To cut right to the chase: Yes, EV home charging stations are safe to use, and a lot safer than using your regular outlet to charge your electric car at home.
Charging your electric car is energy intensive
As electric mobility gains prominence across the world, more and more people are discovering the benefits of driving electric, including the convenience of charging from home. Indeed, the home is the most popular charging location for 65% of UK drivers.
What many people don’t realise is just how energy-intensive electric car charging is – while you can technically charge your car without a dedicated home charging station, it’s usually not the most optimal nor the safest.
But why exactly can electric vehicle (EV) charging be unsafe? And what makes a home charging station safer? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and dive into the safety mechanisms that are built into home chargers.
What makes a home charger safe?
We will explore the different aspects that make a home charger safe in more detail below, but here is a quick overview of the main reasons:
It can process higher loads of energy safely;
It’s designed to be weather- and impact-proof;
Connectivity functionalities offer smart charging features while protecting privacy and security.
What can be unsafe about EV charging?
Before we discuss what makes a home charging station safe, we first need to understand how charging an EV can be unsafe.
The main danger with electric car charging is down to the intensity of the current. Compared to common household appliances, an electric car can draw much more power: simply plugging in an EV to a standard outlet draws around 2,300 watts (W). By comparison, the average microwave oven uses approximately 1,000 W, while a laptop uses about 50 W.
Not only can it be dangerous for people if handled improperly, but such a high load can also place your home’s electrical circuit under strain and, in some cases, even pose a fire hazard. Let’s look in more detail at how EV charging can be unsafe.
How is charging without a home charger dangerous?
If not managed properly, or if many other high-powered appliances are on simultaneously, EV charging can easily overwhelm your home’s electrical circuit.
Generally, this will trip a fuse or a circuit breaker, protecting your home from any damage – although you will still lose power and have to reset your breakers, and your car won’t be charged.
However, a much worse situation is if your circuit breaker fails to trip or if the wiring in your home is old or faulty. In those cases, the high power can cause your circuit to overheat, potentially causing a fire.
Use of extension cords
Another common source of danger that often arises when charging an EV at home is the use of extension cords. Using them can be tempting: outlets can be far from garages, and the charging cable that comes with EVs is usually only a few meters long. In fact, nearly 3 out of 4 EV drivers in the UK regularly use extension cords to charge their cars.
However, most extension cords are unsuitable for EV charging and can pose significant hazards. For one, typical domestic extension cords are not made for outdoor use and don’t tend to be weatherproof. This is a problem as EVs often tend to be parked outside, meaning extension cords are often used under rain or intense sun, which can overheat them or create a shock hazard.
Another common issue with extension cords is that many are not rated to carry the power load required to charge an EV. Indeed, many are limited at or below 2,000 W, meaning any higher load will cause them to overheat and cause a fire hazard. Unlike a standard outlet, which has a dedicated circuit breaker, many extension cords don’t implement any particular protection mechanisms.
What makes an EV home charging station safe?
As we’ve seen above, charging an electric car can come with many risks if not handled properly. So, how does a dedicated home charging station prevent these? Let’s take a look at some aspects of a home charger that makes it considerably safer to use than a regular home outlet.
Designed to carry high loads
Unlike a standard outlet or an extension cord, a home EV charging station is specifically designed and wired into your home to handle the high loads of EV charging. Indeed, it is usually connected to your meter box directly and has its own dedicated circuit breakers, adding an extra level of protection and allowing it to draw higher loads safely.
Unlike a domestic power socket or extension cord, a charging station is designed to sit outside and withstand the elements. It is built to operate safely in the rain, snow, wind, hail, or sun without overheating or exposing the user to any potential harm.
Impact-proof and durable
Besides resisting the elements, home charging stations are also sturdy and can withstand many shocks and impacts without being damaged. For instance, unlike an extension cord, which might get easily damaged if someone drives over it, a home charger’s cable is much thicker and more resistant.
To ensure home charging stations can withstand enough wear and tear, they undergo a rigorous testing process. For instance, charging stations have to meet various international certifications before they can be marketed, such as the International electrotechnical commission (IEC) certification or the Underwriter Laboratories (UL) Certification verifying that prior to sale, the charger has undergone extensive safety testing at a certified independent lab such as TÜV Rheinland, DEKRA and SIQ.
Beyond the physical design of home charging stations, they also come with custom-built software that unlocks control over and insights into the charging process, allowing you to optimise charging behaviour according to your needs.
One of the ways software can help enhance home charging is through smart charging solutions. Smart charging is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of intelligent features, one of them being dynamic load balancing. Without getting too technical, this feature automatically adjusts the power being used by your charging station in response to changes in power use in your home.
For example, if a washer, a dryer, and an EV are all powered on simultaneously, dynamic load balancing may decide to stop or slow the car’s charging process to free up capacity for the other appliances. Once they are switched off, the charger resumes or increases the EV’s charging speed.
Smart charging opens the door to many optimisation possibilities, however, all of them rely on connectivity. Most modern chargers have built-in internet connectivity, and regulations – for example, in the UK and EU – already mandate certain connectivity standards.
Privacy and security
With connectivity comes the challenge of ensuring privacy and data security. As data and information are exchanged to optimise the charging process and offer drivers insight into their behaviour, it’s fundamental to ensure that only the desired data is used and that no sensitive information is disclosed.
Modern connected home charging stations have built-in safeguards to ensure the data they use is stored and exchanged securely. However, the best way to ensure information security in the long run is to keep your charging station up-to-date: software updates bring bug fixes and security patches to ensure any weaknesses are corrected, and user data is safeguarded.
Handling electricity, especially at the intensity required to charge EVs, fundamentally comes with some risks. However, home charging stations are by far the safest way to charge an electric car and come with many software safeguards as well as physical ones.
To find out more about EV charging at home, or if you’re considering buying a home charger, have a look at our detailed EV charging guide for an overview of important aspects to consider.