Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) or “Charging Stations”
Instead of going out of your way to fuel up at busy gas stations, Electric Vehicles can recharge at home, the office, and at shopping, dining, and destination locations where available. Tesla vehicles are equipped with mapping abilities that will automatically show you where you can stop for a charge, which is really convenient. If you don’t have a Tesla, there are apps that allow you to locate charging stations along your route, such as www.plugshare.com.
Most Electric Vehicles come with a Level 1 charging station (slow or ‘trickle’ charging station). However, for EV owners who want the convenience of charging at home in only a few hours there are many Level 2 charging stations on the market to choose from. It can seem like a daunting process to figure out which home charging station is right for you, your car, and your electric panel. As EV enthusiasts we want to help minimize the confusion and help others to make informed decisions when selecting a Level 2 EVSE.
What to Consider
Power Level (Amperage)
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations are built for a variety of different power levels. Finding the best fit for your vehicle will depend on its on-board charger and battery capabilities. The maximum charging speed is determined by your vehicle; you may want to aim for this Amperage when you purchase your station. However, many EV drivers are “future-proofing” and buying a higher powered station than they can use right now (perfectly safe to do), because they anticipate future EVs in their home. Typically a lower power supply will mean a lower price point; however, a higher amperage for faster charging times and future-proofing may be worth the extra cost.
We recommend a minimum of 16 Amps (3.3 kW) for plug-in hybrids and 30 Amps (7.2 kW) for full electric vehicles.
If you want to avoid upgrading your electric panel, you will want to see what power is available to use currently and buy a station that will use the existing circuits. If you don’t know how to determine your available power, consult with a local electrician prior to purchasing your EVSE. Otherwise, if you purchase a station that requires a more amperage than what you have available ,a pricey panel upgrade may be in your future.
If you know what power level you are interested in, you can read our reviews, sorted by Amperage.
Plug-in or Hardwired?
We recommend hardwiring your charging station whenever feasible. Hardwired stations require a professional electrician to install, but are more permanent, look cleaner (less visible wires) and the station can easily be installed outside with no concerns about inclement weather. However, if you anticipate needing to move your station, or you have an existing 240V receptacle to use, a plug option may be a better choice and many of the manufacturers produce plug options on their stations.
We only review and recommend charging stations that are independently safety-tested and certified by a National Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). This can be verified by an ETL or UL mark on the physical product. Brick and mortar stores won’t sell washing machines or even hair dryers without the NRTL safety certification….however, many “unlisted” charging stations are widely available and it’s ‘buyer beware.’ Why would you take such a risk when charging your vehicle?
To learn more about the importance of safety certification, we recommend reading a recent article in Charged EVs magazine, “Many of the best-selling EV charging stations on Amazon are not safety-tested and certified.”
One of the best selling charging station manufacturer’s, ClipperCreek, recently made a video about charging station safety certification. You can watch it here: EV Charging Station Safety Certification.
We recommend choosing a charging station with as much cable length as possible. There is quite a range – we’ve seen as little as 12′, which doesn’t give you much flexibility on where you can park relative to the station and still reach your car with some slack in the cable. The longest cable allowed by the National Electric Code (NEC) is 25′ and we suggest that length. Many of the stations have a cable wrap for easy storage of the cable you don’t need while in use.
Take time to measure the distance between where your charging station will be installed and the vehicle’s charge port when parked. Allow for some slack in the cable. See if it can reach a visitor’s vehicle as well.
Also consider that the closer you install your charging station to your electric panel, the less expensive the installation will probably be. Running additional conduit between the station and panel can be costly. It’s much more cost-effective to use a long cable to reach the vehicle.
The majority of charging stations can operate at temperatures varying between -22°F to 122°F (-30°C to 50°C). If you have the intention of installing a charging station outside, make sure it mentions that it is weather resistant in its description.The charging station enclosures are rated depending on how resistant they are to the elements. A NEMA 4 or higher will provide optimum protection from rain, snow, heat and dust. Most high-quality charging stations on the market are NEMA 4; watch out for the occasional NEMA 3 if you are installing outdoors; they are water resistant, but not waterproof.
Some Level 2 charging stations are designed specifically to be easily portable. These will be plug in charging stations, obviously, but they are also designed with a smaller profile and often come with a carrying case or integrated cable wrap and strap to keep it neat in your trunk.
Some charging stations allow you to program the charging start time. Most vehicles already can be programmed for charging times (beneficial if you live in an area with off-peak utility rates). In fact, to our knowledge, only two vehicles don’t do this (Volkswagen e-Golf and Mercedes B Class). In our opinion, unless you have one of these vehicles, the WiFi-connection is pointless, adds extra functionality that complicates what should be a simple appliance, and can be the cause of a car not charging if WiFi goes out.
This speaks for itself, but there is quite a difference in brand reputations when it comes to reliability, customer service and general happiness with their products. We’ve had a near impossible time getting answers from some companies in the months since we started using various stations to review. One notable company would be the well-revered ClipperCreek. Revered for obvious reasons, in our opinion. Every phone call was answered promptly by a knowledgeable person and they have a stellar reputation for producing high-quality products as well.