Click on any photo on this page to view a larger version
Installing an EVSE
in Our New Home

Mark D Larsen

Getting Down and Dirty
On April 8, 2010, we broke ground to build a new home in the Kayenta Desert Community of Ivins, Utah, just outside of St. George —as you can see in the photo on the right.

Twelve days later, I put down a deposit to reserve a LEAF electric car, the very first day that Nissan opened reservations. I had desperately wanted an electric car for many years, as I have indicated in my test drive review of the LEAF. Now it seemed that my dream was finally going to come true, although I knew I had to start planning accordingly. Specifically, I would need to build the new garage to accommodate an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) to charge the car at home.

When I reserved my LEAF, Nissan explicitly stated in my e-mail receipt:

“We will be in touch by June 30 with more details on your spot and how to begin preparing your home for your new car.”

Said preparation would apparently involve an inspection by an installer from AeroVironment, an early pioneer in the EV movement that Nissan had designated to fulfill that service and and provide the EVSE. Of course, in my case such an inspection was a moot point —since there was nothing yet to inspect! What I really needed was for AeroVironment to simply provide an EVSE so that I could install it while the home was being built. I thus anxiously awaited the June 30 details, for I estimated that it would not be too long after that when our electrician would begin running the wiring in the new home. However, Nissan’s e-mail on June 30 did not provide the promised details! Instead, it only stated:

“We are still finalizing some details of the order process, and we will be in touch later this summer with additional information on your order timing.”
I was frustrated that Nissan had broken its promise to provide “more details,” but I was even more irritated that they didn’t offer any explanation, let alone an apology. Obviously, I was going to have to take matters into my own hands to “begin preparing” our new home for the car. First I called Nissan’s customer service to explain my situation and ask about purchasing an EVSE directly. They could only refer me to AeroVironment.

I thus called AeroVironment to again reiterate that we were building a new home and would much prefer to include the installation of the EVSE from the ground up as part of the project rather than waiting to do so until I could order my LEAF. The AeroVironment representative was very empathetic and agreed that it would make much more sense to include the EVSE in new construction. Nonetheless, AeroVironment only had a limited supply of EVSEs to date, barely enough to accommodate the LEAF reservation holders in the initial rollout states when they placed their orders in late summer and early fall. Perhaps after that I could contact them again to ascertain if the situation had changed.

This was discouraging news, as you can imagine. I consequently asked the representative if he could at least provide circuit and wiring specifications so that my electrician could install those components, ready to connect to the EVSE at a later date. He was more than happy to oblige, and I passed those details on to my electrician.

Long time EV advocate Stefano Paris had earlier suggested to me that I should consider installing a Milbank electrical panel, like those found in RV parks, so that it would be possible to charge two EVs at the same time: one via the hardwired EVSE and another via a NEMA 14-50 receptacle with a cordset like the Tesla Universal Mobile Connector or the EVSE Upgrade to the Level 1 kit that comes with the LEAF. I therefore had my electrician install a Milbank panel in the garage, and run the specified wiring for the EVSE from there.

The left photo below shows the Milbank panel secured to the studs in the garage, with the EVSE's wiring strung to the side and protruding between two horizontal boards to facilitate mounting it someday. The right photo shows the finished product, with the drywall installed and painted, and a protective plate temporarily mounted over the wire to pass muster with the city inspector.

I’ve Been Framed

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

As suggested, I again contacted AeroVironment in the fall. I no longer entertained any illusions that I could install the EVSE before we closed on the new home, but I happened to see in an EV internet listserve that a blogger reported it was now possible to obtain one directly from AeroVironment as a “cash-and-carry” purchase for $721, plus shipping. The representative who answered my e-mail stated:

“I believe we would be able to sell you the charging dock without the installation. Because we are not currently selling the charging docks to anyone at this point, we would make a note to contact you as soon as we begin selling the charging docks. The very earliest that this would occur would be in mid-November.”

We closed on the new home on October 29, and I resolved that I would hear from AeroVironment in the next two or three weeks. Nonetheless, November came and went with nary a word. In mid-December, after the test drive in the LEAF had further whet my appetite, I decided to contact them yet again by writing directly to the representative with whom I had exchanged messages previously. This was her reply:

“I apologize for keeping you waiting on this front. Unfortunately, I have learned from my supervisor that we must provide charging docks to customers taking receipt of the LEAF within the next couple of months first. Also, we are unable to provide charging docks to customers that have not yet been able to order their LEAF. I apologize for the inconvenience that this may cause, but it is unlikely that we will be able to provide you with a charging dock until sometime next year (after you have ordered your car, and closer to the time that your car will be delivered).”

Needless to say, I was severely disappointed to learn this. Since we live in the very last tier of Nissan’s projected rollout for the LEAF, it looked like it would be a very long time, indeed, before I would be able to connect the pre-installed wiring to its intended EVSE. At least I had the NEMA 14-50 receptacle ready for any friends who might need to charge their EV while visiting our area! In the meantime, I figured that I might as well look into EVSEs from other manufacturers, such as ClipperCreek, Blink, Leviton, and Schneider. In all such cases, the prices were even higher or still pending, and most of those companies could only report that their units would be available “soon.”

Then, in January, I got a pleasant surprise: AeroVironment called me on the phone to let me know that they were now able to sell me a “cash-and-carry” EVSE after all. The representative told me that I could order one with either a 15' or 25' cable, but that the latter cables were backordered and wouldn’t arrive for several weeks. I told him that I would measure my garage to see which length I preferred, and that I would also check with my electrician to see about scheduling the installation. I asked him to call me back after the 25' cables were in so that I could place my order.

I determined that a mere 15' cable would suffice, given that I had already pre-wired for the EVSE in the most optimal location in the garage. My electrician also reported that he could finish installing the unit easily, and would only charge me $100 for labor and another 240V breaker for the panel. A few more weeks went by, and then I received an e-mail from AeroVironment which stated:

AeroVironment Customer Service will be contacting you by phone in the next few days to advise you of important information pertaining to your request to purchase the AeroVironment Home Charging Dock for your Nissan LEAF.

The message also said that, if I hadn’t heard from them in the next week, I should call or write them. After about 10 days of waiting, I decided to call. The representative who took my call informed me that if I wanted to purchase the EVSE “cash-and-carry,” I should do so before April 29, because the prices would be going up after that date.

Given some of the higher prices I had seen so far from other manufacturers, this decision didn’t surprise me. Of course, I could be wrong with this conclusion, and perhaps EVSE prices will eventually drop precipitously. Nonetheless, knowing that I have a very long wait ahead of me before I can take delivery of my LEAF, I figured that it might bolster my patience to contemplate its EVSE on the garage wall, just waiting to charge it someday. I thus decided to go ahead and order the EVSE, even if I am paying more than I would need to in the future.

Within a week, UPS dropped the EVSE off on my doorstep. I called my electrician, and he came the next morning to install it. Thanks to the pre-wiring, it took him no more than 20 minutes to mount the unit, connect the wires, and install the breaker.

Boxing Match

Let’s Face It

Power’s On

On the left above, you can see the EVSE as delivered in its box. It came with a very solid mounting plate, all the necessary screws and bolts, a printed manual which includes installation instructions, and a separate “hose” hook for the cable, visible in the bottom right corner of the box. I decided not to have the electrician mount the hook, because the EVSE itself is already nicely tapered toward the wall to function as a cable hanger.

The middle photo above shows the internal components of the EVSE, and you can see the pre-wiring protruding through the hold in the back of the unit, ready to be connected to the terminals.

The photo on the right above shows the finished installation, with its top two LEDs now indicating that it has power and is ready to charge. Too bad I can’t test it out yet on my LEAF, huh?

In the interim, I have hung a poster on the wall above it, just to let visitors know what the EVSE is destined for someday:

Poster Child

Here is what it cost me to install the EVSE, thanks to having the foresight to pre-wire for it while building the home last summer:

EVSE: $721.12
Shipping: $49.95
Installation: $100.00
TOTAL: $871.07

Not bad, if you ask me, especially since I should be able to write a percentage of that cost off on my 2011 federal taxes. Now if any friends come calling in an EV, their charging spot is ready and waiting in the garage —powered by the zero-emission, 8,280-watt solar array on our roof:

Got a Plug with Your Name on it