Electric car and truck chargers are cheap, and home installation can be another story
A slew of TV ads that aired late last year touting new electric vehicle offerings may have been a bit premature.
Delays in the supply chain and manufacturing have meant 2023 has started slow for many established names and new companies hoping to make a dent in Tesla’s dominance of the electric vehicle market.
But that’s starting to change as inventories slowly build up, and that decline should accelerate this fall. Manufacturers have announced that they expect to start delivering 16 new models by the end of the year, according to Car and Driver, and this is just the first in a push that will bring nearly 50 new models to the market by the end of next year.
Even without much new product availability, U.S. electric vehicle sales in the first half of the year were nearly 50% higher than a year ago, driven by more federal choices and rebates, and Cox Automotive plans to produce more than 1 million vehicles that will be sold in 2023. The company also found that about half of consumers are now considering a new or used electric vehicle.
Growing inventories, lower prices and federal tax cuts are expected to make EV ownership more enticing for those considering a new vehicle. But before you make that leap, there’s a key question to ask: Is your garage ready for car shipping, and if not, what will it cost to get there?
Basic EV charging equipment is just that
New cars usually come with a charger that plugs into a typical three-prong 120-volt wall outlet.
This is convenient, but do you really want to do this? The answer depends on your expectations and driving habits.
A basic wall outlet charger, known as a Level 1 charger, can only add 3 to 6 miles of driving range per hour — meaning you can only wait half a day to be able to charge after a 40-mile trip. To fully charge a car with an average EV range of about 300 miles, you’re looking at days to go from nearly empty to full.
Contractors warn that it may not be safe with existing outlets and wiring, which should be checked by an electrician, especially in older homes.
“Hardly anyone does that,” said Jeremy Gies, president and owner of Ideal Electric, a regional contractor based in West Bend.
There is a better option for charging electric vehicles, but it comes at a cost
Andrew Tilley of Wauwautosa has been living with a Level 1 charge for about a month after he bought his first electric car in August, a used 2020 Audi e-tron. He knew right away he wanted a faster charger, known as a Level 2 charger, but had to wait until an electrician was available to do the work.
“What I was literally doing was back-to-back charging from a wall outlet, and it was charging at a rate of three miles an hour, whereas now I’m charging about 30 miles an hour,” he said.
Level 2 chargers are becoming the home charging standard. These chargers, which cost from about $300 to more than $1,000 excluding installation, can add 25 to 40 miles of driving range per hour. That’s less than high-speed Level 3 chargers, the type increasingly seen at public charging stations, but a Level 2 charger comes at a much more affordable price and meets almost anyone’s needs.
However, installing a Level 2 charger incurs additional costs.
According to a home charging estimator from We Energies, installing a Level 2 charging station in your garage can cost up to $900 if the home already has 200-amp electrical service, and a properly sized circuit breaker box with two empty slots for a 240-amp electrical feed Volt. .
But this is not every home. The cost can add up quickly in older buildings where wiring and electrical panels may need to be upgraded to meet the needs of the charging system, Gies said.
This can add $2,600 to $5,700 to the cost of installing the charger.
Where the breaker box is located in the home can also make a difference. It’s easier if it’s in or near the garage, more expensive if it’s in the basement and away from the garage, and more expensive if a buried power line needs to be extended to a detached garage.
Considering all the variables, there’s really no such thing as an average price, but contractors said a good ballpark cost to upgrade an old home to support electric vehicle charging would be about $4,000 to $5,000.
“Just getting a plug for faster charging could end up costing you an extra $10,000,” said Eric Pena, owner of Crown Electrical in Cedarburg. “A lot of people don’t think about it until after the fact, unfortunately.”
Tilley said he paid about $2,500 to run a 240-volt line from his breaker box to a new outlet in the garage, and another $600 for the charger itself. It was a little more than he had budgeted, but he said the cost was worth it for the convenience and also because there are only a few public stations where he can quickly refuel after longer trips.
“Once I did intermittent charging, it was a no-brainer — I had to install the charger,” he said. “An extra few hundred dollars didn’t really matter at that point because we don’t really have any charging infrastructure here.”
more:Expansion of the electric vehicle charging network has been delayed by an ambiguous Wisconsin law
Can you get a Level 1 EV charger?
Erin Monroe Nye, director of energy services and policy at Madison Gas & Electric, knows firsthand that the answer is yes. I used a Level 1 charger for two years after purchasing a Tesla Model 3.
She said starting with a Level 1 charger can reduce upfront costs when purchasing an electric car, and it doesn’t represent a big sacrifice for the majority of drivers — those who primarily use their cars for daily commutes and short trips within the city.
“If you’re plugging in overnight, that means you’ll get 30 to 50 miles of charge with a standard outlet. For a lot of people who mostly commute within the city, that’s enough,” she said.
There is one caveat, though. People who live in older homes with 100-amp electrical service may find that they will max out their power supply if they charge the car while running air conditioners or other power-hungry appliances.
“That’s why it’s always a good idea to consult an electrician early in the vehicle purchasing process, regardless of the charging system you intend to install,” Pena said.
“You’ll know going into it if there are additional costs when you buy the car,” he said. “Then at least when you buy it you’re prepared, or you know your service is good and we’ll be able to add the charger and there won’t be any additional costs outside of just buying the car.”
more:New federal rebates are expected to increase interest in electric cars and trucks. Essential things to know before making the leap
Aids can help you get around and provide electric vehicle charging
Regardless of the charger, refueling at night can be a significant cost saving.
All major utilities in Wisconsin offer some form of time-of-use pricing to encourage vehicle charging at night, when electricity demand is lowest. For example, We Energies offers an overnight rate that is less than half the cost of peak daylight hours.
Under a pilot program also being offered to customers at its sister company, Wisconsin Public Service Corp., EV owners can buy or lease a charger for about $600, and pay a monthly fee of $8 or $20 (if the charger is rented) to participate.
The charging process is controlled by an app and the car’s on-board computer, so you can plug in the car at any time.
Tilley bought his charger from We Energies and signed up for the tool’s time-of-use program. He said it was an easy decision because of the cost savings and because the charger includes a warranty and service program.
Alliant Energy offers similar savings through its overnight and weekend program, which carries an additional $15 fee.
MG&E also offers time-of-use rates. It also has a program called Charge Ahead, an app-based managed charging program that allows utilities to shift or slow charging during times of peak electricity demand or low renewable energy production. To encourage participation, participants are paid $4 per month in the winter and $8 per month in the summer.
All of these programs aim to find solutions for when electric vehicles are fully adopted and electricity demand management will be critical to the reliable operation of the electric grid.
“Right now, electric vehicles only represent about 1% of cars on the road but we expect that to grow very quickly, especially with all the incentives available. That’s what we’re trying to plan for,” Monroe Nye said. .