High-voltage garages for electric vehicles


High-voltage garages for electric vehicles

Garages often receive attention because of the storage space they provide or how the style of the doors match the home’s architecture. Some builders and designers are working with owners of electric cars, from luxury sedans like Tesla to the compact Nissan Leaf, to update and upgrade their garages with charging stations.

David Lefkovits, owner of Atlanta-based LEFKO Design + Build, said he’s seen a significant increase in requests from homeowners needing garages that are equipped with charging stations for electric vehicles. Meanwhile, luxury condos such as the Residences at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta, have installed charging stations in parking areas. For luxury electric vehicles, such as Tesla and BMW, the wall connectors and boxes are as sleek as the vehicles.

“For clients with large renovations, if they have an electric car, it’s a no-brainer. It’s part of the design,” Lefkovits said.

Lefkovits, whose company builds in areas such as Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Alpharetta and East Cobb County, recommends that his clients prepare their garages for an electric vehicle, so they don’t have to add it later.

“In three, four, five years from now, we’re going to see a whole lot more electrical cars,” he said. “So they have the ability in three, four, five years to easily put in a charger and easily to have the required high voltage without having to do a major retrofit.”

Matt Ivey, co-owner of Ivey Homes in Augusta, is participating in Georgia Power’s new “Get Current. Drive Electric.” initiative, which offers electric vehicle charger rebates for residential customers and home builders. For homeowners, the program offers a $250 rebate for installing a 208- to 240-volt charger. Home builders receive a $100 rebate for each dedicated 240-volt plug-in ready circuit installed.

“We’re basically doing it so the house is set up to accommodate an electric vehicle somewhere down the road,” Ivey said. “It’s a fair amount of work to come back and add an outlet later.”

The typical cost to retrofit a garage with a 240-volt source to enable a charging station ranges from $500 to $2,000, excluding the cost of chargers, Lefkovits said. Most electric vehicles come with a charger, while other chargers are available at an additional cost, such as Tesla’s Supercharger, which retails for more than $1,500, Lefkovits said.

Higher performance electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electrical vehicles, such as the Tesla Model S or BMW i8, require a 50 amp (240 volt) to charge and can take six to 10 hours, he said. A fast charger also is available at 100 amp (240 volts) to charge in about three to five hours. He installs 100 amp sub panels in all new construction homes.

“We expect that there will be a significant rise in electric vehicle usage in the coming years and we want our clients to be ready and set up for this,” Lefkovits said.

Adding a three- or four-car garage and raising ceiling heights to accommodate vehicle lifts are among the changes as homeowners purchase electric cars for the low maintenance, lower cost of gas, cleaner emissions and performance, Lefkovits said. The lifts allow homeowners to have an electric vehicle for day trips but keep one or two other cars for longer trips or additional family members.

John Dobson bought his 2013 Chevy Volt after he moved into his Suwanee home.

“I see them all over the place on the street,” he said.

The state’s existing tax credit for electric vehicle purchases survived during the 2015 Georgia Legislature, despite an effort to end the credit of $2,500-$5,000 for zero- and low- emission vehicles.

Although he was able to charge at home using the 120-volt charger that came with the vehicle, he recently added a 240-volt charger to the garage. The change cut the full charging time in half, to about four hours.

Dobson mounted the charger to the wall in his garage, about 12 feet from the electrical service panel and near the charging port on the front of the car, and worked with an electrician to complete the installation. Since he had a conduit running along the wall, instead of burying it in the wall, the installation cost $295. The Georgia Power rebate, which required providing invoices for the charger purchase and installation, provided $250.

Part of the learning process for electric vehicle owners is understanding that electric cars have different battery capacities and charging rates, Dobson said. If someone plans to splurge on a Tesla, it is smarter to install a charger suitable for the Tesla, but which would work for a Chevy Volt, for example.

When building new homes, Ivey said it makes sense for builders to prewire garages for electric vehicles.

“You try to future proof the homes as much as you can with wiring and technology,” he said.

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