June 24, 2021

Home EV charging: Understanding NEMA plug types

Man plugging in his EV in his garage

Purchased an electric vehicle (EV) or plan to soon? If so, you may have already begun your research into a home EV charger like Enel X Way’s JuiceBox. Throughout this process, you may have come across different plug types, such as the NEMA 14-50 and NEMA 6-50 plugs. Read on to understand the difference between the NEMA 6-50 vs 14-50 plug types and how to know which option is right for you.


Get to know your outlet

First, let’s note the difference between the plug and the EV charging connector. The plug connects into your outlet in the wall, while the EV charging connector plugs into your vehicle.


Throughout North America, most homes are outfitted with standard 120 volts (V) electricity outlets and only use higher 240 V outlets for larger home appliances like clothes dryers, ovens and other high-energy uses. While many other countries use a 220 or 230 V system, the US still relies on the relatively weak 120 V system. Why? The US electrical system predates the rest of the world having been built in the late 19th century, with Thomas Edison’s lower voltage system being pushed to promote safety and widespread consumer adoption. 


An EV requires higher voltage to charge their large batteries much quicker. While it’s possible to plug an EV directly into the wall via a standard 120 V outlet, it’s not the ideal option. This is called Level 1 or “trickle-charging,” which is a good name for it, considering that you’ll only add about three or four miles of range for every hour plugged into a standard outlet. With the ample size of today’s 200-plus mile electric cars, it could take more than 24 hours to go from empty to full using a standard outlet. That’s why companies like Enel X Way offer home EV charging station options like the JuiceBox, which can charge an EV battery from empty to full in just a few hours.


Plugging in your home EV charger

A home EV charger is the interface between the electricity flowing through your house and an electric vehicle’s battery management and charging system. It needs to be either hardwired or plugged in using a heavy-duty outlet with 240 V. Amperage (A), the unit of measure for current, is also important. Today's most common plug-in home EV charging setup uses a 50 A, 240 V outlet to safely allow for a 40 A Level 2 charger since electrical standards require a circuit to be equal to 125% of a device's continuous load. This setup effectively charges at 9.6 kilowatts (kW), which is the total power you get when you multiply the current (40 A) by the voltage (240 V), and nicely suits the amount of power today’s electric cars commonly accept.


Choosing the right plug type for you: NEMA 14-50 vs 6-50

There are two main plug types commonly used for home EV charging, both standardized and rated by NEMA, the largest trade association of electrical equipment manufacturers in the US.


1. NEMA 14-50 plug

The “50” in the name stands for the 50 A maximum amperage, which is needed for a 40 A home charging station for the safety reasons described above. A NEMA 14-50 plug has two "hots," a ground and a neutral. This plug is recommended by Enel X Way and other EV charger providers as NEMA 14-50 outlets include a neutral wire for increased voltage flexibility between 120 and 240 V, improved safety, and it can be found in more homes compared to NEMA 6-50.


2. NEMA 6-50 plug

As with the 14-50, 50 is also the maximum amperage for the NEMA 6-50 plug. The difference between the 14-50 and 6-50 is that the 6-50 has no neutral wire—it only has the two "hots" and the ground. The 6-50 may be marginally cheaper as the neutral wire comes with an added cost, and it can be easier to install as the power cord is smaller and more flexible. While adapters are available for this receptacle and other EV charging providers have options including it, Enel X Way only supports NEMA 14-50 for plug-in hardware.


Note that dryer plugs, often NEMA 14-30s and 10-30s, are only compatible with 30 A outlets. One of these outlets can only provide about 6 kW—not enough amperage to power a JuiceBox charger. In this case, it’s recommended to have an electrician install an additional 14-50 outlet or hardwire your JuiceBox instead.


If you need more power than 50 A for a high-performance EV, then you’ll need to buy a JuiceBox 48 that can only be hardwired directly to the circuit. The permanent hardwiring of the JuiceBox 48 is required for safety reasons. A licensed electrician will wire the device directly to the circuit—without the ability to plug and unplug the EV charging station. 


The bottom line

While some charging providers still provide NEMA 6-50-compatible chargers as an option, NEMA 14-50 is a more widely available receptacle and is safer due to the grounding and neutral wire being separated on the receptacle. Consult with a qualified electrician to confirm that your home’s electrical supply is adequate for charging an EV using a NEMA 14-50 plug. Whether you are searching for an EV charger for your Tesla, Chevy or any other EV model, we have the perfect home EV chargers to fit your needs.

Explore our Level 2 home chargers today

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