We didn’t mean to get a second electric car. After purchasing a Tesla Model 3 earlier this year, my wife and I began asking ourselves, “Why are we still burning gas at all when we don’t have to?” Plus, we discovered we like the way electric cars drive – even the non-Tesla ones – more than gas-powered cars. When we found a good deal on a 2016 Chevy Spark EV, we pulled the trigger and welcomed a second EV into our happy home.
The only problem was we had never planned to charge two electric cars at home. When we bought the Model 3, we had an electrician install a 240-volt outlet in the second bay of our two-car garage. This was a considerable expense, as the heavy-duty wiring had to exit our home’s basement, travel along the exterior of our house, go through our garage’s seriously thick cinder block wall, and then travel across the ceiling of our garage’s first bay to get to the second. Did I mention our garage bays are also separated by a brick wall?
So we were faced with a question that will become increasingly common as more and more households go completely electric with two EVs – how do we charge two electric cars at home?
The first answer that came to mind was bringing the electrician back out to install a second 240-volt outlet in the first garage bay. A call was placed, the electrician came out, and pretty quickly this plan was nixed. Like many older homes (our was built in 1953), our house’s electrical panel would require a significant upgrade to accommodate another 240-volt circuit. The electrician estimated the cost of that alone would exceed $2,000, and that’s before running a second line of heavy-duty electrical wiring along the same path as the first. Not only would that be expensive, it’d also be an eyesore.
My next call was to InsideEVs Contributor Tom Moloughney, who has lived with multiple EVs for many years now (he currently owns a Tesla Model 3 and BMW i3). Tom gave me three options of varying cost and complexity to consider.
Option 1: Get A Dual Charger
The first option Tom offered was to buy a Clipper Creek HCS-D40 Dual Charging Station. The HCS-D40 is a 32 Amp, Level 2 hard-wired station that can charge two vehicles simultaneously on one circuit. It splits the electricity between two EVs, with each getting up to 16 Amps of electricity when both are charging and up to 32 Amps when one vehicle is charging. The cost? $1,349 not including installation, which shouldn’t be too difficult as I already have the second garage bay wired. The only problem is the wall separating my two garage bays and the fact the charger and its two cords would be installed in the second bay.
Option 2: Use A Pair Of Chargers That Can Be Installed On One Circuit
Tom’s second option was one I didn’t even know existed. He recommended getting two JuiceBox Pro 32 units. These are separate chargers that can share power from one circuit. This means I could install both on the single 40-amp circuit that currently powers my single 240-volt outlet, and they would intelligently share power so they don’t overload the circuit. The cost? $499 per charger, plus the cost of installing a second 240-volt outlet that splits off from the same circuit as the first, which I estimated at $200-300. So this option costs nearly the same as the first but requires more complex electrical work.
Option 3: The Low-Budget Option
Tom’s third recommendation was by far the least expensive and simplest: charge the Spark EV on a simple 120-volt outlet most of the time since its battery is relatively small (about 19 kWh compared to the Model 3’s estimated 80 kWh battery). For those times when the Spark EV needs a quicker charge, he recommended getting a JLONG 20-ft EV extension cord to help our current charger reach the Spark EV in the first bay of the garage from the second. Cost? $200.
There’s one factor I neglected to mention that made choosing between Tom’s three options a lot easier: while our garage bays are separated by a brick wall, for some strange reason, there’s a window in the wall and it opens. This means a charging cord from the second bay can easily be passed through the window into the first. Separate garage bays are probably rare, but if you do have them like I do, it’s always possible to make some sort of pass-through in the wall to snake a charging cord through, even if the wall is made of brick or cinder block.
With this revelation in mind, we took Tom’s second option off the table, as wiring up a second outlet just wouldn’t be necessary. So we were left with getting a Clipper Creek Dual Charger for $1,300 or buying a $200 extension cord and managing the charging of our two EVs with one charger.
The Winning Option For Us
We decided to get the Clipper Creek HCS-D40 Dual Charging Station. While it’s not cheap, we were bracing for an even more expensive project had we upgraded our electric panel to accommodate another 240-volt line. Also, we thought we could get away with not hiring the electrician to install the dual charging station (more on that later). Lastly, since we were going all-in on driving electric, we didn’t want this solution to be a compromise, which is what sharing a single charge cord between two vehicles felt like.
Installing The Dual Charger: The Electrical
The Clipper Creek HCS-D40 Dual Charger arrived in the mail a week or so later. The box was smaller than I expected, and its content very neatly packed. The charging unit itself and pair of 25-foot length charging cables took up most of the box, while two connector holsters and a cable cradle filled out the rest of the space.
I’m about as handy around the house as a distracted teenager, so for the electrical part of the installation process, I asked a person who always knows best: my dad. You should always use a licensed electrician for this sort of work, or at least someone well versed in the complexities of electrical systems. We have the Navy to thank for my dad’s experience here, and so I was confident we could safely and properly install the charging unit without a licensed electrician.
First thing’s first, of course: we shut off electrical power to the garage. The rest is rather anti-climactic. After opening the 240-volt junction box, the job of installation came down merely to matching three service conductors from the charger to their corresponding partners in the junction box. It’s not rocket science, but the job did require larger twist-on wire connectors than we were expecting. That resulted in Home Depot trip #1.
After the three wires were securely connected and the ground set, we closed the junction box and set the charging unit on a nearby stool so we could test whether or not the electrical part of the installation had worked. We plugged in the Model 3 and Spark EV and, lo and behold, two amber lights on the front of the charging unit began to glow, indicating both were charging at the same time. We also looked at each car’s information display to verify that they were charging, and indeed they were.
Dad had to take off, and with my sense of achievement more than fulfilled enough for the day, I left mounting the charging unit to the wall for another day. Which became a week. Which became three weeks.
Installing The Dual Charger: The Mounting
If I were even moderately capable with a basic set of tools, it wouldn’t be the case that mounting the charging unit by myself would be harder than wiring it up my dad. And yet, I’m not, so it was.
My main obstacle was that the wall to which the charging unit would be mounted was brick. Hollow brick, in fact, as I would find out. The two screws that Clipper Creek provides are quite large in diameter and lengthy. They need pilot holes drilled, and drilling into a material like brick requires a special drill bit. That resulted in Home Depot trip #2.
This is where my own incompetence comes into play. I already had a box of concrete screws I thought I could use in place of the ones Clipper Creek provided, so, without measuring, I bought an appropriately sized bit to drill pilot holes for those screws. As my foreshadowing should have already revealed, my assumption was incorrect – the screws I already had weren’t long enough to use to mount the charging unit.
That didn’t stop me from trying, though. My first attempt at drilling into brick, though, went awry. I drilled into the center of a brick and, at a certain point, felt no resistance, despite having only drilled an inch or so in. Turns out my bricks are hollow, and when I tried turning a concrete screw into the pilot hole, nearly the whole face of the brick flaked off. This resulted in Home Depot trip #3.
This time, I took the Clipper Creek screws with me, found an older woman wearing a bright orange apron, and asked her to help me find a concrete bit to drill pilot holes for these specific screws.
Correctly sized drill bit in hand, along with new instructions from Dad to drill into the mortar between the bricks, I pressed on like I knew what I was doing. This time, the two mounting screws drove into the wall easily and I was able to securely mount the charging unit to the wall.
Don’t ask me about the two connector holsters and cable cradle, though. I decided draping the cords over a ladder and shelf work just fine. No need to tempt fate.
Life With A Dual Charger
We’ve lived with the Clipper Creek HCS-D40 Dual Charging Station for over a month now and our overall impression is that it’s the perfect solution for our situation. Since I work from home and my wife takes the Spark EV to work, our cars end up charging on alternate schedules and so usually charge at the fastest rate the charger allows.
Yes, there was a cheaper option, but it was far less convenient. And while my own folly made its installation harder than it needed to be, this dual charger is very simple to install and mount. It doesn’t require a professional (or a parent), though if you’re like me, I recommend it.
Soon after we had installed our unit, Clipper Creek launched a new version of its dual charger that’s plug-in instead of hard wired. We would’ve gone for this model – it’s the same price – had it been available. We could’ve avoided the trickier electrical installation, though the mounting process would’ve likely still stumped me.
DISCLAIMER: Clipper Creek sent me this charger for free to review. I’ve installed it myself at my own home and will be using it over time do judge its performance. When the time comes, it will be replaced by another charger we’re reviewing and sent back to Clipper Creek.