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A Guide to 3.6kW Car Chargers

February 27, 2024

More and more environmentally conscious consumers are looking for alternatives to gas-powered cars. A key consideration for any EV owner is how to charge their vehicle efficiently and conveniently at home. 3.6kW car chargers are one option for Level 2 charging, albeit slower than the more common 7kW or 22kW chargers. This guide will provide an overview of 3.6kW EV chargers, how they work, their pros and cons, and things to consider before installing one at home.

What is a 3.6kW EV Charger?

A 3.6kW electric vehicle charger is a dedicated Level 2 charger that provides up to 3.6 kilowatts of power to charge an EV’s battery. Level 2 chargers operate on 240V circuits, the same as large household appliances like dryers or ovens. They deliver more power than a Level 1 charger plugged into a regular wall outlet but less than DC fast chargers.

3.6kW correlates to a charging rate of approximately 15 amps. So a 3.6kW EV charger will charge slower than a 7kW (30 amp) or 22kW (100 amp) unit. But it still offers faster charging speeds than a regular 120V outlet.

3.6kW Car Chargers

How Does a 3.6kW EV Charger Work?

A 3.6kW EV charger works much like any other Level 2 charger. It converts high voltage AC electricity from your home electrical system into DC current that can charge an EV’s battery pack.

The charger connects to a 240V circuit and needs a dedicated 40A breaker. It uses either the J1772 connector for North American cars or a Type 2 connector for European and Asian EVs.

When the EV senses it’s plugged into an external power source, charging begins automatically. The car’s onboard computer manages the power transfer to optimize battery health and charging speed.

Charging continues until the battery is full, then stops automatically. The 3.6kW charger delivers a constant stream of electricity rather than fast “bursts” like DC fast charging.

Charging Speeds with a 3.6kW Charger

As the name suggests, a 3.6kW EV charger has a maximum power output of 3.6 kilowatts. This translates to:

  • 12-15 miles of range per hour of charging – Depending on the EV’s battery size and efficiency.
  • 20-25 hours for a full charge – For an average EV with a 60-80kWh battery pack.

So with a 3.6kW charger, you can expect to add about 10-15% charge after 2-3 hours plugged in. This makes it feasible to charge overnight and have a “full tank” each morning.

The lower power does mean longer total charge times. But for many owners who charge at home regularly, the slower speed may not be an issue.

Pros and Cons of 3.6kW Home Chargers

Compared to more powerful Level 2 options, 3.6kW EV chargers have some advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

  • Lower purchase and installation cost
  • Can work on lower capacity electrical systems
  • Sufficient for regular overnight charging

Cons

  • Very slow charging for large EV batteries
  • May need to upgrade electrical panel for 40A circuit
  • Not future-proof if upgrading EV later

The slower charging speed is the main downside. While overnight charges are feasible, long charging sessions of 10 hours or more may be frustrating. Upgrading to a 7kW or 22kW charger later would require a new installation.

Who is a 3.6kW Charger Right For?

A 3.6kW EV charger best suits homeowners who:

  • Drive short daily distances (20-40 miles)
  • Have small EV battery packs (10-30kWh)
  • Want basic home charging capabilities
  • Don’t plan to upgrade vehicles soon

For drivers who need more power, a 7kW or 22kW charger is a better fit. But 3.6kW works well for lightly used commuter EVs and plug-in hybrids. It provides cheaper, slower charging for typical daily driving needs.

Here are two examples of EVs where a 3.6kW charger may be sufficient:

  • Nissan Leaf (40kWh) – This older model has a range of about 150 miles. With a 3.6kW charger, a full charge from empty takes about 11 hours.
  • Chevy Bolt (60kWh) – The Bolt has a 238 mile range. A full charge takes approximately 17 hours with a 3.6kW EVSE.

Both can fully recharge overnight for daily driving. But occasional long trips may require DC fast charging.

Installation and Electrical Considerations

Installing a 3.6kW EV charger requires hiring an experienced electrician. They will:

  • Evaluate your electrical service capacity.
  • Install a dedicated 40A circuit breaker and outlet.
  • Run conduit and wiring to the charging location.
  • Connect the charger and test for safety.

The charger needs a NEMA 14-50 outlet, the same used for RVs and large appliances. Your home also must have sufficient electrical capacity to support the additional demand safely.

Costs vary, but typically run $500-$1000 for parts and labor. Obtaining permits and upgrades may increase the total. But it remains one of the most affordable and straightforward Level 2 installations.

Purchase Cost for 3.6kW Chargers

Home 3.6kW EV chargers range from $300 up to $700 before installation. There are two main product categories:

Basic Chargers – These are no-frills charging stations. They simply provide the electrical connection. Models from manufacturers like Siemens, Bosch, and Clipper Creek offer reliable performance at lower prices.

Smart Chargers – Pricier “smart” EVSEs add features like wifi connectivity, app controls, and power sharing. Companies like Wallbox, EVBox, and ChargePoint offer optionally internet-connected chargers.

Additional costs include the charging cable and connector ($100-$600 for a 25′ cable), permits, and electrician installation fees.

Key Considerations Before Buying

Choosing the right home EV charger involves more than just picking a 3.6kW power rating. Be sure to evaluate:

  • Your vehicle’s maximum charging rate – This determines how much electrical power it can accept.
  • Daily driving needs – Estimate your kWh usage to size the charger appropriately.
  • Electrical service capacity – A professional assessment ensures your home can support a new 40A, 240V circuit safely.
  • Future expansion plans – Consider a more powerful 7kW or 22kW unit if you may upgrade vehicles.

Take time to understand your needs and constraints before selecting a charging station. Getting the right EVSE match means you can enjoy the convenience of home charging for years to come.

Alternatives to Consider

While they are less common, there are also some alternatives to conventional 3.6kW EV chargers:

  • Solar-powered chargers – These use solar panels and inverters to generate electricity. They avoid stressing your home electrical system.
  • Battery-supported chargers – Battery banks let a lower power EVSE charge faster by supplementing the electrical supply.
  • Smart power sharing – Some companies like Span offer panels that dynamically split power between EV charging and your home.
  • DC fast home charging – Cutting-edge high power DC stations can charge at 20-60kW rates at home. But they are extremely expensive.
  • Supercharger installation – In rare cases, Tesla owners can opt to pay for a Wall Connector or on-site Supercharger.

While pricier and less common, these emerging options provide more flexibility and speed.

Finding Qualified Electricians

Installing any Level 2 EVSE safely requires a certified electrician. While a standard outlet replacement is DIY-friendly, connecting a 40A 240V circuit has hazards if done incorrectly.

When researching installers, look for:

  • Official licensure and bonding
  • Experience with EV charger installation
  • Knowledge of local permitting and regulations
  • Positive reviews from prior EV driver customers

Many charge an hourly rate in the $100-$150 range plus parts costs. Be sure to get a written estimate for the total project cost. Reputable electricians should also handle securing any required permits.

Operating Costs and Electricity Usage

Like all home electronics, using an EV charger adds to your electric bill. The actual costs depend on:

  • Electricity rate – From utilities, measured in cents/kWh.
  • Charging speed – Faster adds more demand per hour.
  • Hours per month – More frequent charging means higher usage.

Based on average residential electricity rates around $0.15/kWh, operating a 3.6kW EVSE for 10 hours weekly would add around $20-$25 monthly in energy costs. This equates to roughly 300 miles of driving range.

Calculating your own potential costs involves multiplying your rates, average charging hours, and charger wattage. Smart chargers that track usage can also help monitor charging costs.

Government Incentives and Tax Credits

To encourage EV adoption, the federal government and some states offer incentives for purchasing and installing EVSEs:

  • Federal EV tax credit – Offers up to $1000 back for installing a qualified home charger.
  • State rebates – Some states like California offer point-of-sale rebates up to $2000 per charger.
  • Utility discounts – Local power companies sometimes subsidize part of the hardware costs.
  • Property tax exemptions – A few states exclude EVSE equipment from property value assessments.

The Database of State Incentives for EVs (DSIRE) website summarizes available incentives nationwide. Your total savings may offset 20-50% of the costs.

Top Charger Manufacturers

When selecting a 3.6kW Level 2 EVSE, these charging station companies offer reliable products:

  • ClipperCreek – One of the pioneers in EVSEs, with units rated up to 19.2kW.
  • Siemens – An industrial equipment maker with basic 3.6kW and 7.2kW chargers.
  • JuiceBox – Offerings from this startup include wifi-enabled smart chargers.
  • ChargePoint – Networked stations from the largest public charging provider.
  • Bosch – The auto parts giant offers a value EVSE line.
  • Grizzl-E – Canadian brand specializing in rugged, weatherproof chargers.

Poke around EV forums and reviews to see real-world feedback on models. And consult local dealers who can recommend products fit for your region’s weather and electricity constraints.

Is a 3.6kW Charger Right for You?

Slow Level 2 charging works well when your daily commute is within the EV’s range or you have hours to top up at home. Though limited in power, a 3.6kW EVSE provides an affordable pathway to driving electric. For plug-in hybrids and shorter range EVs, it likely meets your charging demands.

But be realistic about your needs. These low-power EVSEs require careful planning for longer trips to allow long charging sessions. Their lower capacity also means you’ll likely need a larger electrical service upgrade compared to a 7kW or 22kW unit. And you may end up upgrading the EVSE later as you drive electric more.

Talk to experienced EV owners and electrical contractors to weigh if a 3.6kW charger fits your situation. While not the fastest charging solution, they make convenient overnight charging possible for a wide range of electric vehicles.

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