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Over the last year, I've purchased two EV cars: a Polestar 2 and a Kia EV6. I've also had the opportunity to look at several different Level 2 fast AC EV chargers — in particular, the ones of the “smart” variety, which are Wi-Fi- and app-connected and can give you an accounting of your energy use (in kilowatt-hours and dollar equivalents) and can also be used for intelligent scheduling with your energy provider for off-peak charging.
Except for Tesla's home charger, I've tested all the leading contenders for best home EV charger in the smart category — ChargePoint, Electrify America, Grizzle-E Smart, and Emporia Energy.
While I like them for different reasons, the Emporia Energy unit is my favorite. Why? Price, the level of detail of energy consumption telemetry and app quality, and the potential for whole-home energy monitoring.
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Because it's priced around $100 to $200 below its main competitors, you might expect the Emporia EV Charger to sacrifice industrial design and build quality and be limited in features, but that's not the case.
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I found the build quality to be excellent. And the Emporia has a clean, flat, and streamlined design (in a choice of white or black) that fades into the colors of most garages and home exteriors.
I'd like an option for a white-colored cord instead of a black one in a future model, but that's nitpicky. I have my unit mounted outside my garage, and when the cord is coiled up, you can't tell it's there.
The rounded-corner rectangular device is encased in weather-resistant plastic. It has four LEDs on the front with indicators for system power (green), Wi-Fi connection (multicolor), charge (multicolor), and fault (orange). It comes with a heavy 24-foot charge cord and a heavy plastic-encased SAE J1772 connector handle for the EV — if you have a Tesla, you'll need a J1772 adapter, sold by Tesla and third parties.
The unit comes with a mounting bracket and uses eight drywall anchors to secure it in position (see the installation and usage guide) (PDF). You'll need a different drill bit and anchors if drilling into solid concrete.
Before installing the Emporia, or any EV charger, for that matter, you will need a 240V 14-50 NEMA outlet (you can also use a 6-50 NEMA outlet, as I do, and use an adapter cable) and a breaker to accommodate your residence's maximum charge speed. In my case, I could accommodate a 50A breaker, which yields a maximum charge power of 39A/40A because the NEMA standard only allows for 80 percent utilization of the circuit.
The Emporia device has a maximum charge power of 48A but requires a dedicated circuit (without a NEMA receptacle) and a 60A or higher breaker to do this; any product advertising 48A/50A output needs a dedicated circuit, such as the popular ChargePoint device. You'll want to consult an electrician to determine if your residence can even accommodate 60A or higher service.
The unit can also be stepped down to 15/20/25/40/45A breakers during the initial configuration, which will also lower your charge power.
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Keep in mind that if you're charging overnight, you won't see a huge difference between 32A, 40A, and 48A power output, especially if you are doing a partial charge/top-off as opposed to charging from, say, 10 or 20 percent battery. In the latter case you may need to start a few hours earlier; whether it takes 4 hours or 6 hours to charge to full won't matter to most households.
After mounting and connecting to power, the installation is a breeze. You download the Emporia Energy app (iOS and Android), pick “Add a Device,” then connect to the unit via Bluetooth and set it for your Wi-Fi network.
The unit supports 2.4GHz networks only, which seems on par for a smart EV charger. We had no problems connecting to our home Wi-Fi even though our neighborhood is congested with 2.4GHz SSIDs.
Emporia Energy's unit differs from the other intelligent EV chargers because its product is a whole-home energy hub. While you can buy the charger just for charging your EV for $399, the company also sells it as an integrated bundle with 16 circuit sensors, its Emporia Vue energy monitor, which integrates with your circuit panel (PDF), and four smart plugs, for $564.
I did not have the opportunity to test the Vue or the smart plugs, but the idea of having a whole-home energy management and monitoring solution is very attractive. The Vue can also adjust your EV charger to automatically charge your car to consume excess energy produced by your solar power system — I don't have a solar power system, but I'd certainly look into this solution if I did.
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The Emporia app also integrates with Ecobee, Emerson Sensi, Honeywell Total Connect smart thermostats (sorry, no Nest or Amazon), Emporia Energy's Bluetooth-connected home backup batteries, and EVs that have SmartCar data API network connectivity.
I didn't have the opportunity to test the SmartCar feature, but it seems interesting because it will know remotely if your vehicle is charging anywhere, not just from an Emporia device.
The app's home screen shows you which devices you have integrated for monitoring (Charger, SmartCar-connected EVs, Thermostats, Smart Plugs, Batteries, and Circuits), and there is a main graph view that shows your energy use down to the second, if necessary.
So, for example, you can view the live throughput of the charger as it ramps from only a few amps up to the full 48A, if your circuit supports it, and as it reduces charging speed toward the end of the charge cycle. The graph view will also show you views of energy consumption by the minute, hour, day, week, month, and year, measured in kilowatt-hours, amps, equivalent gallons of gasoline, car miles, CO2 offset, and even trees. If you've set your energy provider — in my case, FPL — it can also show you how much energy you consumed in dollars, on a per-charge basis, in the daily logs and the graph views.
The device also can set charging schedules dependent on whether you're enrolled in a “time of use” type of billing or if your utility provider bills on a peak or off-peak cycle, so you can optimize when to charge your vehicle. In my case, due to my energy usage, FPL doesn't recommend a Time-of-Use plan or care if I use energy peak or off-peak, so I don't have scheduling turned on in the app. However, if I lived elsewhere where this energy use impacted my billing, I'd enable it and investigate these programs.
As Emporia Energy doesn't own a charging network, you won't get consolidated billing reports as you would from Tesla, ChargePoint, or Electrify America's apps when used with their home chargers — that's probably the only negative I see about this device. Still, I'm not someone who heavily uses those networks, as most of my charging occurs at home.
The Emporia EV Charger is a powerful and promising device that can help you manage your vehicle's energy consumption with whole-home monitoring if you buy it as an integrated solution with Emporia Energy's Vue unit and accompanying sensors, which is useful for solar users looking to charge their vehicles with surplus energy.
However, even if you don't buy the smart EV charger as an integrated solution, the unit has other features, such as scheduling options to optimize charging times according to peak or off-peak cycles, thus helping you save on electricity bills. With all these features packed into one single device, Emporia's smart EV charger is worth considering if you want an efficient way of managing your home energy system and monitoring your vehicle's energy consumption.
The ChargePoint Flex is probably the most premium EV charger on the market currently available and integrates with ChargePoint's EV charging network, so you have a full understanding of your dollar and cents power consumption at home and ChargePoint locations.
The Grizzle-E, made in Canada and from stainless steel, is a “tough” and weather-hardened EV charger that comes in “dumb” and also app-connected smart versions. This would be my choice if you live in an environment with extreme cold or heat and need to have the box mounted outdoors.