Home Charging Coming to a Garage Near You
If you live in one of sixteen American cities (see list below), you are going to have the chance to participate in one of the greatest, and perhaps most expensive consumer product roll-outs in recent memory, funded largely by your fellow taxpayers.
Starting later this year and into 2011, 5,700 owners of the Nissan LEAF electric cars and 2,600 Chevrolet Volt owners are going to be given, free of charge, home charging units, each worth as much as US$2,000, as well as the installation costs of one of three chargers: the Ecotality BLINK, the AeroVironment EVSE-RS and the Coulomb Technologies CT500. In addition to the 8,300 home units, the $114.8 million federal program will also see the installation of some 15,000 public charging stations around those 16 urban markets, which include major cities in Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Washington state, as well as the District of Columbia.
EV World surveyed seven charging station manufacturers in North America and Europe to compile a listing of available home charging units, all of which have Level II charging capability. This means they will need to be wired for single phase 220-240V current at 30 amps. This will enable owners to recharge their cars -- depending on the size of the battery pack and the depth of discharge -- in 3-6 hours, instead of the 8-12 hours using standard 110V 15 amp household current. While most homes built in the last half century in the United States and Canada have single-phase 208-240V service, it is not always readily accessible where the vehicle will be parked overnight.
More critically, as Coulomb Technologies' Vice President for Product Development Tom Tormey notes, 60% of American home owners don't have garages for their vehicles; and even more serious, in the large urban areas where battery electric cars especially excel, 80% of the residents live in multi-family housing units: apartments, flats, and condominiums with shared or no parking at all. Providing these customers with access to simply Level 1, 110V service is often difficult or impossible, let alone Level II. It is here, Tormey argues, that his firm's networked CT500 comes into its own.
Because each Coulomb unit talks to the firm's central computer system, this allows the owner of the multi-family unit to control who can use the CT500 charge unit via a RFID smart card he can provide his tenants. Tormey points out that this gives the building owner/manager a way to charge for the electricity, as well as leave product service issues to Coulomb's 24/7 telephone support line. While other chargers on the list offer similar network-capability, or the option for it, Coulomb's integrated system appears to be the most advanced at the moment. Both the Charge Master and POD Point chargers in Britain offer networked features that allow drivers to locate, via Google maps, and check the status of their respective chargers in and around London and its environs.
Why 'Chargers' Don't Charge
The term "home charger" is a bit of a misnomer. The devices displayed below don't actually "charge" the electric car's battery pack. That unit is, in fact, already built into the vehicle. What the "home charger" does is provide electric power intelligently. They can be programmed to provide power when electricity rates are the cheapest. They also can "mind" the flow of current so that voltage spikes and frequency fluctuations don't reach the car and harm its circuitry. In the event of a fault, they can make sure the car is protected and when stable electric service resumes, reconnect the car automatically. Additionally, if they are networked, they can send you messages via the Internet or cellular phone on the condition of the battery charge. The Charge Master home unit offered in England can even be programmed in the winter to preheat the car so you don't have to use the battery pack, shortening your range when you drive to work. This is why the industry is drifting away from the term 'charger' and increasingly referring to them as Electric Vehicle Service Equipment, or EVSE.
With respect to the question of consumer safety such as forgetting to unplug the cable, the purpose of the UL Listed rating is to certify the units are completely safe. The J1772 plug is engineered with this electric shock protection in mind. In the event of a temporary power failure, most units have the ability to restart the charging process automatically, unless the system detects possible problems with the vehicle or the EVSE. In the unlikely even that the driver forgets to unplug the vehicle, the cable will automatically disconnect from the unit: this according to ClipperCreek, is part of the UL Listed requirement. However, most electric-drive vehicles are engineered to not start until the charging cord is unplugged, so it's unlikely your teenager will be able to absentmindedly rip the power cord out of the wall backing out of the garage.
While Level III charging will be offered at some point so that drivers can "fast charge" in under 30 minutes, none of these home units offer that capability. The cost would be prohibitive for most and it would require industrial-level voltage and current; and since most cars sit at least twelve hours overnight, it is thought there is little need for a 30-minute charge in a residential setting.
For the typical homeowner with access to a garage or carport and 208-240V service, the biggest question after which electric vehicle to buy or lease will be the cost of the EVSE, followed by the location of the unit on the premises. For those early adapters, the carmakers and the U.S. federal government, along several of the EVSE manufacturers are absorbing a large share of the upfront costs for the equipment and its installation. To apply for this funding in the initial roll-out cities, The EV Project offers a sign-up form that enables potential LEAF and Volt buyers to apply for one of the free chargers.
In England, where three of the devices listed below are offered, the British government recently pledged to keep funding for public "charging stations" in the budget. In 2010, the Department for Transportation awarded £8.8m in matching funds to install units 2,500 units in three regions, referred to as "plugged-in places:" London, Milton Keynes (45 mi NW of London in Buckinghamshire) and North East (Newcastle on Tyne). Additionally, the government continues to deliberate on how to provide up to a £5,000 per vehicle incentive to its early electric car buyers.
EV PROJECT CITIES
AVAILABLE HOME CHARGING UNITS
The listing below is based on available information, but remains incomplete as of this writing. We have asked the manufacturers to provide us with additional information as it becomes available. To our knowledge only two chargers are currently available for installation: Coulomb and ClipperCreek; and according to the latter, theirs is presently the only unit that is officially UL Listed.
ADDENDUM: EV Charge America Charge@Home unit added 1Sep2010. Company claims unit available now. Added GoSmart unit on 3Sep2010.
blog comments powered by Disqus