Friday, January 2, 2015

Living with my Level-1 charger and charge-anxiety

You never know how much you depend upon something until it breaks.  My home level-2 charger worked perfectly for over two and a half years before it stopped working.  Repairing it was not an option, so I have had to live with the level-1 charger until I can find (and pay for) a suitable replacement.  At the recent EV car rally, I remembered Clipper Creek offering a decent product, so I looked into it online.  The unit with the wall plug will meet my needs after I alter the installation of my 220-volt outlet to reorient the plug for the new charger.  I was about to order the unit when I remembered one of the recall notices that I had yet to perform on my Mitsubishi i-MiEV involved a level-2 charger problem.  So, I scrambled through the myriad of papers floating about my car and found the notice.  Sure enough, the recall applies to Clipper Creek level-2 charging stations, so I have to wait until I take my car in for the recall to get the charger (to avoid damage to my car).  Doh!

Meanwhile, I am growing ever more tired of the slow charging level-1 charger.  Being able to add a 20-mile range to my car in about two hours is great with a level-2 charger, but the same range requires six hours from my level-1 charger.  And, my drive to work and back needs about 12 to 14 hours to recharge using my level-1 charger, which just gives me enough time to get to work the next day.  (Thank goodness for morning meetings handled online at home.)  If I need to stray from my route home, I cannot get a full charge by morning.  If I need to make two long trips on the weekend, that is impractical as well.  Clearly, the level-1 charger is suitable for folks that drive fewer than 35 miles a day or don’t need to drive every day.  (It’s worth noting that my level-1 charger draws only 1kw, while many newer level-1 chargers draw 1.4kw, reducing the charge time by almost 30%.)

So, now I have learned a new anxiety that EV drivers face, one that causes more stress than range-anxiety.  This angst, that nobody seems to be talking about, is probably best called charge-anxiety, and has more to do with not knowing how you are going to manage to recharge your battery before you need it again.  The level-2 charger is a great soother of charge-anxiety because you know that during your sleep, however short that might be, you can fully recharge your battery.  (While level-3 chargers work much faster, they don’t finish the job – they stop once the battery reaches 80% charge to avoid over-heating and over-charging the battery pack.)  How can you reduce charge-anxiety when you are stuck with a level-1 charger?  Find a nearby public level-2 charging station (at a store or parking garage), plug in for about two hours, then return home to finish the job using your level-1 charger.  I am fortunate enough to have several public level-2 chargers close to home, but that is not the case for most folks.

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