An apartment dweller’s charging plan

Like many new EV owners, I began very concerned about charging. Where I used to have a car with a 300 mile range and 1 minute zero to full charging, I now own a car with a 80’ish mile range and a variable charging time.

I rent an apartment in southern California, which prohibits me from realizing the long term benefits of running electrical and installing equipment. Charging on purely level one sort of puts me at odds with the recommendations of EV manufacturers who tout level one (trickle) charging as an interim or emergency charger until you can get a level two installed.

What I found however is in 98% or so situations I had no problem with using JUST a trickle charger. The statistic that frightens most potential/current EV owners in the U.S. is the 20 odd hours it takes to get from empty to full. “A full DAY to charge!?” they say. The reality for me however was that during my 38 mile round trip commute I tend to expend somewhere between 42 and 50% of my charge (Please note that this effectively could be done twice without charging given a new and charged battery). Using that higher 50% number, it would take a full 10 hours to fill the batteries. Seeing as how I sleep for eight hours, and like to spend an hour at home (at least) prior to sleeping that at (general) worst leaves me losing about 5% battery at night using the slowest charging method. Add to this my morning routine which takes up about an hour this puts me back to 100% charge. The other 2% of situations have me doing things like coming home to then want to run out again and drive for 50 miles, which I’m prevented from doing with JUST my home trickle charge setup. For situations like this I’m lucky enough to find myself working at a building who has level two chargers on site. I simply charge during the last two hours of my workday, and I’m off on around 100% charge. I eventually plan to get one of these miracles when I own my own house so I can make 1.5% of the remaining 2% of trips I’d like to make (the 0.5% being road trips), but the trickle charge does me fine in the interim.

The next question I had was about power costs. Power bills do tend to vary seasonally, but I do have are mine from Aug-Sept (no EV) and Oct-Nov (EV), both months where we did not run a/c or heat. In the earlier non-ev bill, we used 221kWh which totaled $33.86. In the EV owning month we used 455 kWh of energy totaling $92.63, an increase of about $58. Our usage about doubled, and our bill about tripled due to the higher rate tier the extra use put us into.

There are some options our local electricity provider offers, namely to either install a separate meter billed at a separate rate, or switch to time of use billing. Since I have a level 2 blink unit at work that charges me $1 hour, I’ve chosen to just charge at work daily. The way I figure it, I get about 6 kWh for that dollar, putting it at about 16cents a kWh. Since my low tier electric rate is 15c, my second tier is 17c, and my third is 37c I believe this to be the lowest rate I can get. In addition to cost, it also affords me an interesting bit of range. Where I used to get home with  -45% charge, I now arrive home with -22.5% charge, which extends where I can go after work. While I don’t need to generally count on extra charging overnight, I can now have a higher starting value need be (if I go for a longer drive after work). Plugging in at home was more convenient, but I like this setup better for now.

So there you have it, an apartment dwellers charging plan.

Charging Tech

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ChAdeMO? 3.6kWh? SAE J1772? Trickle? Charger? EVSE?

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to electric car charging. Let’s begin with the basics, we’re now calling what we’re traditionally think of as “charger” an EVSE, this is because the actual charging is done by equipment within your EV. What the EVSE does is facilitate that. It’s also difficult to give easily digestible charging information because what people want to know is how many more miles I can go per hour of charging (after accepting empty -> full isn’t as relevant), which varies based on driving style.

Level 1 (a.k.a. trickle charging): Most EVs come with a level one EVSE. These allow you charge at a rate similar to 4 miles recovered per hour on a normal household outlet, like one you’d plug a toaster into. They’re portable, and come in handy to charge while out and about at the house of someone you know.

Level 2: These come in several flavors. Charging rates vary from about 3.6kWh to 6.6kWh about 20kWh (Tesla S) depending on what’s in your EV. They can pull anywhere from 12 amps to 30 amps, and even to about 80 amps (Tesla). Roughly speaking, for every hour spent charging you can recover around 12 miles on 12amp, 16 miles on 16 amp, 22 miles on 30amp, and around 62 miles using the tesla dual charger. Level two chargers are your bread and butter. It’s what you likely want installed at your home. This is what you’ll find the most at public charging stations. Standardization for this type of charging is currently the SAE J1772 connector. As to which station you purchase, that’s up to you really. If your EV can handle only 3.6kWh, there’s not much of a point in buying a 6.6kWh station because your EV cannot handle the extra power. A lot of owners have been opting to go with EVSE upgrade, which will upgrade your current level1 EVSE to be able to pull up to 20amps (essentially converting it to a mobile level two EVSE). This is especially handy for owners who have an existing electric dryer outlet to plug into. One caution with whatever station you purchase, be sure to have the right electrical run (verified with an electrician) and the right plug for the hardware you’re purchasing.

Quick Charge (QC): Not all EVs come equipped with this functionality (despite what salespeople will occasionally misrepresent, be warned), and their installations vary widely. These chargers, if present and compatible, will charge a car like the Nissan Leaf from 0-80% in about a half an hour. These are most useful on trips where you’re going to exceed the per trip range limits of the car significantly. Standardization for this technology comes in many flavors. Most in production QC chargers have standardized to CHAdeMO. The SAE-Combo plug is also widespread (or is slated to be soon). DC Chargers are being rolled out that accommodate both plugs, but the majority of the currently “in the wild” DC quick chargers are using CHAdeMO. At the time of writing there exists exactly one SAE-Combo charger (in San Diego, CA), and the Chevy Spark EV doesn’t have the option to come with one (nor can it be upgraded to later), but they do plan to release Sparks with it early next year. Tesla has their own system of superchargers and battery swapping, which is generally not for use by the rest of us.