If you’re buying an electric vehicle, you’ll want to charge it at home, and if you’re being practical, that can mean only one thing: a Level 2 charging system, which is another way of saying it runs on 240 volts. Typically, the most range you can add with 120-volt charging, called Level 1, is 5 miles in one hour’s time, and that’s if the vehicle you’re charging is an efficient, small EV. That’s far from enough charging speed for a pure battery-electric vehicle that offers hundreds of miles of range. With the right car and Level 2 charging system, you can recharge at 40-plus miles of range per hour. Though a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) might get by with Level 1 because its battery is smaller, we still recommend Level 2’s speed to maximize EV driving. Level 1 charging doesn’t provide enough power to run the heat or air conditioning for preconditioning the cabin in extreme temperatures when still plugged into grid power.
Unless you’re buying a Tesla, a Ford Mustang Mach-E or another model that comes with a combination Level 1/2 mobile charger that travels with the car — or you want faster charging than those provide — you’ll need to buy one of your own that mounts to the wall or somewhere near where you park. Why do you need this added expense in the first place, and how do you choose one? Cars.com has purchased chargers from popular manufacturers, including ChargePoint, Electrify America, Wallbox, ClipperCreek and JuiceBox, for installation in editors’ homes, so we’ll tell you everything you need to look for.
What They Do: Compatibility and Safety
Just so you understand what you’re buying, it’s helpful to know what chargers do in the general sense. We call it a charger, but technically that’s the name reserved for the component onboard the car, out of sight, that makes sure a rechargeable battery gets the appropriate amount of power — more when it’s empty and at an optimal temperature, less when it’s closer to full or is exceptionally cold.
Level 1 and 2 hardware is actually something else, technically an EVSE, which stands for electric vehicle service equipment or supply equipment. EVSEs are relatively simple and designed to ensure safety and compatibility. The following information applies whether it has a Tesla connector at the end of the cable or the other universal pistol grip, which is named after the SAE International charging standard: J1772. The most basic EVSE encloses little more than a ground-fault circuit interrupter, some switching and circuitry that communicates the amount of power it can provide to an EV.