Electric Road Trip

Home charging on the cheap

ATLANTA — We got a fascinating lesson in home charging yesterday.

So far on the Electric Road Trip, we've mostly charged our Kia Niro electric vehicle at public charging stations owned by EVgo, Electrify America, Blink and other networks. But that's not a typical experience. Eighty percent of charging happens at home, according to the Department of Energy.

So when we arrived in Atlanta, we saw the perfect window of opportunity to try out home charging for ourselves. After all, we were staying at Kristi's house in East Atlanta rather than a hotel or Airbnb close to a public charging station.

Many people hire a company to install a Level 2 charger in their garage or driveway. The charger typically costs around $500 to $700, while the labor runs $1,200 to $2,000. But in the interest of saving money, we decided to configure our own home charging system.

We're not the most tech-savvy people. (Maxine is embarrassed to admit she asks extremely basic questions of the E&E News tech team, such as how to access Microsoft Outlook on her phone.) So we enlisted the help of Alan Shedd, the director of sustainability at Oglethorpe Power Co., an electric utility. Alan has been driving a plug-in hybrid for years and is an expert on all things related to electric cars and the grid.

Alan offered to take us to Home Depot, where he helped us pick out the right cables and outlet converters to configure a home charging system. At the checkout, we were surprised by the total on the receipt: $31.

With these inexpensive supplies in hand, we headed back to Oglethorpe, where Alan helped us assemble the charging system. As he worked, he cautioned that building this kind of system can be downright dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. Touch the wrong wire, for example, and you'll get a shock of 240 volts.

Thankfully, Alan knew what he was doing, and the system was configured in less than 15 minutes. We then hopped into our Kia and drove to Kristi's house. There, we plugged the converter into the right outlet behind Kristi's dryer to charge.

Alan, if you're reading this, we can't thank you enough for your help. To everyone else, as our company lawyer would like us to say, "Don't try this at home." And if you do try it, just be careful.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.
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