Should you get a home charger for your electric car?

If you have off-street parking, it’s the way to go. But there are many aspects to consider

I've just bought an electric car (or plug-in hybrid).
Congratulations. Have you got a driveway, or off-street parking?

Is that really important?
Oh yes. Chris Kelly of charging experts EasyGo is unequivocal about the need for your own parking. "If you've no off-street parking yourself, then you're really going to have to rely on the public charging network," says Kelly. "We have installed a few chargers in private estates, where there's permission from the management to put in charging points in parking spaces, but if you've only got public on-street parking, then you can't install a charger at the kerbside. It's down to the insurance and liability issues. You can lobby your local councillor to see about having charge points fitted in the area. But the charging points then are going to be open to the public to use."

Okay, let's say I've got a driveway. What next?
First off, you need to go and check with the SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) to see if you qualify for a grant to defray the cost of installing a home charger. Most private car buyers who've just bought their first electric or plug-in hybrid car will, but you need to get the paperwork organised ahead of installation. That's because to actually receive the grant, the electrician who is doing the installation has to sign off the paperwork.

Wait, you said 'first electric car'
Yup, you'll only be eligible for the home charger grant once, and presumably that'll be for your first EV or PHEV purchase. Bought a second electric car? Or want to upgrade your older charger to a newer one? Sorry, you're out of luck. "No there is no support for this at present," says Graham Brennan, SEAI home charger programme manager. "The majority of those older installations were fully funded by ESB Ecars up until the end of 2017, when our programme took over. The feeling would be that about half of the cost of purchasing and installing an EV charger can be associated with the fitting, cabling and connection of the charger back to the fuse board. So an upgrade should not be as expensive as a new installation where the cable runs have not been set up yet. The home charger grant is linked to the Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) which is fixed to the property."


Okay, I've got my grant paperwork organised. How much is this all going to set me back?
The good news is that the grant is worth a fair old chunk of money – €600 in all. The bad news is that if you want a singing-and-dancing connected wallbox charger (which allows you to control the levels and timing of charging from your phone), then that's pretty expensive. The cheapest form of home charger is an "untethered" one, which is basically a big socket on the side of your house. If you're getting one of those, you'll have to check and make sure that the car that you've bought comes with the appropriate cable to use an untethered socket, usually a so-called 'Type 2' cable.

More expensive are the “tethered” chargers, which come with their own cables, with a Type 2 connection that plugs into your car. These come in a variety of cable lengths, but it’s a good idea to get the longest one possible, as if you change your car at some point, it’s charging connection might not be in as convenient a position. All in, including the grant, you’re probably looking at a cost of €900-€1,000 to get your home charger installed and running.

Is there any way of getting a free one?
Yes, actually. While the ESB's funding for free home chargers ran out long ago, if you keep your eyes peeled, many of the car manufacturers often have special deals that give you a free home charger with the car. Some others offer discounted home chargers and installation, while some – such as Ford and Volkswagen – offer specially tailored tariffs that give you cheaper electricity for your whole home as well as cheaper charging. These can seriously help defray the cost of the charger installation in the longer run, and the fact that you're not filling a tank of petrol or diesel at €1.70 a litre will really help in that regard too.

How much does charging a car actually cost?
That will depend on two things: the size of your car's battery and the electricity tariff you're on. On the normal domestic electricity rate of 24c per kilowatt-hour (kWh) it will cost you about €14.40 to charge, from flat, an electric car with a 60kWh battery (think Volkswagen ID.3 or Hyundai Kona Electric) and that will get you a one-charge range of 350km-420km, depending on the car and how you drive. You can get much cheaper overnight rates though – down to as little as 10c per kWh (although those rates usually come with a higher monthly "standing charge") – which would cut the charging cost to just over €6.

How much power does a car charger draw from my house?
This is slightly trickier than you might think. An average house is provided with about 13kW of energy at any given time, usually with a maximum possible load of 65 amps, which equates to 14.7kW. A home charging point usually runs at a power of 7.4kW, which in theory leaves you lots of headroom in the power supply. Ah, but you're not just running a car charger, are you? If you've got an electric shower, one that heats the water itself, that's probably drawing down 9kW, so if you're charging your car and someone turns on the shower, bam, that's your trip-switch tripped. There are a couple of possible solutions.

The main one – and it’s recommended whatever you want to do – is to fit a load manager. “What that does is it measures the power coming into the house,” says EasyGo’s Kelly. “It’s connected via a communications cable to the charging point. It tells the charger: ‘Okay, I have X amount of power coming into the house. That means you have X amount of power available to give to the car’. So if, for instance, your charger is charging at full power, and then somebody turns on the shower, the manager will then tell the charge point: ‘Hang on, we’ve too much coming through, we might trip something, so let’s turn down the power going into the car to below a certain threshold.’ ”

The other solution is to increase the power capacity of your house. In theory, you can get that upgraded to as much as an 80-amp, 18kW load, but that can be expensive, and it’s much more difficult if you’re living in the country, as it might mean that ESB Networks has to upgrade the power supply coming to your house. If you live in town, it’s a little easier, but you may need to get your fuse box and meter upgraded to cope.

A further solution is to go for a simpler, lower-power charger that supplies just over 3kW power, but that will obviously take longer to charge your car, and isn’t really suitable if you’ve got a model with a battery larger than 50kWh capacity.

Anything else?
Yes, SEAI has a few recommendations, including: "Do ensure you use a registered Safe Electric electrician and ask him or her for examples of their work and experience with the selected charger technology.

“Do ensure that the electrician checks the wiring in your home such as earth conductor, main bonding and electrical wires from your fuse board to your electricity meter to ensure they comply with the latest NSAI National Wiring Rules before installing a Home Charger. and do consider switching to night-saver electricity rates and switch electricity supplier each year to get and maintain discounts of up to 30 per cent on annual electricity bills.”