Do you need a charging station for an electric car?
Find out how charging at home works and if you have to get an EV home charger for your electric car.
As electric mobility rises in popularity, more and more people are looking at home EV charging as a comfortable and efficient solution for powering their cars. While home charging is undoubtedly advantageous (and by far the most popular location to charge a car), it can sound daunting or complicated at first.
For instance, what are the different options for charging at home? What is an EV home charging station, and do you really need one?
In this article, we answer these questions and more.
What is an EV home charger?
Before we dive into the details of home charging, let’s explain what exactly home EV charger is. In essence, “home charger” is a term that refers to a dedicated home EV charging station.
While home EV chargers can vary greatly in shapes, sizes, and functionality, they all require professional installation and have a special connection to your home’s meter box that allows them to deliver much higher power than a regular home outlet can.
As such, EV home chargers will generally charge EVs much faster than simply plugging into a standard socket, although they don’t match the fastest commercial chargers used around highways which require a much higher voltage than is available in a home environment.
Do you need a charging station for your electric car?
You may wonder, then, if an EV home charger is required to charge your electric vehicle at home? The short answer is no, but there are a few things to take into account.
To begin with, not everyone can install their own home chargers. This might be the case if you live in an apartment building or in a city, where having your own parking space is not a given. However, not being able to have your own charging station doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t get an electric car.
A growing number of EV drivers can charge at their workplace, and if that’s not an option for you, there are more and more public charging stations available for you to charge your vehicle.
But even if you do have your own parking space, the question remains: do you need an home charger to charge your electric car at home? The answer is no – you can charge an EV by simply plugging it into a regular outlet. Having said that, an EV home charger provides greater safety, convenience, and speed. Let’s take a closer look at how it all works.
Can you plug electric cars in at home without an EV home charger?
Yes, you can.
Charging without a home EV charger is feasible and generally only requires a cable that comes with the EV upon purchase. The only thing to do is to find a standard outlet and plug your car into the grid. However, this approach has its limitations and is not meant to be used daily, and can even be unsafe.
Indeed, a standard outlet may not be able to handle the high loads of charging an EV and offers no specific protection against overloading your home’s electrical circuit.
This can be even worse when using extension cords, as many are not rated to carry the power required to charge an EV, thus posing a fire hazard. This is a common problem, as nearly 3 out of 4 EV drivers in the UK admitted using domestic multi-socket extension leads, not suitable for outdoor use, to charge their EVs at home and some even link up more extension cords to create a daisy chain to create more reach or leave them out when it rains.
While charging your car with an extension cord may appear to be the less expensive and more convenient option, the dangers of electricity should never be underestimated.
Next to this, charging your car without a home EV charger can be incredibly slow.
To give you an idea of charging times without a EV home charger, a regular home outlet needs about 24 hours to charge a midsize EV with a 50 kWh battery to 80 percent. This can be problematic, as you might not be able to gain sufficient range by charging overnight, especially with a big trip coming up.
What are the benefits of charging your car with an EV home charger?
So, if charging from a standard outlet isn’t a great option for the long run, how is a home EV charger different? While EV home chargers can come with a range of features, their main benefits are charging speed, safety, and flexibility. Let’s have a look at each in more detail below.
Charging at home with an EV home charger is faster
Because it has a dedicated connection to the meter box, a home EV charger can deliver much greater power to an EV, which, in turn, translates to faster charging. Compared to a standard home outlet, which usually has a capacity of 2.3 kW, EV home chargers can deliver either 7.4, 11, or 22 kW.
The capacity of a home EV charger depends on your needs, your car, and your home’s electrical system, but it will be at least 3 times faster than charging via a regular outlet and can be up to 5 or even 15 times faster with higher-powered EV home chargers.
To give you an overview of how this extra power translates into faster charging, the table below compares charging times at different power outputs for small, medium, and large EVs. Overall, even the slowest home EV charger (at 7.4 kW) can charge a medium-sized EV overnight, with faster home EV chargers cutting that time much shorter. Of course, actual charging times vary significantly between vehicles and depend on the battery capacity. For context, today’s average EV battery size is around 64 kWh.
Type of EV
Average battery size (right)
Approximate time to charge the battery from 20 percent to 80 percent state of charge (SoC). For illustrative purposes only: Does not reflect exact charging times, and some vehicles will not be able to handle certain power inputs.
Charging at home with an EV home charger is safer
Of course, speed is not the only consideration when thinking of a home charger – another crucial one is safety. Because EV charging is a highly-energy intensive activity, it can quickly put too much strain on your home’s electrical circuit and cause a power overload.
A home charger mitigates this by having a dedicated connection from your meter box, enabling it to safely draw higher loads without tripping your breakers or overwhelming your circuit. Next to this, home charging stations are designed to operate outdoors and can withstand rain, snow, and wind without posing a safety hazard for the user.
Charging at home with an EV home charger offers more options
Beyond speed and safety, an EV home charger is also more flexible and can enable greater convenience by being specifically designed for EV charging. One such feature is connectivity, which many EV home chargers are equipped with – and is even a requirement in some countries.
Connected EV home chargers unlock a series of benefits, ranging from the ability to manage and control charging sessions remotely – often from a smartphone app – to gaining insights into charging on aspects such as energy use and charging costs. Lastly, a connected home charger can often receive automatic software updates, which can remotely add new features, fix bugs, and allow remote troubleshooting.
A connected EV home charger can also have several smart charging features, for example, dynamic load balancing, which can automatically allocate the available capacity on your network between your EV and other appliances.
Another smart charging feature in development is vehicle-to-home, or V2H, which will enable your EV to act as a temporary source of power for powering your home. V2H will greatly enhance solar energy integration, although there are already ways of using solar power to charge your EV.
What is the best EV home charger to charge my electric car?
When selecting an electric car charger for your home, there are some practicalities to consider. As mentioned above, there are different types of home chargers from different manufacturers, each with various features and charging speeds, and of course prices. So, how do you know which one is right for you?
Ultimately, the best home charger depends on your needs, preferences, and budget. Typically, the more features and higher power an EV charger is capable of, the more expensive it will be to buy and install. At the same time, the charger’s maximum power can be constrained by your home’s electrical infrastructure, which is worth checking by a professional beforehand.
Features are also important factors to consider: for instance, you might want to future-proof your installation, making a connected EV home charger well-suited thanks to its upgradeability. Similarly, you may choose to integrate your EV charging with solar panels on your roof, in which case a smart charger capable of solar integration might be the best solution.
Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the best EV home charger, as it will always depend on your specific needs, preferences, and restrictions posed by your budget and location.
And let’s not forget your car, even the fastest charger in the world is dependent on the capabilities and limitations of your car. To give you a clear overview, we’ve made a handy (and free) online tool where you can see the charging specifications of your electric car.
Home charging stations –while not strictly necessary to charge your electric car at home– offer a much safer, faster, and more convenient alternative to standard outlets. In this article, we’ve explored these benefits and discussed how to choose the best EV home charger for your situation.
If you’re thinking of installing a home EV charger or are a first-time EV owner, have a look at our detailed EV charging guide to learn more about EV charging.