The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide To Home EV Chargers: Plus Top 5 Picks
You’ve got questions, we’ve got your answers.
Only a few years ago there were very little choices for electric vehicle charging equipment. When I got my MINI-E in 2009, BMW partnered with ClipperCreek to supply the home charging station, or as BMW called it, the “Wallbox” to charge the fleet of 450 MINI-Es in service in the US. Tesla also reached out to ClipperCreek back in 2008 to supply the charging equipment for the initial Tesla Roadsters. Neither company really had any choice, because at the time ClipperCreek was pretty much the only company that could deliver this specialized EV charging equipment.
A lot has changed in 10 years in the world of electric cars, and also in EV charging equipment. ClipperCreek is still around, and is still one of the top companies providing electric vehicle supply equipment, or “EVSE”. Electric vehicle supply equipment is really the proper term to use, but the general public really hasn’t warmed up to that, and most people call EVSEs “charging stations”. The reason charging station is not really 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’ll use the term “charging station” here since that’s what most people recognize the equipment as, and so those new to electric cars won’t get confused. It’s also important to note that this post is specific to the North American market. The electricity supply in Europe and most other parts of the world doesn’t use 120-volts as their standard household current as we do here, so there is no “level 1 charging”. 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.
Level 1 or Level 2 – What’s the difference?
Every electric vehicle sold today comes standard with a 120-volt Level 1 portable charger. These chargers can be plugged into a simple household outlet, and don’t require any special installation. Some manufacturers, like Tesla’s cars for instance, come with a plug-in 120/240-volt Level 1/2 charger. These require a 240-volt outlet, which most owners need to have installed.
However, most manufacturers only provide a basic Level 1, 120-volt charger, and offer as an option, a higher-powered level 2 unit for sale. In order to recharge their EV quicker, many owners choose to buy a 240-volt, Level 2 charging station and install it at their home. This goes for basically all electric vehicles other than Tesla. Tesla is unique in that they use a proprietary connector, that only they use.
Every other electric vehicle made today uses the same connector for level 1 and level 2 charging for that specific market. 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 the readers, but to assure them that any charging station they purchase in their native market will charge their electric car, they do not need to worry about buying the “wrong one”. Aditionally, Tesla vehicles can also use any 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 J1772 connector.
Level 1 chargers will deliver between 3 and 5 miles of range per hour to a typical electric car. For level 2 chargers the rate increases 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 post here on those portable units soon, but today we’re going to focus on the best choices for medium-powered, wall mounted charging stations.
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 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 asking 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 question 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’s 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 on 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. You want to make sure it has been fully tested and certified. We do not recommend buying any charging station that doesn’t have the UL certification seal on it.
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.
There are a few advantages to having a charging station that plugs in, as opposed to 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 40-amps, 50-amps would be even better.
- 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. The 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 station 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” charging station just 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 more. 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 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. They are all safety certified and have very high customer-satisfaction ratings. After considering all of their features as well as the cost, we ranked them in descending order.
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, all of the chargers listed below are better choices than many other charging stations on the market today.
And our top recommendation is…
#1: JuiceBox Pro 40 by eMotorWerks: The JuiceBox Pro 40 is our Top Pick for a number of reasons. First, it delivers up to 40-amps of power, while the main competition is limited to 30 or 32-amps. If you don’t want the extra power, the JuiceBox Pro 32 is available for about $80 less and has all the features of the Pro 40. It comes standard as a plug-in unit, it has a NEMA-4 rated outer case for extra protection from the weather, a 24-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 notifications, and even use Amazon Alexa voice control.
The JuiceBox is also the only EVSE on the list that allows load-sharing, which allows the owner to use one dedicated circuit for multiple units. This can be very useful for two-EV families. Basically, it checks all the boxes. It costs less than the other stations yet has more features which is why it earns the top spot. Also, the JuiceBox along with the ChargePoint Home are the only Energy-Star certified units on the list.
Cost: $579.00 (The 32-amp JuiceBox Pro 32 is $499.00)
#2 ClipperCreek HCS-40P ClipperCreek has been making EV charging equipment longer than any of other company, and has built a reputation for making extremely durable, 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 like the JuiceBox, it comes with a remote connector holster which allows the owner to locate it wherever they choose. 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-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. I’ve personally used their products for years, and have never been disappointed.
#3 ChargePoint Home 25 ChargePoint manages the largest network of public charging stations in the US. They entered the residential charging stations market in 2015 with the introduction of the ChargePoint Home. The Home is a WiFi-connected smart charger and offers real-time charging data, the electricity cost of each session, as well as previous charging history. It is available as a plug-in, as well as hard-wired unit. Like the JuiceBox, you can sync the Home with Amazon Alexa to remotely start, schedule and stop charging sessions and it’s also Energy-Star certified. The ChargePoint Home delivers up to 32-amps, and has a NEMA-3 outer enclosure, that is suitable for outdoor use but offers a little less protection from the elements than some other units that are NEMA-4 rated. There’s a built-in connector holster with a nice LED light to help center the connector when holstering it.
The ChargePoint Home is the smallest and lightest unit, with a very sleek design and pivoting connector holster in the center of the body. You won’t be disappointed if you choose to buy the ChargePoint Home
#4 Siemens VersiCharge 30GRYU The Siemens VersiCharge 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 on the unit and is available in different cable lengths. It has a NEMA 4 rating for top weather protection. The standard cable length is a very short, 14-feet, so if you order the Siemens VersiCharge, make sure you order the cable length that you need. 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 might be your best choice. For that reason, it’s our Top Pick for a low-cost basic, charging station
#5 AeroVironment/Webasto EV Charger Earlier in the year, AeroVironment sold their EV charging division to Webasto, which is the reason for the dual-name above. AeroVironment had been making this popular charging station since 2010, and it has proven to be an extremely reliable unit. BMW, Ford, Nissan and others all chose AeroVironment at one time or another to be their official charging partner and used this unit. It is a “dumb” charging station and is available in hardwired or plug-in versions and delivers 32-amps. Like the ChargePoint Home, the outer casing is NEMA-3 rated, so it has a little less protection from the elements than the other three units on this list. This charging station was once a top choice, but it hasn’t upgraded or improved in eight years, so the competition has passed them. However, it’s still a solid choice if it fits your needs and budget.
It’s important to note that because these charging stations come in different configurations, cable lengths and plugs, we added optional features on each unit to make the price comparison fair. Basically, we wanted a medium-powered (30-amp to 40-amp) plug-in unit, that had at least a 20-foot cable.
Also, all of these charging stations come with a 3-year warranty and have been thoroughly safety-certified. That isn’t the case with all charging stations, as some budget offerings only have a 1-year warranty and haven’t been independently tested for safety, 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.