One thing the new plug-ins and pure electrics have in common is a beefy lithium-ion battery pack that needs a lot of heavy charging. At the very least, that involves installing 220-volt wiring in the home. Trying to recharge a modern electric car with a standard American 110-volt supply takes too long to be practical (up to 18 hours in the case of the Leaf).
Of course, if not fully charged at night it may have to be recharged during the day—when electricity rates can be up to five times more expensive. Average peak rates in America are 33 cents a kilowatt-hour compared with seven cents off-peak. Charging at the peak rate is equivalent to buying petrol at $3.63 a gallon (80 cents a litre), instead of 77 cents a gallon off-peak, reckons Southern California Edison, a utility based in the Los Angeles area. In America, peak-rate charging totally destroys any economic advantage an electric car may have.