Archive for the ‘Charging’ Category


Aug 20

Charging the Chevy Volt


Recently GM revealed the production charging equipment that will come with the Volt when it can finally be bought.

There will be a portable 120 V unit (R) that can be plugged into any standard receptacle. It will be able to recharge the car fully in 6 hours at 12 amps or 8 hours at 8 amps.

The other device option (L) is a 240 V stationary wall-mounted unit that has to be installed in the owners garage per code. This unit running at 16 amps can recharge the Volt in 3 hours.

Both utilize a newly ratified interface or coupler standard called SAE J1772, that provides durability, communications, and safety functions and well as universal usability among EVs.

The Volt charging units are very robust and designed to withstand even a complete dunk in a bucket of water. As well, there is a flashlight at the tip for finding the receptacle on the car even in the dark.

Furthermore, importantly, the system is designed so the car cannot drive when it is plugged in. The Volt also has a small LED bulb on the top of the dash that flashes when the car is charging so you can tell from a distance.

I actually proposed to GM that they offer a optional charger also capable of 240V 48 amp charging. At that rate, the Volt could be recharged in about 45 minutes. This would be a great feature for those who want it, and would help to encourage infrastructure development as people could recharge their Volts a rest stops in as much time as it takes to have dinner. It would be a great marketing tool as well.

Volt exec Tony Posawatz poured a little water on my enthusiasm.

“Volt battery can/will handle 220V w/48 amps,” he said. “Just not something we are offering from the factory.”

Anyway you too can have a chance to ask questions directly of Gery Kissel, GM’s engineering specialist who developed the Volt’s charging equipment right here below on a live webchat at 2PM EDT:


May 18

There Will be No Customer Access to High Voltage on the Chevy Volt, but it Can Jump Start Another Car


The Volt is different than traditional cars on many levels beyond its electric drivetrain.  One way is that its battery can store 16 kwh of energy, enough to power the average US household for about half a day.

People ask if they will be able to access that energy to power their home during a blackout, or for camping, by attaching an inverter to the Volt.

“This capability won’t be available on gen 1,” says Volt spokesperson Rob Peterson, “At this point, our priority is getting the vehicle right and delivering on time. This type of functionality would likely be considered for future gen vehicles.”

People also ask whether the Volt could be used to jumpstart another car.

I had the opportunity to pose those questions to Andrew Farah who is the Chevy Volt’s lead engineer.

Will the Volt be able to jump start another car? Does it have a traditional 12v lead battery too or will drivers have access to the high voltage terminals?

These are very interesting questions. About a year ago we worked through them and here is where we are…

1.  Customer access to High Voltage
The customer will have no access to high voltage. In fact, if the customer accidentally takes some action that might get them close to high voltage (e.g. disconnects a HV connection) then the system will cut off that voltage up stream of the potential breach. As with all systems, “nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool”, but we have a number of layers of HV protection for the customer, the service technician, and the vehicle assembler.

2.  “Jump” Start
We had also wrestled with this issue on the EV1. Answer there was no jump start of any kind, but the EV1 had a different electrical architecture that offered other remedies. For Volt the answer is a bit more conventional. Yes, we have a 12v battery. It is not a typical automotive “flooded” lead, but a sealed “acid starved” type…. and it is capable of providing enough power to jump start another vehicle.


May 13

Better Place Unveils Battery Switching Station w/ Video


Better Place is a well-funded start up company that has developed a unique approach to electric cars. It is the contention of their founder and CEO Shai Agassi to develop an infrastructure of battery swapping stations. In addition to charging at home, drivers would have standardized battery packs in their cars and when charge is depleted, pull into a station and have the battery exchanged.  They would never own the battery and pay a subscription fee.

Late Tuesday the company revealed the first video of how the swapping process would work.

They have partnered with Renault-Nissan on the endeavor and have pledged to work to an open standard for battery packs so that they could be interchangeable among many vehicles.

The first country in which this is expected is Israel with a charging network to be activated in 2010. Other places networks are expected are Denmark, Australia, California, Hawaii and Ontario, Canada. The demonstration proof-of-concept took place in Japan.

“Today marks a major milestone for the automotive industry as well as for Better Place,” said Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO, Better Place. “For nearly a century, the automotive industry has been inextricably tied to oil. Today, we’re demonstrating a new path forward where the future of transportation and energy is driven by our desire for a clean planet and a robust economic recovery fueled by investments in clean technology, and one in which the well-being of the automotive industry is intrinsically coupled with the well-being of the environment.”

The swapping stations would cost $500,000 a piece and other than Nissan-Renault no other major automakers are on-board with the idea, including GM who is positioning themselves to be a major battery pack assembler.

I must admit the remarkably fast swap process is impressive.

“The goal was to make the switch of a battery faster than filling your tank,” says Agassi. “We have seen this device work in under 40 seconds in our shop.”

See video below:


Source (Better Place)


May 11

Chevy Volt Charging Functionality, Gen One and Beyond


The Volt will be primarily charged at home, although there is certain to be demand for public charging outlets for people who wish to charge at work and for those who live in apartments.

The Volt will have some capacity to regulate its charging function, but more advanced features are expected to be coming in future generations.

I had the chance to ask Britta Gross who is GM’s direct of infrastructure some questions about this.

Are you involved in what technology will actually be in the Gen-1 Volts to communicate with the grid?
There will be some capability in the first generation volts to key in charging preferences. It won’t have all the smarts and broad capability of future generations. But it will have the smarts for you to be able to go into the vehicle and key in, for example, that you prefer to be charged after 7PM at night because you know the rates will be lower.

I am also working on how to (facilitate) that relationship between the utility companies and the new Volt buyers so they will be knowledgeable about their particular utility company’s best off-peak rates. We’re setting up systems now for utility companies to communicate with their customers about this.

So you may come home at 6 PM and plug-in the car, but your preferences are for charging to begin at midnight, and so your car will delay charging until then.

And, for example, if there is a different situation say for two weeks you need to be charged right away, let’s say your wife is pregnant, then you could override it.

Will the Gen-1 Volt communicate to the utility companies?
We’re looking at a lot of studies with OnStar right now, but there are other ways to do it. Through SAE and EPRI and our relationships with the utilities, we are very actively engaged in how we would communicate with the vehicle.

There are wireless means already, such as Zigbee, we’d have to have a chip on the vehicle that allows wireless communication about the charging and what’s happening. There are many ways out there to do this, we are looking through all of them to figure out what is best for consumers.

Will the Gen-1 Volt have something in it along these lines?
Well Gen 1 is a little different. The Zigbee chips aren’t even available today. These are nice to haves, but not must to haves. Even if the chip were available it would have to go through our very rigorous validation process which takes at least a year.


Apr 16

Plug Standard Needed For Electric Car-Charging Cord Interface: SAE J1772


A little discussed area that has a lot of importance is how electric cars will interface with the grid.

Yes we are aware the driver will attach an electric cord from the wallbox to the car, but at issue is exactly how that cord will fit into the car.

The specification that is gaining steam is called SAE J1772 and it refers to the coupler shown above.

People will charge their cars either with 110 or 220 V electric lines, and some cars in the future may even accept higher voltages. Current will also vary from 8 amps in the case of the Volt at 110 V to up to as high as 70 amps or greater. There will also be public charging stations to deal with. Since the far end of the cord will thus have many different plugs it is important to keep end that goes into the car the same.

GM notes at next week’s meeting of the Society of Automotive Eng inners, there is actually a Task Force that will convene to continue its work in trying to make SAE J1772 the industry standard.

GM Engineer Greg Kissel writes “You’re already aware we’re working to make the Volt as efficient as possible, but we’re also helping lead the standardization of this plug and how you interact with it as well as the electrical grid.” He notes that once this standard is adopted it will be required in all electric cars regardless of brand or maker.

Source (GM)


Apr 03

GM Committed to 1 Million Plug-ins By 2015 – MultiBlog Live Chat With Britta Gross Right Here 4PM EDT


Volt vehicle line director Tony Posawatz gave us a teleconference update on GMs plug-in strategy specifically as it applies to supporting President Obama’s goal of 1 million plugin cars by 2015, led of course by the Chevy Volt.

The idea of creating a “plug-in ecosystem” was proposed. Tony envisioned this as analogous to the success of the iPod. The iPod alone isn’t what’s successful but how it is integrated with its infrastructure. GM feels such a cultural shift will need to take place to enable the plug-in car revolution too. Collaboration between carmakers, utility companies, municipalities, governments, individuals and corporations will have to occur.

GM is fostering relationships with key stakeholders, and in particular feels a capable green grid and excellent plug-in cars are essential.

GM is already working with many national utility companies through EPRI, and working with local progressive governments such as San Francisco.

Mark Duvall of EPRI and Bob Hayden, clean transportation adviser for the City of San Francisco, also attended the conference and support these measures. Duvall reported that the US utility grid in its present state could support 10 million Chevy Volts which would collectively only use 0.8% of the total electric capacity.  He pointed out that charging the Volt is a similar draw to two plasma screen TVs. Furthermore he noted that most new grid capacity these days comes from wind and natural gas which are considered clean sources. He also reports there will be a 500 million ton per year reduction in CO2 emissions in the US when the automotive fleet is fully electrified.

A particular difficulty at present is determining how to handle daytime charging at workplaces and for apartment dwellers. This may cause potential grid strain in dense urban areas, and could be expensive. It was agreed a solution must be found through the effort of third party vendors like Coulomb technologies, utilities, or municipalities. The importance of local “plug-in champions” such as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome was mentioned.

I know that many reader have a lot of thoughts and opinions on these important matters, and you will all have a chance to bring them up directly to GM’s expert in the field.

We will be trying something new and fun.  Come here later today at 4PM EDT.  Below in the CoveritLive interface we will have a multiblog real-time chat with Britta Gross who is GM’s director of electric vehicle infrastructure commercialization.  She will be fielding our questions as well as those from readers at FastLane, and

See you then.

Page 4 of 812345678