A cheap EV charger installation is possible, but you will sacrifice charging speed. This article is about home car chargers, but you can find out about commercial car chargers or charging station locations for lease.
Level 1 EV chargers typically come with an electric vehicle and just plug into a standard home outlet (120V) to charge at 1.3 to 2.4 kWh, but will take more than 24 hours to fully charger your car at a rate of about 3-5 miles per hour of charging.
An inexpensive Level 2 EV charger installation is also possible if you are willing to have a 3.3 kWh charger, but this is the low end of Level 2 charging and only supplies about 8 miles per hour of charging. As you will see, there are a few pieces to the cost puzzle, and a cheap low power Level 2 charger means that the installation will also be cheaper, due to lower power rated circuit breakers and electrical wires. If you’re looking to install a charger in an AirBNB, then you’re probably going to need a charger that is inexpensive but also reliable – the best of both worlds to be a worthwhile amenity for your rental property.
Also, a third party branded charger is going to be less expensive than a branded one, like a charger from Tesla or Rivian. The higher end of level 2 chargers can supply up to 19.2 kWh and about 70 miles per hour. Of course, there are plenty of options in between these two extremes, so there is a L2 charger to fit every budget.
A Cheap Level 2 EV Charger
The cheapest EV charger available on Amazon is actually a 3.8 kWh charger (16 amps and 240 volts) and it only costs $129, but it requires a 240v outlet (like a clothing dryer or electric oven outlet), so if you don’t have a 240v outlet near your parking space or in your garage, you’d need to get one installed, which can be expensive.
A 240v outlet or at least the electrical wires that can support 240V are going to be required for any Level 2 charger installation, but there is cost savings to be had on the gauge of the wires necessary and for the circuit breaker itself. If you already have a suitable 240V outlet, then you just need to check the circuit breaker and wire gauge from the breaker to the outlet to make sure they can handle the amperage of the charger.
Lower Amp Rating for Circuit Breaker
The cheap Amazon charger is only going to draw 16 amps, so your electrician could install a 30 amp circuit breaker rather than a more expensive 50 amp circuit breaker. Your electrician will always install a circuit breaker that is rated for more amps (30 amps) than your charger (16 amps) because there will be amperage spikes that could trip your circuit breaker if you only had a 20 amp circuit breaker.
A 30 amp circuit breaker is in the $15-20 range on the low end, and $80+ on the higher end, and though a 50 amp breaker can also be had for about $20, the higher end (and safety-feature laden) circuit breaker can exceed $120. So, certainly talk with your electrician about the type and brand of circuit breaker they typically install and whether a 30 amp vs. 50 amp circuit breaker will significantly affect your bottom line.
Smaller Gauge Wires
Since the 240v wires will only need to carry around 16 amps (with a margin of safety for amperage spikes), the copper or aluminum wires can be thinner than for a higher powered Level 2 charger. So, this too is an area where cost savings can be had from choosing a lower powered L2 charger. A 30 amp circuit only requires 8 gauge copper wires, but a 40 or 50 amp circuit requires a 6 gauge wire. If you are concerned about future proofing the outlet for a faster charger in a few years, it might be a good idea to spring for thicker wires.
The Costs are in the Details
A cheap EV charger installation is certainly possible and there are a wide variety of chargers to choose from. It may be a good idea to spring for more expensive wires and circuit breakers now, so that in 5 years you won’t need to have the circuit replaced again.
Mounting the EV charger could present an issue if there isn’t a sturdy wall nearby since Level 2 EV chargers can weigh over 20lbs – so you might need a sturdy post if you wanted to have an outdoor EV charger in addition to one in the garage. And hopefully you don’t feel the need to have a security camera to keep watch over the EV charger.
Of course, a charger is only one of many costs that you need to factor in when buying an electric vehicle, so don’t forget about things like insurance.