Like many, for years our garage was a storage space for everything except our car. Bikes, lawn mowers, winter tires and other items took up the space a vehicle would have used. Then, the time came to clear it out. Not to make room for the car right away, but for a licensed electrician to estimate how much it would cost to install a Level 2 (L2) charger for our 2012 Nissan Leaf.
I was tempted to simply use a regular 120-volt socket and the cord that came with the vehicle, known as Level 1 (L1), but this trickle charge would have taken half a day (longer in winter) to fully charge the battery. It would be like filling your water balloon with an eye dropper. I also learned trickle-charging in winter could not provide enough juice to warm the vehicle faster than its heater used those precious electrons, costing me valuable driving range.
Most EV owners will opt for a 240-volt, L2 charging station for their garage or driveway, which in general upgrades the whole EV experience. The main benefit is that an L2 charger works two to four times as quickly as L1 charging – the recharge speed varies by EV and charger – and up to 10 times as quick for some Tesla models. Most units typically cost between $400 and $1,300, which some provinces will partially rebate (not Ontario). Some manufacturers will even throw in a L2 charger with the purchase of their EVs, as Mini is currently doing with its Mini Cooper SE.
It is the installation cost where the price will vary most. The more distance between your electrical panel and the vehicle, the more it usually costs. As does whether you hide the wiring inside your walls or need to dig a trench to power an outside unit. Both General Motors and Audi have recently offered programs that cover “standard EVSE installation” up to $1,500.
Was an L2 unit worth it? For us, yes, and likely most owners. Just remember to keep the vehicle plugged in when not in use and that it is set to the recommended max charge. As they say in EV circles, remember to ABC: always be charging.
Michael Bettencourt bought his first EV in late 2011 and has followed the Canadian EV scene ever since. Follow him on Twitter @MCBet10court
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