volt owners, close to 800.00 otc purchase. The GE unit can charge at 30amps while the voltec only 15. The Chevy Volt will only charge at 15amps so the GE is more than your Volt will need. I don’t know if the voltec is compatible with other EV vehicles, but im a 2013 new owner and going thru the install process of the charger too. :) Hope you enjoy your Volt as much as I enjoy mine

  24. Dave C. says:

    Has anyone bought a 220 volt charging station from Home Depot? I just bought a Volt and want to install the charging station myself, at least up to the breaker box. Which model is the best (although it looks like they only have one model available right now).

  25. Dennis Kilian says:

    Has anyone here subscribed to ChargePoint? If so, do you use it often? And do you find it to be convenient?

    Is there anything in the way of “features” that would make you more likely to use a ChargePoint type of service?

  26. g eberhart says:

    I have done electrical work all of my life, and am quite good at it. I installed my own SPX Voltex charger in an afternoon, from circuit breaker box, to conduit, to the charger. Total cost was $495 for the charger unit from Chevrolet, A 240V breaker for the circuit, Wire, conduit, running after things that I had forgotten, and the total for everything was right at $750. If I had a friend that could get builders discount , it would have been quite a bit cheaper.

    Do it yourself and get it much cheaper, very simple to do. My job is probably better than a contractor would have done. Sure is nice to have the Volt charged in about 3.5-4 hours.

    My wife and I love the Volt, and so far have saved over $800 in gas in 3.5 months. She drives a lot, and is on the gas engine about 55% of the time. We average right at 63 MPG. just turned over 8000 miles this week.

    I also bought an inline KW meter that I need to install when it gets warmer.

  27. Glen says:

    Mike,
    I bought one off of eBay for a little over $50. A lot of them are out there. It is just a secondary unit 240v with a base unit. Total about $65
    Just wire it in the line feed to the charger. I used plastic conduit also to seal it up good

  28. Glen says:

    By the way, my wife recently retired and now I am getting great mileage. She retired the end of may and this month I have driven 550 miles and since I filled the tank I have driven 550 miles and my wife used 2.0 gal of gas going shopping about 40 miles away a couple of times but I am getting over 275 MPG. Fantastic!!!

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