Is there an electric vehicle in your future? Even if you don’t have immediate plans to buy an EV, if you’re building a new home or renovating it’s a good idea to keep in mind the requirements for housing and charging one. Your house – and its wiring – should last for decades, and the electrified transport future will be here sooner than you think. You can ask us more about getting your home EV ready here.
Around the world, electric vehicles are claiming an increasing share of the new vehicle market, especially in countries like Norway where government incentives have encouraged their uptake. In Australia, although sales of EVs tripled last year they still account for only 0.6 per cent of all new car sales. Until recently, models available here were expensive and had a limited range, but that is rapidly changing. Several new, more affordable models have become available in 2020.
EVs are both economical to run and have lower carbon emissions – and these will fall further as our electricity grid goes more renewable. Though exact figures vary, it’s clear that they are the best option for those who need to drive but want to significantly reduce their carbon footprint and by recharging with off-peak electricity overnight or using excess solar generation, EV owners can pay much less per kilometre than they would for petrol.
EVs have clear benefits, but making the shift requires a bit more forethought than bringing home a new petrol car. If you are interested in getting an EV – even if you’re not quite ready yet – the design phase of a renovation or new build is the perfect time to start considering what you need.
How does EV charging work?
You can use a regular household power point to charge an EV, but it’s fairly slow (about 10 to 20 kilometres of range per hour) and in homes with older wiring it can result in some overheating and thus wear and tear on the power point contacts and connections behind. The better option is to install an electric vehicle charge point, which can allow for a faster charge. There are various types of charge points and plugs, and it can be tough to get your head around the options, but this decision can be left until you’ve decided what kind of car to purchase.
Most existing homes have a single-phase electricity supply, which will allow you to charge most EVs overnight at 7 kilowatts, or around 40 kilometres of range per hour. With a three-phase electricity connection instead (which can be costly to install, especially in an existing home), you can support a faster charge point that can charge at up to 22 kilowatts, or 120 kilometres of range per hour, recharging your car in just a few hours. Your specific model of car and the type of battery it uses will also influence the charging rate that’s possible.
More and more public chargers are being installed in public locations like the car parks of shopping centers and office buildings, and at highway service stations. These chargers use high levels of current that aren’t available to homeowners, and can fully recharge your car in under an hour.
WE recommend the New Zealand built EVNEX R7 charge point for home installations. The manufacture of the intelligent charge point is second to none. The smart charge capabilities through the easy to use mobile app let you set your charging time during off-peak utility rates, saving you even more money.
Powering up at home
So what can you do to get your existing home ready to ‘plug and play’ when it’s time for an EV? Consulting a licensed electrician is an important first step (EVCHARGEWA can help you with this)– something you may be doing anyway if you are renovating. They will be able to tell you the capacity of your existing connection to the grid and whether you need to replace any wiring or update or expand your switchboard to accommodate an electric vehicle charger. You’ll also need to check how much energy your existing appliances draw; if you’re already regularly approaching the capacity of your grid connection, you’ll need to upgrade it or make other changes to your home’s energy use and efficiency to enable EV charging
Once you know that you have a suitable connection to the street and have space for a circuit breaker on your switchboard, you’ll be ready to install the wiring for your EV charging, and later your charge point of choice.
If you are planning a new home, you’ll have a bit more wiggle room. When putting in a new grid connection it’s often possible to get three-phase power to your house without a huge extra cost, which allows for much faster EV charging. You also have the opportunity to make design choices that will increase your charging speed and safety, which we’ll outline below.
Whether you go with faster three-phase charging or slower single-phase, you don’t need to worry about getting enough charge if you plug your car in overnight. “My Tesla can do more than 400 kilometres on a full charge, and I can recharge it at 50 kilometres of range per hour at home,” says Kim Cramer of Reliable Energy Solutions, who has worked with Standards Australia on EV charging. “Even if I got home at 10pm with my car completely exhausted, I could plug it in and at 6am it’d be ready to go again.” This is why setting up your home charging station makes the most sense.
Designing for EVs
There are a few key tips to keep in mind when designing a home or retrofitting for an EV. Understandably, most of this advice relates to your garage, carport or parking space and the electrical wiring needed for charging your future car: plan to install this wiring now. Consider carefully the location of your charge point with respect to where the car will be parked – the best option is close by and easily accessible for plugging in your EV when you arrive home. If you have a tight parking spot, make sure your charger isn’t located where you could accidentally hit it with your car or run over the cable.
If your car will be parked in an open parking space (e.g. on a driveway) or in a carport that is more open to the elements than a garage, make sure your charge point is rainproof and locate it in a spot with as much weather protection as possible, such as under a porch. Heat is another factor to keep in mind: install your charge point out of direct sun. In addition, you don’t want your car’s battery getting too hot, or its lifespan will be shortened. In Perth and throughout most of WA we live in a hot climate, consider a garage if possible and make sure you buy an EV with active thermal management for the battery (most have this, only a few don’t).
Of course, not all of us live in houses with a dedicated parking space within a short step of the front door. For the rising numbers living in multi-residence dwellings, EV charging can be a challenge. In an apartment building with its own carpark it’s sometimes possible to wire an individual charge point, Find out more on Apartment charging in our article EV's and Apartment living in WA.
Credit: Sophie Weiner