This is my first piece on electric cars. This will cover charging and a few notes on charging rates. Future pieces will focus on the electric motor, electric car market share and then the big one -BATTERIES.
Disclaimer: I work for Quirk Chevrolet in Braintree, MA. We are so committed to electric car technologies that they hired a geek like me as an electric car specialist. I love the Bolt and the Volt. They are most certainly the best of breed in their classes at this point by a wide margin. All opinions except that one are my own and may or may not reflect the opinions of any of my employers. Please enjoy, if you like this my name is Larry Martin. If you don’t, I am Joe Smith. Thanks in advance for your patience.
From the Fleet Carma Piece. (http://www.fleetcarma.com/electric-vehicle-charging-guide/)
“On-board charger: The actual charging device for Level 1 and Level 2 charging comes factory-installed and is called the “on-board charger.” It converts AC power from the wall to DC power that charges the battery in the vehicle. The charging speed may vary, but the most common on-board chargers are 6.6 kW on battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and 3.3 kW on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). DC Fast Charging uses its own off-board charger.”
My note: I only include this because there is sometimes confusion as to what “charger” people are referring to. Most of the time people are referring to the plug that you put into the car and the wall. If you are talking to a true electric car geek though they might be referring to the piece of equipment that is in the car that charges the battery.
Three Levels of charging
Level one charging: Simply said, it’s a regular plug, a 120V household outlet. It can charge your car at 2-5 miles of charge per hour, but its is not a great way to charge your electric car. It is so slow that even on a vehicle that gets 107 to a charge (I see you Leaf) it will take forever. It’s good in a pinch, if you have a very high mileage E-Car like the Bolt (238 Miles) or if your daily mileage is ALWAYS low. I capitalize ALWAYS because I enjoy yelling and because most of the time most people travel very few miles in a day. It only takes a few days of longer travel though and you can get offsides and you will be chasing full until the car sits for a long while.
Level 2 charging: This is what you should look to get as your primary solution. I will include links to some chargers that come recommended by the electric car community ( Yes, there is one, check Facebook owners groups for more info). Level 2 charging is a 220v or 240v outlet. It makes me feel a bit dirty to say that though. True electric car people will say 250v 45Amp is Level 2 charging. That is also what I believe in. Therefore, when people say, “just get a dryer plug”, you must immediately smack them and tell them that is not true. A 220V will work and is much better than a standard outlet but it is not the optimal standard charging. The optimal charging comes from a 240v 45Amp outlet known as a NEMA 14-50. You can expect charge rates of 20-40 miles in an hour. Side note, the reason that number can differ is that temperature and battery technology affect the rate of charge. Public Chargers are usually Level 2 but can certainly be level 1. Use the apps I will mention and skip the level 1’s. Find a 2 or a 3.
Here are some charger options. The first one is the best in my opinion but the other two are spoken of highly by the community.
Aerovironment-Call me for installation thoughts as well
JuiceBox (many speak highly of this on the owner’s board)
As far as installation goes, it is almost impossible to estimate because there are variables that must be clarified first. I’ve seen $300-400 in an optimal situation all the way up to $4,000 in a home that needed trenches dug to run cables out to a garage that was 50 yards away along with an upgrade in the breaker box. I am working on a list of qualified electricians in the MA area to give estimates and install, so if this falls into one of your hands please raise your hand.
Level 3 Charging- Now we are cooking with gas (or in this case electric). Mr Tesla himself would be very proud as a level 3 charger comes as straight DC current and charges the car at a very rapid rate. (If you don’t get the Tesla reference, you will soon.) Most Level 3 chargers are known as CHAdeMO and DCFAST unless you own a Tesla and you have access to a supercharger. These chargers will give you 80% in about 30 minutes (your results may and probably will vary) but it is THE SOLUTION for a road trip. Route your trip in advance through a DCFAST network and your trip will go way smoother. Again, check the apps and map it out before you leave. Most electric cars have some of this functionality built in to the NAV system.
BIG NOTE: not all cars have the ability to use level 3 chargers. Some don’t even have the option while on many others (including the Bolt) it does require an additional option. You can definitely live without the option if you don’t travel long distances often or if you plan on taking your Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car on your trips but I would suggest you get the fast charging option. Again, just my personal opinion and not the opinion of my employer.
Electric Rates in MA in case anyone was wondering
CA Drive Green- Have to give it to the state of CA, they do a great job with electric
Total E-car geek out moment: Here is all the different outlets. Notice the 14-30 is for dryers and the 14-50 is for electric ovens. The NEMA L6-30 is a Plasma Cutter which sounds really cool but won’t work. (Unless someone out there is geekier than me and knows otherwise)