So you’ve purchased your first electric vehicle (EV). Now you either need to buy a charger or use public chargers. How do you know how to choose an EV charger? We will go over some of the features you should consider, the three charger levels, and go over the charging station networks and how they work.
Choosing an EV Charger
There are many options to consider, and you want to make sure your selected model will accommodate your vehicle(s), space and preferences. Always choose a charger that has a safety certification and consider having a licensed electrical contractor install it for you.
Most EVs have a “J plug” (J1772) which is found in both home and level 2 charges. For fast charging, there are two plugs to choose from: the “CCS” used by most manufacturers including BMW, General Motors, and Volkswagen, and the “CHAdeMO” used by Mitsubishi and Nissan. Tesla has a proprietary plug but can use the “J plug” or “CHAdeMO” with adapters.
Single or Dual Port
You can either buy a charger with a single or dual port, depending on how many EVs you own. If you buy a charging station for multi-EV use, this allows you to charge two vehicles at once..
Cords are available in several lengths, ranging from 5 metres (16 feet) to 7.6 metres (25 feet). Shorter cables are easier to store but longer cables give you flexibility in case you have to park further from the charger.
Indoor vs Outdoor
Although many chargers are for both indoor and outdoor use, some are for indoor charging only. If you need to install your charging station outside, choose a model which is rated for outdoor use.
Portable or Permanent
Some chargers only plug into an outlet, others are installed onto a wall.
Level 2 chargers can deliver between 15- and 80-Amps. The higher the amperage, the faster your car charges.
Some chargers connect to the internet so you can use your smartphone to start, stop, and monitor charging.
Smart EV Chargers
Smart EV chargers automatically adjust the amount of electricity sent to your EV based on timing and load factors. Some smart EV charging stations can also provide your data usage.
- You need to confirm with your municipality or Technical Safety BC if your home is eligible for a charger installation, and what permits you need.
- How much current (amperage) does the EV need to charge?
- Does your existing electrical service panel have enough capacity for a charger? (e.g., 100-Amp, 200-Amp, etc.)?
- Is there a 240-volt circuit installed?
- Is there room in the electrical service panel for a new 240-volt circuit breaker (it must be double-pole)?
- Where to install the charging station? If you’re a single-family homeowner with an EV, installing a Level 2 charger in your garage or carport, or near your driveway makes charging a breeze.
- Discuss the following with a licensed electrician: How often will you drive your EV? Every day? Multiple trips in a day? How far will you drive on a regular basis? Will you be charging your EV anywhere else, for example at work or at public charging stations?
Why You Need An Electrican
- If you need an electrical upgrade, don’t try to do it yourself. Hire a licensed electrician. They will not only do the work for you, but they will also arrange any necessary permits from your municipality or Technical Safety BC. They can also arrange electrical inspections before the wiring is connected to a supply force and complete the contractor consultation afterward. You will need to submit the form if you apply for a rebate.
- You may not need an electrician if you buy a Level 1 charger plugged into an existing outlet, or if you already have an existing 240-volt outlet and are using a portable Level 2 charger that does not require installation.
- Choose and purchase an EV charger. If you plan on applying for a rebate, choose a model that qualifies. Check the BC Hydro website for a list of eligible chargers.
- Keep in mind If you don’t work with an electrician, you will need to apply for any necessary permits and coordinate inspections on your own.
- After installation, avoid getting your charger wet, or placing it anywhere it can be be a tripping hazard. Both of these pose serious safety hazards and can also affect your charger’s performance.
- If you think there’s a problem with your charger, for example it isn’t charging as quickly as it should, consult a certified electrician immediately. There could be a problem with the connection or the charger itself. EV chargers have built in safety precautions and will notify you if there’s a problem. Read your owner’s manual so you understand these notifications.
- How can you keep track of how much electricity your EV charger is using? Just log into your BC Hydro account to view your detailed consumption. For more information, refer to the BC Hydro website.
Understanding Charging Levels
Electric vehicles (EVs) require a connection to an electrical system to charge. There are three charger levels. What is the difference between the levels? The main differences are the voltage, the time and number of kilometers charged per hour, and whether they are used for homes, businesses or common areas.
Level 1 Chargers:
- Use a connection to a standard 120-volt outlet
- Charge 8 km per hour
- Takes 12 to 20 hours to fully charge a battery EV (6 to 12 hours for a plug-in hybrid)
- Used mostly in homes
Level 2 Chargers:
- Use a connection to a 240-volt outlet
- Charge 30 km per hour
- Takes 6 to 14 hours to fully charge a battery EV (4 to 8 hours for a plug-in hybrid)
- Used in homes, businesses, and common areas
Level 3 Chargers (Fast, High Performance):
- Uses a direct current connection to an electrical system
- Charge 100 km per 30 minutes or 80% charge at 50 kW (varies by vehicle type)
- Takes 1 to 4 hours to fully charge a battery EV (15 minutes to 3 hours for a plug-in hybrid)
- Used mostly in businesses and common areas
- Use a connection to a standard 120-volt outlet
How Do I Access EV Charging Stations?
If you don’t have a charger, you can use charging stations at work or use a public charger. Keep in mind that you can plug a Level 1 charger into a standard outlet, but it will take longer to charge. If you mainly use your EV for commuting, then you can charge it when you get home, and either at work or at public charging stations if you need power in between. Did you know there are 2500 public chargers in BC including fast charging stations?
While most of B.C.’s public Level 2 charging stations are free to use, many require that you join a service network to access the stations. Once you’ve registered with a network, you’ll receive a membership card which you scan at the charging station you’re using. You can access some networks using their app on your smartphone or with a credit card. If you register with several networks, you can access many more charging stations.
Main Charging Networks
Currently, there are six main networks in B.C.:
The BC Hydro EV network currently has over 70 fast charging stations across B.C. They are mainly 50kW DC fast chargers, but there are some 25kW “mini” fast chargers and Level 2 chargers at select stations. Most stations currently have a single DC fast charger.
If you’re like most electric vehicle (EV) owners, you’ll do the majority of your charging at home or at work. That means that your BC Hydro bill will go up, but perhaps not as much as you might guess. The rate for charging an EV in B.C. is currently the same as the residential electricity rate. Most drivers do 80% of their charging at home and do the rest at either their work or public stations which are often free, or at fast charging stations that range in price.
You’ll need to set up an EV account to access the BC Hydro fast charging network and to use the BC Hydro EV mobile app. Once you have downloaded the app onto your smartphone, you can:
- Search for stations and activate charging
- Order your RFID card(s) and add funds
- See your charging history
- Manage notifications, favourite stations and more
The BC Hydro EV mobile app can also be used to activate charging at any FLO or ChargePoint station across North America.
To estimate your BC Hydro electricity cost of charging different EVs, use CAA’s Electric Vehicle Cost Calculator.
How Do I Find EV Charging Stations?
PlugShare is the most comprehensive, up-to-date tool for finding charging stations wherever you are in BC. EV owners can add, review, and edit station information, and even safely share their private charging station at home with other drivers if they wish to. PlugShare’s maps highlight which stations are public Level 2 or fast charging, and often include information on which stations are working and detailed directions for finding chargers in parkades or parking lots.
How Much Do Fast Charging Stations Cost?
How much does it cost to charge at a fast charging station? Effective April 1, 2022, the cost to charge at BC Hydro EV stations is:
- 12.07 cents per minute for 25 kW charging (+5% GST)
- 21.13 cents per minute for 50 kW charging (+5% GST)
- 27.17 cents per minute for 100 kW charging (+5% GST)
Each session is billed per second. After your charging session, you’ll receive an emailed receipt with a breakdown of your charge, including how long you charged for (in minutes and seconds) and the session cost before and after 5% GST is applied.
Charging rates are approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission and are based on the maximum kW output of the charging station, not on actual kW output received or requested by the vehicle.
Note that rates at fast charging stations don’t include parking fees. Be sure to check the parking signs or PlugShare to see if a specific station requires payment for parking. Currently the following sites charge a parking fee that’s collected by the site host:
- Vancouver – Homer Street (collected by City of Vancouver)
- Vancouver – Kerrisdale (collected by City of Vancouver)
For other charging networks in B.C., check the PlugShare website to find charging locations, costs and parking fees before you go.
How Long Can I Charge My EV At A Fast Charging Station?
Check the signs at the station for parking etiquette and rules. BC Hydro recommends the time limits below based on charger power level, particularly when another vehicle is waiting:
- 25kW: one hour
- 50kW: 40 minutes
- 100kW: 30 minutes
- Higher power levels: less than 30 minutes
Charging time depends on your battery’s state of charge (how full it is), your battery size and environmental factors including the outside air temperature. All makes and models are different, and you’ll get to know your car after you’ve used a fast charging station a few times.
Keep in mind that even fast chargers, will charge most vehicles slower over 80% of battery strength. This “trickle charge” is related to the vehicle, not the charger. You may want to use a Level 2 charger which costs less per-minute charging cost.
BC EV Charger Rebates
Rebates are available to help homes and workplaces across B.C. get ready for electric vehicles (EVs). The program is funded by the Government of B.C. and administered by BC Hydro and FortisBC.
Available rebates include:
- For single-family homes
Single-family homes can get a rebate of up to 50% of the purchase and installation costs of an eligible Level 2 EV charger, to a maximum of $350. This includes duplexes or townhouses with private garages or dedicated parking.
- For apartment/condo buildings
Apartment and condo buildings can get a rebate of up to $1,400 to $2,000 per charger to purchase and install Level 2 networked EV chargers at the building’s residential parking spaces.
Rebate amounts vary depending on whether or not the building is participating in other EV Ready rebates.
- Workplace rebates
Workplaces can get a rebate of up to $2,000 per charger to purchase and install eligible Level 2 networked EV chargers for employee use, to a maximum of $14,000.
For further information, see the BC Hydro website.
With some research and consultations with your municipality or BC Technical Safety and a qualified electrician, you can purchase the right EV charger for your needs.
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