Q: Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are still outliers on the road, but their popularity is growing fast, with about 600,000 sales in the United States in 2021. If you’re thinking of going electric, you might be wondering: How do you charge it at home? We spoke with experts to find out how to make your garage ready for your new ride.
A: Don’t wait until after you buy an electric car to figure out where you’re going to charge it.
“The people who stopped owning electric cars are the people who didn’t have a reliable place to charge,” said Gil Tal, director of the Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis.
So make a charging plan. Have an electrician check your outlets, electrical panel and garage so you know what upgrades, if any, are needed. When you’re not at home, find nearby direct-current fast charging stations (apps like PlugShare can help), which can recharge a battery in 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the vehicle.
You can charge a vehicle in your garage or outside, regardless of weather. But if you opt for outdoor charging, use weatherproof equipment. If you have a standard, 120-volt outlet in your garage or on the side of your house, you can simply plug your vehicle into it. That’s called Level 1 charging, and it recharges your battery at a rate of about four to six driving miles per hour, according to J.D. Power.
“There are people who do live with Level 1 charging just fine,” said Tom Moloughney, a senior editor at InsideEVs and the host of the “State of Charge” YouTube channel.
For a faster fill-up, you’ll need a Level 2 charger, which can deliver 12 to 54 miles per hour of charge, according to J.D. Power, depending on the charger and vehicle. Buying a Level 2 charger can cost anywhere from $200 to over $1,000, depending on quality, speed and features. You’ll also need a 240-volt outlet, the kind you use for an electric dryer or stove. If you already have one in your garage, you can share it with a Smart Splitter, a device that stops your car from charging while you run another machine.
Installing a 240-volt outlet can become expensive. It’s not a do-it-yourself project, so call a licensed electrician. If your electrical panel has plenty of space and is in or near the garage, expect to spend a few hundred dollars. If you live in an old house with a small panel, you might need to upgrade to a 400-amp panel, which could cost as much as $4,000, according to HomeAdvisor. If the panel is in your basement, far from your garage, an electrician may need to run cable through your home, adding to the expense.
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