Why buy a charging station
Our research answers the biggest question most EV owners have after they buy their first EV: “What charger should I get?” All electric cars come with a 120-volt (Level 1) charge cord that you can use either at home or when you’re away. For most EV buyers, though, buying a faster 240-volt (Level 2) charging station makes their electric car more convenient and capable, and is a virtual necessity if you want to use your EV for daily commuting or other everyday runs, because it means you’ll always be able to fully charge the vehicle overnight.
How we picked and tested
We started by closely examining the specs and costs of every readily available charging station we could find. We focused on 240-volt charging stations rated at 30 amps or higher, which provide notably faster charging than lower-amp-rating charging stations.
A good charging station insulates you from the high power that faster charging requires, seals all electrical connections, and makes sure the system is safe for you to use. We stuck with name-brand charging stations that met all these requirements and adhere to strict safety ratings. We also limited our test group to charging stations that plug into a wall outlet rather than requiring a professional, permanent installation. This makes it easy to pull the charging station off the wall if you move or purchase a new unit. Finally, we set a price limit of $600, high enough to meet our criteria but not overpriced.
We settled on four charging stations to test, using each over the course of a month with a 2017 Nissan Leaf SL. We charged the car only when the low-battery warning came on, and recorded the mileage and length of the charging cycle each time we juiced up. We also ran some tests with a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premier, but found significant differences between the Bolt and the Leaf. To read about our testing process in more details, please see our full guide to EV charging stations.
The Siemens VersiCharge VC30GRYU is the most affordable unit that charges most current electric cars at maximum speed, and it’s dead simple to use. We especially like it because you can manually set delayed start times with a simple press of a button; you can stop or pause charging just as easily; and its large size makes wrapping even fairly long cords easy. It’s also among the least expensive fully safety-rated 30-amp units we found, complete with a wall plug. In short, the VersiCharge does everything most EV drivers need, and shows that you don’t have to spend a ton to install a great electric-car charging station in your garage.
The VersiCharge will recharge a car’s battery at a rate of 16-plus miles per hour, giving a Nissan Leaf a full charge in less than six hours. By far our favorite feature of the VersiCharge are its two simple control buttons on the front, a feature that no other charging station we tested has. On the left is a power button that can also pause the charging; on the right is a delay button that lets you delay charging for two, four, six, or eight hours, allowing you to time charging for when electrical rates are lowest.
If you want a faster charging station or one with Wi-Fi–enabled features
The eMotorWerks JuiceBox Pro 40 shows that you don’t need to spend more than $650 for a great, high-power, Wi-Fi–enabled unit. It’s 25 percent faster (on paper) than our top pick on paper, though in reality you won’t always be able to take advantage of the extra speed. The JuiceBox Pro 40 also offers a smartphone app so you can start, stop, and monitor the charge remotely.
So why isn’t the JuiceBox Pro 40 our top pick? The short answer is that only a small number of electric-car buyers can use its extra capabilities, and it’s not quite as convenient to use as our top pick yet costs more. It also lacks the simple control buttons on the front panel that the Siemens model has, and the cord isn’t as easy to hang.
A truly portable option
The AeroVironment TurboCord Dual is a 16-amp, 240-volt charger that plugs into a NEMA 6-20 outlet, the kind used for small wood- and metal-shop machines. If you plan to stop at a school or at the house of someone who has a well-equipped shop, or if you want to buy a single, portable charging station for use in two locations (each equipped with the proper outlet), this might be the cord for you.
At 15 amps, the TurboCord can replenish 8 to 10 miles of range per hour of charging. That’s slower charging than our top picks, but what makes the TurboCord Dual compelling is that it also comes with an adapter to plug into a standard 120-volt household outlet. If you want an extra 120-volt charge cord for your car, so you can leave one at home and carry one with you, the TurboCord Dual may be the best solution.
Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.