This is the third in a series of posts designed to help new and prospective EV owners decide the best Home Charging solution for their needs.
Part 1 explored acronyms new EV owner may wish to understand to begin their exploration of Home Charging alternatives.
Part 2 covered some math, or how to calculate how powerful of an EVSE you may need (or not need).
Part 3 covers some characteristics of a variety of EVSE choices in the market (Smart vs Dumb, Portable vs Wall Mounted, Hardwired vs Plug in).
SMART EVSE - Do I need one?
Smart EVSEs are network enabled (typically WiFi). They can be programmed to supply power on a schedule (see Part 2 and the TOU discussion), report energy used and times to cloud based servers which can be used by utilities to offer low Off-Peak rates, and potentially can participate in Demand-Response programs. Demand-Response is commonly used in places where energy shortages frequently occur. Utilities have the ability to turn Pool pumps, Air Conditioning, or EVSEs on or off when demand spikes create the potential for really high utility costs, or shortages which could cause blackouts. As most EVs can schedule charging, this aspect of a Smart EVSE is not too valuable.
In addition to the above, the owner can use a smartphone app to monitor, control and review statistics of charging activity of a Smart EVSE. In other words, let your inner-geek loose!
Some utilities require Smart EVSEs to participate in TOU rate plans or for other reasons, so check with your utility before buying a unit to make sure you get the right one or one that qualifies for rebates.
Portable vs Wall mounted EVSE - Which is right for me?
The convenience of bringing a charge cord with you on trips is worth consideration. In a pinch, RV parks, Truck stops often have 30A to 50A outlets available for emergency EV charging. Given the growth of public charging, my take is that except for trips to extremely remote areas (like the entire states of WY and MT), a portable EVSE is not going to be necessary.
The convenience of a wall mounted unit is that it is always there when you park your EV. Often, wall mounted units are higher powered, but this is not always the case.
The choice is really a preference. There may be other considerations, such as if your home charging solution is a shared outlet with other apartment or condo dwellers, portable is your only real choice. Some employers will also make outlets available for employees, so a portable would be helpful here too.
Hard Wired vs Plug-in EVSE - Which is better?
In most cases, this is a preference question. Many opt for plug-in EVSEs because the unit can be take with them on trips, when they move, when a replacement unit is required, or because there is already an outlet in the garage.
There are a few instances when hardwired units are necessary or preferable. For outside mounted units, it is often preferrable to hardwire a unit to the main panel. For weather or theft resistance, a hard wired unit may be the right choice, or may be required for electrical code reasons.
Recall from Part 2 of this series how the code requires loads be no greater than 80% of a circuit capacity. Until recently, 50A outlets were the highest rated outlet permitted. But some newer EVs are capable of 48A (11.5kW) charging so a 60A circuit and outlet would be required for code compliance. Although the NEMA 14-60 (60A) outlet and plug are defined, these are apparently only approved for use in parts of Canada. US code may soon allow these?
For most EV owners, the thought of opening up the main breaker panel and removing the wiring for a high powered EVSE is a bit much. Thus, in the event of a move or an EVSE failure\replacement, an electrician may be needed at an additional cost.
What are the best Brands of EVSE?
Does a Ford EV owner need a Ford EVSE? Does a Nissan EV owner require a Nissan EVSE? A Tesla owner a Tesla brand EVSE? There are probably more than 20 EVSE brands for sale on Amazon, and they all use the J1772 (universal) plug. As Teslas come with a J1772 adapter, these can be used on any EV, including Teslas. Brand loyalty or smart features might be an attraction to use the EV manufacturer's EVSE, but that is a personal choice.
Some EVSE are UL approved, meaning a higher level of safety testing. If safety is a concern (and why wouldn't it), it might be wise to search for UL approved EVSEs.
Over time, reports appear online of cheap Chinese knock off brands that fail, Mustart for instance is known to have melted in the J1772 port on a few Bolts, and it was due to poor connections in the J1772 plug in the EVSE. This may have been a manufacturing anomaly that has been corrected, but it gives one reason to pause. I mean, you spend big money on a new EV, and choose a cheap knock off EVSE to save $100? Really, is it a wise choice?
Amazon is a good place to search, not that you have to buy there, but the number of reviews tends to be higher than on other web stores. Also, use forums to get people's experience. Most EV brands have a dedicated forum and chances of someone with the same EV model having experience with virtually any EVSE out on the market are pretty good.