Today, as the number of vehicles powered by electricity has grown, consumers have their pick from Toyotas to BMWs. While only a small fraction of these electric vehicles, or EVs, are on the road in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Energy says they are doing their share to help drive down pollution and curb the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

But for many EV drivers, the mundane task of keeping their cars charged and ready to go can be a challenge, especially when there are only about 6,600 public charging stations available across the U.S. Each state has at least one public charging station, the Department of Energy reports. To find out if there is an EV charging station near you, visit the Alternative Fuels Data Center (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/electricity_locations.html).

For those with conventional automobiles, finding one of the estimated 180,000 public service stations to fuel their tanks is significantly easier, but EV drivers can boast about the option of “refueling” their cars at home. Not only are home charging stations convenient, they are the most often used location for EVs when they need juice, suggests findings from the Electric Power Research Institute, which studied EV driving patterns.

According to the research, 64 percent of EV recharging will take place at home, 22 percent at work and only 14 percent will be done at public charging stations. This and other research suggests that the critical needs are for charging stations to be where EV drivers work and live. The time it takes to refuel and the costs of at-home equipment are two important factors for consumers choosing this option.

The most common home refueling unit, known as a Level 1 charger, is also considered the slowest. For example, it could take anywhere from five to 100 hours for an electric car to completely recharge when it is hooked up to a 120-volt household outlet.  The advantage, though, is that this type of unit is low cost and easy to use.

Another popular home-based unit, the Level 2 charger, uses 240 volts, the amount of energy it takes to power an electric clothes dryer. It is recommended that a trained and licensed electrician install this type of charging station. The Level 2 will recharge most vehicles in half the time of the Level 1 charger.

Prices vary depending on features, but most homeowners can expect to pay $500 to $900 for a Level 2 charger. Prices can increase with additional bells and whistles, and of course installation will be an additional expense. Consumers should consult a tax professional for any local, state or federal tax credits that may be available to offset the cost of installing a charging station at home. You can also visit http://www.goelectricdrive.com/index.php/incentives for a list of incentives that may apply.

When an EV car is fully charged, most can travel about 100 miles, a distance the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration determined is sufficient for completing more than 90 percent of typical household automobile trips.

As with any new car purchase, the details are in the options package. It is important for consumers to keep in mind that a Level 2 charging station may be a necessary luxury if they want the convenience of fast charging. But as long as your electric vehicle comes with an extension cord to reach a trusty standard outlet, you will never be without power for long.

Source: Brian Sloboda, CRN

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