My home, my service station

by Andy Bryenton

The home of the very near future may very well end up serving an extra role with the rise of the electric vehicle or EV. Sales of these petrol and diesel free cars are on the rise, with more than three and a half thousand registered in 2017 and that number set to be even bigger this year. As the future of motoring looks toward an electrically powered tomorrow, people will increasingly look to charging solutions in the home. However, what will that mean in terms of infrastructure?

The easiest way to ensure a full battery for the morning commute is, of course, to plug in overnight, taking advantage of off-peak power prices to be ready for the day’s drive ahead. Some have speculated that this will mean an end to the concept of night-time off-peak power itself, as the EV fleet grows. Even if half of our road fleet for private passenger use were to switch from internal combustion, power companies estimate that this would only account for less than ten per cent of grid capacity. The bigger factor is safely converting the home garage into a docking facility to keep those batteries full.

Industry experts warn that a simple plug socket may not be enough to get the job done and that it’s best to fit a specialised charging unit at the same time as purchasing an EV. It means consulting with a qualified electrician and making sure that the switchboard has the capacity for adding on this new function. Using extension cables as one would for a power drill or electric line trimmer is right out — the power load is likely to be too much for them and may lead to a fire hazard. Similarly, some charging solutions are not built as robustly as others.

When choosing an EV, talk to the auto dealer about appropriate charging points — ones that support the vehicle’s warranty.

Already the market has seen cheaper, less reliable charging products which warn, for example, against charging in the rain. A good quality charging system should be robustly weatherproof and can cost as little as two to three thousand dollars — a small investment set against the $40k to $60k average of a new EV. The best advice — have a home assessment undertaken by an electrician who is armed with knowledge from the vehicle maker before you buy, and future-proof your garage for the long haul.