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EDITOR’S NOTE: Sunday, October 16, is National Plug In Day. Read on to find out how to charge up an electric vehicle and how to install your own EV charging station.
Exciting, economical, and emission free: That’s the new world of electric vehicles!
Depending on where you live, you probably are seeing more electric cars on the roads, including the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Roadster, and the Chevy Volt. Other models, such as the Ford Focus, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and Mitsubishi “i” are coming soon.
Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association have teamed up to organize National Plug In Day to raise awareness about the numerous benefits of electric vehicles (EV) this Sunday, October 16.
Since electricity is produced domestically, EVs have the potential to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. “Who doesn’t want energy independence, cleaner air, less maintenance, and lower operating costs?” asks Chad Schwitters, vice president of Plug In America.
Even with all of the benefits, Schwitters acknowledges that most people have a lot of questions about electric vehicles. Here are the answers to the two most important questions:
How do you charge up an EV?
Various approaches exist, depending on the type of EV purchased and your charging needs, such as the distance you want to drive per day and how quickly you want to recharge the car. The charging rate depends on the make and model of the car and size of the battery pack.
Beyond the home, two main options exist:
Public charging infrastructure. When EV owners are driving and need a charge, they can use freestanding charging stations installed in parking lots and near retail and grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, theaters, universities, city halls, and civic centers—and even a few forward-thinking gas stations. The EV Project is expected to install more than 14,000 Level 2 chargers in major markets by the end of 2011, with charging infrastructure planned across the nation by the end of 2013.
On the go. EV drivers can purchase a portable charging unit, which looks like a thick extension cord with a small electronics box and a set of pigtails for various 110-volt and 240-volt outlets. In some cases, car manufacturers supply this portable unit with the purchase of an electric vehicle.
For charging at home, some EV owners can get by using a standard, three-prong 110-volt household outlet, known as Level 1 charging, but it may take up to 20 hours to fully recharge a car. Most people will opt for a Level 2 charger, a 240-volt charger that averages six hours to recharge a vehicle. A Level 2 charger is typically a permanent installation with a special circuit and a higher-powered outlet made specifically for electric vehicles.
What is the process to install a home charging station?
Here are six main steps that homeowners can take to get an EV charging station installed:
Additional options for EVSE installation
Solar power: Some homeowners are taking the extra environmental step and installing solar in tandem with EV charging stations. SolarCity, a leading, full-service solar provider with headquarters in San Mateo, California, has installed more than 2,500 EV charging stations to date, primarily in California and along the Eastern seaboard as well as the cities of Portland and Denver.
“Many of our existing solar customers want to own an electric vehicle,” says Ben Tarbell, SolarCity vice president of products. “Others understand their electricity bills will go up from owning an electric car and want the convenience and cost savings possible from installing leased photovoltaic (PV) panels and EVSE at the same time,” Tarbell says. He adds that the solar and EVSE installations can be done separately.
(Note: According to SolarCity, installed solar systems and EVSE are grid connected, so the solar panels are not directly charging the electric cars. Instead, each system ties into a homeowner’s main service panel through a breaker that is connected to the grid. PV systems are connected through an inverter that converts the DC electricity to AC to be used in a wall socket. An EVSE takes in AC electricity, and the car converts it to charge the battery.)
Do it yourself: Installing a charging station as a DIY project is an option for people who have significant electrical skills and want to purchase the components separately. Jeff U’Ren, who lives in California, did this after leasing his Chevy Volt in early 2011. (He describes the Volt as a plug-in battery electric vehicle with a secondary gas generator to sustain electrical power.)
“My dealer gave me the contact information, and I ordered a SPX Voltec 220-volt Level 2 charger,” U’Ren says. He followed the proper safety practices and installed the charger in his garage according to the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association and city electrical codes. Remember that most municipalities require permits to install an EVSE in homes or businesses.
Debbie Van Der Hyde is an experienced freelance writer with a strong interest in sustainability, clean energy and the green economy.
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