Ev charging stations

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reikiman's picture

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations and Wiring (EVSE's, both portable and for home)

Electric vehicles are refueled from electricity, meaning those of us with decades of gasoline experience must learn a new way of refueling. Fortunately it's easy, but there are some questions you must learn the answers to. Where do you find electric car charging stations? How far can you go on a charge? How (or why) does it take so long to recharge an electric car? Can I charge the electric car more quickly? Where can I go with my electric car? How do I get an electric car charging station installed at home? What kind of charging station can I carry with me?

Electric vehicles go only as far as the battery pack allows, just as a gasoline car only goes as far as the gas tank allows. Run out of gasoline and you're stuck at the side of the road, right? The difference is that for gasoline it's usually possible to take the gas can out of the trunk, walk a few blocks, find a gas station, fill the gas can, return to your car, and get enough fuel to get you to a gas station. That's not possible with an electric car. But, it's common for an electric car driver to quickly learn where their car can go, what they can do with the car, and so forth. (read more on how driving range is estimated and how to decode the EPA ratings label)

Typically an EV owner recharges their car at home either plugging into a regular household outlet, or by installing a charging station that has a high power connection to the house electrical system. That limits you to traveling within a short distance from home, because you'll always have to return there to recharge the battery pack. Your driving area is easily extended with public charging stations or even random power outlets. With some cars it's possible, with fast charging, to travel long distance at a reasonable speed, because fast charging stations rapidly refill the battery pack. (read more on learning range confidence, rather than being trapped by range anxiety)

This gives three charging scenarios to implement in order to have the freedom to drive (almost) where-ever you want with an electric vehicle

  • Home charging - either from regular household outlet, or from high power outlet
  • Public charging - either at medium-speed (level 2) or high speed (DC fast charge)
  • Portable high power charger - plugging into any power outlet you find

Let's quickly take care of the last two first, then spend the bulk of this page on home charging.

Public charging - The first thing you need to know is charging station locations in your region. Thankfully there are many smart phone apps with that information. The second thing is membership in the necessary charging station networks. I've put together a list of charging station networks and smart phone apps for electric vehicle owners.

At a public level 2 charging station you'll gain about 25 miles of range per hour of charging. At a fast charging station you'll instead gain about 150 miles to 300 miles of range per hour of charging, depending on the charging technology being used.

Portable high power charging - The car makers supply a portable charging unit with the car designed for a 120 volt 12 amp charging rate. That works out to about 4 hours of range gained per hour of charging, which is pretty slow. While that charging speed works at home fairly well, you don't want to use that while traveling. A portable charging station is meant to help you recharge if you cannot find a regular charging station. What's needed is a portable charging station that runs at the same speed as non-portable charging stations - or 6 kiloWatts of power (or more). These do exist, and when fitted with a NEMA 14-50 plug, along with a set of power adapters, you can be gaining 20-25 miles of range per hour of charging. See: Full guide for using extension cords to charge electric cars, electric motorcycles, electric bicycles

What we have now to discuss is charging at home. The considerations to ponder are

  • How fast to charge at home
  • If you live in apartment or condo - will the landlord/HOA allow you to charge at home
  • The process to legally install charging at home

How fast to charge your car at home? Level 1 or Level 2

Level 1 charging is the common household outlet, 120 volts 12 amps or so. It supplies about 4 hours of range per hour of charging, and overnight it will provide quite a bit of range. Level 2 charging is higher power, 240 volts at 16 or 32 amps (or more), and provides 12 miles range, or 20-25 miles range, per hour of charging depending on the power level. Some electric cars allow even higher powered charging.

Typically with level 2 charging a full recharge takes 3-4 hours.

Many people live fine on level 1 charging - their office might be a short distance, for example, or might allow charging at the office.

It's trivial to get set up with level 1 charging. Just drag an extension cord out the garage door - making sure it's a high power extension cord, and it's plugged into a good quality reliable power outlet. Every electric car is sold with a 120 volt charger which will work on normal power outlets. You just have to make sure the outlet you're using is reliable enough.

Read more on electric car charging rates, and what charging speed is needed at home or at work or elsewhere.

Apartment/Condo dwellers and electric car ownership

Whether apartment/condo dwellers can charge at home is tricky. Typically the parking spot is far from the apartment, making it impossible to drag an extension cord to the car. Doing so might create a tripping hazard, for example, and the landlord would rightfully get upset. Or you might see a power outlet in the parking area, but then you'd be "stealing" electricity from the landlord who might rightfully get upset.

It's possible to talk with these people and discuss the situation. Make sure to express the fact that electric car sales are increasing rapidly and they'll sooner or later begin to see more and more tenants asking for charging at home. But expect the landlord to be resistant to allowing you to charge at home.

If you do it guerrilla style - run the extension cord so it doesn't create a tripping hazard - use a heavy duty extension cord - ensure it has GFCI protection - don't just plug into the landlord's power outlet without permission. All those steps will show seriousity and sensibility, and if the landlord does discover your guerrilla charging setup they'll appreciate that you took measures to do so safely.

Installing electric car charging at home

Suppose you own your house or otherwise have permission to install a charging station, what do you do?

If it's someone else's property (you have permission) make sure to do it within the parameters they laid out.

The simplest and most ideal is to have a 240 volt 50 amp power outlet installed, perhaps with a weather proof cover. To match the power outlet, get a 240 volt 6 kiloWatt charging station, with a matching 240 volt plug. Get creative and figure out how to mount the charging station so you can easily unplug it and carry it along - say if you'll be taking a longer trip.

It's probably necessary to get a permit with the city, hire a licensed electrician, and have it inspected by the city, before you can plug in the charging station. Check with the city the process for this because some locale's make it unnecessarily complicated. The purpose of going with the 240 volt 50 amp power outlet is simplifying the process. It's almost certainly trivial to get one of those outlets installed. Electric car charging stations are out-of-the-ordinary and therefore the city inspectors might be leery.

Again, if you do the 240 volt 50 amp outlet - just get a 6 kiloWatt charging station, attach a matching plug, attach it to the wall, and you're done.

See Full guide for using extension cords to charge electric cars, electric motorcycles, electric bicycles for more information. That page lists a number of charging stations that can be plugged in at home, or are small enough to carry with you on travels. Many of the portablizable charging stations can run at the 6+ kiloWatt charging rate, meaning charging while on the road can be as fast as charging at home.

In some cases the requirements will be laid down that the charging station must be hardwired to the house wiring. You should try to avoid doing this, because having it connected to a power outlet allows you to unplug the charging station and take it on trips.

reikiman's picture

Electric vehicle charging standards

The following comes from a presentation at PlugIn 2010 - "The Near Future of Charging Panel AC vs. DC, slow vs. fast – the outlook for charging technologies". The presenters were all members of the SAE committees defining EV (automobile) charging standards.

SAE standards have defined six models of electric vehicle charging. Many have been thinking "Level 1" is regular US household outlets, "Level 2" is the EVSE equipment being deployed for cars, and that "Level 3" is the DC Fast Charge system. The panel presentation was meant to get us straight on what the SAE committee's have been discussing to organize the charging system.


AC Charging DC Charging
AC Level 1 120 V AC Single phase; max 16 amps; max 1.9 kw DC Level 1 200-450 V DC; Current <= 80 amps; power <= 19.2 kw
AC Level 2 240 V AC Single phase; max 80 amps; max 19.2 kw DC Level 2 200-450 V DC; max 200 amps; max 90 kw
AC Level 3 Not defined yet but they might do so, might cover AC three phase DC Level 3 TBD, may cover 200-600 V DC; may cover up to 400 amps; may cover up to 240 kw

Essentially "Level 3" doesn't exist yet and the charging standard everybody has been thinking of as "Level 3" is really either "DC Level 1" or "DC Level 2".

There are unfortunately several kinds of connectors being used:


The AC Level 1 connector we all use in our homes isn't shown. The top connector is the J1772 connector that all the automakers have agreed on. The bottom one is a proposal for DC Level 2 which combines the J1772 connector with a couple extra pins for DC charging.

The connectors defined for Europe are different from the ones defined in the US and Japan. The signals are all the same on the connectors, just the connector shapes are different. Also Japan has defined a DC Fast Charge system, CHAdeMO, which is popular in Japan but the SAE committee is apparently reluctant to adopt.


IEC 62192-2 Type 1 is approximately the same as the J1772 connector. However IEC 62192-2 Type 2 is not.

The pinouts of some connectors under discussion are as follows.


reikiman's picture

A preview of a future parking controversy - are hybrid cars allowed to use electric car parking?

6cfa3aa2.jpgHere in California there are electric vehicle charging stations in some parking lots or garages. Primarily these were installed in the period 10+ years ago when the EV Mandate was still strong. Obviously EV success is more assured when there is recharging infrastructure. Part of the success of gas cars is the existing gasoline recharging infrastructure that lets gas car owners to conveniently drive anywhere. It's so ubiquitous and ingrained in everybody's thinking that they don't even consider the inconvenience it is to stop at a gas station or the times they run out of gas before finding a gas station or the network of businesses that exist to assist recharging gas cars who inconveniently ran out of gas before their operator found a gasoline recharging station.

In any case later this year there will be several electric vehicles come onto the market. Occurring in parallel with these vehicles are projects to build new EV recharging infrastructure. A US Dept of Energy program is building EV charging networks in 13 cities around the US. Nissan specifically chose cities for their initial rollout based on willingness to build EV charging infrastructure. etc. It's widely understood there is a chicken-and-egg situation where prospective EV owners are less likely to buy if there's no charging infrastructure, and prospective owners of charging infrastructure are less likely to build if there are no electric vehicles.

The experience from the EV Mandate era is something from which we can learn lessons, and the need for infrastructure is one of those lessons. One of the lessons is what EV owners have called being ICE'd out. "ICE" means "Internal Combustion Engine" and the ICE'd Out is what happens when an ICE car uses the parking reserved for EV's. The EV parking spots were usually installed at "the front", most places put them near the front of the store perhaps next to the handicap parking. The enforcement of EV parking rules has been spotty especially considering that very few electric vehicles exist and the EV parking usually goes unused. It seems that, often, the EV parking spots have gas cars parked in them. The ICE car in EV parking prevents an EV car from using that parking spot.

Would gas car owners appreciate it if a contingent of EV owners parked their cars to block all access to gasoline stations? No. But that's the effect of an EV owner being ICE'd Out. An ICE'd Out EV owner is being prevented from recharging their car just as if a gas car owner would be if their gasoline stations were blocked.

fdb38010.jpgI've been experiencing a strange form this at my workplace. At the office there are EV charging spots in the parking garage that were installed 10+ years ago. What's shown in these pictures is the EV parking, and a hybrid car that blatantly is parked in the EV charging. What appears to have happened is over 10 years of disuse some especially blatant hybrid car owners have decided that their hybrid car qualifies them to use EV parking. While I appreciate that hybrid car owners have taken some step to decrease their environmental impact, they just don't get it. Maybe they're under a delusion that EV parking is a perk rather than a necessity. EV charging in parking lots is almost as much a necessity as handicapped access is in parking lots. Electric car owners have to recharge their cars and, unlike gasoline recharging infrastructure, electric recharging infrastructure is in parking lots. Hybrid car owners cannot use the electric recharging facilities, unless they are plug-in hybrids.

This is easily predictable.. As electric cars start being sold later this year, and as EV charging networks are improved or built, there will be some confusion over who can park in them. It will be like the competition over handicapped parking where some uncaring nonhandicapped people use the spots reserved for the handicapped. There will be signs clearly marking EV parking, just as there are signs clearly marking handicapped parking. But some simply won't care, or won't understand, etc. A lot will depend on how many EV's are bought and how well used the EV parking is. Maybe. For example it's kinda sorta understandable if you squint your eyes right that unused EV or handicap parking rubs people the wrong way ("the best parking spots are never used.. WTF").


Electric Vehicle infrastructure issues demonstrated by Shocking Barack ride

Infrastructure considerations for gasoline, ethanol, biodiesel, electricity, hydrogen, and...

Planning for the coming wave of electric vehicles

Guide of available charging stations

I found this link on Google, and it's pretty much a complete list of charging stations available throughout
different states. You can either do a search by a color coded map or you can find charging stations lists by cities.
I am not sure how up-to-date this search engine is.


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