Jul 07

Settling level 2 charging solutions for the Chevrolet Volt

 

We received a few e-mails over the past couple days from GM-Volt forum member Captbently about his efforts to acquire a portable level 2 charger, and with his permission, are turning his account into a story for others to learn by, as well as offer their knowledge and opinions.

Captbently – whose first name is Kurt – lives in Connecticut, and has access to 240-volt outlets at his son’s house, a barn, and his office in New York. In choosing a solution, he had to tackle several issues.

Kurt leases Volt number 2161, he said, and has been interested in electric propulsion for 20 years since his dad first got an EZGO golf cart.


Charging is easy – if charging is available. Owning an electric car can require some resourcefulness too depending on how far you want to travel.

“I really believed the Volt was going to be something special and it has not disappointed,” Kurt said.

We have observed some of you have previously said you do not see as much need for 240 (aka 220)-volt charging for your Volt – at home, let alone on the road.

Since the car has gasoline power as well, it enables flexibility, and assuming drivers stay within all-electric range (AER), they can make due with the standard 110-volt home charger overnight.

This said, some drivers – like Kurt – may want more daily AER and ability to charge on the go.

“The Volt is about three times more efficient when operating on electricity from the grid (about 120 MPGe),” Kurt said, “rather than from the gasoline powered generator (40 MPG).”


As delivered Clipper Creek LCS-25. Note bare leads meant to be wired by an electrician. You can also install a plug and make it more versatile.

At issue is what charging resources or facilities you have access to – if any.

As we are still in the early days of electric vehicles, even in the middle of some cities or suburban areas it might as well be the boondocks for the lack of public EV charging stations.

This is changing as more facilities come online, but it is still a hit-or-miss proposition to find public charging, so being resourceful helps for EV drivers – and others in charge of implementing solutions too will need to make decisions for the future, but we will get to that …

Problem and solution

To charge Volt No. 2161 at home, Kurt installed an SPX level 2 in his garage. In seeking to order a portable level 2 charger from SPX, he was told it could not deliver in a timely manner, he said.

“About one month ago, I noticed on their Web site that the portable charger was showing a price of ‘not available,’” Kurt said, “I called thinking I would place an order, but they said it would take at least 60 days to receive and that they would be charging my credit card immediately.”

So, rather than being charged and made to wait, he contacted Clipper Creek and paid an extra $200 for one of its small home chargers ($995).


LCS-25 with plug installed for portable (or permanent) use.

“I ordered their LCS-25 and received it in about three days. While they don’t market it as a portable charger, it is about the same size as the level 1 charger that comes with the Volt, and it is in a NEMA-4 Outdoor enclosure,” Kurt said, “I simply put a plug on the end of the cord that came with the unit.”

Creativity

As mentioned, the LCS-25 is not designed for this application, but Kurt played MacGyver and re-tasked the simple, compact home charger – that is ordinarily meant to be hardwired – into one he could plug into a 240-volt outlet.

Which brings us to another twist Kurt had to overcome.

“Many of the ads for portable chargers state that they will plug into a standard 240-volt outlet. However, there is no such thing as one standard outlet. Clothes dryers typically use at least two different common 30 amp receptacles. A welder might use one of two different 50-amp receptacles,” Kurt said, “Shop equipment such as a table saw would again use different 15 and 20 amp receptacles. Marine and generators have their own types. Different amperages and voltages dictate the choices and there are both straight blade and twist lock versions for these applications.”


NEMA L6-30P plug.

Does this sound kind of complicated? Even if not, it is at least clear that standards vary, and the EV driver will have to wend his or her way through a plethora of choices if wanting to do something like Kurt did.

“I chose a 30 amp three wire (ground plus two feeds) twist lock plug as my personal standard. It is not too large and I think the twist lock makes sense. It is a NEMA L6-30P. The matching receptacle would be a L6-30R,” he said, “A matching female that would go on the end of a cord would be L6-30C. You might find them at Home Depot of Lowes, but if not, any electrical supply company that sells to electricians will have them. Expect to pay about $20 for the receptacle, $16 for the male plug, and $43 for the corded female end. My dealer in New Cannan, Conn. also chose these plugs for their chargers.”

Clipper Creek’s view

Just to check, we called Clipper Creek in Auburn, Calif., and spoke with Technical Customer Specialist, Will Barrett.

Kurt’s installation of a three-prong plug onto the wiring did not raise any red flags from a product liability or warranty standpoint, Barrett said, as long as he did not open the electronics’ housing.

The sturdy, simple, indoor-outdoor LCS-25 should work fine with a plug, he said, even though it is intended to be permanently installed at a fixed location.

Clipper Creek has been a dedicated EV charging station maker since 2007, Barrett said, and got started helping Tesla customers which require more powerful chargers. A Tesla can handle up to 70 amps at about 17 kW, far higher than the 15-16 amps or so of a Volt at 3.3 kW.

The Volt’s on-board charger, like the Nissan LEAF’s, is an effective bottleneck to quicker charging, but its battery is much smaller than the Tesla’s, so that is OK. The Ford Focus EV however will come with a faster 6.6 kW charger.

Adaptability

To make his home-grown solution work with a different configuration 240-volt receptacle, Kurt also created a patch cord to mate to his twist-lock connector.


Captbently’s home-made patch cord. One end plugs to welding receptacle, the other to charger. We told Clipper Creek about this, and Barrett said it sounded copacetic.

“If this is to be your only charger, then installation would be as simple as having a L6-30R receptacle installed in a convenient location for charging your car. Since I have a 50-amp welding receptacle in another building on my property, I made up a patch cord. It has the welder male plug on one end (about $54) and the L6-30C on the other end,” Kurt said, “I used two feet of 10 gauge (30 amp) extension cord, although 12 gauge would be fine. Adapter cords are easy to make up. The female would always be the same, but the plug would be for whatever receptacle would be used.”

Issues to consider

For our part, we believe Kurt’s thinking makes sense, and his resourcefulness helps maximize the AER from the Volt, which is the whole idea of an EV in the first place.

His initial experience has shown having access to 240-volts is useful, and he recommends it for public access in addition to the public charging stations being rolled out.

“If you are at a store for 45 minutes, you could expect the range on your Volt to increase by about 3.5 miles,” Kurt said of just plugging into 120-volts, “whereas a level 2 charger would increase your range about 8.5 miles. So my point here is that the cost differential to install a 240-volt outlet vs. a 120 volt outlet is minimal, while the cost to install commercial charging stations with a J1772 plugs is substantial and would be prohibitive in most cases.”

We have been hearing the industry is talking of standards. We think many more standards and issues will need to be sorted, and this is one of them.

Kurt said that not long ago he heard a local Whole Foods had installed charging stations. He was excited to try one for the first time, he said, and expected to see a J1772 plug connected to a charger in the parking lot. Unfortunately, what he found were 120 volt receptacles.

“Okay, this was better than nothing,” he said, “but not the Level 2 that I was expecting to find.”

What is needed are 240-volt receptacles for people with their own chargers, he said. There ought to be enough installed where people park EVs during the day.

And here is a question to ponder, Kurt raised:

“Why not shift some of the cost to the owners in the form of portable chargers? But, this only works if everyone is using the same 240-volt plug,” he said. “The industry needs to adapt the use of a one 220/240 volt plug that would become the standard for 30-amp level 2 portable chargers. Perhaps we can get the ball rolling here in this site.”

We would add if common 240-volt receptacles were available – such as already found at RV parks – even if someone did have a different plug, perhaps also patch cords like Kurt made could also add to the flexibility of the concept.

The question Kurt has, is what do you GM-Volt readers think?

“One suggestion that I have would be to get some consensus on a standard plug that would be used on portable chargers,” he said, “This could vastly reduce the cost for the commercial charging station installations.”

Brain storming

Would the EV-driving society we are working to create benefit from commonly available, public-access, 240-volt plugs?

Would this not be an expedient solution in addition to the rollout of more costly charging stations with J1772 connectors ready to go?

Should businesses charge for access?

At the very least, it looks convenient for Kurt, and others who have access to 240 volts at various locations in their regular orbit.


Looks great. Now, can we just get a few hundred thousand or more installed around the U.S. please? And additionally, how about thousands of 240-volt receptacles for the more independent folk?

To those of you technically-minded who may have a view, what plug standard would make sense for 240-volt receptacles into which drivers could plug their own portable level 2 charger?

Or is this not a good idea for any reason? … like theft and vandalism worries?

“One concern that I did not mention in my original email is protecting one’s $1,000 portable charger while in a public parking area,” Kurt said, “So here is a brand new business opportunity – make special locks for portable charging stations.”

That is one security solution. Surely there would be others that could work too – including installing fast chargers in the car.

In all, we like the idea of being more independent.

Thanks to Kurt for pioneering one solution. More constructive feedback is welcome.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2011 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 63


  1. 1
    solo

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (7:27 am)

    The easiest way to allow for public charging, to me, would be to install RV style power boxes near parking lots.

    RV boxes at nicer campgrounds have 3 outlets. The first is a standard 120 volt 15 amp outlet like your house has. At least you can use the cord you get from GM.

    The second is a 120volt, 30 amp outlet with a specialized RV plug. This specialized plug is common to smaller RV’s that don’t require a lot of power. It is used in the RV industry so people don’t plug in a 240 volt appliance into it expecting 240 volt power.

    The third is a 50 amp 240 plug used by larger RV’s that have high electrical loads (2 air conditioners, electric driers, 2 televisions, etc.).

    This plug has 4 prongs unlike the outlet/plug used by Kurt. They are, 120 hot (2), Neutral, and ground.

    I noticed the pigtail on the LCS25 charger only has 3 wires. I’m curious how it’s wired in a 240 volt system. I remember older electric driers used to have 3 wire plugs but you had to run a separate ground wire to the drier chassis from a grounding source.

    You need a 4 conductor system in the United States to get 240 volts. Any electricians out there who could explain to me how this charger works with only 3 conductors?

    Thanks.


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    MichaelH

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (7:38 am)

    solo: You need a 4 conductor system in the United States to get 240 volts. Any electricians out there who could explain to me how this charger works with only 3 conductors?

    I’m not an electrician, but I know how my Voltec Charging Station is wired. There are two hot wires (120 volts to ground, 240 volts to each other) and one ground. There is not a separate neutral. The 240 volt stations do not need one.

    Electric dryers may need a 4 conductor system so they can incorporate 120 volt components. My old electric dryer outlet is a 3 conductor system.


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    jeffhre

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (8:18 am)

    Good article topic, and yes it seems like it would be a lot simpler to just allow a standard 240 plug into the EVSE.

    It would be great to see EV drivers push for standards like this that don’t require a lot of added proprietary boxes, just standard plugs. The RV industry does it, and apparently without creating a lot of inadvertent fatalities. Can a lesson be learned from how the RV industry accomplished this? And how they gained the cooperation of the electrical inspections, approvals and standards communities?

    As it stands today, to get an opportunity to top off for 35 to 40 mile charging opportunities on a longer trip, you could wind up packing more cords, plugs and adapters than luggage. And your most expensive options shouldn’t be bought just to be able to top off your charging.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (8:28 am)

    I am building a garage and had to decide what standard to use for my future EV circuit. I noticed a company call “EV Charge America” markets a portable level 2 charger model EV2104. In thier FAQ pages they suggest a Leviton Part No 279R 4 prong 4 wire plug that’s rated for 50 AMPs. As best I can tell from calling Chevy a while back a 30 AMP cirucuit is required and my electrician then chose appropriate wiring guage for that. Copper wire gets pricey so it helps to get that sized correctly. I hope this works. Here’s the link for EV Charge America http://www.ev-chargeamerica.com/products_ev2104.html . Leviton of course has a link for the plug. That’s the most promising arrangment I’ve seen. V/r Charlie


  5. 5
    Raymondjram

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (8:32 am)

    Jeff,

    Alternating current has no “positive” or “negative” leads, since the generated currents alternate (rotate) between a positive and a negative flow sixty time a second (60 Hertz). The basic 220 to 250 V circuit has two line leads (110 to 125 volts each) and a earth ground. The home and commercial breaker panels has a common “neutral” bar that is attached to the physical ground, and that ground conductor supplies the return connection to the generator. This was one of Tesla’s brilliant ideas using the earth as one of the conductors.

    The 220 VAC outlet does not need a neutral (unless the equipment attached needs both a 220 VAC and a 110 VAC circuit) so only three conductors and three contacts are needed. In theory, only two are actually used (the two live lines), as in Europe where 230 VAC is common in every home, and the connectors (outlet and plugs) has only two round pins and sockets as contacts.

    Kurt’s implementations are correct and follow code (I am an EE). The suggestion for a standard 240 VAC outlet would be Kurt’s example : a NEMA L6-30R. I use this type at work for my Unix servers, since it is safe for underfloor cables, where someone may tug at them to get to another cable. The advantage is the locking feature over the ordinary plug type, as this prevents accidental removal and partial exposure of the contacts.

    So I follow the idea of recommending public 240 VAC outlets with NEMA L6-30R for all present and future Level 2 charging stations. But I recommend doing this in every EV garage as of now.

    Raymond


  6. 6
    Dan Petit

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (8:37 am)

    If you notice on the picture above, the twist lock contact areas are larger than the standard 120 volt spade terminals. When twisting the plug, you are using a much stronger force to force these twist lock connections into the strong electrical contact grasp of the receptacle. This allows for better amperage conductivity, as well as assuring consistent wattage getting through, of course.

    If a retailer has the type of business model where there is incentive to have you there for many hours, such as at a football game, then, you could much more easily justify a level two charge “corral” (with a security cam focused on the vehicles) in a parking area. If the business model needs quicker turn around for the parking space, such as a pizza pick-up parking spot, then, of course not as likely.

    Shopping Malls could have an “accumulating charge points ‘rechargeable’ credit card” where, when you spend money in various shops, you get the charge for free when you come out and swipe the card, your own debit card could then be instantly credited back, and even with some spare kilowatts left on the “accumulating charge points ‘rechargeable’ credit card” to get you back there to the same retailers for the next time. This could be a powerful incentive.


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    Charlie

     

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (8:38 am)

    Correction on my comment for the EV2104…..a Leviton Part No 279R 4 prong 4 wire plug receptical..not plug.


  8. 8
    Mark Z

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (8:38 am)

    This is how Tesla Motors has solved the problem. Their cost for all these adapters is $800.

    Adapters_grande.jpg?100150

    http://shop.teslamotors.com/products/universal-mobile-connector-adapters

    One major problem can be where the wrong socket is being used or is improperly wired. Since the circuit breaker size and wire gauge is different depending on amperage, the correct socket needs to be installed so the correct adapter is used.

    For single use situations where a socket is improperly wired, a home made adapter can work, but I pity the person who uses it on a correctly wired socket and finds themselves ruining their charge cord, vehicle or other property.

    In a perfect world, all locations would have a J1772 charge station. Multiple adapters will be a requirement if you want to connect to available sockets that are properly wired.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (9:25 am)

    Leviton uses a NEMA 6-20 receptacle on it’s level 2 charger. A NEMA 6-20P for the male end that comes on the charger and a NEMA 6-20R for the female end that is part of their “Pre-wire” kit. Their “Pre-wire” kit is here: http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=34759&minisite=10091
    and the actual charger is here: http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=34834&minisite=10091

    Their website still says “Coming soon” so price and availability are still unknown.
    I would think that since they are a major player that receptacle might become the standard.


  10. 10
    Jeff Cobb

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (9:27 am)

    Raymondjram,

    Thanks Raymondjram. I think I knew that somewhere in the recesses of my mind, but surely forgot when writing that caption. Fixed now. I appreciate all the detailed comments you and others are giving.

    - J


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    PatsVolt

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (9:44 am)

    Raymondjram: Jeff,Alternating current has no “positive” or “negative” leads, since the generated currents alternate (rotate) between a positive and a negative flow sixty time a second (60 Hertz). The basic 220 to 250 V circuit has two line leads (110 to 125 volts each) and a earth ground. The home and commercial breaker panels has a common “neutral” bar that is attached to the physical ground, and that ground conductor supplies the return connection to the generator. This was one of Tesla’s brilliant ideas using the earth as one of the conductors.The 220 VAC outlet does not need a neutral (unless the equipment attached needs both a 220 VAC and a 110 VAC circuit) so only three conductors and three contacts are needed. But some local laws may impose a fourth ground conductor as a protection during outdoor use, such as an EV charging application or an external electrical power generator attachment. If the circuit is indoors, such as a closed garage, three conductors and contacts are enough. In theory, only two are actually used (the two live lines), as in Europe where 230 VAC is common in every home, and the connectors (outlet and plugs) has only two round pins and sockets as contacts.Raymond

    Raymond, if you don’t mind I would like to add some detail to your verygood explanation of the comon 240V house wiring.

    Delivery to your home comes on a main line that is some number of Kilovolts and is fed to a transformer on the pole. There are two windings in the transformer, the primary, which connects to the feeder circuit. This can be either a single wire system or two wires. In both cases one side of the primary is attached to the multi kilovolt circuit and the other is referenced to ground, either earth for the single line system or return line on a two wire circuit. The other side of the transformer is the secondary. This is the side that is stepped down to 240 volts. The secondary winding will give you your L1 and L2 parts of the 240V. On the secondary of the transformer there is what is known as a center tap. This is the where the neutral is derived. This is why when you measure from L1 or L2 to neutral you get 1/2 the voltage (120V). In order for all this to work safely it is required that the neutral be tied to ground to properly reference the whole system to ground at the entry point to the house and this is the only point where the neutral should be connected to ground. In all other connections including sub panels the neutral is treated as a current carrier and is always isolated from the ground.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (10:15 am)

    Mark Z: This is how Tesla Motors has solved the problem. Their cost for all these adapters is $800.

    I had read somewhere that Tesla owners were driving around with a ‘bag-o-adapters’, but, I didn’t know that Tesla supplies them.

    As far as improper wiring, wouldn’t the onboard charger catch this and just not work?


  13. 13
    Loboc

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (10:31 am)

    Raymondjram: Alternating current has no “positive” or “negative” leads, since the generated currents alternate (rotate) between a positive and a negative flow sixty time a second (60 Hertz).

    One of the layman explanations for the difference between AC and DC (alternating current and direct current) goes something like this:

    Imagine that electrical current is a bicycle wheel.

    DC is where the wheel spins in one direction. If you remove energy (such as slowing the tire on the opposing side with your hand) heat/work is observed.

    AC is where the wheel is cycled back and forth in a small arc. If you remove energy (such as slowing the tire on the opposing side with your hand) heat/work is also observed.

    In both cases, you get work out of the other end.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (10:37 am)

    My question on all of this would be the circuit breaker that is installed on the circuit you are plugging into.

    If you make an adapter cable for a box that normally has a 50 amp welder plugged into it, and now you are plugging in a charger that expects a 20 amp breaker, isn’t there a chance of some real problems, should the charger or the cable fail, but the breaker might not trip?

    Isn’t that the whole idea of putting the Volt 240V charger on a 20 amp breaker?

    And BTW, I am getting ready to run my wire for the 240V charger. Are you all using a regular breaker, or did you put in a GFCI type of breaker?

    Thanks.


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    MichaelH

     

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (10:44 am)

    Jim I: And BTW, I am getting ready to run my wire for the 240V charger. Are you all using a regular breaker, or did you put in a GFCI type of breaker?

    I am using a regular breaker. It is my understanding that the charging station (Voltec from SPX) incorporates a GFCI internally.


  16. 16
    DonC

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (10:55 am)

    Here is a small company which is upgrading the portable EVSE that comes with the Nissan Leaf so that it works at 240V with either the Leaf or the Volt. http://evseupgrade.com/ I don’t have one but people who have gotten them say they work great.

    As mentioned, most likely people will be using dryer outlets and there are two different types you’ll find — the older three prong in houses built before 1995 or so and the newer four prong in houses built later. Trailer park outlets can be tricky because they can look like 240V dryer plugs but only supply 120V. This won’t be a big problem in that the EVSE can operate at both voltages but you might be surprised at how long it takes to charge! (Those would be 10-30 and 14-30 plugs).

    The big advantage of portable EVSE, other than being portable of course, is that you don’t need to pull a permit or have an inspection when installing a dryer plug.

    Obviously we will see a lot more 120V/240V chargers because in most of the world 240V is the standard. You could make separate chargers for each voltage but it will be less expensive to do the manufacturing like they do for consumer electronics — build one charger that can handle different voltages and just change out the plugs.


  17. 17
    Neromancer

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (10:58 am)

    Jim I: My question on all of this would be the circuit breaker that is installed on the circuit you are plugging into.If you make an adapter cable for a box that normally has a 50 amp welder plugged into it, and now you are plugging in a charger that expects a 20 am breaker, isn’t there a chance of some real problems, should the charger or the cable fail, but the breaker might not trip?Isn’t that the whole idea of putting the Volt 240V charger on a 20 amp breaker?And BTW, I am getting ready to run my wire for the 240V charger. Are you all using a regular breaker, or did you put in a GFCI type of breaker?Thanks.

    Agreed this is a big concern. I’m an engineer for a company that makes electrical products. If you connect a device to a circuit breaker that is larger than what the device is designed for it is a safety risk and violates electrical codes.

    A GFCI will not catch all problems. A GFCI is only helpful if you have a fault to ground or a leakage current. If you have a dead short then you are relying on the circuit breaker to save you. If the breaker is oversized your device and anything or anyone around it could burn/fry/explode before the breaker trips.

    DO not connect a device to a circuit breaker larger than it’s approved maximum overcircuit protection rating!

    I have been to site investigations where our product was damaged and because the product was connected to an oversized breaker the product did not fail safe. The electrical ratings are on the product for a reason.


  18. 18
    kdawg

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:03 am)

    I would just buy a plug adapter from here:
    http://www.lockingpowercords.com/Category/1-locking-plug-adapters.aspx

    They have many kinds & good prices.

    5-15P%20plug%20Adapters(1).jpg


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    Loboc

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:16 am)

    Neromancer: DO not connect a device to a circuit breaker larger than it’s approved maximum overcircuit protection rating!

    My take on it is this:

    The circuit breaker is there to protect the wiring, not the device. If the device fails it should ‘fail safely’ with it’s own internal circuitry.

    If you plug a small light cord into a 20-amp circuit (or even a 15-amp) and put a large over load on it (such as a hair dryer), the light cord could fail way before the circuit breaker trips.

    The charge adapter should be designed in such a way that it detects (and protects from) over loads before the circuit even knows about it.


  20. 20
    kdawg

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:20 am)

    “To those of you technically-minded who may have a view, what plug standard would make sense for 240-volt receptacles into which drivers could plug their own portable level 2 charger?”
    ——————–
    My vote would to just use the same standard 120V outlets that are already everywhere. Most devices can already accept a range of 100V ~ 240V. And if you are still worried someone will plug a 120V device into the 240V socket, they could be labelled 240V and/or made bright yellow/whatever.


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    TheRFMan

     

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:21 am)

    Thanks DonC for the evseupgrade link. It seems nobody in Canada can sell me a 240V EVSE (Even GM Canada is clueless with Volts only about 6 weeks away), and most US outfits will not sell internationally. As a smaller outfit, perhaps these guys can won’t mind taking my money :)


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:30 am)

    A note on circuit breakers; there are many kinds with different trip characterstics. You need to use the one that matches the type of load. There are also different class levels. A class 10 breaker will trip within 10sec if the current exceeds 6 times the rating. Also, many breakers are only supplemental breakers and need protection before them. You need to use breakers that meet the NEC code and have a sufficient SCCR (short circuit current rating). The best option to use some quick acting fuses (can also be cheaper).


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    Mark Z

     

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:32 am)

    Loboc: …As far as improper wiring, wouldn’t the onboard charger catch this and just not work?

    Considering the fault indicators on the charge cords and charge stations, I would hope that every possibility is covered. If the usual indicator lights are green, then attach the J1772 connector to the Volt.

    The Volt is the perfect EV, since you can skip using an adapter and fuel up at the service station. It will come in handy if the circuit breaker trips, there’s a power outage, or the charge cord fails.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:34 am)

    “One concern that I did not mention in my original email is protecting one’s $1,000 portable charger while in a public parking area,” Kurt said, “So here is a brand new business opportunity – make special locks for portable charging stations.”
    ————-

    I plan to buy some kind of small cable lock for these situations.
    Something like this for $9 may work. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
    Master Lock 8417D Python Adjustable Locking Cable 6-Foot
    AAAADM0c8PgAAAAAASnIWw.jpg?v=1297347021000


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:51 am)

    Loboc: My take on it is this:

    The charge adapter should be designed in such a way that it detects (and protects from) over loads before the circuit even knows about it.

    That sounds good, but are they????

    If that cord melts, sparks, and starts a fire, there is still a whole lot of damage, and then you have to deal with the insurance company, that will say it is your fault for using improper wiring.

    IMHO, taking a device that is supposed to be permanently connected, and making it a portable device with multiple adapters to plug it into power sources that may or may not be correctly wired is just a hack.

    Or am I missing something?

    This seems to be trying to defeat the whole idea of the Volt. You don’t have to worry about such things. You just drive. Now if I bought any BEV, this would be a MAJOR concern. But that is why I have ordered a Volt!!!!!


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:53 am)

    kdawg: My vote would to just use the same standard 120V outlets that are already everywhere.

    I’d go with a 14-30 since that is the standard dryer plug and I’d assume that people interested in getting a portable 240V EVSE charger would be set up to use these at Grandma’s house and so forth.

    But I think that for a workplace a 120V 20 amp circuit would be sufficient though not ideal. It would address 80% of the need and be more practical from an implementation standpoint, an important consideration given that charging even at 120V 30 amps is gong to stress the power supply once you get above three or four cars. Make charging too expensive and employers will decide the best thing is to not allow charging.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:59 am)

    Jim I: IMHO, taking a device that is supposed to be permanently connected, and making it a portable device with multiple adapters to plug it into power sources that may or may not be correctly wired is just a hack.

    This is a valid point but keep in mind that the chargers we’re talking about are portable devices so they’re not designed to be permanently connected. And as mentioned, since in most of the world the standard voltage is 240V not 120V a 240V charger will be safe.


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    Neromancer

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (12:07 pm)

    Loboc: My take on it is this:The circuit breaker is there to protect the wiring, not the device. If the device fails it should ‘fail safely’ with it’s own internal circuitry.If you plug a small light cord into a 20-amp circuit (or even a 15-amp) and put a large over load on it (such as a hair dryer), the light cord could fail way before the circuit breaker trips.The charge adapter should be designed in such a way that it detects (and protects from) over loads before the circuit even knows about it.

    WRONG! VERY WRONG! All devices with switches, relays and ground fault devices are tested with a maximum short cirucit protection. The level that they are tested at is dependent on the maximum overcircuit protection (maximum breaker or fuse size).

    If you connect a device to an overcircuit protection larger than it was designed and tested too the surge current in a short circuit stiuation within the device could cause relays to fuse and could bypass internal safety features.

    The charge adapter may have features that can detect an unsafe surge current and can shut itself down. BUT! these features will be tested at a maximum overcircuit protection. If the charge adapter is only rated for 20A and you connect it to a 50A circuit and there is a short circuit, the surge current may be high enough to overwhelm the surge current protection as it wasn’t tested or rated for surge currents that you could see on a 50A breaker.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (12:28 pm)

    DonC: This is a valid point but keep in mind that the chargers we’re talking about are portable devices so they’re not designed to be permanently connected. And as mentioned, since in most of the world the standard voltage is 240V not 120V a 240V charger will be safe.

    But the Clipper Creek LCS-25 is not really a portable unit.

    Here is the sales brochure:

    http://www.clippercreek.com/documents/PDF/product_information/residential/ClipperCreek_-_LCS-25-Brochure.pdf

    and the user manual:

    http://www.clippercreek.com/documents/PDF/product_information/residential/LCS_User_Manual_110504v05_-_booklet.pdf

    In both, they talk about the unit being hardwired and permanently mounted.

    And this was interesting from that user manual:

    “Caution Warranty is void if this unit is wired improperly”

    Imaging that phone call to Clipper Creek Customer Support: “I was using adapto cable #4 that I made, but when I plugged it into Uncle Joe’s 240 V welder outlet out in the barn, there was this big spark, and then the unit went dead. Will you send me a replacement under warranty???”

    Good luck with that one…….. :-)

    JMHO


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (12:54 pm)

    Jim I: In both, they talk about the unit being hardwired and permanently mounted.

    I wasn’t thinking about the Clipper Creek and it sure looks like a portable unit. Clipper Creek says using it as a portable doesn’t pose an risk but if you’re nervous about using this model this way, no problems, just use the portable model for the EU: http://www.clippercreek.com/documents/PDF/operation_manuals/ClipperCreek_ECS-15_Brochure.pdf Or you could use the SPX 32A, which seems like a universal voltage portable charger. http://www.autotrader.com/research/article/new-research-safety/76195/detachable-home-ev-charger-works-faster.jsp (This is the one discussed in the article BTW).

    As a note, some mistakenly believe that code requires the 240V chargers to be hard wired. It doesn’t. For example, all the Blink chargers are attached by a plug. So whether a charger is portable or not depends on how portable it is.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (1:08 pm)

    Interesting , but I see a potential problem of DIYers that have just enough knowledge to be dangerous and drivers that forget to ask permission before plugging into some random outlet they discover. If you want to charge your car everywhere you stop, you should expect to pay for the service.

    I still think the main strength of the Volt is it minimizes the urgent need to install high capacity charging infrastructure everywhere.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (1:27 pm)

    solo,

    The 3 wires is indeed correct for the 240 volt system. The 3 wires consist of 2 phase conductors and 1 ground conductor. The 120 volt system also uses 3 wires, 1 phase conductor, 1 neutral conductor and 1 ground conductor. the 4 wire system you talked about is when both 120 and 240 volts are required, thus, 2 phase conductors, 1 neutral conductor and 1 ground conductor.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (1:34 pm)

    kdawg: “One concern that I did not mention in my original email is protecting one’s $1,000 portable charger while in a public parking area,” Kurt said, “So here is a brand new business opportunity – make special locks for portable charging stations.” ————-

    I plan to buy some kind of small cable lock for these situations. Something like this for $9 may work.I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

    I’m an RVer from way back. The way to do this is to cut a dado (groove) in a 2×4, place a section of the wire in the groove, and then drive onto it.

    This won’t prevent theft by cutting (neither would a lock), but, it works pretty well for 50c worth of wood.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (1:58 pm)

    Neromancer: If you connect a device to an overcircuit protection larger than it was designed and tested too the surge current in a short circuit stiuation within the device could cause relays to fuse and could bypass internal safety features.

    I seriously don’t know anybody that changes out circuit breakers based on the device load. So you’re saying that if I plug in a refrigerator/freezer that is smaller (less wattage) than the old one I should de-rate the breaker? Ridiculous.

    Circuit breaker sizing is based on the wire size used. The device may come into play if you are designing a dedicated circuit’s capacity for that device, but, the breaker is not protecting the device. It is protecting the wire.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (2:08 pm)

    Jim I: My question on all of this would be the circuit breaker that is installed on the circuit you are plugging into.

    If you make an adapter cable for a box that normally has a 50 amp welder plugged into it, and now you are plugging in a charger that expects a 20 am breaker, isn’t there a chance of some real problems, should the charger or the cable fail, but the breaker might not trip?

    Isn’t that the whole idea of putting the Volt 240V charger on a 20 amp breaker?

    You have a good point to mention. The 50 A breaker will not trip unless the current reaches that amount. By that time, the 20 A cable could be smoking hot. If this is your worry when plugging in the Level 2 charger, a solution would be to add a 20 A breaker in-line with the cable. I have seen this on a hair blowers plug (it also had GFCI), but I haven’t seen one made for a 20 A, 230 VAC circuit. It could be added on to the cable, but the smallest remote panel box I have seen is still too big to attach to a cable and be portable at the same time. Maybe some of the suppliers will see this need and design a new cable with an in-line breaker for portable EV charging (and other uses). Then just add the correct plug and receptacle on each end, or wire it inside the equipment and just add the plug.

    Raymond


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (2:35 pm)

    Loboc: I seriously don’t know anybody that changes out circuit breakers based on the device load. So you’re saying that if I plug in a refrigerator/freezer that is smaller (less wattage) than the old one I should de-rate the breaker?

    I was thinking more about the danger of swapping out those 75W incandescents with 12W LEDs. You’re right that there is some confusion about what a breaker can and can’t do.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (2:46 pm)

    Well, I haven’t read every single comment here, but this is interesting. I just bought the new SPX portable charging station mentioned, and it only took 3 weeks to come vs 90 days. I installed it in a couple of hours (well, all you really install is the outlet that it plugs into) and it works great. It uses a NEMA 6-30R. I agree that a locking plug like L6-30R would probably be better, and more universal (standard generator plug). Someone has probably already mentioned this, but installing a plug onto a charging station that was designed to be hardwired is not a UL Listed solution.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (2:49 pm)

    The breaker capacity is a valid concern. Electricians will not upsize a breaker protecting a 20 amp circuit to a 30 amp breaker of course. The concern also ought to be applied to the dryer dedicated circuit, as a dedicated circuit is protecting that one device only.
    If there is a change in the specifications of what wiring is to be protected, a twenty amp load carrying cable instead of one singular dedicated dryer rated cord, then you have an over rated breaker for that smaller capacity cable. The hazard would then exist in this case if the breakers were not reduced in amp ratings for both legs, of course.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (3:01 pm)

    MichaelH,

    As I understand it the fourth wire is for the 120v line (return or hot I’m not sure) the other two carry the 220/240V. My welder only contains 220/240 components and only has a 3 prong plug. The fourth wire is not needed if there are no 120v components in the unit. Though I could be totally wrong about this…..(disclamer, LOL)


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    WopOnTour

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (3:29 pm)

    FYI – SPX is now offering the $795 “Power Express” 120-240V EVSE with “portability” options that includes a NEMA 6-30P plug and designed to meet NA and Euro weatherproofing specifications.

    More info here:
    https://www.homecharging.spx.com/Volt/Display.aspx?id=25&menu=13

    HTH
    WopOnTour


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (4:47 pm)

    DonC: You’re right that there is some confusion about what a breaker can and can’t do.

    I think the confusion is about commercial vs residential.

    In a commercial setting, you would re-engineer the (usually dedicated) circuit or PDU’s if you change the load significantly.

    For residential, it’s a matter of getting a licensed electrician to verify that the circuit can be re-purposed.

    The electrician wouldn’t want to be bothered when an under-sized (or even right-sized) breaker pops out all the time. In other words, residential is not as closely engineered to purpose. It’s sized to minimize call-backs.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (5:37 pm)

    Raymondjram: Kurt’s implementations are correct and follow code (I am an EE). The suggestion for a standard 240 VAC outlet would be Kurt’s example : a NEMA L6-30R. I use this type at work for my Unix servers, since it is safe for underfloor cables, where someone may tug at them to get to another cable. The advantage is the locking feature over the ordinary plug type, as this prevents accidental removal and partial exposure of the contacts.

    Doesn’t NEC currently require 240/220 V chargers to be hard wired, not plugged to the wall w/ standard 240 V (dryer type) connectors?


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (6:05 pm)

    kdawg: And if you are still worried someone will plug a 120V device into the 240V socket, they could be labelled 240V and/or made bright yellow/whatever.

    Please don’t ever do this! A friend plugged his grinder into one of these miswired outlets with disastrous results. 20Amp 240 can use an outlet just like the standard 120 but with one of the prongs at a right angle.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (6:18 pm)

    jeffhre: Doesn’t NEC currently require 240/220 V chargers to be hard wired, not plugged to the wall w/ standard 240 V (dryer type) connectors?

    As mentioned, nope. The hard wired requirement is a myth. NEC 625 reads in part: “Electric vehicle supply equipment part of a system identified and listed as suitable for the purpose and meeting the requirements of 625.18, 625.19, and 625.29 shall be permitted to be cord-and-plug-connected.”


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (6:20 pm)

    I have mentioned the stupidity of the J1772 standard several times. Having a cord attached to the charging station is an invitation to vandalism or theft. Making the unit so expensive that no one will be able to install more than one is a severe limitation to the future of EVs.

    The only rational solution is a plug that plugs into a 240V outlet.

    Thanks LOBOC for the simple lock!


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    pjkPA

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (7:13 pm)

    I’ve been involved with electrical design and installation for 38 years.

    The NEC has this issue covered. To me charging is a minor issue compared to the rest of the car.

    Once enough electrics are out there many options will come… there are many large American companies like Hubbell, GE, Leviton, Appleton … etc… they will have good solutions.

    All we need to do is give our American companies a level playing field and not let FOREIGN government backed companies unfairly overrun our market like they have done to so many other industries.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (8:17 pm)

    jeffhre: Doesn’t NEC currently require 240/220 V chargers to be hard wired, not plugged to the wall w/ standard 240 V (dryer type) connectors?

    #42

    Such was my clear understanding at the time I had my Voltec unit installed. I saw one unit, which brand I can’t remember, which came with a plug, but it was a 4 prong plug, and I didn’t want to open that can of worms.

    These things seem to be evolving pretty fast. If the plug in Voltec had been available then (March 2011), I would have bought one in a heartbeat.

    Oh well, the joys of the “early adopters”, LOL.


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (8:18 pm)

    pjkPA: All we need to do is give our American companies a level playing field and not let FOREIGN government backed companies unfairly overrun our market like they have done to so many other industries.

    #46

    Amen. +1


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (10:42 pm)

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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:22 pm)

    My SPX garage charger is working great. It’s on a dedicated continuous line with a 20 amp breaker. And measures 250V at the plug. Working perfectly with a recharge time of 10 miles per hour. The Volt is quiet and dependable. GM engineering did a great job with this model.

    =D-Volt ~ Car of The Year

    100_1413.jpg


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    Jul 7th, 2011 (11:43 pm)

    Dave K.: My SPX garage charger is working great. It’s on a dedicated continuous line with a 20 amp breaker. And measures 250V at the plug. Working perfectly with a recharge time of 10 miles per hour. The Volt is quiet and dependable. GM engineering did a great job with this model.

    How much did it cost? Is being able to charge twice as fast worth the $?


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    Jul 8th, 2011 (12:56 am)

    storm,

    Had the SPX installed in late December 2010. Labor was about $600. Got a tax credit on half of unit cost and half of installation.

    240V is the way to go. I have come home from work with 5 miles charge remaining. Plugged it in. Had something to eat and showered. Drove 20 miles. Plugged back in. Watched TV and checked the mail. Drove another 30 miles. Most miles I’ve driven in one day gas free is 90.

    =D-Volt

    VoltLlamaShowOff.jpg


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    Jul 8th, 2011 (3:07 am)

    I always put a lock on the plug of the EVSE that comes with my Leaf, just make sure the gauge of the lock is big enough that you can’t unlatch the plug without taking out the lock first. All the Coulomb technology chargers I’ve come across have the same holes. Looking at the plug provided by Clipper Creek, it looks like the locking holes are provided. It won’t stop all vandalism, but it should at least deter theft.

    scaled.php?server=197&filename=chargerlock.jpg&res=medium


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    Jul 8th, 2011 (12:12 pm)

    One ‘connector solution’ might be to have a 240v cord with the standard plug on the electric car end and 3 plugs on the source end–2 120v and 1 240v. So if there is a 120v x 2 outlet setup, like the vast majority of existing outlets I assume, you could plug both 120v male plugs in and have effectively 240v. Or just 120v if there’s only 1 120v outlet avail. Would this work? Can the power be combined fairly easily/inexpensively? Why not use 240v whenever you cost-effectively can?


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    Jul 8th, 2011 (8:36 pm)

    I wanted to respond to a couple of readers. First putting a lock in the J1772 is a great idea.

    Portable Chargers are fine and do not need to be hard wired.
    220 Volt receptacles do not need a neutral but must hae at least a ground or a netural. Some use two feeds and a ground. Some use 2 feeds and a neutral and some use two feeds, neutral and ground. If you look up the NEMA plugs and receptacles, the L6-30 (L for twist lock) uses two feed and a ground. The ground is for safety and to dissapate static electricity. A receptacle that uses two feeds and a neutral will work fine. Also, a NEMA 6-30 plug would be straight bladed, unlike the L6-30 (twist). The twist is the better choice, but both share the same electrical specs: 30amp, 250Volt, 2 feeds+ground.

    The Adaptor cord shown with 50 Amp Plug should not violate the Electrical Code. While the Welder outlet uses a 50 amp breaker, that breaker is to protect the permenant wiring and would require 6 gauge or larger wire in the wall. Portable apparatus plugged into that receptacle would not face the same requirements. For example, your lamp at home might have 16 or even 18 gauge wire plugged into a 15amp receptacle that was (legally) installed on a 20amp circuit. That circuit would require 12 gauge for the hard wire.


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    Jul 10th, 2011 (9:45 pm)

    Reading all this makes so glad I live in a country with 230 V as standard.
    240 V plug
    RV plug


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    Jul 11th, 2011 (12:45 am)

    Raymondjram,

    I am also an EE and I dont think its code to take a 50 amp plug and adapt to down to a 20 amp circuit. I’m sure it would work and I myself would do the same thing, I still doubt it up to “code”


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    Jul 11th, 2011 (2:02 am)

    DonC: Here is a small company which is upgrading the portable EVSE that comes with the Nissan Leaf so that it works at 240V with either the Leaf or the Volt. http://evseupgrade.com/ I don’t have one but people who have gotten them say they work great.

    This company uses a NEMA L6-20 plug.

    WopOnTour: FYI – SPX is now offering the $795 “Power Express” 120-240V EVSE with “portability” options that includes a NEMA 6-30P plug and designed to meet NA and Euro weatherproofing specifications.

    More info here: https://www.homecharging.spx.com/Volt/Display.aspx?id=25&menu=13

    So already we have disagreement. (And Captbently went with L6-30.)

    My thought is that if we’re going to standardize on something, do we really want to top out at 30A? I would strongly consider the 50A NEMA 14-50, which is what larger RVs and travel trailers use. (Smaller RVs and travel trailers use TT-30, which is 30A but only 120V, so not suitable for level 2 EVSEs.)


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    Mark W

     

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    Jul 11th, 2011 (12:49 pm)

    I do like this suggestion. I would not mind the burden of needing a portable charger if it meant that it was more likely that stores, employers, and restaurants would have a place to plug in. I think it would be great if public charging should be cheap enough that any shop, restaurant, business/employer or parking lot could realistically consider offering it.

    My concern, however, is that although the hardware cost would be much lower if it didn’t include the charger, I suspect that getting electricity to the parking spots is often not so easy and to do so might require a high cost anyway.


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    Jul 12th, 2011 (9:09 am)

    Here is an idea. Create an adapter with a receptacle for your 240v charge cord but with two 120 v cords. Plug one 120V cord into the closest convenient outlet and then with an extension cord attached find another 120v outlet that is on the other leg. You could even incorporate a 240 relay into the adapter so that it would only pull in the other leg when you where properly plugged into the other leg and give you an indicator light telling you that you had found the other leg. This sounds a bit Rube Goldbergish but could be easier then finding a convenient 240V plug.


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    Jul 12th, 2011 (9:13 am)

    T 1,

    That would not work. In order to have 240V you have to have both legs available. Plugging into 2 120V outlets that are on the same leg would only give you more current capacity but still at 120V. The charger would not take advantage of this increased 120V current capacity.


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    Jul 12th, 2011 (11:49 am)

    ronr64: Here is an idea.Create an adapter with a receptacle for your 240v charge cord but with two 120 v cords.Plug one 120V cord into the closest convenient outlet and then with an extension cord attached find another 120v outlet that is on the other leg.You could even incorporate a 240 relay into the adapter so that it would only pull in the other leg when you where properly plugged into the other leg and give you an indicator light telling you that you had found the other leg.This sounds a bit Rube Goldbergish but could be easier then finding a convenient 240V plug.

    Usually, rooms are wired so that this situation (both legs on nearby outlets) is avoided for just the reason given. Ya wouldn’t want say, a component stereo, plugged into different legs for different components and have the possibility of 240v being exposed to 110v equipment.

    Also, one leg’s 110v could trip and the other still be alive since they wouldn’t be ganged breakers. This brown-out situation could smoke whatever you’re trying to run on 240v.


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    Chris C.

     

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    Jul 12th, 2011 (5:37 pm)

    Great article!

    Except for the part at the end where you suggest that public charging locations should offer 240V outlets.

    I am fairly amazed that nobody has commented yet on what’s wrong with this. These NEMA receptacles were not designed for heavy cycle use! That means, they were not designed to be plugged / unplugged many times all day long. After a low number of cycles they will literally start to fall apart.

    Think about it: how often do you plug / unplug your electric dryer? Once every 10 years?

    This is one of the major problems that J1772 dealt with — creating a ROBUST connector that could deliver many thousands of plug / unplug cycles over its lifetime.

    For public locations, it’s much better to get a J1772 EVSE in there. For theft concerns, you will need to figure out a way to armor / protect the asset. Don’t punt back to a 240V outlet — down that path lies madness.

    Chris, FirstVoltInGeorgia.com, EE