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Installing a Charging Station: Here's What You Need to Know

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author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2014

If you're interested in a plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle, you've probably spent a lot of time thinking about charging. Where will you do it? How long will it take? What if you run out of electricity? But most of all, you're probably wondering about charging stations. Questions like "Who will install it?" or "How much will it cost?" are common, and we have the answers.

Who Will Install a Charging Station?

You might be surprised to learn that you don't call a technician from your car dealership to install charging stations. Instead, you call an electrician -- or a company that specializes in installing charging stations, which will send out a trained electrician to do the work.

While companies that install charging stations vary from city to city, a simple online search will likely turn up several options if you live in a major metropolitan area. If you don't, you might have to order the charger yourself and call a local electrician. Additionally, some car dealers or automakers may have preferred vendors or charging-station manufacturers, so you may want to check with your dealer before installing a station. In many cases, dealers will even let you include the cost of a charging station in your monthly payments.

Which Charging Station Do I Get?

Although you might think of EV chargers as one-size-fits-all systems, that isn't the case. There are many varieties of chargers that can charge vehicles at different rates, so you'll want to shop around for the station that's right for you and your car.

For example, while nearly every EV uses the so-called J1772 connector, popular luxury EV automaker Tesla bucks the trend with its own unique charging connector. As a result, if you want to charge your Model S with a public charger, you'll need an adapter. But watch out: Using an adapter means that your Model S won't charge as fast as it would if you were using Tesla's own system.

Our advice here, again, is to speak to your dealer, and in this case, possibly other owners of your EV through Internet searches and forums. That's because the optimal charger for one vehicle might not be the same for another. No matter what, however, you'll want a Level 2 charger. That's because it charges the car far more quickly than a Level 1 system, which is essentially the same as plugging the car into a standard wall outlet.

How Much Does a Charging Station Cost?

There's no simple answer to the question of what you should pay for charging stations, largely because everyone's situation is different. We've noticed, however, that most Level 2 charging stations cost between $600 and $1,000 before installation. Given that installation isn't easy and could potentially be dangerous, we'd leave it in the hands of a trained professional. Unfortunately, that could easily double installation costs, putting it somewhere between $1,200 and $2,000. Of course, your own numbers may vary given your specific situation.

Are There Charging-Station Rebates or Tax Incentives?

In most cases, there aren't charging-station tax incentives. This hasn't always been true; through the end of 2013, the federal government offered a 30 percent income-tax rebate -- up to $1,000 -- for drivers who installed personal charging stations. But that incentive has expired, meaning drivers can no longer take advantage of it.

The good news, however, is that some states still offer tax incentives for installing charging stations. For example, in West Virginia, drivers can get a 50 percent tax credit for installing a charger, up to $10,000. Georgia offers a 10 percent credit up to $2,500, and Arizona offers a $75 credit, which is a small amount but better than nothing. In other words, check your local laws to see if you might qualify for a tax credit for installing a charging station.

But government incentives aren't the only way to get money back from installing a charger. Do any automakers offer a rebate? Only one brand does: Cadillac. According to the GM luxury brand, drivers who buy a new ELR plug-in hybrid will get a free 240-volt charger and free home installation, a good deal if you can afford the car's $77,000 base price.

When In Doubt, Ask

With well over 100,000 plug-in cars currently on the road, you aren't the first to have questions about EV charging. If you're not sure about what to do and if your question isn't covered here, don't be shy about asking. Go to an Internet forum, seek out your local dealer or even find a meeting of EV enthusiasts. In each case, you'll likely find your answer.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Installing a Charging Station: Here's What You Need to Know - Autotrader