The Tesla Model S is charged through a 240 volt range outlet.
More than 100,000 electric vehicles roam the roads of California, Atlanta is the biggest market in the country for the Nissan Leaf, and a new racing circuit hit the course last weekend (and included an awesome crash at the end).
It appears that electric vehicles are making their way into the hearts and homes of Americans.
The biggest problem facing the growing industry is charging these vehicles. It takes more than just a standard 120 volt wall socket to charge most plug-in electric vehicles, and retrofitting a garage can cost a homeowner thousands of dollars. Homebuilders are seeing this emerging market and jumping in.
California homebuilder City Ventures now includes the infrastructure for EV charging stations in all of its single-family homes.
Electric vehicle sales have increased across the country, particularly in California and markets such as Atlanta and New York (graph courtesy California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative).
“An electrician can easily and inexpensively complete the wiring based on the individual needs of the homeowner,” City Ventures purchasing manager Gregory Jones told TecHome Builder.
According to EV charging station manufacturer ChargePoint, that’s all homebuilders need to do, and pre-wiring a garage for an electric vehicle charging station is one more add-on feature that can entice a customer to buy this new home versus one without the wiring, says ChargePoint founder and CTO, Richard Lowenthal.
“We don’t recommend people put in chargers before someone has a car,” Lowenthal says. “We strongly recommend you do a make-ready. Put the wiring in place when you’re constructing the building. That’s being adopted as a policy in California. It’s really inexpensive to put in the conduit and wiring and circuit breaker while you’re building a home.”
ChargePoint says charging ports is becoming like coin-operated laundry services in multi-family dwellings. The company sells most of its charging equipment and software services to the owners of multi-family dwellings, as well as non-residential businesses including retail stores that wish to offer their customers charging ports, municipalities.
“That’s been our sweet spot: All these stations where it’s not the driver but a third party installing them. It’s something like a coin-op laundry.”
While most of the business has been in shared-charging, ChargePoint is aiming new marketing strategies at single-family residences and new construction.
Lowenthal says doing the installation in a single-family home during construction costs about $300, while a retrofit costs up to $1,300. In multi-family settings, pre-wiring a parking space costs about $500, while it costs approximately $5,000 to dig up pavement and complete the installation post-construction. In this case, the type of charger doesn’t matter.
Marketing EV on the Fact Sheet
In California and markets such as New York, Boston, and even Atlanta, pre-wired EV stations have become part of the marketing sheets on new homes, Lowenthal says.
“In spec built homes, low-volume, higher priced homes, it’s really normal to have them,” Lowenthal says. “It will move down as the cars get less expensive and more broadly accepted. I was looking at home prices in Santa Barbara and it’s getting pretty normal to see that on the fact sheet on the home. In Boston and New York, the car pricing is coming down so fast you’ll see it very broadly before long.”
He says adding the infrastructure to new homes adds a sales point to the fact sheet.
“You end up with an asset; it’s a more valuable property. The owner of the home doesn’t have these costs ahead of them (if they decide to buy an electric vehicle). It’s similar to seeing solar-ready homes. It’s part of the pitch for buying the home. EZ ready add, will become a national benefit,” he says.
If You Install it, They Will Come
Infrastructure can be as easy as adding a one-inch conduit from the breaker panel. Other builders are installing 30 or 40 amp breakers, but that could affect what type of EV charger (and the make of EV) the homeowner can plug into the circuit.
Another suggestion is simply installing a 240-volt range outlet in the garage. Lowenthal says he knows of six manufacturers who are using the same outlets needed for clothes dryers to plug-in their charging ports.
“If the builder puts in a 240 v outlet in the garage they’re done with it, the rest is up to the consumer to install,” Lowenthal says. “I drive the Tesla Model S and so what I did, I had a range outlet, a 50-amp outlet put in my garage. I used the charger that came with the car. The outlet was good enough for my home. I didn’t even buy a ChargePoint outlet for that. I just took what came with the car. Tesla is the only car that comes with that capability. The rest require you to buy some piece of equipment from the (hardware store).”
Tesla Motors says that’s the most important thing a homebuilder can do if they’re looking to install EV charging stations. “Most important is that power be readily available in the garage. This will allow the future homeowner to easily modify the electrical system specific to the vehicle they purchase. To best prepare, Tesla recommends that home builders install a 240-volt outlet called a NEMA 14-50 on a 50-amp circuit breaker. This outlet is commonly used for electric range stoves and other large appliances, and will charge any electric vehicle using the correct connector cable.”
There are several types of electric vehicle supply equipment (commonly referred to as EVSE), all of which supplies the house’s AC current to the vehicle’s charger, but the most important thing for homebuilders to concern themselves with two things, don’t install the EVSE ahead of time, but do install the infrastructure that can accommodate the load. All EVs can charge from a NEAM 14-50 outlet.
The Tesla Model S (photo courtesy Tesla Motors).