Can I Charge My Electric Car Overnight?

The short answer is, yes, you can charge your new electric car overnight and drive out into the world with a full charge in the morning. Both new electric cars, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, started deliveries in Los Angeles in December 2010. If you’re anxiously awaiting delivery of one of these vehicles, it’s time to consider your charging options.

The all-electric Nissan Leaf can drive about 100 miles before it needs a battery charge. The Chevy Volt can drive about 40 miles, and then it starts burning gasoline. It’s a hybrid. Both come with a complimentary charging cord called a “Level 1 charger.” It plugs into an electrical outlet in your garage or carport and requires only ordinary house current. But a Level 1 charger works slowly and won’t take you from a depleted battery to a full charge overnight. You may still be able to use a Level 1 charger if you have a short commute which would allow you to top off your battery overnight. Here’s more about Level 1 charging.

Drivers who have longish commutes or who don’t charge up every night will want faster charging with a Level 2 charger. A Level 2 charger takes a Nissan Leaf battery from completely empty to completely full in 8 hours; 4 hours for the Volt. So, even if you totally drain your battery, with a Level 2 charger, you’ll be able to fill it by morning. A Level 2 charger is usually purchased along with the car. It’s housed in a container about 18 inches around and hangs on the garage wall, sticking out about a foot. It requires installation of a 240 volt circuit, higher than ordinary house current.

Both Nissan and Chevy will arrange your purchase and installation of a Level 2 charger if you wish. Both car manufacturers have contracted with electrical contractors that they’ve trained and certified. Or you can make your own arrangements with an electrical contractor.

Purchase and installation of a Level 2 charger costs about $2,000. The price can vary quite a bit depending on the distance of the charger from your electrical panel and on whether you need an upgrade of your panel size to accommodate the additional power demands of the charger. Some lucky homeowners, who registered for a California state research project on electric vehicles, will qualify for a discount, or even free purchase and installation. And, here’s some good news: A few days ago, on April 27th, L.A. DWP announced a rebate of $2,000 to homeowners who install a Level 2 charger as part of their research project. A rebate of this size is significant as, in many cases, it can cover the entire cost of the purchase and installation of a charger. Click here for more information on L.A. DWP rebates for EV chargers.

All homeowners who buy an electric car will benefit by their far-sightedness. No more stops for gas. No more worries about gas prices creeping up to $4 or $5 a gallon (or more?!) any time there’s unrest in the Middle East or a natural disaster. They’ll know that they’re contributing to the solution to our dependence on foreign oil — about 60% of that oil is sucked up by our gas tanks. For this reason, President Obama has set the goal of one million electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015. For us in Los Angeles, every electric vehicle makes our skies bluer — when you’re running on electricity, your car is emitting no pollution or greenhouse gases at all.

For more about my company, The Electric Connection — all the stuff you wanted to know but were afraid to ask — If you’re interested coupons for electrical work, for example, $50 off installation of a Whole House Surge Protector in the L.A. area, click here on our coupon page.