Updated: March 2017
Charging an electric vehicle (EV) is really easy and takes less time than filling your gas car – all it requires is changing the way you view ‘fuelling’. Rather than having to stop at the gas station multiple times each week, I simply pull into my carport and plug in my car each night! If you drive less than I do, you probably wouldn’t even need to plug in every night.
Types of Charging (or slow, medium, fast… and superfast?)
Now having just written above that charging an EV is easy, I’m going to add a few caveats to that statement – travelling with your EV beyond its range requires more thorough planning (see further down the page about PlugShare), and you will need to spend a bit of time initially to determine what ‘type’ of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) you will need to use regularly. This is entirely dependant on how far you expect to drive each day. I have included a table below that shows different usage scenarios and suitable EVSEs for each (click the table to enlarge). It also shows the difference between the different “Levels” of charging (e.g. Level 1, Level 2, DCFC; or how I refer to them as slow, medium and fast!). DCFC has 2 different plug types for public stations, CHAdeMO and CCS (and a third proprietary standard used by Tesla, currently “superfast” – actually, it is the Supercharger!). Thankfully almost all new installations of DCFC chargers are including dual standard chargers, so all vehicles are covered.
As you can see from the chart, if you leave your car plugged in overnight using Level 1 charging (after all, you can’t drive it while sleeping!), you can expect a minimum of about 50 – 80 km of range by the time you need to go anywhere in the morning. If you have a carport or garage, you are probably ready-to-go right now! To use an outdoor plug, I would recommend upgrading it to be a weather resistant style, and double-check that it is on a GFCI.
For my commute distance, I needed to install an EVSE that would allow Level 2 charging. There are a few ways to do this, but I did it the expensive way! I purchased a Schneider EVSE from Home Depot (about $900 at the time in June 2014) and hired an electrician to install it for me. Mine is an indoor unit that I mounted in my carport; they don’t seem to sell it anymore at that price, so here is another unit that is indoor/outdoor rated and a bit cheaper even, the Leviton EVB-32. Better yet, support a Canadian manufacturer in Quebec by purchasing the EV Duty; rated for our cold winters! (And, it is cheaper to boot!)
If you live in a strata (like we do), you will need permission from your council to have it installed (more details at this PlugInBC page on stratas). This portion of the cost is highly variable and could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to perhaps one thousand.
If I had to do it over again, I would instead purchase a portable Level 2 EVSE, like the EV Duty linked above. The unit costs about the same, but instead of hard-wiring the unit to the wall, you can instead plug it in to a 6-50 receptacle (or with the right adapter, a 14-50 receptacle, again have this wired by an electrician), and if you ever move, or travel to a friend’s house, you can just bring your Level 2 EVSE with you!
For the more DIY crowd: another option is to build your own Open EVSE from kit parts, or to buy a pre-built EVSE built to the same standard – I purchased a unit from BSA Electronics and have used it on a number of my road trips with great success.
So why would you want to travel with your EVSE? In the interior of BC (Kootenays and central/northern BC), our charging infrastructure is rather spread out at the moment (though in 2017, this should change substantially), so if you have a few key adapters (TT-30 adapter and the one listed above), you can charge at a campground. Campgrounds commonly have 125V/30A power, which you can use with the TT-30 adaptor and the charger that comes with your car, though it will still only charge at a speed as if you plugged into a 120V/15A wall outlet. With out Open EVSE unit, we can actually utilize 24A from that TT-30 plug, which I refer to as “Level 1.5”, because it is a bit over twice as fast as plain Level 1 charging (but not 6x as fast, like regular L2!)
If you buy one of the 240V capable EVSE’s linked above, you can use the 240V/50A 14-50 outlets at RV parks to get up to 40A of power – that will allow you to charge at full Level 2 speed for almost all EVs on the road in 2017.
But, good news, the network of public chargers is always expanding (and is well established in the Lower Mainland and Okanagan), and so is the Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) network. A DCFC charger can give you up to 80% of your charge in 30 minutes! That makes road trips much better than using Level 2 infrastructure. Level 2 will always have its place though, for shorter trips and for “destination” charging.
Check out this video I made to show how to use a DCFC in BC, and how fast it can charge your car.
Speaking of charging infrastructure, you will of course want to know how to find public charging stations! Many of the EVs with navigation have a built-in “charger finder” system, but I wouldn’t rely on them to be up-to-date, especially in remote parts of Canada.
Instead, head over to PlugShare, the most comprehensive source of public infrastructure. If you create an account, you can also see personal charging points that other users have shared, and you can share your own if you wish (ours is listed, just look in the Fairview area of Nelson).
Information is crowd-sourced, and users leave valuable feedback on how reliable the charger is, and what types of services might be available nearby.
Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive article on the technical aspects of EV charging if you want the nitty gritty.
Click on the first image in the photo gallery below to see an example of each type of charging, Level 1, 2 and DCFC.