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The Coming Challenge for High-kWh EVs – Home Charging Education and Expense

by Edward Sanchez | Nov 05, 2021

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Home ChargingWith Tesla stock’s stratospheric performance, Lucid’s IPO, and Rivian’s pending IPO, and the splashy unveiling of the Ford F-150 Lightning, awareness of EVs is greater than ever before. EVs’ silent performance, low cost-of-ownership, and futuristic appeal are getting greater awareness every day. Once people experience the serene, powerful, silent driving experience of a modern EV first-hand, many are hooked, an eager to consider buying one for themselves.

However, there’s an inconvenient truth about EVs, and one that will only be exacerbated by the coming onslaught of larger, heavier EV trucks and SUVs with large battery packs. Those “in-the-know” about EV charging know that the most-ideal scenario for EV ownership is Level 2 home charging, which by and large delivers on the promise of a “full tank every morning” if charged overnight. Those that have to rely on Level 1 (120V) charging often have a less-than-ideal charging experience, and those that don’t even have that luxury, and have to rely completely on public Level 2 and Level 3 charging can see the potential fuel cost savings advantage over an internal-combustion vehicle (ICE) evaporate quickly.

Drivers in Europe are at a double advantage due to higher household main power of 230-250V, and of smaller vehicles being the norm in those markets, compared to the behemoths that dominate North American sales charts. As well, some European nations have an enviable concentration of public EV charging infrastructure, particularly The Netherlands, with an astounding 75,000 public charging locations, or roughly 1/3 of the EU total. Although there are similar challenges on the other side of the Atlantic, the issues are not nearly as pronounced or severe.

Based on Strategy Analytics’ latest EV Consumer Interest Study, this concern may be a moot point, as the U.S. lags Europe and China considerably in consumer interest in EVs. We can hope American early-adopters of these high-capacity EVs are knowledgeable and aware of the power requirements for their home and use-case needs.

China is taking an “all-of-the-above” approach, with an aggressive deployment of public chargers spearheaded by the government, as well as company-led initiatives, such as NIO’s “Battery as a Service” approach, encompassing charging stations, battery swap stations and mobile valet charging.  

Most mainstream light-duty passenger car EVs have batteries in the 45-90 kWh range. Most of these can get close to a full charge overnight on a 50-amp, Level 2 home charger. Unless you’re a “super-commuter” a day’s drive rarely will fully deplete a battery, making partial charges throughout the week the norm. When you bring the larger EV trucks into the equation, we’re looking at battery sizes of 135 kWh for the Rivian R1T, an estimated 125-155 kWh (official figures not yet announced) for the F-150 Lightning, and a massive 200 kWh in the case of the GMC Hummer EV.

Rivian Wall Charger
Let’s unpack the power needs of these beasts of burden. We know the official range for the Rivian R1T at 314 miles. GM is claiming a range of 350 miles for the Hummer on its 200 kWh pack, and we’re still awaiting official battery size and range figures for the Lightning, but preliminary claims are 230 miles of range for the “regular” model, and 300 miles for the long-range model.

Assuming a charge rate of 3-5 miles of added range power hour on a standard 120V household outlet, you’re looking at a time to charge of approximately 70-100 hours for the Rivian, likely close to the same for the F-150 Lightning, and a up to a staggering 117 hours, or nearly five full days for the Hummer. Assuming an 8-hour overnight charge, you could get approximately 20-24 miles of added range. If you have a short enough commute or daily routine, that might be enough to suffice. But if you drive further than that in an average day, you could quickly find yourself at a charging deficit.

The OEMs are likely aware of this issue, and are trying to get ahead of it, without being overly negative about some of the potential costs involved in preparing your home for a long-range EV. There are many credits available from regional utilities for a home charger, but this is a constantly changing landscape, with programs running out of funds, and receiving new funding all the time.

However, Ford’s admittedly innovative Charge Station Pro home charger requires a dedicated 100A circuit to deliver on its full potential. Unfortunately, for many older homes, 100A is the entire capacity of the home’s main panel. Installing this charger at home would require an upgrade to a 200A main panel, or at the very least, the installation of an auxiliary sub-panel, which could run anywhere from $2,500-5,000 or more, depending on the region, not including the cost of the Charge Station Pro itself, which has not yet been announced. Ford’s standard Level 2 charger sold for the Mustang Mach-E retails for $799.

As an EV owner myself, I’m fully aware of the objective benefits and subjective experience advantages a modern EV offers over an ICE vehicle. With Level 2 home charging provision, I enjoy the “full tank every morning” experience promised by promoters of EVs. However, being an analyst, and one naturally prone to research and investigation, I am also aware my house is not fully prepared for a vehicle the likes of the Hummer, F-150 Lightning, or Rivian R1T. To maintain the hassle-free home charging experience, I would almost certainly have to upgrade to a 200A main panel. I fully understand the quid-pro-quo involved in this step, and how it would eat up any potential fuel savings over ICE for likely two years or more.

But for buyers unaware or uninformed about the technicalities and nuances of home charging and vehicle requirements for these larger, longer-range EVs, the transition from ICE to EV could be shocking one.   

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