A small but serviceable infrastructure for charging the batteries in electric vehicles is springing up in the United States, but it's largely in people's own garages.
Outside the home, more charging stations are being built, but locations are still widely scattered. In the long run, experts say, the basic charging technology being used to launch tiny volumes of EVs today probably will predominate in the near future.
"Most of the technology issues are minimal," says Phil Gott, director of automotive consulting for IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass.
Global Insight's main concern about electric vehicles is consumer resistance because of the limited range of EVs, Gott says. A widespread charging structure--particularly high-voltage, fast-charging stations--could overcome that objection.
But the consensus is that the majority of initial EV owners will recharge overnight at home using slower, comparatively low-voltage charging stations. High-voltage charging stations will top off the battery during the day if necessary, at locations such as shopping malls or at recharging stations along highways
Home is where the charger is
Most home charging uses a Level 2 charging station. According to Coulomb Technologies Inc. in Campbell, Calif., which makes charging stations, the most common Level 2 in-home installation will require 240 volts.
Older homes may need a bigger electrical panel, but most homes built since the 1980s probably can accommodate a home charging dock, says Kristen Helsel, vice president of EV solutions at AeroVironment Inc. in Monrovia, Calif., another manufacturer of charging stations.
It takes two to six hours to recharge a car with a Level 2 station, depending on how far the battery is depleted. AeroVironment says a Level 2 setup costs $2,000 to $4,200. Local labor rates account for much of the difference, the company says.
Level 1 charging uses a standard 110-volt household electrical outlet, Helsel says. Because that takes at least twice as long to charge as a Level 2 setup, manufacturers expect consumers to use household outlets only as a last resort. … Read more