Range Confidence: Charge Fast, Drive Far, with your Electric Car

By David Herron

Choosing the best electric car charging stations for home charging or on trips

Buying and installing an electric car charging station may seem confusing. There are several charging station brands. Some are portable, some bolt to the wall, some have a plug on the end of a cord, and some attach directly to a junction box. How do you choose between one or another of those types of electric car charging stations?

In actuality, the choices are fairly straightforward, and the installation is no more difficult than a washer/dryer hookup.

All electric cars have J1772 ports for normal "level 2" charging, using single-phase AC power. One simply chooses a charging station supporting the desired charging rate, fitting within any electric service panel constraints. Installation is simple for any competent electrician.

electric vehicle charging stations banner

Obviously having access to charging stations is as important as access to gasoline stations is for gasoline car owners. Neither can go anywhere without refueling. The difference is that electric cars can easily recharge at home, so long as you have the right equipment.

It is highly recommended for electric car owners to install a charging station at home. Beyond the convenience of charging at home, it is the lowest cost way to recharge your electric car. A typical cost of electricity at public charging stations is $0.49 per kiloWatt-hour, while at home the average electricity cost across the USA is $0.12 per kiloWatt-hour. Refueling your electric car at home is perhaps 1/4th the cost at public charging stations.

A charging station used purely for charging at home could be any size. In the list below you'll see charging stations of many sizes and charging power. The home charging station would typically be bolted to the wall of your garage, and size is not entirely important. A portable charging station can be used to take trips into areas that have no charging stations, and we've identified a few portable stations for that purpose.

That all electric cars have J1772 ports for normal "level 2" charging, using single-phase AC power. This is a huge improvement over the previous phase of electric cars which were hampered by two different charging standards. Cars sold in North America use a common plug, and in Europe a different plug is used, both of which use the J1772 protocol. See this for details: A Field Guide to electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE's)

Because J1772 is common to all electric cars you can buy any EVSE (EVSE means Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) from any manufacturer. The phrases "charging station" and "EVSE" are interchangable, and refer to the same device.

Do you have to buy the electric car charging station offered by the dealer? A low-power portable charging unit is sold with every electric car. Many dealerships also offer higher-power charging stations, and can arrange an electricians to handle installation. Buying the higher powered EVSE and installation service can be simpler, since the whole transaction is handled at once. But you are free to make your own arrangements. It's easy to find a suitable EVSE and arrange your own electrician for installation. See these:

Why install an electric car charging station at home? The vast majority of electric car or motorcycle charging is done at home. It is the most convenient place to charge your car, and gives you the luxury of a fully fueled vehicle every day. Gasoline car owners do not have that advantage.

How do you install a home charging station? This site's recommendation is to install a heavy duty 240 volt 50 amp power outlet, GFCI and weather protected, and to install the charging station using a matching plug. Any electrician should be able to take care of it.

How much does installing an electric car charging station cost? Study the list of charging stations below and you'll find prices from $399 US to $1000 US, or more. The wiring should be very inexpensive, less than $500 to hire an electrician.

Why so much? Isn't there a cheaper way? Yes there is. The cheapest is to simply use the 120 volt line charger supplied with the car. An overnight 10 hour charging session gives about 40 miles of range, which is sufficient for most daily commutes.

Can't I just run an extension cord to charge my electric car? Electric cars do not have a regular plug for charging the car. The J1772 protocol was selected for a wide range of reasons including safety. That means connecting electricity to the car must be done using a J1772 plug. See Safely use Extension Cords when charging an electric car or electric motorcycle

I live in an apartment or condominium complex, how can I install a charging station? Unfortunately there isn't a good answer to this since the landlord or home owners association calls the shots. See Apartment/Condo dwellers - what to do if you cannot charge at home

Selecting the right EVSE for your needs

We should have just convinced you to install a charging station at home. But, you may have several questions circling around your head.

What kind of charging station do I need? Aside from the obvious answer, "J1772," there are several other EVSE attributes to consider. Do you need a high power charging station, or low power? You may want remote control over charging or other advanced features. See Installing cheap/inexpensive electric car charging at home

The only exception is for owners of Tesla Motors cars. Since Tesla uses a proprietary charging port, it may be best to buy Tesla charging equipment -- either the Mobile Connector or Wall Connector. On the other hand, Tesla supplies a J1772 adapter allowing Tesla car owners to charge at regular J1772 charging stations.

My electric car has DC fast charging, so do I need DC fast charging at home? No. DC Fast Charging is meant for driving long distances. It generally requires a 3 phase AC power source running at 25 or 50 kiloWatts, which is way beyond the means of typical homes. Between installation cost and the equipment cost, the price will be way beyond what's rational. Cars with DC charging also support J1772 AC charging, and can be charged at home with a standard AC charging station. See Fast charging your electric car at home

How much power will the station require? To recharge quickly requires a higher power charging station. The table below summarizes the tradeoff between charging rate and range gained per hour of charging. Fortunately most don't need high powered home charging and can make-do with a lower power EVSE on a lower power circuit. Be careful about the capacity of your service panel since that upgrade can be expensive.

Range per hour of charging Power required Circuit required
4 miles 120 volts 12 amps 120 volts 20 amps
10-12 miles 240 volts 16 amps 240 volts 20 amps
20-25 miles 240 volts 32 amps 240 volts 40 amps

Is it safe to install a charging station? Yes, as long as your electrician does a good job. The J1772 charging protocol has lots of safety checks built in. The only concern is whether the wiring between charging station and the service panel can handle the load. See Electric car charging within electrical code and power outlet limits

Fixed or portable charging station installation

Hard-wired charging station

Elsewhere we make the case to buy a portable charging station that plugs into a power outlet. Doing so gives you the freedom to take the charging station on trips or if you move to another home. Your electrician would install a 240 volt 50 amp power outlet, a matching plug for the charging station.

On the other hand, charging station manufacturers frequently recommend hardwiring the charging station to a junction box as is shown at the right. A case can certainly be made that this wiring is safer because of the solid connection all the way to the service panel. However, it's less flexible, since the charging station is affixed to one location. While the charging station will serve that location, you don't have the freedom to carry it somewhere else. On the other hand, a power outlet will tend to wear out from repeatedly use. Routinely plugging-in and un-plugging a charging station might wear out the power outlet, eventually causing problems.

Charging station installation to a power outlet is a minor change to what's shown in this picture. Instead of wiring to the junction box, the junction box has a power socket, and the charging station has a matching power plug. You then plug the charging station into the outlet. Q.E.D.

Taking trips with a portable charging station

We bought our electric car to drive us around. What if we want to drive to an area with no charging stations? Do we keep owning a gasoline car for those trips? Do we rent a gasoline car? Or, do we learn how to manage with a portable charging station and plugging into "any" power outlet?

The first two ideas, falling back on gasoline (or diesel) vehicles, is a pragmatic choice. But, it's quite possible in many cases to make-do with the power outlets we find along the road. For example, many RV parks have 240 volt 50 amp outlets so RV drivers can plug in. For years intrepid electric car owners have made otherwise impossible electric vehicle trips by charging at RV parks.

What's needed is a portable charging station and a handful of adapters matching the power outlets available on your trip. The charging rate must be adjustable so the charging can be constrained to the capability of the power outlet. On-board AC chargers typically run at 32 amps (6-7 kiloWatts), and sometimes at 40 amps. A 20 amp power outlet must be kept at or below a 16 amp charge rate. An EVSE is locked to 32 amps will only blow the circuit breaker and not charge the car. Instead the charging rate must be adjusted lower to avoid blowing the circuit breaker. Some, but not all, electric cars allow changing the charging rate in the infotainment screens. If your car doesn't support this, the charging station must support a variable charging rate.

Adapters are readily available, see: Safely use Extension Cords when charging an electric car or electric motorcycle

To understand the electrical code, see Electric car charging within electrical code and power outlet limits

Electric vehicle charging station catalog

What follows is a list of J1772-compatible electric car charging stations. We'll note the power level, whether or not it is portable, and other features.

240 volt 16 amp -- 3 kiloWatt -- 11 miles range per hour of charging

(www.amazon.com) AeroVironment TurboCord Dual Plug-in EV Charger, 120 & 240 Volt

This charging station does it all. It is very compact, and a switchable plug automatically changes it between 120 volt 15 amp or 240 volt 20 amp power outlets. The 240 volt plug is a NEMA 6-20, for a 3 kiloWatt charging rate. It is straightforward to build adapter plugs to connect the TurboCord to other kinds of power outlets. The TurboCord is compact and light enough to carry all the time, while supporting higher power charging than the 120 volt manufacturer-supplied charger, and while supporting use at a 120 volt outlet. AeroVironment also has over a decade of experience building electric car charging stations.
  • Charge Rate 16 amps - roughly 10-12 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight 4 lbs
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(www.amazon.com) ClipperCreek LCS-20P, 240V,16A, EV Charging Station, with 14-50 plug, 25 ft cable

This charging station is very portable making it easy to use both at home and on the road. The 3 kiloWatt charging rate is an excellent choice for home charging, being 2-3 times faster than the charging speed at 120 volts. While away from home that charging speed may be too slow to be of practical use, but 3 kiloWatts is better than 0 kiloWatts or 1 kiloWatts. That it runs solely at 240 volts means it is less flexible than the Aerovironment Turbocord, which can also run at 120 volts. The LCS-20P comes fitted with a NEMA 14-50P Plug meaning that you'll need an adapter cord for any common 20 amp outlets like the NEMA 6-20. Clipper Creek is a highly recommended company with over a decade of experience building charging stations.
  • Charge Rate: 16 amps - roughly 12 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 5 lbs
  • 4 x 3 x 11 inches
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(www.amazon.com) Portable Electric Vehicle Charger by ReadyCharge (240V) - Level 2 Electric Car Charger- Faster Charging Speeds - Compatible with Chevy Volt, Ford Energi, Toyota Prius & Plug-In EVs

This extremely small and lightweight charging station is easy to carry in the car at all times. It supports a higher charging rate than the line-cord charger, but the charging rate is limited to 3 kiloWatts. It comes with a NEMA 6-20 plug on the cord. It is unclear whether this product is UL certified, and there are many negative comments on Amazon about this charging station.
  • Charge Rate: 16 amps - roughly 10-12 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 4 lbs
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(www.amazon.com) EVI Plug-in EV Charger -Portable Cord- (US, Europe & Asia)

This is a properly portable charging station, with a small size and light weight. It supports 240V, 16A, 3.84 kw or 120V, 10A or 16A, 1.84kw. While this is not a top-of-the-line charging rate, it is darned useful to be switchable between 120 and 140 volts, and even a 3 kW charging rate is better than zero charging. Since it comes with L6-30, you will need adapters for the more common NEMA 14-50 and NEMA 5-20 outlets. It is unclear whether this product is UL certified, and there are many negative comments on Amazon about this charging station.
  • Charge Rate: 16 amps - roughly 10-12 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 5 lbs
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(www.amazon.com) Duosida Portable Electric Vehicle Charger (220V-240V) - 21 ft long - Level 2 - 16 amp Electric Car Charger - J1772 - EVSE

This is a lightweight, extremely portable, charging station making it very easy to carry in the car full-time. It supports a 240 volt 16 amp charging rate, or 3 kW, and connects to a NEMA 6-20R outlet. These outlets are cheap and easy to install at home, certainly less expensive to install than a 50 amp outlet. It is unclear whether this product is UL certified.
  • Charge Rate: 16 amps - roughly 10-12 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 5 lbs
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(www.amazon.com) Maxgreen 16A EV Level 2 Charger - Electric Vehicle Charging Station 240V, with NEMA 10-30 Plug and 20ft cord, J1772-EVSE Certified

This small and lightweight charging station can easily be used at home or on the road. The unit has status indicator lights as well as a comprehensive chart on the back showing what each light means. It is not UL listed, so buyer beware. It comes with a NEMA 10-30 plug, which is not recommended for electric vehicle charging since it is not grounded.
  • Charge Rate 16 amps - roughly 12 miles range per hour of charging
  • 12.6 x 9.8 x 4.9 inches
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240 volts 24 amps -- 5.7 kiloWatt -- 18 miles range per hour of charging

(www.amazon.com) Leviton EVBL2-P18 Level 2 Evr-Green Mini, Wall Mounted with Cord, 18'

The Evr-Green Mini is a highly portable charging station that's very useful both at home or on the road. Its size is about the same size as the typical line cord charger, but it supports a 5.7 kiloWatt (24 amp) charging rate. Between the small size and the useful power level, this is close to the perfect portable charging station. It comes with a NEMA 6-30 plug attached to the end of the cord, so make sure you get or build appropriate adapters.
  • Charge Rate: 24 amps - roughly 18 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • 20.9 x 3.2 x 1.8 inches
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(www.amazon.com) ClipperCreek LCS-30P, Plug-in 240V, 24A, Level 2 EV Charging Station with NEMA 14-50

The LCS-30P is a very portable charging station, that runs at a useful 5+ kiloWatt charging rate. It comes fitted with a NEMA 14-50P Plug so you can take it with you. Clipper Creek is a highly recommended company with over a decade of experience building charging stations.
  • Charge Rate: 14 amps - roughly 18 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 5 lbs
  • 4 x 3 x 11 inches
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240 volts 32 amps -- 7.7 kiloWatt -- 25 miles range per hour of charging

(www.amazon.com) ClipperCreek HCS-40P, 240V, 32A, EV Charging Station, with 14-50 plug, 25 ft cable, SAFETY CERTIFIED, Made in America

The HCS-40P is a fairly portable charging station, that runs at the full 6+ kiloWatt charging rate. It is therefore as useful at home as it would be on the road. This unit comes with a NEMA 14-50 plug, and another comes with a NEMA 6-50. Clipper Creek is a highly recommended company with over a decade of experience building charging stations.
  • Charge Rate: 32 amps - roughly 20-25 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 13 lbs
  • 9 x 19.7 x 5.3 inches (229mm W x 493mm H x 135mm D)
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(www.amazon.com) JuiceBox 40A Plug-in Electric Vehicle L2 Home Charging Station with 24-foot cable and NEMA 14-50 plug

At 10" x 6" x 3.5" this charging station packs a lot of power in a small box, supporting full power charging in a tiny unit. That it supports up to 40 amps charging is important for those vehicles with 40 amp on-board chargers. Since most vehicles have 32 amp on-board chargers, most of the charging stations have a similar limit. A few cars have higher power on-board chargers, meaning a 40 amp charging station lets you enjoy the full charging rate. The design is more-or-less open source, meaning the Electric Motor Werks website has published enough information about the innards so you can hack on and modify the unit. That includes the ability to add a knob to control the charging rate.
  • Charge Rate: 40 amps - roughly 25+ miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 18 lbs
  • 10 x 6 x 3.5 inches
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(www.amazon.com) Siemens VC30GRYU Versicharge 30-Amp Electric Vehicle Charger with Flexible Indoor/Outdoor and 20-Feet Cord

This charging station is not portable, however it has an interesting set of features. It supports a maximum 30-32 amp charging rate, for a 3-4 hour recharge time on the 80 mile range electric vehicles. Unlike many of the charging stations, the Versicharge charge rate is adjustable allowing it to be installed on a lower power circuit. It can also be used with a Demand Response system allowing you to earn Demand Response revenue from certain electric utility companies. This version of the Siemens Versicharge comes pre-configured with a NEMA 6-50 plug, while another version must be hardwired.
  • Charge Rate: 32 amps - roughly 20-25 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 18 lbs
  • 16.5 x 16.5 x 6.5 inches
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(www.amazon.com) ChargePoint 32 Amp, 18' Cord, Plug Station: Home 25 Electric Vehicle Charger Bundle

At 11 x 7 inches (and very thin) this station is small enough to be almost portable. However, since it must connect to the ChargePoint home base via WiFi, your ability to use it "anywhere" is limited. That WiFi connection means your home charging data is reported alongside data for any public charging done with ChargePoint, giving you a unified view of your charging history. ChargePoint is one of the largest charging networks in the world, so expect high quality and good features. The charging cord is sold separately letting you choose the cord length you desire.
  • Charge Rate: 32 amps - roughly 20-25 miles range per hour of charging
  • 11 x 7 inches
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(www.amazon.com) Leviton EVB32-H25 32 Amp 240V Evr-Green 320 Charging Station with 7.7kW Output and 25' Cord

At 10.4 x 5 x 19.2 inches this is a bit large to take anywhere. Leviton is a large electronics manufacturer it should be excellently built. While this unit does not come with a plug, it is easy to add one.
  • Charge Rate: 40 amps - roughly 25+ miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 32 lbs
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(www.amazon.com) Schneider Electric EV230WS EVlink 30-Amp Generation 2.5 Enhanced Model Indoor Electric Vehicle Charging Station

At 12.7 x 9.5 x 4.4 inches this is not quite portable. The power level allows a 3-4 hour recharge time with the 80 mile range electric cars. It does not have any extra features, providing only basic charging capability. Schneider is a large electronics manufacturer and this unit is well regarded.
  • Charge Rate: 32 amps - roughly 25+ miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 18.6 pounds
  • 12.7 x 9.5 x 4.4 inches
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(www.amazon.com) AeroVironment EV Charger: Plug-In, 25' cable, 30A, 7.2kW

At 12 x 8 x 12 inches this is a bit large to take anywhere. At a 30-32 amp charge rate, it will recharge an 80 mile range electric car in 3-4 hours. AeroVironment is a well-regarded charging station manufacturer whose history dates back to the earliest days of electric vehicles. This charging station is sold by several electric car manufacturers with their own badging.
  • Charge Rate: 30 amps - roughly 20-25 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 19 lbs
  • 12 x 8 x 12 inches
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(www.amazon.com) Bosch EL-50600-B Power Xpress 240V Charging Station with Cord Holder

Out of the box this charger supports a 30 amps charging rate, but it is easy to adjust the charging rate using a knob hidden under an access panel. If you find yourself at a lesser power outlet, simply access that knob and turn the charging rate down. You will need appropriate adapter cords, of course. At 23.9 x 9.5 x 7.2 inches it is more portable than some others.
  • Charge Rate: 32 amps - roughly 20-25 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 16 lbs
  • 23.9 x 9.5 x 7.2 inches
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(www.amazon.com) Blink HQ 30-Amp Home Electric Vehicle (EV) Charger

At 21 x 9 x 21 inches this charging station is too large to lug along on a trip. It includes a timer allowing you to schedule the charging time. It is made by Blink, the large charging network.
  • Charge Rate: 30 amps - roughly 20-25 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 20 lbs
  • 21 x 9 x 21 inches
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(www.amazon.com) EVoCharge EVSE 30 Amp (7.2 kW) Level 2 EV Charger, Outdoor Rated, UL Safety Certified, 18 Ft. Cable with Connector Holster, Plug-in or Hardwire, 2yr Warranty, Charges up to 8X Faster than a Standard AC Level 1 Electric Vehicle Charging Station

At 10.5 x 4.7 x 15 inches this is a luggable charging station. It can give a 3-4 hour recharge time for the 80 mile range electric cars. It has no advanced features, instead offering basic charging capability. Because it comes with a NEMA 6-50 Plug plug, a NEMA 14-50 adapter is highly recommended.
  • Charge Rate: 30 amps - roughly 20-25 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 18 lbs
  • 10.5 x 4.7 x 15 inches
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(www.amazon.com) Gridcharge EV Charger Residential Level 2, 30 Amp, Plug-and-Cord, 25 foot cord Electric Vehicle Charging Station

At 30 amps, the charging rate is just shy of 6 kiloWatts and therefore gives around 20 miles range per hour of charging. It comes with an attached plug making it fairly easy to install in the garage. The size and weight makes it not quite suitable for portable use.
  • Charge Rate 30 amps - roughly 20 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight 20 lbs
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240 volts greater than 32 amps

(www.amazon.com) JuiceBox Pro 75A WiFi-equipped Plug-in Electric Vehicle Charger / Charging Station with 24-foot cable and THHN Input Whip for Hardwire

At 10" x 6" x 3.5" this charging station packs a lot of power in a small box, supporting full power charging in a small unit. That it supports up to 75 amps charging means it supports any AC charge rate, but is far beyond what most of us require. Very few electric vehicles have on-board chargers that can accept this much power. Namely, the Tesla Model S and Model X can be configured for an 80 amp charge rate. In other words, the market for this is limited to those with cars supporting this higher charge rate. The design is more-or-less open source, meaning the Electric Motor Werks website has published enough information about the innards so you can hack on and modify the unit. That includes the ability to add a knob to control the charging rate.
  • Charge Rate: 75 amps - roughly 50 miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 21 lbs
  • 10 x 6 x 3.5 inches
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(www.amazon.com) Leviton EVB40-PST Evr-Green 400 EV Charger, 40-Amp, Surface Mount, 25-Foot Cord, Requires 50Amp Circuit

At 24 x 16.2 x 9 inches this is not portable. Because it runs at 40 amps this charging station is very important for owners of cars that run at a higher charging rate, such as the Gen2 Toyota RAV4 EV or the Honda Fit EV.
  • Charge Rate: 40 amps - roughly 25+ miles range per hour of charging
  • Weight: 35 lbs
  • 24 x 16.2 x 9 inches
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(www.amazon.com) Wall Wattz: EVSE, Level 2, 75 Amp Output, 25' J1772 charging cable w/ Cable Management System, Satin finish, Type 4X outdoor enclosure

For those electric cars supporting a high AC charging rate, this charging station fits the bill. If you want to save a few bucks, it is available with a 40 amp or 48 amp charging system.
  • Charge Rate 75 amps - roughly 50 miles range per hour of charging
  • 11 x 7.5 x 4.2 inches
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DC Fast Charging

For the most part we don't need DC charging at home. However, some people will want a higher charging rate. For them, this product is available. See Fast charging your electric car at home

(www.amazon.com) Delta EV Wallbox DC Fast Charger 25kW Commercial Charging Station - Single CCS Connector

This DC Level 1 charging station is definitely non-portable, and seems meant for commercial use. It connects either to three-phase AC or single phase AC, the latter allowing for DC charging support at nearly any location in the US. Supporting 25 kiloWatts requires circuit capacity over 100 amps. The charging cord on this unit support only the Combo Charging System. The company sells another unit supporting both CCS and CHAdeMO. It can also integrate with renewable energy, such as solar power and wind power technology to provide the most energy saving infrastructure for EV system development
  • Charge Rate: 25 kiloWatts - roughly 100+ miles range per hour of charging
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Miscellaneous

The (shop.quickchargepower.com) JESLA charger from Quick Charge Power. This is a modified Tesla portable charging unit that has a J1772 cord. It supports switchable plugs to automatically change the power level, and can run up to 240 volt 40 amps. It's also very pricey.

The (store.openevse.com) OpenEVSE is an open source portable charging station which you can build from a kit and whose power level is easily changeable from the front panel. The result does everything we want in a portable high power charging station, and at a reasonable price.

Charging stations and cords for Europe

(www.amazon.co.uk) Coiled / Spiral Fast Charging EV Cable 32amp/5meter 7.2kW Mennekes Type 2 to Type 2 with Carry Case

Charge your EV from all Type2 home or public charge points at 16 or 32 amps.
[ (www.amazon.de) amazon.de]
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(www.amazon.co.uk) EV Charging Cable Type 1 to Type 2 16 Amp

Some European electric cars have what they call a "Type 1" charging port, which is also known as the J1772 port. That is, they are using the American-style charging port, and this cable allows such a car to use a European style Type 2 charging station.
[ (www.amazon.co.uk) amazon.co.uk] [amazon.co.uk]
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(www.amazon.co.uk) EV Electric Car Type 2, mode 2 portable charging station 13 A, IEC E13, IEC 62196, EMC (2004/108EC)

This is a portable charging station for use in the UK. It connects to a UK style power outlet, and has a Mennekes style Type 2 charging port.
[ (www.amazon.de) amazon.de] [amazon.de]
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(www.amazon.de) Wallbox wallb-e eco 2.0 - 22kW

This is a 3-phase 22 kiloWatt charging station (Wallbox). Be certain your car is compatible with this before ordering. At this charging rate it is almost considered "fast charging" and at 899 Euros it may be inexpensive enough for an individual to have it in their home.
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Range Confidence is Copyright © 2016-17 by David Herron

Choosing the best electric car charging stations for home charging or on trips

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