The Science of Sustainability

Life with the Leaf: Charging Up

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My home charger

As the EV charging infrastructure slowly rolls out, most people are finding the most reliable, and cheapest, place to charge is at home.

Choosing a Home Charger

Someday the hope is that we should all be able to pick up a home charger at our local car dealership but right now it’s up to us early adopters to do the homework. When I reserved my Leaf back in the fall of 2010, Nissan was requiring a home visit from their charging contractor, AeroVironment. I paid one hundred dollars to have an AV installer come to my home and give me a bid for a charger and installation which came out to about 2,400. There is a federal credit right now for 30 percent of the purchase and installation costs but I found a better deal. With the help of federal stimulus funds, some charging companies are offering chargers and installation for free. I heard from two different people that there was a long wait for the Charge Point America program, sponsored by Coulomb Technologies, so I applied, online, for the EV Project run by Ecotality. Volt and Leaf drivers who qualify receive a smart charger and installation up to 1,200 dollars, at no cost. In turn the EV owner gives the company online access to charging data. My application and installation could not have been smoother, except for one small complaint. After the install I noticed I was getting knocked off my internet connection more than usual. I asked the company about it and they said they were having some similar reports and thought an upcoming software update would fix it. I am waiting to find out if the update helps. Unlike the trickle charge pack I carry in my trunk, my level two black and white, "Blink," charger is mounted to the side of my driveway and runs on a dedicated 220/240-volt line.

Making the Charger Work for You

Charging up my Leaf

When I first started charging at home I used a handy timer built in to the Blink charger. Since then I have elected to make the Blink ‘dumb.’ I have chosen, instead, to use the timer provided by the Nissan telematics service, CarWings, here’s why: Nissan’s iPhone app allows me to remotely see what my charging status is and it lets me do things like turn the heater on in the morning from the warmth of my house while the car is still tethered to my charger. Also, Nissan suggests drivers extend battery life by charging to eighty, rather than one hundred percent. In order to program the charging limit, I have found I need to program Nissan’s CarWings timer. The next step to charging at home is choosing a rate with your utility-I'll cover that in an upcoming post and if you have lessons to share on home charging, let us hear from you!

Later this week I’ll report back on the Future of Cars symposium in San Jose and my first road trip.

See other posts from this series.

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About the Author ()

Andrea is KQED's Senior Science Editor . Andrea was born in Los Angeles and discovered radio news through listening to her college radio station. With a curious mind and a love for telling stories, she set off for Tampa where she landed her first job as a reporter for Florida Public Radio. After three years reporting in an unbearably humid climate and a brief stint as a miscast opera reporter, Andrea returned to L.A. to work for public radio, then for television news and finally as a reporter for CBS radio. Andrea has been at KQED for over twelve years, working first as a producer for Forum, and then as the senior producer for The California Report. She is now KQED's Senior Science and Environment Editor and narrates the QUEST television program. Andrea says she feels lucky to cover emerging science and environmental trends in a place where geek is chic.
  • http://jpwhitehome.wordpress.com JP White

    Carwings is not required to set a 80% charge limit. In the car simply press the zero emission button and then select charging timers and follow the directions on the display.

    My hopes extend beyond yours in terms of picking up a charger at the car dealership; dealerships will always be priced a little high. Instead I'd suggest those unable to take advantage of the EV Project like us to shop around at Home Depot or Amazon.com. Chargers are and have been readily available for MUCH less than Nissan or Blink will charge you.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0069VTGPE/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=jpwhstebl-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0069VTGPE

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004G6ZSZG/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=jpwhstebl-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004G6ZSZG

    http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-202963679/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

    JP

  • Anonymous

    http://evseupgrade.com/ + $20 for a breaker, wire, outlet, outlet box and cover plate.

    I called the Nissan LEAF 800 number to have the $100 home inspection waived. Then reserved my LEAF. Bought it, then swapped the Nissan 110v charger that comes with the car for an upgraded Nissan charger for about $400. I use the upgraded charger daily and it works for both 110v (with adaptor) and 240v. Some cities may require a permit for the new outlet installation and there is a labor fee to have a professional electrician install it. I also made an adaptor to use a dryer outlet and use it when I visit family because the Nissan equipment is so portable. So I get a 220v or 110v charge whenever and wherever an outlet is available.

  • Andrea

    Thanks for the comments. I am also trying to order an upgraded charger to swap with my NIssan 110 v charger that came with the car. Seems like it would be good, tho, to have both options while on the road.

    Also, I am trying to write this as an average person. A lot of folks don't know how to build this stuff. But makes sense to do, or teach oneself, if you don't have access to a free charger!

  • andrea

    One more thing, I realize CarWings does not require an 80 percent charge but Nissan suggests it for better battery life. I couldn't figure out how to charge to 80-percent on the Blink, its probably possible it was just easier for me to figure out on CarWings. But what i can't seem to do on CarWings is set it to 80-percent without setting the timers.

    And one more comment on converting chargers – I was going to check out this site which offers an internal upgrade for 239.00 that would work with both outlets. Is that possible? http://evseupgrade.com/

  • Pat

    In Kansas, a republican proposes to tax electric cars and every time an electric car is plugged in for charging.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505245_162-57365297/kan-lawmakers-consider-new-fee-for-electric-cars/

  • hh

    I thought Republicans were supposed to be down on taxes.