Tag Archives: Charging

Does the car charge to keep warm?

This past weekend I’ve noticed something kind of odd with my Focus Electric. The temperatures around here have been in the 20s; I keep the car parked outside (and, unfortunately, this time of year it is mostly in the shade all day too).

When I’ve plugged it in after a drive I’ve noticed it taking a very slight charge–not quite the large charge that the Level 2 can deliver (typically I see 1/2 the battery charged in 90 minutes). Today I monitored it for almost 5 hours after taking a short 15 mile drive this morning using up about 4 kWh of electricity.

Over that 5 hours of time the car consumed 3 kWh of electricity and the car did charge up to 96% charge (when it started it was somewhere around 80%). All this time the dash and the website indicated that the car was waiting to charge (its set to always wait until 1:00am to begin charging).

From this (granted not very scientific) experiment I’m suspecting that when the car needs to turn on the TMS it also turns on the charger to trickle charge the battery (perhaps even using the process of charging to heat the battery??). Very interesting indeed.

Note in the summer when I’ve monitored the car while it was waiting to charge the % charge remaining value always stayed the same over the course of the day (didn’t think to measure the power consumption at the meter though) so something different is happening when the car is cold.


Electrons for everyone…part 2

Recargo has a really nice infographic showing the state of charge stations in the US in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Take a look; its pretty interesting.


Electrons for everyone!

Here is an interesting graphic showing the # of charging stations by state:
Charging stations by state
A different representation of the data can be found here:
PopSci charge stations
For the EV driver this information is good: new stations are being installed all over the country. The thing I find interesting is that most of the new stations are being installed East of the Mississippi river–not along the coasts. Although if you really look closely I’d guess that the most new stations are now being installed where the population is most dense (e.g. East of the Mississippi and along the coasts). That would be an indication that EVs are becoming part of the mainstream and not as much a niche vehicle anymore…


How fast to fill up?

Now this is an interesting article: Which Electric Cars Charge the Fastest?

They rightly state at the very beginning:

The problem with asking “which EVs charge the fastest” is while some may think it’s a simple inquiry, it really isn’t. In fact, if we had to put asterisks on the highly qualified answers for the 10 electric cars sold in America, we’d need asterisks for the asterisks.

Even with all the clarifications it really doesn’t matter: As long as the car is fully charged in the morning I’m a happy camper. Granted if your chores for the day will take you further than the range of a full battery then you will be figuring on how much you can charge during the day. For the vast majority of my daily driving, though, I’m well within the range of a charge on the battery.

The ultimate question really is “can it charge overnight” which generally means can it fully charge up from empty within about 8 hours or so. All of the electric cars today can answer yes to that–at least with a Level 2 or better charger.


Charging Etiquette

Now for the Emily Post post! LOL

Once there started to be a few electric vehicles on the road we started seeing many people/companies/etc. posting articles about the etiquette of charging at public stations (e.g. some rules of thumb people should use when they see an occupied charge station that they wished to use). Ford also entered into the fray with a press release, and a video.

The rules of thumb were typically some variation of:

  • Don’t unplug other vehicles unless you know for sure they are done charging.
  • Only stay long enough at the charge station to charge up what you need (e.g. don’t stay there all day long)
  • When charging is complete move your vehicle to make the spot available for the next person who needs to charge

Ford’s etiquette list even included an item stating that BEVs should take precedence over PHEVs since PHEVs have a gas engine and don’t necessarily always need a charge–this statement is somewhat controversial. Also included in that article is a handy plaque to print out and leave on the dash to let others know how long you’ll be there (note that the smartphone app PlugShare also provides something similar–provided everyone else also uses PlugShare!).

I really don’t think you need to keep in mind a list of rules when you are going to charge; just use a little common courtesy. Try not to unplug anyone unless you know absolutely that their charge is complete (Chargepoint stations show this on the display–and if they have the texting setup they will know very quickly that you unplugged their vehicle if the charge isn’t finished). Other than that, be polite and not rude–there isn’t many of us on the road (at lease BEV drivers) compared to everyone else so you might was well make a good impression.

Public Charging

A Chargepoint Public Charge Station

A Chargepoint Public Charge Station

Once you’ve driving your BEV around for a little bit you will, on occasion, have a need to grab a charge to make it home. In reality this is much like grabbing a tank of gas while you are out–although it does take a bit more time.

In the US there are two main public charging systems: Chargepoint and Blink. Unfortunately, at this time, the Blink network may disappear. Fortunately for me, however, my neck of the woods (SE Michigan) features quite a few Chargepoint stations:
SE Michigan StationsUsing a public station isn’t much more difficult than plugging in at home. The main difference is you have to first turn on the station. In the Chargepoint case this involves either using a Chargepoint card, using the app, or calling them (the phone # is on the station). Once the station is on just plug in and listen to the electrons flow (yeah ok its pretty silent).

When you setup your Chargepoint account you get a bunch of different options for notification. You can get a text if someone unplugs your car, when the charge is complete, etc. It is very fast too: Once I unplugged my car from a station to see what it would do even though the car wasn’t full yet. My phone got the text message as soon as the plug was disconnected from the car–I still had the plug in my hand when my phone got the text!

Of course using a public station does bring up an interesting discussion point: etiquette. What do you do if someone is already using the station you’re interested in, or are at?



Fill ‘er up

When I tell people that I have an electric car I get the usual spate of questions: Has it ever left you stranded? How far can you go? Do you have to charge it every day? (As if that is such a huge inconvenience!) What do you do if you run out while away from home?

The quick and simple answers are: No, about 75 miles, no, you plan so that doesn’t happen.

Lets start with charging and the big misnomer: The thing on the wall with the chord that you plug into the car is NOT a charger, its called an EVSE: Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. It is basically a smart GFI. The actual charging circuitry is inside the car. The EVSE provides a safe connection to electricity. There is a sense line where the car knows if it is plugged in or not, and how much current that the EVSE can provide to the car (which also determines how fast the car can charge up). The J1772 specification, which governs everything about EVSE’s, is actually spec’d out up to 80A (which could charge my car in about 2 hours or less if the car could handle it). The actual charge time is determined by the lesser of the supply current or the power rating of the internal charger in the car (my FFE’s charger is rated at 6.6kW). (The “No” answer above to: “Do you have to charge daily” is true depending on how much you drive. If you only drive 5 miles a day then no you don’t have to charge daily–just like an ICE car: If you empty the tank in a day then you have to get gas daily!)

Now the big deal, or at least it is for most people who ask, charging daily: You plug in your cell phone every day (sometimes more than once per day) how is that less of a hassle than plugging in the car? For myself I just get in the habit of plugging the car in every time I get home–every time, whether I know it will charge or not. It really only takes seconds to grab the cable, open the charge port door, and plug in (I do listen for the cycle the relays make as I’m unloading or locking or otherwise walking away from the car to make sure everything is working). For those few seconds I’m saving a 30 minute round trip to the gas station and back (of course this refers only to the times when I make a specific trip to the gas station, but even just stopping on my way in to work adds 10-15 minutes to my commute).

Here is something to think about as well: If you plug in daily, and charge nightly then every morning the car has a “full tank”. What “range anxiety”? I rarely drive more than about 60 miles a day. On a normal day I barely look at the battery gauge; don’t even give it a passing thought. Conversely when I get into one of our ICE vehicles the first thing I do is check the gas gauge to see if I have enough!

You do have to get a Level 2 charger at home though, that makes all the difference (Level 2 = 240V and can charge the car at its maximum rate). The “convenience chord” that comes with the car (most EVs come with one) is called a Level 1 chord that can be plugged into 120V–the slowest possible speed to charge (up to 20 hours in my case). I was able to find a deal through my electric company that covered most of the cost of the install..