Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My level-2 home charger

The first thing you need to get for your electric vehicle is a level-2 EV charger (220-volts).  This makes it possible to charge your car in a few hours rather than the better part of a day.  In my case, a full charge when plugged into a 110-volt outlet takes up to 22 hours.  With my commute to Palo Alto, the 110-volt charging solution was not a feasible option.  Of course, being the first i-MiEV customer in San Jose meant that the dealership was horribly unprepared to help me get a level-2 charger installed, and the folks from Best Buy (sent by Mitsubishi) dropped the ball and were no help (especially so close to Christmas).  I checked at Lowes and Home Depot and found a GE charger for $1,000 and a mystery-brand model for $800 that only offered 20 amps of charging capability (about half the GE’s).  Although my car would never draw more than 14 amps, I felt that newer EV’s (such as from Tesla) might be able to draw more current and I wanted a capable charger.  So, I turned to the internet for help.
My EV Charge America level-2 charger installed outdoors

I found the website for EV Charge America and their 32-amp EV charger being offered at an introductory price of $650, and placed my order.  Because they were still pre-production (something I wasn’t aware of), I had to wait about six weeks for them to work out the production kinks in their pilot-production models.  They shipped me one of these pilot-production models, then canceled their production plans.  (While shocking – pun – the unit provided has worked beautifully since day one.)  Next, I hired an electrician and applied for a permit.  The electrician installed a beautiful outdoor 220-volt receptacle and I mounted the charger to the house wall with four easy screws.  (I needed to whittle away at the receptacle housing to get the cover to close over the beefy electrical cord for the charger, but otherwise it was an easy installation.) 
I needed to file away at the opening for the power cord so the plug would fit.

Now I have a charger that can only be activated by a RFID card I keep in the car, so I don’t have to worry about amp-bandits tapping my house during the day while I am at work.  The RFID card can be hit-and-miss at times, but with a little patience it works well.  And, I charge at home while I sleep, avoiding those 5 to 10 minute stops at gas stations every week.  How cool is that?  And, my charger has the extra capacity needed for my next generation of EV, which looks to be hitting the roads sometime in 2017.

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