Upgraded level 1 EVSE with Quick220

How to charge your electric car from 120 volt power outlets

With careful preparation you can charge an electric car at full speed from 120 volt electrical outlets, making use of ubiquitous the electricity supply, but only if done correctly.

What if the state of charge on your electric car is running low, and the Recargo or Plug Share app's do not show a nearby charging station? Are you out of luck and your only choice is to call a tow company and paying a large towing fee? Electricity is everywhere, but the powers-that-be decided electric cars must be charged through plugs designed for that purpose. The U.S. the ubiquitous outlet offers 120 volts through a plug that's not certified for electric cars, and in any case the low charge rate (1-1.5 kilowatts) on 120 volt outlets means an ultra-long recharge time. Some DIY types are taking matters into their own hands and developing adapters to recharge electric cars, at reasonable speed, through any 120 volt power outlet. But some care must be taken to do this successfully.

The first item to understand is the EVSE, which means Electric Vehicle Service Equipment. The EVSE is the technical name for the "charging station" and is the approved method for charging an electric car. It includes a number of safety features, such as an interlock preventing the car from driving if it is plugged into an EVSE. Obviously a "drive off" from a charging station could be dangerous, and expensive. You'll notice that electric cars do not have a normal power outlet, but instead have a J1772 charging port.

One of the hindrances to electric vehicle adoption is the rate at which EVSE's are being installed around the country. Charging stations aren't always where we need them to be, and some cities are seeing a low rate of EVSE installation. This creates a condition in which it's extremely desirable to work out a method for using normal 120 volt outlets to charge electric cars. This way electric vehicle owners can still charge their cars, even if their local EVSE network is insufficient.

Every electric car comes with a portable EVSE meant to plug into 120 volt outlets. These adapters support a modest charge rate of at most 12 amps, sometimes less. The 12 amp rate corresponds to a 1.4 kilowatt charge rate, which in turn is why charging at 120 volts could take as much as 20 hours for a full recharge. Still, if this is your only choice to charge your car it's what you'll do.

An 120 volt EVSE offers what's called "Level 1 charging". Level 2 charging is what's available at regular EVSE's.

Some electric car owners with short commutes find they can get along without a level 2 EVSE at home, and simply rely on the 120 volt EVSE and a normal power outlet in their garage.


Sign-up to our email newsletter for daily perspectives on car design, trends, events and news, not found elsewhere.

Share this content.


The only problem I ever found recharging on the go was when I was at a friend's house, or mine and tried to plug into a non-grounded plug. Nicolas
Everywhere the word "ubiquitous" appears the author shows that he has no idea what the word means or how to use it properly in a sentence. Where is the editor here?
When I was working on the travel charger program for GM it was well known that there is no extension chord allowed in the U.S.A. electrical code for 240V; one end always has to be hard wired or the appliance (car in this case) has to be directly connected to a hard-wired wall plug; thus no intermediate connections as in extension chord. So, based on that, the only voltage available for the travel chord/plug had to be 120V. That means anyone who tries to build a 240V travel chord is in direct violation of the national electrical code which introduces an insurance risk; unless that has been changed somehow, and I'm simply not aware.
Interesting. However, a cord itself isn't voltage-specific, only the configuration of the plugs on the end is. Ask anyone who has a 240V welder they've needed to use with an extension cord. Any cord will do, so long as it's thick enough to carry the watts. You just need an adapter to be able to plug the normal 3-prong 120V 15A plug into the 240V outlet (and another to put the 240V plug of the welder into the other end) and you're all set.
The primary issue with this article part from some bizarre sentence structure is that it is completely self contradicting. The premise seems to be that it is either impossible or very complicated to charge from a 120v outlet or possibly even dangerous. However the entire article is debunked by one line within it, "Every electric car comes with a portable EVSE meant to plug into 120 volt outlets. These adapters support a modest charge rate of at most 12 amps, sometimes less" So the article could have read, How to charge your electric car from 120 volt power outlets. Use the included cable. The end.