To DIY or Not to DIY your EV charging station

Is the best way to regain control over charging electric cars the DIY charging station?  The do-it-yourself is about individuals exercising skills to do things ourselves, rather than surrender all power to the megacorporations.  For better or for worse, the powers-that-be decided electric cars must be charged through a charging station, rather than just by plugging into a wall socket.  That’s a limit some of us chafe at, leading to several open source plans for EV charging stations.

In the UK, Zero Carbon World has sponsored sessions at which people build their own charging stations.

In March, ZCW posted on their website a letter from the UK EVSE Association expressing strong disapproval of ZCW’s actions in promoting DIY EVSE’s.  (EVSE == Electric Vehicle Service Equipment, a.k.a. charging station)

The Association says they’d learned ZCW is “endorsing and recommending the manufacture of Do-It-Yourself Electric Vehicle charging points.”  The Association strongly disapproves of this, and requests that ZCW cease doing so, or else the Association will have to go to higher authorities.

The Association describes DIY EVSE’s as “potentially hazardous” that could result in personal injury, fires, or damage to vehicles.

The question is whether the UK EVSE Association is honestly concerned about safety, or interested in maintaining some kind of power/control position.  If the only method to charge an electric car is via an officially blessed EVSE, then electric car owners are under a degree of control.

Grant Thomas with his ZCW DIY EVSE

The most freedom for electric car owners is if electric cars are recharged through regular extension cords.  But the powers-that-be decided that regular power outlets are not approved for charging an electric car.  We don’t have to rethink all the reasons electric cars are charged through EVSE’s.  The bottom line is EV’s must be charged through this specialized equipment – so, what’s the fair cost of that equipment?

The least expensive portable manufactured EVSE runs about $500, and the prices can range as high as $2500.  Why so much?  An EVSE is essentially a glorified relay, with wiring contained in a box that’s safe to be rained on.  Why should it cost more than $200?

The DIY EVSE’s I’ve seen dispense with some fanciness, and simply utilize normal junction boxes like one finds at the hardware store.  The components are typical for what’s used in wiring a building.  One could find most of the parts at Home Depot.

Look around and you see while most people are perfectly satisfied with buying a manufactured EVSE and going on with their life, others have the confidence, skills, and desire to build things for themselves.

Is it overly authoritarian to say Thou Shalt Not Build Your Own EVSE?

What do we as a society lose when we cannot build our own stuff?

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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