EV1 Chronicles
EV-1 Chargers

What's New?

EV1 Club
Web Page

Charger List

More EV Links

Home Page

Home Page

Many people seemed to be at least as interested in the chargers as the car itself. Perhaps it's because you can't see the main charger unless you come over to the house. At any rate, here's the charger info...

This picture (right) shows both the 230V wall charger and the 115V "convenience" charger (in front of the car). Both chargers connect to the car via a charging paddle which couples magnetically (no direct electrical contact), which makes it safe to connect up even when the car is wet (as it has often been lately).

Both chargers have fans, which along with a cooling fan in the car itself, raise a fair racket. Fortunately we happened to have chosen the wall mounted charger to be located on a wall NOT shared with the living area of the house.


Wall Charger Unit

The wall charger is permanently mounted and costs about $2000, plus installation. The installation cost could range from a few hundred dollars (our case) to a few thousand dollars, depending on whether or not you need to upgrade your house electrical service and if trenching is necessary (as may be the case for a detached garage).

This charger is hooked up to a separate electrical meter so that we get a lower rate for charging the car as long as it is done during off-peak hours. The small gray box just above the wall charger is a timer which turns power to the charger on and off to take advantage of the lowest cost power.

Due to the confusion among everyone involved during the initial days, it was weeks before we had a working, city-approved electrical setup. It took additional weeks to get the second meter's billing straightened out. During this time, fortunately, electricity was on, so charging was not a problem, but apparently we were not charged for electricity during this period!

The charger itself has no power switch. When you pull the charger paddle out of the holder, it activates itself. So connecting up is a "no-brainer." But of course, it takes a small amount of brain power to remember to plug in before going into the house! So far we've managed to not forget to plug in.

Charging time is nominally 3 hours, but the charger has a mind of its own and will often take over 4 hours. I presume it is tweaking the batteries to keep their charge capacity at a maximum.


Convenience Charger Unit

The so-called "convenience" charger is a compact, but heavy unit which is carried in the trunk of the car. In stark comparison to the car itself, the charger looks like a military piece of equipment (not that it matters to me). It runs off a standard 115V circuit but normally it is not used (and these are probably the only convenient things about it). The 3 main problems we see with this charger are:
  • The short cord. Notice that we've thrown a 50 ft. extension cord (orange) in the trunk with it. In the real world even a 50 ft. cord may not make it from the car to a socket.

  • The charger can be easily carried off by anyone passing by. Crime must be a lot less of a problem at GM in Detroit. Here in L.A. we felt we needed some security, so we found a Kryptonite brand lightweight cable lock which will prevent at least casual theft.

  • Unstowing the unit and re-stowing it after use (winding the charger paddle/cord and the power input cord, and replacing it in the holder in the trunk) is inconvenient and seems unnecessary. It would seem possible to build it into the car so that just running an extension cord out to the car would be all that would be necessary to use it.

Note: It is possible that the 115V charger was designed to be inconvenient to use so that it wouldn't be used often. We were told that it shouldn't be used more than 3 times in a row for the sake of battery health.

Plugging the 115V charger into the car works the same way as the larger charger. But unlike the large wall-mounted unit, the charger just has red, green, and yellow LEDs. The 230V wall-mounted unit has an alphanumeric display that tells you what the state of charge is (percent) and the estimated remaining charging time.

Charging time using this unit is about 15 hours because of the limited amount of power which can be drawn from a standard 115V circuit. Perhaps a more useful number is the number of miles you get back for each hour of charging (4 to 5 miles per hour of charging). If I'm stuck somewhere and have to use this charger to get home, I don't want to wait around any longer than absolutely necessary.

One thing to note here is that the charger is drip proof (there are no holes on the top, and the top has a bit of overhang over the sides), but is not waterproof in the sense of your wrist watch! It has holes in its sides for ventilation, so charging would be problem with this charger in a heavy rain, or if it happened to sit where water can puddle.


Outdoor Charger Unit

If your circumstances require, it is also possible to opt for a free-standing charger at a higher cost. While functionally identical (still 6.6 KW) to the wall-mounted charger, the free-standing unit is designed to withstand the elements without requiring a wall or roof over it. These are the chargers seen at most public charger installations because these parking sites tend to be in the open.

Copyright 1997-1999 by Dave & Jean Kodama Email: kodama@alumni.caltech.edu