The Top Four Considerations when Weighing the Options for Home Charging
By Sara Sweeney
October 25, 2022
Home charging capability is a new thing – no one ever had a gas station in their garage! According to the Fuels Institute’s EV Consumer Behavior Report published in June of 2021, “EV drivers tend to recharge daily or once every two days, typically overnight at home, and overall, about 70-80% of charging occurs at home or at a workplace parking lot.” For fleets, making sure their drivers are properly equipped with a home charging solution is of paramount importance. There are four key areas to think about when considering home charging.
- Type of Charger
- Installation and Power Supply
We will cover these four areas in turn:
1 – Type of Charger
Level 1 charging is the easiest and cheapest option, but it is too slow to adequately recharge battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in a reasonable amount of time. Level 1 charging at home may work for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) but for BEVs, it’s more of a means to top off, or as a last resort when left with no other options.
Level 2 charging is faster and more powerful, and best practice is to use a professional installer. Because of the obvious benefits a Level 2 charger affords, most fleet drivers will need one. Here are the things you’ll need to take into consideration when choosing a Level 2 charger:
Hard Wired or Plug In?
A portable charger, also called a ‘plug-in unit’, requires no professional installation as long as you have a 240-volt service line available. Some Level 2 chargers come with a NEMA rated plug and can be plugged into a 240v outlet and mounted on the wall. The benefit of this type of Level 2 charger is that if the employee leaves or changes jobs, the chargers can be returned with the vehicle. It is also ideal if your employee visits with friends and family who don’t have chargers or if they alternate between two homes.
These units are hard wired directly to a home’s electric service and provide more power to the charging process than a standard plug. Local electricity codes may dictate a fixed-mount unit if you have an open garage or plan to charge outside.
Smart or “Dumb” Charger?
In the spirit of the Internet of Things (IoT), you can opt for a “smart” EV charging unit that includes Wi-Fi connectivity. While “smart” functionality does add cost and complexity to the device, these types of chargers are very popular with fleets & EV Drivers alike. Most fleets will want access to the data on the home charger and the ability to monitor charging as well as energy use. For the drivers themselves, smart chargers offer a number of helpful features like using tariff information from the utility to create charging schedules to only charge at off-peak times for discounted rates, visibility to charging progress, and alerts on charging status. Some can even be connected to existing IoT smart-home solutions, like Alexa or Google Assistant.
Level 2 chargers suitable for home use range in price and power output and there is a balance here that a fleet manager needs to think about. The type of vehicle that is being charged and the amount of time it has available to be charged, known as dwell time, should be considered as well as any physical power limitations of the home.
Typical home charging solutions may be 32-amp models capable of delivering 7.6kW per hour but there are also options that can deliver more power if necessary. For example, you can add up to 37 miles of range per hour to your EV with the ChargePoint® Home Flex, a 240-volt level 2 home charger that delivers up to 50 amps of power.
2 – Installation and Power Supply
A Level 1 car power outlet generates the standard household current at 110 to 120 volts, and you can plug the car charger directly into the wall outlet. Level 2 charging delivers 208 to 240 volts – considerably higher. Level 2 chargers need a 240v outlet to offer enough power to charge – most homes do not have one except potentially for an electric dryer.
Installing a 240v outlet can be costly depending on the capacity of the panel in the house especially if the breaker board doesn’t have space for another circuit. You always need 20% spare capacity, so for a 32A charger, you will need space for a 40A breaker. If you have a charger capable of 80A, you need 100A available. And, if you need space for a 40A or 100A and only have 100A service, you need either a subpanel or a costly panel upgrade. Chargers with higher charging capacity can certainly charge vehicles more quickly, but you’ll have to weigh the costs of that charger and the installation vs. the added speed. In the future, new homes will have outlet for EV charging – it is already happening for new build homes in Europe. In addition, this cost is likely to reduce over time as many employees will already have a charger at home – the future challenge may be how to charge more than one EV!
We recommend finding an expert who can assess your drivers’ individual homes’ and ensure safe and appropriate charger installations.
Having a program with specific controls and installation guidelines in place helps ensure consistency, control costs, and make a program that’s fair and equitable for all drivers. We established a partnership with Qmerit so that our customers and fleet managers can feel confident that their drivers’ installation services are being performed by professional electricians.
3 – Reimbursement
The number one question we get about home charging is about how drivers will be compensated for electricity. Most employees will expect to to be provided some type of reimbursement for the electricity that is used. There are several ways to approach reimbursement: a flat rate stipend, a reduction of personal use, or, our preferred method, reimbursement based on actual electricity usage. The flat amount per month option is easier to administer but less accurate and you may need to overpay to make it acceptable to employees. Measuring electricity usage is simple if the charger is connected to WIFI and can share data with your fleet management company. Minimally, drivers are likely to be able to see the total energy usage via their app if they have a smart charger.
Measuring electricity usage depends on the type of charger and there are three scenarios:
Dumb chargers don’t have the ability to do anything but charge your EV, which is all that some EV owners want from their charger. Dumb chargers do stop when the battery is full, and they are not connected to the internet so there is no data to use for measuring electricity. In these cases, a flat rate or reduction of personal use contribution may make the most sense.
Dumb Charger with Telematics
If you have telematics, you can leverage the data from the vehicle to determine the location of vehicle and the change in state of charge of the vehicle. This option is a solution when the charger is not connected, or there is no charger at all in the case of PHEVs for example. In these cases, you can consider all options outlined.
Using a smart charger is a very accurate method because the data comes directly from the charger. The charging station software providers have access to tariff databases which can accurately assess the cost of the electricity.
Ultimately, it is important to provide as accurate a reimbursement as possible for your employees since this is a personal expense they are incurring. It’s also a major change to what most are used to today – a fuel card that they can use almost anywhere, with no personal expense incurred. Though no decisions have been made, one wonders how, in the future, this may be handled as it relates to a taxable benefit. As an aside, it is likely that EVs will have to contribute to road taxes in the future in some way.
4 – Cost
So, there are many items to consider that impact the cost that we have discussed so far – the type of charger, the type of installation and the way that you reimburse your employees. The other key factor is making sure that your employees charge in the most economical way possible. We already know that home charging is a very economical way of charging your fleet, but you can also ensure that costs are minimized here.
Not all utilities have “time of use” tariffs for EV charging, but this situation is likely to evolve over time. When they do use time of use tariffs (and it will increase as more EVs are on the roads) it is important to charge at the right times to minimize costs.
Charger management software and apps available for residential chargers can create charging windows to delay charging to the most cost-effective times. Some dumb chargers can delay charging via a timer but are less sophisticated and don’t provide data feedback. Some vehicles also have the ability to delay charging.
Drivers can also contact their local utility to ensure they’re on the rate plan for their personal circumstances. Two drivers who live right next to one another may have drastically different electricity needs, so ensuring they are on the right plan – and have accounted for planned EV charging – will also help optimize costs. We recommend drivers reach out to their local utility to discuss what makes sense for them personally. So, for home charging there is a lot to think about and this may impact where you start to ensure success. Finding the right partners to guide you with the procurement and management of chargers as well as the installation in your drivers’ homes will help considerably. We would love to help you develop a charging solution that is right for your company. Please contact us for more information.