August 16, 2012
| by Steven Castle
Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference—even in an emerging technology like electric vehicle (EV) charging.
Schneider Electric’s new-generation EVlink Level 2 charging station features several upgrades designed to make electric vehicle charging easier for homeowners.
It may seem weird to already have a second-generation EV charger, in a market where EVs are just starting out. But Schneider, for one, is looking for ways to make the charging experience the best it can be for a growing number of proud EV owners. And with a host of new EVs and plug-in hybrid (PHEVs) coming out, the timing is pretty good.
The new EVlink is a Level 2 charger, meaning it operates on 240 volts in the United States, like an electric oven or clothes dryer. And yes, it will require installation by a licensed electrician. (Level 1 chargers use typical 120-volt outlets and can take overnight to charge a car.)
The most obvious change in the new-gen charger is the ability to apply a range of skins—even customized, to give it that personal look. “People tend to drive EVs to make a personal statement,” and the skins allow that, says Mike Calise, director of Electric Vehicles for Schneider Electric.
Changes to the new charger are not just cosmetic, though.
Schneider also improved its cord bracket that can be moved anywhere in a garage for easier and convenient reach to a car’s charging port. That may seem a mundane detail, but making charging easier can be a very big deal. The bracket includes a docking inlet to keep the J1772 plug clean.
The EVlink uses the J1772 plug that’s compatible to most EVs on the market today, including the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Ford Focus, Mitsubishi i MiEV, BMW ActiveE, Toyota Rav4, Honda Fit EV, Tesla Model S, Coda sedan and Fisker Karma.
The Level 2 EVlink charger is also a 30-amp unit, which Calise says cuts the typical charge time of a Ford Focus EV or second-generation Nissan Leaf from eight hours to four hours. That’s a big plus.
The new Level 2 chargers will typically retail for about $800 to $900, with installation costs of another $500 to $1,000. Calise says Schneider is committed to keeping costs down to encourage EV use and home charging.
Use with an energy management system like Schneider’s Wiser system is possible through a ZigBee interface, though Calise infers that EV charging via home energy management systems and smart grid utility tie-ins could be a little ways off.
A lot can change in a short amount of time, though. The finalization of the Smart Energy Profile (SEP) 2 by the end of this year will open up smart grid communications to IP-compatibility, possibly paving the way for home energy networks. And products using the Green Phy powerline communications standard adopted as a communications standard by seven major car companies should appear in 2013.
Correction (8/20/12): The original post incorrectly stated that Schneider’s first-gen charger was a 16-amp unit. It was a 30-amp charger.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates