Though they’re still a long way from being a major force on the road, electric vehicles are slowly becoming more popular as a driving option. Rising fuel costs is certainly one factor in this increase in EV popularity. Volts, Teslas and other electric vehicles still need power to go, however, and that means that the demand for EV charging stations is increasing. Given the electrical nature of these stations, electricians may see this as an opportunity to branch out into new fields of work.
Installing a personal charging station at someone’s home or office generally isn’t that big of a deal. When it comes to municipal contracts or large-scale charging stations, though, things can get a little more complicated. To help you avoid some hassles, here are a few things to keep in mind before placing a bid on a large charging station install.
Types of EV Chargers
There are a few different types of EV chargers that you might have to install as part of a charging station job. There are three different charging levels that are potentially offered at charging stations, and the wiring of individual chargers may differ slightly based on the level. Level 1 and Level 2 chargers are the most common, with Level 1 providing 1 kW for charging and Level 2 providing anywhere from 3 to 20 kW (though 6 kW is the most common.) Most stations will use Level 2 chargers due to how slowly Level 1 charges. There are also Level 3 chargers, which are sometimes referred to as “fast charging” chargers or DCFC (DC Fast Charging) chargers; these typically provide 50 kW of charging power, though there are some that only provide 20 kW.
When installing the charging units, you’ll obviously have to connect them to a breaker panel that is likewise connected to the power grid. Depending on the design of the charging station, however, you may also need to install solar panels to help power the chargers. Solar is common with home-installed chargers as a way to offset or eliminate the cost of charging an electric vehicle; municipalities or others who are installing public charging stations may also seek to leverage the power of the sun to reduce the cost of power from the grid.
Types of EV Connectors
While it would be nice if there was a single standard charge connector for all electric vehicles, this is sadly not the case. The most common connector is the Port J1772 connector, which actually is compatible with 100 percent of EVs… though Tesla vehicles require an adapter to make use of the connector. Unfortunately, the J1772 is only a Level 2 connector and is not compatible with Level 3 chargers. For Level 3 chargers there are two options, the CHAdeMO connector and the SAE Combo CCS connector. Neither of these is compatible with 100 percent of electric vehicles, and the SAE Combo CSS isn’t compatible with Tesla vehicles at all (the CHAdeMO is, but it requires an adapter.) There are also Level 2 and Level 3 Tesla-only connectors, but you likely won’t need to worry about these unless the job specifically requests them.
You may notice that there weren’t any connectors listed for Level 1 charging. This is because Level 1 chargers connect to wall plugs instead of being part of a larger charging unit. Some charging stations may have plugs for Level 1 chargers, though the EV owner will typically have to supply their own charging cable to use them. Nema 515 and Nema 520 wall plugs both fit 100 percent of Level 1 charging cables, so either is an option to add Level 1 charging. Nema 1450 plugs that are typically used for RVs can support Level 2 charging cables, as can Nema 6-50 plugs; both of these could add additional Level 2 options, though like the Level 1 outlets they will still require the EV owner to supply a cable.
For some jobs, the company or agency soliciting bids will specify the types of equipment they want used. If they don’t, you’ll need to make some recommendations of your own. For maximum compatibility you should suggest both Level 2 and Level 3 charging units, ideally with J1772 and CHAdeMO connectors to maximize vehicle compatibility. Adding wall plug options for both Level 1 and Level 2 charging cables is a good idea as well, though they may not see much use. The more options you offer for drivers in your bid, the more likely you will win out over competitors who focus on only a single charger type or who wish to use connectors that aren’t compatible with all vehicles.
Have you ever installed EV charging units for homeowners or businesses?