One of the key benefits to electric car ownership is the ability to charge it at home, but that's an arduous process if you don't have your own Level 2 charging setup. As we noted (to some social media controversy) when it arrived, our 2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD didn't even come with a standard 110/120-volt charging cable. As some rushed to point out, that omission is largely irrelevant to those who are already familiar with the current EV ecosystem, but it's easy to relate to those who find it puzzling that a vehicle that requires plugging in doesn't ship with the requisite plug. What is this, a premium smartphone?
But here's the thing: Charging a pure EV on a standard three-prong outlet is painfully useless at best. If you're looking at long-term EV ownership, you want an at-home Level 2 setup — one that can deliver a solid 30-40 amps on 220/240V AC. Sounds expensive, right? It's not, actually. All you need is an electrician, a few inches of bare wall in a convenient parking location and a charging cord of your choice.
Yep, just a cord. While there are far more robust options on the market, there's no need to dive that deep into the complexities of charging equipment. Hardwired setups have their advantages, but they're costly and no more future-proof than a far-less-expensive NEMA 14-50 to J1772 (the standard Level 2 plug) cable. If you've done much RVing or trailering, NEMA 14-50 is probably familiar to you. That's the big, honkin' 50-amp (hence the 50 in "14-50") service outlet you'd use to plug in your Winnebago. RV, meet EV.
I learned all of this myself recently after purchasing a new (to me) home in the Metro Detroit 'burbs. My semi-detached garage came with only the very basics for an older workshop. If you're lucky, you've already got a subpanel (or a main panel close by) and adequate headroom in your main feed to allow for expansion, because you're going to need a hefty new dual-pole breaker to supply your NEMA 14-50 outlet. What you see above is the easiest, most direct way to do this: an outlet attached almost directly to the panel. Provided you have a nearby service panel, a setup like this can be thrown together for just a couple hundred bucks.
If you're working with a detached garage or workshop (or want an outdoor charging stand), things get more expensive, but not really any more complicated. Outdoor plugs should be weather-rated and built into "in-use" housings (those that seal over the plug while it's in) and, depending on your code, will likely require GFCI either at the breaker or the outlet. Your electrician can help you decide what's most cost-effective, as these equipment upgrades can easily double or triple your cash outlay if you just assume expensive always means better.
But at the time of publication, the real X-factor is the cost of copper wire, which has been off the charts lately. In my case, I spent as much to add a second 14-50 outlet at the far end of my garage as I did to add the sub-panel and first plug. To be clear, this setup is not meant to charge multiple vehicles simultaneously, but merely to allow some parking flexibility, which can be further augmented with a longer charging cord. In my case, I went with a relatively basic, 18-foot cable I found on Amazon with decent reviews — at half the price of a mainstream "charger" (the popular JuiceBox 40 costs $699, for instance).
And that's all you need. No fancy wall box, no in-garage Wi-Fi extender to make sure my "smart" setup can talk to the rest of the world; that's all unnecessary. The equipment involved costs no more than a few hundred dollars, and for somebody like me, it's a universal setup that will serve me well no matter what I'm evaluating. Well, unless it's a Tesla. I'm sure Elon's PR people will be devastated.
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