Level 1 Charging

As standard, both the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf come with a charging cord, called a “Level 1 Charger,” which looks like an extension cord. By plugging the Level 1 charger into an electrical outlet, you can charge your car.

Using the Level 1 charger is simple and inexpensive to set up, but will require a dedicated circuit, meaning that no other appliances, such as a washer or dryer, are on the same circuit.

Your electrician will need to check whether your electrical panel should be upgraded to handle the extra power draw and the outlet will need to be the safety version usually found in garages and outdoors (a GFI).

Once the outlet is installed, the EV driver pulls out the Level 1 charging cord which comes with the car and begins the charging process. This will take a while, with a Chevy Volt battery taking about 10 hours to fully charge and a Nissan Leaf’s battery taking around 20 hours.

Even though Level 1 charging is slow, it should be satisfactory for drivers with short commutes as if managed properly, the battery should not reach empty and will be able to be charged over night. The 100 mile range of the Nissan Leaf is a lot more than the 33 miles the typical American drives daily.

If driving an average of 33 miles per day, you will only use one-third of the battery in a day. This means if you regularly plug in when arriving at home, you will be able to top it off at night and leave with a full battery in the morning.

For hybrids, such as the Chevy Volt, the issue of leaving home fully charged is less important, at about 35 miles, when the battery hits empty, it will turn to the gas backup and use that to power the car instead. This isn’t exactly ideal for gas usage, but the driver will feel less anxious about the time spent driving.

Level 2 Charging

If unsatisfied with Level 1, you can also choose to go with Level 2 Charging. This method of charging will require the installation of a special Level 2 Charger running on 240 volts (which is more powerful than standard house current), but will charge much faster than Level 1.

A Level 2 charger takes a Chevy Volt battery from completely empty to full in about four hours; eight hours for the Nissan Leaf. So, even if you completely drain your battery, you will be able to completely fill your car’s battery by morning with a Level 2 charger.

A Level 2 charger is housed in a container about 18 inches around and hangs on the wall of your garage, sticking out nearly a foot. When you recharge with it, it feels as if you are filling your car with gas, stretching out a “house” over to the recharging socket built into the EV.

A Level 2 charger is usually purchased when you buy your electric car and if you wish, Nissan or Chevy can arrange the installation for you. Nissan has partnered with AeroVironment to handle the supply and installation of chargers and Chevy Volt with SPX.

However, warranties and follow-up repairs on the charger may not be as good a deal. Consumer Reports estimates that purchase and installation of a Level 2 Charger can cost around $2,000, but depending on the distances of the charger from your electrical panel and whether you need an upgrade of your panel’s size to accommodate the extra power draw of the charger, prices may vary.