Automakers usually advertise the quickest charge times for their electric vehicles, achieved using an expensive and hard-to-come-by 400-volt Level 3 DC fast charger.
But that’s not what you have at home. Not even close.
Plugging in to a normal 120-volt wall outlet means you get the slowest charging rate. Instead of the advertised quickest rate of 38 minutes for a Ford Mustang Mach-E, you’re looking at days. That’s not much of an incentive for EV ownership.
While there are now more than 6,000 public charging stations nationwide, according to Natural Resources Canada, EV owners will need to charge their vehicles mostly at home.
One solution is to purchase a Level 2 charging station, which can be hard-wired into the electrical panel or plugged into a 240-volt outlet, such as the outlet used for a drying machine.
A Level 2 station cuts the charge time for that Mach-E to around 10 hours, according to Ford. The time may not be ideal, but it does mean the vehicle can be fully charged overnight in the driveway.
Know the costs
Buying and installing a Level 2 charging station costs about $1,500 to $2,000, according to Cara Clairman, CEO of the Toronto-based non-profit Plug ’n Drive, which educates Canadian consumers about the benefits of EVs.
“The install costs depend on how far your outlet is from your (electrical) panel. If your plug is really close to the panel, it’s going to be cheap. If it’s far away to the garage or the spot you want to put the charger, it’s going to cost a little bit more. What we see is it costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000, $1,200 to install and then the charger on top of that. That’s another $500 or $600.”
Charger cost depends on its features. For example, so-called smart chargers have apps that allow the charger to be controlled remotely from a cellphone or other Bluetooth device. As well, lower priced units usually have lower amp ratings — current flow — which means a slower charge rate.
The chargers for sale on Plug ’n Drive’s website range from $750 for a 30-amp unit, to about $1,200 for a 48-amp unit.
Know your savings
While as much as $2,000 is a lot upfront, that can be quickly recouped in government rebates — depending where you live — and fuel savings.
For example, according to ChargeLab.co, the government of Yukon will rebate 50 per cent of the total install costs of a home charger, up to $750. Likewise, the government of Quebec will rebate 50 per cent of the cost, up to $500. Some local municipalities even offer incentives.
But the big savings come by way of reduced fuel costs over time.
“On average, here in Ontario, electricity is about one quarter the price of (gasoline),” said Clairman.
“In Quebec, it’s more like a fifth or a sixth. Manitoba, about a sixth. So it depends what province you’re in, how cheap your electricity is, but it’s significantly cheaper. So if you’re paying $1.20 a litre (for gasoline), I’m paying less than the equivalent of 30 cents a litre for my electricity.”
Given Canadian winters, mounting the charging station in the garage will be a desirable option. Top-brand chargers are rated for indoor and outdoor use, however, which would serve car ports.
Level 2 charging wands will work with any make and model of EV, except for Teslas, which have a unique connector. Adapters are available for Teslas, however.
Last but not least, EV ownership requires a reset of old habits.
Since charging time is a factor — versus the short time it takes to refuel a vehicle with gasoline — drivers should attempt to keep the vehicle on the charger when it’s not being driven. It’s a habit akin to cellphone charging, which ensures maximum available range for the next time the vehicle is driven.