Top 7 Questions Answered About Electric Vehicles and Home Charging

Electric vehicles may seem like a new concept, but they’ve actually been around for over 100 years.

Back at the beginning of the 20th century, Cleveland’s Baker Motor Vehicle Company was making electric cars. In fact, they sold Thomas Edison his first car.

Various reasons have prevented electric vehicles from being embraced by the mainstream public, including prohibitive costs, unreliable technology, and a lack of will from governments and vehicle makers to fully support the concept.

That’s all changed now, of course. Electric vehicles are only gaining in popularity as their technology improves and costs come down.

With the increased consumer curiosity in this green tech comes many questions, particularly about what’s needed for charging an electric vehicle at home. Let’s answer a few of those questions.

electric vehicles

1. Why are electric vehicles becoming more popular?

Electric vehicle ownership has become an attractive proposition for drivers for a number of reasons, including:

  • electric vehicles lower your carbon footprint
  • they offer big savings on fuel costs
  • electric vehicle public charging station infrastructure is expanding
  • electric vehicles are becoming more affordable (Tesla’s recently introduced Model 3 starts at $35,000, which is far less than their previous models have sold for)
  • governments offer attractive incentives for buying

Naturally, this evolving technology (even after 100 years) isn’t without its growing pains. Electric cars do come with a higher price tag.

There’s also the concern of “range anxiety”. That refers to an electric car owner’s worry about whether or not they’ll be able to make it to a destination or charging station before running out of power.

That being said, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the vast majority of electric vehicle owners are very content about their decision to go green.

One recent survey found that 96% of electric vehicle buyers or leasers were happy with their cars. And last year Consumer Reports named Tesla #1 in their annual vehicle owner satisfaction survey.

2. What are the different types of electric vehicles?

It can initially be a little confusing understanding the difference between the various types of electric vehicles. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Battery electric vehicles (BEV) – this type of vehicle runs exclusively on a rechargeable battery and has no tailpipe emissions
  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) – gas and a battery combine to power the vehicle, with the battery being recharged by the car’s braking system (known as “regenerative braking”)
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) – a combination of gas and battery also runs the vehicle, with the battery recharging through both regenerative braking and plugging into an electrical charging outlet

The three top-selling BEVs in the U.S. last year were the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, and Nissan Leaf. The Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and Ford Fusion Energy also rank as popular electric car choices in North America.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are another entry in the enviro-friendly vehicle market, although they lag well behind electric cars in terms of popularity. Whereas 80,000 electric cars were sold in the U.S. last year, only 1,082 fuel cell cars were purchased by consumers.

3. What kind of mileage do electric vehicles get?

Mileage with electric vehicles varies widely, depending on the model. Generally, the minimum range on an electric car is approximately 130 km (80 miles). The maximum range the past few years has been around 370 km (230 miles).

Tesla’s Model 3 is looking to shake things up, however. In addition to making this high-end brand more affordable to the general public, Tesla is also promising ranges of up to 500 km (just over 300 miles).

Those mileage figures are significantly affected by a wide range of variables, though. Running your electric car’s air conditioner or heating system will, not surprisingly, drain your battery quicker.

4. Why can’t I rely on public charging stations for electric car charging?

While the number of remote electrical vehicle charging stations is increasing, the network of stations still needs improvement.

The uneven distribution of charging stations is a particular concern in rural areas. For electric car owners, knowing the locations of charging stations becomes a critical part of planning a long road trip.

Things are definitely improving, however. Over the next several years, the Canadian and American governments, automakers, and utility companies will expand the charging station infrastructure.

Tesla has plans to aggressively expand its global Supercharger station network to 10,000 this year. Part of VW’s “emission scandal” settlement is to build hundreds of charging stations in America.

The number of charging station outlets in the U.S. is at almost 50,000 now, a 300% increase in the past five years. Helpful charging station location apps like ChargeHub, PlugShare, and CAA (in Canada) can be used to to plan longer trips.

The Canadian government is also funding the installation of several dozen charging stations on a 3,000 km stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Ontario and Manitoba.

5. What do I need to know about home electric vehicle charging?

Clearly, you’ll want to enjoy the convenience and control that comes with charging your electrical vehicle at home. There are basically two types of home charging methods for electric vehicles:

  • Level 1 – a charging cable is attached from the vehicle to a 120 volt outlet (a standard household outlet)
  • Level 2 – a 240 volt Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE) unit is installed, allowing for much faster charging times

Owners of hybrid electric vehicles won’t need to worry about manually charging a battery. Their car’s regenerative braking and the gas engine will take care of that.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can use a Level 1 or Level 2 charging method. A Level 1 charge will take longer to fully recharge a battery (generally twice as long). Depending on the battery pack size, it can take anywhere from several hours to overnight.

Battery electric vehicles should use a Level 2 charging method. This also can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on various factors.

electric vehicles Tesla

Tesla Powerwall charging a Model S in a home garage.

6. Can I set up my home for electric car charging by myself?

Unless you’re an electrician, it’s not recommended. Even though Level 1 charging is done through a standard electrical outlet, your home’s master circuit breaker needs to be able to handle the extra electricity demands.

A Level 2 charging electrical setup will be similar to what an electric stove or clothes dryer would require. The EVSE should be hardwired to a junction box that’s properly wired to handle the continuous load of your charging station.

In actuality, the wall-mounted EVSE isn’t the charger. The charger is actually located inside the car, with the EVSE acting as a portal into the supply of electricity. EVSEs range anywhere from about $500-1,200.

A professional electrician should be used to make sure your home can safely handle the demands of electric car charging. The process varies depending on location, but permits and inspections will likely be needed for this type of electrical work.

7. What kind of incentives are available for buying electric vehicles and EVSEs?

Right now is a great time to take advantage of the numerous incentives governments in Canada and the U.S. are offering for buying an electric vehicle.

While the Canadian federal government hasn’t yet made electric car incentives available, the country’s three most populous provinces (Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec) have. Some of the generous provincial government incentives include:

  • Ontario – up to $14,000 off battery electric vehicles, up to $8,460 off plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and up to $1,000 off the purchase and installation of an EVSE
  • Quebec – a rebate of up to $8,000 off the purchase of an electric car and 50% off the cost for buying and installing a charging station up to a maximum of $600
  • British Columbia – a rebate of up to $5,000 off battery electric vehicles and up to $2,500 off a plug-in hybrid electric car

The U.S. federal government is offering a tax credit of up to $7,500 for the purchase of battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. On top of that, many states are also offering electric car and EVSE incentives.

Additional incentives may also be provided by your hydro provider. Some offer special rate plans to owners of electric cars.

Get your garage organized to make electric vehicle charging easier

The best place to set up your home charging station is in your garage, but you need to be able to get your electric vehicle in there first.

We have storage solutions like slatwall panels with hanging accessories, garage storage cabinets, and specialty storage racking that can help keep your space organized and available for parking and charging.

A more stable garage temperature can also be better for your electric vehicle’s battery, so an insulated garage door is worth considering, as well as insulating your garage walls and ceiling.

Book your free design consultation with the trusted garage professionals to get your space properly prepared for your new electric vehicle.

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