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EV Home Charging Station FAQs – Is Level 2 (240v charging) worth it?

Level 2 Charging Station Options

A lot of people have asked me whether installing level 2 charging is worth it for their Chevy Volt, (Or any electric car for that matter) .  The answer to that is a function of several things.  How you use the car, and how much it costs you to install the charging equipment.  This article will cover the basics, from what Level 2 charging really is, how much you should realistically expect it to cost to install, whether you’ll find it useful, etc.  If you’re looking to buy your first electric car (or plug in Hybrid) this will answer your basic questions about level 2 charging.

The Basics:  What is Level 2 Charging?

Simply put you have two ways of putting electricity into your car while you are at home.  The way to think about it is this.  Your regular appliances in your house run on 120 volt electricity.  A regular “house” socket.  Think vacuum cleaners, TV’s, toasters etc.  These plugs can only provide so much electricity (power) at once.  If you’ve ever tried to use too much, you’ll notice your house circuit breakers shut down the circuit for safety reasons.  Specifically, the maximum power that most of these circuits will allow is about 1300 watts or 1.3 Kilo-watts (1.3 thousand watts).  These types of plugs are what we broadly call “Level 1 Charging”.  For most electric cars, this means that you can put about 3-4 miles of range into the car per hour of charging.

The alternative is to plug into 240v power, which is the types of plugs that your large appliances use like your washer / dryer or dishwasher.  These kinds of plugs provide more electricity, up to 6,600 watts or 6.6 Kw.  (Roughly up to 5x more electricity).  To use this type of power however, requires that you install a special charging station.  These charging stations are an additional appliance that handles the extra juice and pipes it into your car.  Cars like the Chevy Volt and current Nissan Leaf however, can only accept charging up to 3,300 watts, or roughly 10 miles per hour of charging due to limitations on the car’s side.  (This may change in the future however)

Where do I buy the charging station and how much does it cost to install?

There are two key costs installing a Home Level 2 EV Charging station.

1.)    Buying the actual Home EV Charge Station

-The actual equipment itself costs between $450 and $1,000 at today’s prices.  You can buy these online through several retailers and they will ship to your doorstep.  Bosch Automotive (recently acquired SPX Service Solutions) now offers low-end charging stations at $450.  Most of the cost savings come by shortening the cables down to 12 feet if you don’t need the long ones and by reducing the maximum electrical capacity to those demanded by a car like the Volt.  (3,300 watts instead of the full 6,600 that other stations can handle)  Check out their Power Max Stations Here.

2.)  Hiring the Electrician to install it.

-Depending on how much “work” needs to be done to add the additional circuit and how expensive an electrician you hire, you should expect between $500 and $1,500 in labor.  To give you perspective, when I did it, it cost about $1,400 in labor, but that involved replacing my entire circuit panel and paying “full prevailing wages” which is at the high end of a non-competitive market.  You can read more about it at my level 2 installation article here.  Luckily, I had a lot of federal and state subsidies to help offset the costs, but many of those are no longer available.  Simple installations like just running an additional circuit may be a lot less.

That seems like a bunch of work, is there an easier way?

Bosch offers turnkey services to install your EV Charging station, you can check out their site here (Remember they bought SPX who used to do this).  It is more expensive than doing it yourself, but can be more convenient especially if you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the process of hiring an electrician.  When I did it, SPX definitely had some growing pains (problems with scheduling, service, etc.)  but that was almost 2 and half years ago and I am told things have gotten better.  I would mention that once you have your appointment scheduled however, that the electrician they sourced did a fantastic job.

Is all this expense really worth it?

It really depends on how much you drive your car and whether you have a plug in hybrid like the Ford C-Max / Fusion Energi or the Chevy Volt. vs. a full electric car.  For a full electric car, it is pretty much a requirement; otherwise you’ll never have enough electricity to get around (no gasoline backup!).  For a 20 mile plug in hybrid like the Fusion Energi, the total charge times and total battery capacity is only 5 hours.  For something like the Volt, fully charging the battery after a trip can take up to 12 hours!  If you commute everyday with the Volt, you’ll find that the 12 hour charge times really get to you as it’s hard to every “fully” catch up with your charging needs.

Also, with 12 hour charging, it can be a lot harder to make full use of “Time of Use Electricity Rates” Where you get the cheapest electricity between certain hours of the day.  Where I live it is between midnight and 7 AM.  The difference in electricity cost can be 3x!  However, you should think that the biggest savings will be the times when a level 2 charge could have saved you from burning gas.

The good news with most plugins is that you can start of just using your regular plug and see how it goes, then add up all the times you didn’t leave with a full battery and started to use gasoline.  While personally I hate burning gas and would pay extra to not have to do it, many buyers today are thinking about it from strictly a cost angle.  One way to look at it is that to save the $1,000 or so minimum you’d spend on installing the charge station, you would need to save about 250 gallons of gas at today’s gas prices.  Roughly speaking, that buys you 9,000 miles of driving in a Volt.  (250 x 35 mpg)  So if displaced about 20 miles of driving each day with the level 2 charge station it would make up for the cost in about 450 days of driving.  (Think 2 years).  This would mean you are driving a lot and quite frequently though.

27 Responses to “EV Home Charging Station FAQs – Is Level 2 (240v charging) worth it?”

  1. Chris C. says:

    Good overview, Patrick. Here’s what I tell people when they ask me about this.

    For charging, you can easily get by with just using the 120 Volt (“Level 1″) cord that came with the car, and I did exactly that for the first 9 months with my Volt. So you don’t need to get anything more than that. However, for faster charging (useful on weekends) you should consider installing a 240 Volt (“Level 2″) charger near where you park your car at home. It turns out that the faster charging is particularly useful on weekends. I’ll run a bunch of errands in the morning, then be home for a few hours, then go out in the evening. During those few hours, I can get a full charge again and thus avoid burning any gas for the day.

    Unfortunately, I personally recommend against the SPX chargers that GM endorses — in the early days we heard a lot of grief from people who had to deal with them (it may be better now). Instead, spend a little extra and get a Clipper Creek charger (like the compact LCS-25) from a local distributor (in the US Southeast that would be Metro Plugin — no kickback for me, but tell Greg I sent you!). They will also get you in touch with an electrician who will already be familiar with the installation process, which often includes pulling a city permit for the outdoor circuit.

    Again, though, you don’t need to get a Level 2 charger. If you don’t get one, I do recommend that you at least get an extra Level 1 charger, just like the one you got with the car. Keep one at your house (garage) and keep one in the car for show-and-tell or using when convenient. It’s good to have a backup unit, because if you only have one cord, and it stops working (which has happened to some of us), suddenly you may have no way to charge up! And once you get used to driving electric, it Really Sucks to drive the Volt in gas mode :)

  2. Glen says:

    I bought my Volt Oct 5, 2012, and we now have almost 18,000 miles on it
    I used the standard plug for a couple of months, and my wife and I decided that the charging was too slow, so I decided to buy the 240 v charger. I did some research, and since I do have some electrical experience, I figured that you don’t need to be an electrical engineer to design and install the wiring and SPX charger. I ordered it through the chevy dealer, who have me a small discount on the purchase, and went to Home Depot , bought a breaker, wire, conduit, and all necessary wiring supplies, and went to work.
    In a couple of hours it was up and running. Really a simple install. Three wires to connect and that was it. $1000 fee for electrician is not necessary. Just common sense.
    Has worked great , without any problems. An easy install!!

  3. LL Ninja says:

    Cutting the 8 to 12 hour charging time to 2 to 4 hours has been godsend. Also if you happen to live in IL, they give you a 50% state rebate on the price of the charger and installation (in addition to the Fed 30% tax credit) so for me it was a no-brainer.

  4. Bruce says:

    I have the SPX 50580 level 2 charger (round one shown above) the red and green light are flashing. Where do I find a manual for help diagnosing the problem?

  5. Bruce says:

    I have the SPX level 2 charger ( round unit shown above) The red and green lights are flashing. Where do I find a manual to diagnose the problem?

  6. Harry says:

    You spend 35,000 on the new chevy bolt and hope you get rebates to bring it down to 30,000. Now add 1500 for a home charging station. Forget going on long trips becasue the chances of finding a charging station glacier national park is zero! You are limited to driving around town. At the end of 8 years you find out your battery is toast so you’re looking at 30,000 for a new battery. Sounds like a black hole to me! Who wants to buy a used bolt with the chance of a 25-30000 part going out!

    • Texconsin says:

      Wow, Harry, you are WAY off base…let me count the ways. First, a Chevy BOLT is not yet available. Second, if you spend 35K, the price is down to 27.5K, not 30K, after the credit. Third, after just the federal 30% credit, I’m looking at about 6 or 7 hundred, MAX, for a Siemens Level 2. Third, my VOLT can drive as far as your gas guzzler. Fourth, you must be on drugs to say a new battery will cost 30K. In mid-2015, GM confirmed the cost to be about 3.5K. You can bet that the cost will be lower with economies of scale by the time I need one “on me” in 2024 or later. And there’s not a clock on the battery that counts down to 8 years. That’s just the warranty. You are really on the BOLT, but there are alternatives available TODAY. Enjoy the rising gas prices in your Ford F-150 with your fellow cavemen.

  7. Daren Goldin says:

    Harry,

    First of all, I think everyone here is talking about the volt, not the bolt that was just announced at the CES. Secondly, I’m the guy that bought a used electric car. I bought a used 2014 Volt, with around 26,000 miles on it for $15,000. It still has a full range of battery on it. From the moment I got it home and plugged it in (level 1 for now), I haven’t touched gas and so far have driven 100 miles over the last few days. This really is the perfect car for now, until the world catches up with the infrastructure to support full electric cars.

  8. Shawn says:

    Wow this is an old thread. However four issues beg to be addressed. First one is there are 2 modes to level 1 charging in a Volt, 8 or 12 amp- this takes the charge time down to 8 hours for full recharge. This is accessed through the charging menu under “level”. Second, as Daren pointed out Volts use gas after battery is depleted. Third, Free charging is starting to make an impressive showing at hotels, so if you are camping or staying at your personal cabin in Glacier National Park- by all means use a different mode of transport. Fourth and lastly, Volts battery packs never fully deplete or fully charge. Coupled with a temperature control system, no one has really seen degradation in packs yet. They are also not one giant “D” cell battery that is wholesale change out, rather a series of packs that can be individually replaced if trouble arises in one and at a much lower cost.

  9. Glenn says:

    The Volt can use a regular plug to charge so don’t need a fancy charge station when going out into nowhere land. Also the gas back up works great to keep you going for over 300 miles. Even without the initial battery charge I’ve been getting better mpg than a Prius! You can also run it in mountain mode to run the back up to recharge the primary battery charge when low. There are a lot of places that will let you plug in to charge. In fact there are several places to charge up at Glacier National Park as well.

    Here is the website that show’s all the EV plug sites: http://www.plugshare.com/#

  10. Nancy says:

    I have a 2016 chevy volt and would like to get a 240 volt charger. I was looking into getting a plugless charger, the kind you just park over, but I’m told that I need a 240 volt 30amp outlet and mine is only 20 amps. Do the plug in 240 volt chargers work well in a 20 amp outlet? Anyone have the plugless charger? Is it worth it?

    • Rick says:

      Negative, you will want a 40 amp circuit to run 240 volt charging station.
      You will need to pull a new wire and you might need to run a larger conduit.

      Plugless would depend on where you live. If you live in the salt belt up, I wouldn’t do it.
      But if you are in the south or only have random snow storms, i’d do the plugless in a heart beat if I had the scratch.

  11. steve dallas says:

    I have a 2013 Volt, getting ready for my 97,500 mile check up, I think its just the tire rotation again! This is the best car I have owned, I use it as a commuter, 98 miles per day, I am lucky to be able to charge at work and home, I am averaging over 200 miles per gallon, never worry about the battery running out, there is always gas. Have never used 240 charging and have no battery degradation, still getting a minimum of 40+ miles on a charge, depending on how I drive 55-60 MPH. Waiting for the Bolt, will use that for the commute, keep the Volt until its dust.

  12. Chris says:

    FYI, the EVSE that comes with the 2016+ (Gen2) Volt and now Bolt EV is capable of both L1 AND L2 charging with one of these upgrade adapters. Available for most 240VAC outlets, including some 3-phase 208VAC.

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/384390572/chevy-volt-chevy-bolt-ev-level-2-charge

    • Steve says:

      Was just going to ask about the adapter and noticed your post. Have you, or do you know anynoe who has, sused the adapter or looked at their specs? Would love to use one but am wary

      Steve

      • Carol says:

        I bought this adapter and it works great. We have a 2017 volt. If the battery is drained I can get a full charge in less than 6 hours. Well worth the money. I sent the guy a picture of my outlet to make sure I ordered the correct plug. It’s great quality and even has a release button making it easy to unplug cord from adapter. MONEY WELL SPENT

  13. Steve says:

    Just in case my reply to Chris’s 12/28/16 message doesn’t get sent to all of you, have any of you used the adapter described at https://www.etsy.com/listing/384390572/chevy-volt-chevy-bolt-ev-level-2-charge , know anyone who has, or reviewed their specs?

    Would love to use one, but am wary

    Steve

    • Dave says:

      I made an adapter like this myself in Sept 2017. It works great, used daily. The etsy version looks more professional than mine and should work well. The wiring is straightforward. Spec is good.

    • cathy says:

      Did you hear from anyone regarding this adapter? Did you get one? I’m ordering one so curious.thanks

  14. Bill says:

    Hi everybody,

    I just purchased a 17 volt and wondering about lvl 2 charging. I’m looking into one of the Bosch 240 volt 30 amp chargers. Any idea how long it takes to charge on a 240 volt 30 amp setup? Thanks for any advice!

  15. Valerie says:

    Hello
    I am thinking very seriously about buying a new 2nd gen 2017 volt and you have all encouraged me. I don’t have a garage or an exterior plug of any kind. Can I plug the car into an extension cord and then go into 120v inside the house?

    • PatrickZWang says:

      Valerie,

      I’ve done it in a pinch when visiting other houses. I would not recommend that as a long term solution though. Both the inconvenience and the safety over time with an extension cord in weather.

      You could get an exterior outlet wired up though or there are weather rated level 2 charging stations for outside use. There is a cost to install that of course but imho it’s the right way to do it.

  16. Zardeenah says:

    I’m installing a 220v outlet for level 2 charging at the front of my garage. If you could pick any style of plug, what would you choose?

  17. Daniela says:

    Hello, pardon my total ignorance, I have just started looking into the electric car issues and I have no idea how it works…
    To those who have charging stations at home, how do you pay for the charge? Is it just with an increase on your electric bill?
    And how much of an increase do you get with charging the car every night, compared to before you got the electric car?
    Or is it a separate bill that goes to the company that sells the charging station, like a gas station setup?

    About the gas usage… if we don’t install a charging station at home, is the gas engine enough to charge the batteries when it runs?
    And what kind of mileage does one get running the car on gas only?

    And lastly, how does it work with using a public charging place? I am thinking of a scenario where one is at work and needs to recharge the car to make it back home.
    Does one plug in at a station and leaves the car there for the whole time it takes to charge?
    Does one pay for the electricity? And how?
    And what happens if the car is finished charging and the charging station people need to plug in another car? Do they just unplug you and leave the car there?
    I am sorry if they are dumb questions, but as I said, I know nothing about this, and I have tons of questions…
    Thanks in advance.

    • Fred says:

      Daniela, to answer your questions,

      1) You pay for the charge on your electric bill, assuming you charge at home like I do. In my case it added about $15 per month to my electric bill when I was driving to work (24 miles round trip) every day. It depends on your electricity costs but here in Texas it was cheaper than using gasoline, about 50% cheaper. The charging station is just an electric appliance like a refrigerator, washer, etc. You own it and pay for the electricity on your electric bill.

      2) If you can’t charge it at home, yes you can just run the car on gas. While the gas engine is PLENTY powerful enough to charge the battery, it doesn’t actually do this except in certain cases (“mountain mode”). Instead, the gas engine powers an electric generator that makes electricity to run the electric drive motor. It is more efficient to do this then to first charge then discharge the battery. The Volt gets gas mileage of 42 MPG (2nd generation, the 1st generation like I have gets 40 MPG although I usually get better than this). But if you never plug the car in to charge the battery, that is not using the Volt to it’s fullest potential, although it will still work just fine and I have driven trips of 3,000 miles on just gasoline.

      3) As far as using public chargers, yes you leave the car at the charger until it is finished charging. It is best to then move it and let someone else use the charger. But since you can use gasoline in the Volt, I have very rarely used a public charger. Maybe if there was one at work I could plug into for free I would use it but normally I just charge overnight at home and that gets me through the day without using any gas. Paying for a public charger is usually done with a credit card. Some of them are free. The ones that are not free usually end up costing more than buying gasoline, so the only incentive to use a public charger is if it is free, in my opinion.

      Hope I helped with your questions, none of them were dumb! In my case, I charge at home with a “level 2″ charger (cost about $400) but the 120V charger that comes with the car will work fine but take longer. However, you can let it charge while you sleep so that may not be such a bad option, just like charging your phone.

  18. Mike says:

    It is worth buying a levrl 2 charger. I got mine from level2charge.com for a great price.

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