Looking for home electric vehicle charging equipment and don't really know where to start? Don't worry, you're not alone. There are a lot of EV home charging stations available today and most people don't really know what features to look for in their search for the best home charging solution.
Before we start, we need to clarify some terminology. Electric vehicle supply equipment, or "EVSE," is actually the proper term for what many call "EV chargers" or "EV charging stations." The reason "charging station" is not the proper term is because the actual charging equipment is built into the car, and the EVSE really just provides a safe supply of electricity to the vehicle.
However, we've decided to use the term "charging station" or "charger" here because that's what most people recognize the equipment as. Even the companies that sell EVSE refer to them as "chargers" or "charging stations" on their websites.
It's also important to note this post is specific to the North American market. The electricity supply in Europe and most other parts of the world does not use a 120-volt supply as their standard household current like we do in North America. As such, there is no "level 1 charging" in Europe. Also, in Europe, the charging cable is often not tethered to the unit for level 2 charging, and thus, the equipment is very different than what is used in North America.
Let's begin by explaining the different levels of home AC charging, as well as the two different connectors that are used.
Level 1 vs. Level 2 - What's the difference?
Every electric vehicle sold today comes standard with a 120-volt level 1 portable charger (above). These chargers can be plugged into a simple household outlet, and don't require any special installation. Some manufacturers, like Tesla, for instance, come with a plug-in 120/240-volt Level 1/2 charger. These dual-voltage chargers can be used with either a 120-volt or a more powerful 240-volt outlet like what an electric dryer plugs into.
However, most manufacturers only provide a basic level 1, 120-volt charger, and offer a higher-powered level 2 unit for sale as an option. In order to recharge their EV faster, many owners choose to install a 240-volt electrical supply and level 2 charging station.
Level 1 chargers will deliver between 3 and 5 miles of range per hour to a typical electric car.
Every other electric vehicle besides a Tesla made today uses the same connector for level 1 and level 2 charging. So, there's one plug for North America that everybody besides Tesla uses, and it's called the SAE J1772, and another plug that everyone uses in Europe called the "Type 2".
We mention this not to confuse, but to assure that any charging station you purchase in your native market will charge your electric car; you do not need to worry about buying the "wrong one". Additionally, while Tesla vehicles use a proprietary plug for level 1/2 charging, they can also use any other level 1 or level 2 charging station because Tesla provides an adapter with every car. These adapters allow Tesla to use charging stations with the non-proprietary J1772 connector.
Level 2 chargers increase the rate to a range of between 12 and 60 miles per hour.
Level 1 chargers will deliver between 3 and 5 miles of range per hour to a typical electric car. Level 2 chargers increase the rate to a range of between 12 and 60 miles per hour. However, that number will be limited to how much electricity the car's onboard charger can accept. The car is always in control of how much electricity it takes in, so you won't damage the vehicle if you buy a charging station that can deliver more power than the car can accept. In fact, many people choose to buy a charging station that can deliver more power than their current EV can accept, so they'll be ready if their next EV can charge at a higher rate.
There are low-powered level 2 chargers that are small and portable. Many of these are limited to a power delivery of 16-amps to 20-amps. These units will charge a typical EV at a rate of about 12 to 18 miles per hour. We'll be doing a side-by-side comparison on those portable units soon, but today we're going to focus on the best choices for medium-powered, wall-mounted charging stations.
The car is always in control of how much electricity it takes in, so you won't damage the vehicle.
These units typically deliver between 30-amps and 40-amps and will charge a typical EV at a rate of about 25 to 35 miles per hour. Most of today's wall-mounted level 2 charging stations come in both hard-wired and plug-in versions, which we'll discuss later. But before buying a level 2 charger, there are a couple of things you should consider.
Considerations Before You Buy
- Are you in control of your electricity supply? If you own your home, then there’s no issue because you can install your charging station without needing to ask for permission. If you own a condominium, you will probably have to get permission from the association, which can be troublesome. If you live in an apartment and have a reserved parking space or garage, you’ll likely need to get the landlord’s permission before installing the charging station, and there may be a limit on how much power is available to you in the garage.
- Does your electric service panel have enough spare capacity to allow you to install a dedicated circuit for the charging station? If you have any questions about whether or not you have enough spare capacity, consult a licensed electrician to inspect your service to let you know if you do.
- Where would you like it installed? You should locate the charging station close to where the inlet for the connector on the car is, and make sure the cable on the charger is long enough to reach the inlet without stretching. Every EV has a different location for their charge port, so make sure you know where your charge port is located before installing your charging station.
Once you’ve confirmed that you can install the charging station and you know where you want it, it’s time to decide which charging station to buy. There are many choices available today, and not all charging stations are created equal. Let’s look at the different features that should be a consideration when deciding which station is the right one for you.
Power: Level 2 charging stations typically deliver anywhere from 16-amps to 80-amps. This can make a huge difference in how quickly your EV charges. You probably don’t want to buy an underpowered charging station, only to need to buy a more powerful at a later date. Even if your current EV can only accept 16-amps (3.3kW) you might want to consider getting a more powerful unit, because your next EV will likely accept at least 32 amps (7.7 kW) For that reason, we recommend getting a charging station that can deliver at least 32-amps, preferably 40-amps if you want to future-proof your investment.
Cable Length: Some charging stations come standard with only a 16-foot cable. In our experience, that’s not long enough for most people. We recommend making sure the cable length is at least 20 feet in length, with 24-25 feet being ideal.
Safety Certified: Since electric vehicle charging is a relatively new industry, there are a lot of small start-up companies making EV chargers, some of which haven’t taken the time or expense to have the device safety certified by an established testing entity like Underwriters Laboratory (UL). These devices will be delivering a high amount of power to your car every day, and for many continuous hours and you want to be certain they are safe. That doesn't mean a charger isn't safe if it hasn't been safety certified, but it does bring it into question.
Hardwired or Plug-In? Hardwiring simply means the unit is permanently connected to the electric supply, so you cannot remove it without opening the charger up and removing the wiring. A plug-in unit isn’t permanently connected to the electric supply, it simply plugs into an electrical receptacle. Chargers that deliver 40-amps or less can be plugged into a NEAM 14-50 or NEMA 6-50 outlet. Chargers that deliver more than 40-amps have to be hardwired and permanently mounted.
There are a few advantages to having a charging station that plugs in as opposed to one that's permanently installed:
- You can unplug the unit and take it with you to charge at another location. Perhaps you have a 2nd home or visit family or friends that live far away. You can take a plug-in unit with you on long trips, but you cannot take a hardwired one. These aren't as small and as light as the lower-powered level 2 portable chargers, but they can be easily removed and taken to another location.
- Installation can cost less. Since all you need to have your electrician do is install a 240-volt outlet, the installation can be much less than if they have to hardwire and install the charging station.
- Since all you need is an outlet, you can have it installed before you buy the charging station, and have your garage ready to go when the charging station arrives. If you do this, make sure you have your electrician install a circuit that can deliver at least 32-amps. If you have the available capacity in your service panel, we recommend installing a 50-amp circuit that can deliver 40-amps to the vehicle.
- If there’s a problem with it, and you need to have it repaired or replaced under warranty, you just unplug it and ship it back. If it’s hardwired, you need to have your electrician come to remove it, cap the wires, and then come back to reinstall the new one.
Outdoor Rated & Connector Holster
Many people don’t have a garage to park their EV inside, so their charging station has to be mounted outdoors. Make sure the station is outdoor rated, but that’s not the end of the story. Most charging stations usually have either a NEMA 3 or NEMA 4 rating. Both are acceptable for outdoor use, but NEMA 4 adds a little more protection and adds protection against a direct blast of water from a hose. This could be useful in areas that get blowing rain or wind-driven snowstorms.
Some charging stations have a built-in or remote connector holster so the plug is protected while not in use. Other stations just direct the customer to drape the cable over the body of the unit and leave the connector hanging and unprotected. We recommend making sure the connector is properly protected when not in use. This will keep dirt, water, and other contaminants from entering the connector and possibly damaging it.
Smart or Dumb?
A “dumb” or perhaps "non-smart" charging station simply charges the car, period. And for some owners, that’s all they care about. A smart charging station has the ability to connect to WiFi or PLC and allow the owner to monitor their charging, check the power being delivered, review statistics from past charging sessions and even participate in utility demand response programs. This allows the owner to see exactly how much energy the car is using, so they can calculate how much the car costs to power. Without this feature, an EV owner can only guess how much the car is costing them to charge.
Some smart chargers can perform other tasks, like connecting to Amazon Alexa for voice control of your charging, communicating with your utility so you can charge your car when the electricity provided is the "greenest" available, and even load-share so you can have two chargers on one dedicated circuit. If you want options like these, or you’re kind of a data geek, you’ll definitely want to spend a few more bucks and get a smart charging station.
You can expect to spend somewhere between $400 and $1,200 for a high quality, safety-certified electric vehicle charging station. However, spending more doesn’t always get you more. We’ve also noticed many of the charging stations listed below often have special offers and discounts, so shop around a bit before you make a purchase.
For some, the least expensive charger that's built well and has a good warranty is the right choice, and we have a top pick recommendation that fits that profile. For others, having the ability to review charging session history, calculate the exact cost of charging, using Amazon Alexa to voice control your charging and other smart-charging options are worth the extra cost, and we offer our top pick for these higher-end smart-chargers also.
The charging stations below are some of the most popular on the market today, and we can confidently recommend all of them. After considering all of their features as well as the cost, we decided to list our top smart charger as well as the top non-smart charger.
However, it’s important to note that all of the units here are a solid choice if they meet your personal qualifications. In our opinion, the chargers listed below are some of the best overall EV charging choices available today.
And our top recommendations are…
The ChargePoint Home Flex is our Top Pick for Smart Chargers for a number of reasons. First, it delivers up to 50-amps of power, while much of the competition is limited to 32-amps or 40-amps. That means it can charge any EV sold today, even Tesla vehicles, at their maximum charge rate. It comes standard as a plug-in unit and is available with either a NEMA 14-50 or NEMA 6-50 plug, it has a 23-ft cable is standard, and it’s WiFi-connected with an app that has the most smart-charging features available. You can de-rate the power delivery, set reminders, and view all of your past charging sessions. You can even use Amazon Alexa to start/stop a charging session or ask how many miles of range was added to your EV.
You can check out our full ChargePoint Home Flex review from December of 2019 when it was first introduced. It's one of the highest-rated EV chargers available on Amazon, so it's clear the people that buy one do not regret the purchase. The ChargePoint Home Flex is $699.00, making it one of the more expensive EV chargers available. However, it's also one of the sleekest, most compact, and functional with a connector holster and cable management integration. The ChargePoint Home Flex is also Energy-Star certified and comes with an industry-standard 3-year warranty.
If you're looking for a smart EV charger, and the ChargePoint Home Flex fits into your budget, you should definitely consider it.
- Price: $699.00
- Power: 50-amps (max)
- Smart or Dumb: Smart
When it comes to our Top Pick for a non-smart charger, it's hard to beat the value of the Grizzl-E Classic from United Chargers. The Grizzle-E is a no-nonsense unit that can deliver up to 40-amps (9.6 kW), has a nearly indestructible aluminum case, and starts at $399.00, making it one of the most affordable high-power Level 2 chargers available today.
You can adjust the output from 16-amps (3.8 kW) all the way up to 40 amps (9.6 kW), and do so with internal DIP switches instead of an app for an added level of safety and code compliance. Not many EV chargers allow that flexibility, and none that we know of are under $400.
Check out our comprehensive Grizzle-E review for more details and you'll see why the Grizzl-E is one of our Top Picks for your home EV charging needs.
- Price: $399.00
- Power: 40-amps (max)
- Smart or Dumb: Dumb
Now that you know our top picks for 2020, we should point out that there are many other very good choices for home chargers. We're confident you'll be happy with any of the chargers listed below, as we've tested and used them all extensively.
The Enel X JuiceBox has been one of our favorite smart EV chargers over the years. In fact, it was just barely edged out by the ChargePoint Home Flex this year to be our top choice. The JuiceBox is available in 32-amp, 40-amp, and 48-amp versions. The 32-amp and 40-amp versions are available in either plug in or hardwired variants, but the 48-amp JuiceBox must be hardwired. The Enel X JuiceBox is also Energy-Star certified and comes with a 3-year warranty.
The Enel X JuiceBox is one of the few EV chargers that allow load-sharing, which enables the owner to use one dedicated circuit for multiple units. This can be very useful for two-EV families that either don't have the capacity to add another dedicated circuit or don't want to incur the expense of doing so.
- Price: JuiceBox 32 Plug in $589.00; JuiceBox 40 Plug In $619.00; JuiceBox 48 hardwire $659.00
- Power: 32-amp, 40-amp, or 48-amp
- Smart or Dumb: Smart
The ClipperCreek HCS-40P has been one of the most popular EV chargers since its introduction and for good reason. ClipperCreek has been making EV charging equipment longer than any other company, and has built a reputation for making extremely durable, and also reliable charging stations. The HCS-40 is a “dumb” charger and is available hardwired or as a plug-in unit. The HSC-40 can deliver up to 32-amps, and comes standard with a long 25-ft cable.
The outer casing is NEMA-4 rated for extreme weather and it comes with a remote connector holster that allows the owner to locate it wherever is most convenient. Many owners like this option, so they can locate the holster on the wall directly opposite their charge port, even though the charger may be further away. The HCS-40 is also available in a dual-connector model, which allows you to charge two EVs at once.
The HCS-40P is physically the largest unit on the list, which may be a consideration if you have limited wall space. ClipperCreek's reputation for high-quality & durable units is well earned, and they have a very loyal customer base. The HSC-40P is Energy-Star certified and comes with a 3-year warranty.
- Price: $589.00
- Power: 32-amps
- Smart or Dumb: Dumb
The Siemens VersiCharge 30GRYU is the least expensive charger on the list. It’s a basic, no-frills “dumb” charger that comes in a plug-in version as well as hardwired. Like the ChargePoint Home, it has a connector holster located on the center of the unit and is available in different cable lengths. It plugs into a NEMA 6-50 outlet and has a NEMA 4 rating for top weather protection. It's important to note that the VersiCharge 30GRYU is a 30-amp charger, so it will deliver a maximum of 7.2 kW to the car. All of the other chargers on the list are more powerful, and some can deliver 60% more power, so take that into consideration when you're making a buying decision.
The standard cable length is only 20-feet, which is shorter than most of the chargers on this list so if you order the Siemens VersiCharge, make sure to check if 20 feet is long enough. We usually recommend getting at least 20 feet of cable, even if you don't think you'll need it that long, you may in the future. If you're in the market for the most economical level 2 unit that's safety certified, plugs in, and has a NEMA 4 rating, then this may very well be your best choice. The Seimens VersiCharge 30GRYU comes with a 3-year warranty.
- Price: $387.45
- Power: 30-amp
- Smart or Dumb: Dumb
The OpenEVSE is a powerful smart charger, that has WiFi connectivity and an LCD display that provides live power usage, states information and offers quick access to settings. You can set the OpenEVSE to charge the vehicle to full, charge for a set amount of time in 15-minute increments, or to add a certain amount of kWh. It's a powerful charger with lots of features, including the ability to participate in utility demand response programs, at a very good price.
OpenEVSE states that the unit has "All safety features required by SAE J1772, UL and NEC are standard". However, the unit has not yet been safety certified. In many instances, that would prevent us from including a charger from our top recommended list, but in the case of OpenEVSE, they have a proven track record. OpenEVSE has been selling home chargers and home charger kit for over five years now and has an established reputation for producing quality charging equipment.
The OpenEVSE can deliver up to 48-amps and the power delivery is adjustable through the app. One thing we love about the OpenEVSE is how small and light it is. It's the smallest, lightest 48-amp charger that we know of and has a thin cable that's very easy to handle. It looks like the same cable Tesla uses on their 48-amp wall connector. The OpenEVSE comes with a 3-year warranty and is competitively priced.
- Price: OpenEVSE 40-amp $499.00; OpenEVSE 48-amp $549.00
- Power: 40-amp or 48-amp
- Smart or Dumb: Smart
The Gen 3 Tesla Wall Connector is a 48-amp charger that needs to be hardwired and permanently wall-mounted. It's a great charging option for Tesla owners that don't want to use the Tesla Mobile Connector that comes with the car for their daily charging.
Tesla is one of the few EV manufacturers that include a robust, 32-amp level 2 charger with their vehicles. Therefore owners really don't need to buy a level 2 charger, all they have to do is install a 240-volt NEMA 14-50 outlet and buy the $35 NEMA 14-50 adapter and they're all set.
However, some owners prefer to leave the Mobile Connector in the vehicle, in the event they need it on the road sometime. Also, the Wall Connector can deliver 48-amps to the car, and charge at 11.5 kW, compared to the 7.7 kW maximum output for the Mobile Connector.
The one complaint we have, and it's a big one, is that the Tesla Gen 3 Wall Connector only comes with an 18-foot cable, which is shorter than our recommended 20-foot minimum cable length. It's not a dealbreaker, but it's definitely a big minus to us. It's also important to note that we'd only recommend the Tesla Gen 3 Wall Connector to Tesla owners because it comes with the proprietary Tesla connector.
All of the other chargers we listed above come with the North American standard J1772 connector, which will charge all EVs including Tesla vehicles (with an adapter that comes with every Tesla). It is possible to charge EVs from other brands with the Gen 3 Wall Connector, but you'd then have to purchase a Tesla to J1772 adapter, and that adds complexity to the charging process, and we're not fans of doing that.
The Gen 3 Wall Connector is also WiFi-enabled, but Tesla hasn't yet announced or released features to utilize WiFi. It's suspected that Tesla will enable the Wall Connector to participate in demand response utility programs as the Enel X JuiceBox and ChargePoint Home Flex can. For more information, check out our full review of the Tesla Gen 3 Wall Connector.
- Price: $500
- Power: 48-amp (max)
- Smart or Dumb: Smart
Our top charger picks for 2020 are:
- ChargePoint Home Flex (top pick for smart chargers)
- Grizzl-E Classic (top pick for non-smart chargers)
- Enel X JuiceBox
- ClipperCreek HCS-40P
- Siemens VersiCharge 30GRYU
- OpenEVSE Advanced Series
- Tesla Gen 3 Wall Connector
It’s important to note that because these charging stations come in different configurations, cable lengths, and plugs, we chose the models that were the most popular option for each charger. Basically, we wanted to compare medium to high-powered (30-amp to 48-amp) plug-in units, that had at least a 20-foot cable.
Also, all of these charging stations come with a 3-year warranty and have been thoroughly tested and used by InsideEVs editors for many months so we know they are durable. That isn’t the case with all charging stations, as some budget offerings today only have a 1-year warranty and haven’t been independently tested for safe operation, so buyer beware. Like anything else, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
We've also listed what we see as the "regular price", which is the price these units usually sell for. The list prices are higher, but these are the prices we've observed the units are typically available for when they aren't on sale. We've also observed that they are frequently available for special discounted prices, so shop around for a while before buying the unit you choose, and you'll likely get a better deal.