Bringing it home: The true cost of EV
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Bringing it home: The true cost of EV

Apr 07, 2023

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One of the many appealing things about electric vehicles (EVs) is the fact that you can charge them at home.

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There are two types of home EV charging stations. A Level 1 home charging station simply plugs into a standard 120-volt household outlet. However, it can take up to 24 hours to charge your EV battery from empty to the optimum 80 percent level, according to ChargeHub, a website for EV owners.

A Level 2 home charging station requires a 240-volt plug—like the outlet for an electric stove or clothes dryer—so you must hire a licensed electrical contractor to install it. Much faster than a Level 1 charger, it will bring most EVs from zero to 80 percent in about five hours.

The cost of buying a Level 2 charging station and having it installed (including the required permit and inspection) will probably range between $500 and $3,000, with the average install coming in at around $1,000, says electrician Sam Lapierre of Berubé Electric Canada Inc.

Here are some other things you need to know if you’re installing a home EV charging station.

Assess your panel

You must ensure your electrical panel can handle an EV's significant energy demand, as placing too much demand on the panel can cause a fire. An electrician will determine your existing energy use and advise you whether you need to upgrade the panel.

You might be able to get by with 100-amp service, particularly if you install a current management system to prevent overloads, says Lapierre. Such a system ensures your EV only charges when your household energy load is low, so it may increase your charging time.

Alternatively, you could upgrade to 200-amp service. That could cost in the range of several thousand dollars, but it might be a good investment, particularly if you anticipate future home improvements.

Old Ottawa South homeowner John Purkis had that in mind when he upgraded to a 200-amp panel to install a Level 2 home charging station. A long-time environmental advocate, he hopes to install an air-source heat pump in the future, which the upgraded panel will help support.

Choose the right equipment

Make sure your charging station is approved for use in Canada, says Lapierre, who warns that some inexpensive chargers sold online may not be legal here. The most common approval marks come from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada (ULC). Ontario's Electrical Safety Authority has a complete list of recognized approval marks on its website.

Pick the right location

The further the charging station is from your panel, the more expensive it will be, due to the costly wiring required. And if you plan to charge outdoors, think twice about putting the charging station inside your garage, says Lapierre, as the pressure of a closed garage door might damage the cord. He says approved units are generally designed to withstand Canadian winters outside.

Consider solar

Purkis recently replaced his first home EV charging station with a Level 2 station that allows him to use rooftop solar panels to supplement electricity from the utility company. After evaluating several quotes, he chose Rockland-based Execon Roofing and Solar to install it.

While the solar panel isn't enough to power his family's former Nissan Leaf or new Hyundai Ioniq completely, particularly in winter, Purkis is pleased the setup is bringing his home closer to carbon neutrality.

Be prepared for hiccups

Demand for home EV charger stations is strong—Lapierre estimates his company installs half a dozen a week across Ottawa-Gatineau. As a result, it may take some time to buy the equipment and get it in place.

And it may not be feasible at all. Susan and David Kim wanted to install a Level 2 charger in the Ottawa home they are renting. However, due to a range of factors in their older home, they would have needed to install a secondary electrical panel. Since they are only renting for a year, the investment did not make sense.

For now, they often charge their Tesla Model Y at home with a very slow Level 1 charger. As a speedier alternative, they use one of Ottawa's two Tesla Superchargers, located at the Rideau Centre and in Bells Corners, which can recharge a drained battery to 80 percent in roughly 15 minutes for about $18.

"It took some learning to manage the battery," says Susan Kim. "There just isn't as much infrastructure as for gasoline vehicles."

Despite the hurdles, though, she is a happy EV owner. "It's a huge relief to know that those emissions are not part of every drive."

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included Assess your panel Choose the right equipment Pick the right location Consider solar Be prepared for hiccups