If you have done even the tiniest bit of research on plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle ownership, then you no doubt understand that decisions regarding a home charging station must be a part of the new vehicle decision-making and purchase process.
Charging stations come in three types, identified quite conveniently as Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations. Not surprisingly, the higher the level, the faster you will be able to charge your vehicle. Level 1 and 2 chargers are by far the most common stations installed for residential use. You might also see Level 2 charging stations at your workplace, shopping centers or restaurants. Level 3 chargers are generally used only for commercial installation and offer extremely fast charging.
The charging process itself is fairly straightforward if you understand the basics of electricity. Charging can either be via a direct connection cord from the vehicle's input for the battery to a standard 110 volt wall outlet or it could be a completely separate unit which monitors battery voltage, current flow and overall temperature of your vehicle's battery. This sort of feedback can be helpful in expanding the battery's life while also minimizing overall charge time. The direct connection is an example of conduction being used to transfer the energy whereas the charging station is an example of an induction approach which is often taken to reduce safety risks.
Induction chargers work by transferring high voltage and current directly from the electric grid into an inductive paddle with an electro-magnet. This magnet acts as half a transformer while the other half can be found inside the electric vehicle. When full contact is made between the two magnets, the current can flow across and into the battery. This process allows for faster charging. Charging stations send input voltage from the power grid to the plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle at the highest possible available current to maximize efficiency without overheating the battery.
Induction chargers have an advantage of not only being able to offer a much higher input voltage, but by utilizing the power grid, they can also gain efficiency by using excess power that is idling on the grid. For example, the charger can automatically power on to charge the vehicle when it senses an increase of voltage available on the grid. This routinely happens overnight when most households are using fewer appliances and electric lights.
So how long will it take to charge your vehicle? Using a direct connection as described above with a typical 120-volt outlets and a current of 15 amps will fully charge your vehicle in about 10 hours for a standard 15,000-watt battery. If you opt for a direction connection into the power grid offered by a charging station, you will be tapping into a 240-volt electrical appliance outlet which as a current of 30 amps. Depending on the battery and how much allotted current it can accept, could cut your charging time in half.
Costs of installing a charging station can vary greatly with estimates running anywhere from about $600 to upwards of a few thousand dollars. Your local professional electrician is a good resource for providing a cost estimate. But keep in mind that a federal tax credit of 50 percent of the installation cost, up to a maximum credit of $2,000, can help ease the pain somewhat. There could also be local or county incentives available that you may be able to plug into.