SOLVED: Simple Buyers Guide To Electric Vehicle Chargers

Plug In Electric Car EV ChargersIf you have an Electric Vehicle (EV) or a Plug In Electric Vehicle (PHEV) then you likely need a second charger because the one that shipped with you car is not powerful enough or you need a second one for traveling.

When you are looking at EV chargers there are myriad of charger with confusing options that range from $175 to $1500.  The good news is it is far less complex than you might imagine and you only need to consider six simple factors:

A – LEVEL 1 or LEVEL 2?

Plug In Electric Car EVsSHORT VERSION: Buy a Level 2 Charger

Level 1 chargers use the standard 120 volt outlet and often referred to as “portables”.  Level 2 chargers use a dryer or stove type outlet at 220 Volts.  As of 2019 you will find it hard to locate a level 1 only charger and even the ones that say they are level one can usually be easily modified to support both Level 1 and Level 2 charging.

Even if you only need a Level 1 charger today, you would be wise to get a level two charger and plug it into your standard wall outlet.

MINOR CAUTION: We did find a few Level 2 EV chargers on eBay and Amazon that did not ship with cable adaptors, meaning that they would only plug into a 120 volt outlet therefore only operate at Level 1 rates unless you buy a 220 volt cable adaptor somewhere else.

In case you did not already know, there are also Level 3 chargers aka Super Chargers, DC Fast Chargers but they:

  1. are only available at public sites like malls and dedicated commercial charging stations, not in homes and certainly not portable
  2. use a different connectors than the J1772 connector that everyone except Tesla uses for Level 1 and 2 and Level 3 EV chargers they work on different standards:
    1. CCS (Combined Charging Standard): All U.S., German and Swedish car makers except Tesla use this standard (BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Volvo) if they have “quick-charging” ports
    2. CHAdeMO: used by the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Kia Soul EV and a few others
    3. Tesla Supercharger: Tesla just won’t play nice with everyone else so they have their own proprietary standard which seems to have more to do with making their cars exclusive than it does with making them better.  The world (or at least regions of the world), need to use a common standard to avoid the current silly duplication of charging stations.


SHORT VERSION: If you can afford it, buy a 32AMP (or higher) charger

The real electronic difference between EV chargers is the Amperage limit.  Cheap chargers are 16Amp and more expensive chargers are 32-40 amp.  The higher the amperage the faster the charge.  This is why some Level 2 chargers say they charge twice as fast as a level 1 120V charger, while others claim they charge 3 times as fast as a level 1 120V charger.

Standard Level 2 EV chargers are typically max out at 16 amps, while the more expensive units max out between 32 and 40 amps.

Even if your current needs are saited by a 16 amps charger, if you can find a higher amp charger that would be useful for your next EV.


SHORT VERSION: Dumb charging is just fine for nearly everyone

If you just want power to go from the wall into your car, a dumb charger is fine.  Intelligent EV chargers can:

  1. connect to your wifi
  2. send you an email when the charge is complete
  3. keep track of your electricity costs / usage
  4. have LCD screens
  5. be pretty

D – Mounts?

SHORT VERSION: Consider how you want to wrap up that cord

Amazon - wall charger holster dockThere are three common types of mounts for EV wall chargers:

  1. Cheaper chargers ship with a simple metal bracket to wind the cord around
  2. Mid priced EV chargers often ship with a simple cable management system, like a way to wind the cord around the charger itself
  3. High priced EV chargers will often ship with a holster / holder / dock for for the plug in connector (see image to the right)

Regardless of what ou buy, you can purchase EV charger a holster / holder / dock for about $50 on Amazon.

E – Cable Length

SHORT VERSION: Buy a cord with the length you need plus a few feet

This is self explanitory but typical cable lengths range from 20 to 30 feet and you obviously need one provides you with the distance you need.

F – Plug-in Connector or Hard Wired?

SHORT VERSION: Buy a plug-in EV Charger

Again, this is self explanitory but some EV chargers, especially older ones, require hard wiring.  That means you may need an electrician to set it up.  In 2019, most chargers (both Level 1 and Level 2) are plug in.

The only thing you need to worry about here is the type of plug in.  As we stated above most EV chargers are Level 2 220 volt but there are a myriad of 220 volt pin patterns.  If you don’t already have your 220 volt circuit installed, your electrician can likely set you up with a matching wall plug for whatever charger you buy.  However, if you already have a 220 volt outlet, you need to make sure your new EV charger has matching pins.

It also just makes sense to use the standard 220v outlet that is common in your part of the world so that this 220 volt outlet could be used for things other than EV charging in the future.


What We Did?

After considering dozens of options, we settled on the cheapest charger we could find which was this CDN $235 Level 1/2 16 amp dumb charger with a 25 foot cable.  We did not care about wifi, reporting, extra long cable, or special mounts but did want an LCD screen.  We also think that higher amp chargers will be much cheaper in the future as they become more popular so paying double for a 32 amp charger just did not make sense for us today.

Questions or Comments?