February 4, 2014 – Vol.18 No.47
Can a Charger "Electrify" Electric Car Sales?
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
The following is a quote from the latest (March 2014) edition of Car and Driver Magazine, the print version. (It's from a sidebar within the article "Field of Dreams" which is a comparison test of six electric vehicles. Worth reading in itself, by the way.)
"Perhaps the best present for the EV owner in your life is AeroVironment's next-generation TurboCord portable quick-charger. This handy and slickly designed outdoor-rated cable coils up for trunk storage and plugs into both 120 and 240-Volt AC outlets, connecting to the car through the industry-standard SAE J1772 coupler. If you buy an EV, this cord and a common 240-volt clothes dryer outlet may be all you ever need to stay mobile. At the time of the test, Aerovironment estimated the price of the TurboCord at $600. We predict sales to be in the thousands."
Most of the above statement is true. Except one thing: The TurboCord will not plug into an electric clothes dryer outlet. No way. The little 20 amp, 220-Volt plug, which is nearly identical to a common, US-style 120-Volt plug (with one prong turned 90 degrees) isn't even close to the hefty 30 amp, 220-Volt plug used with at least every electric clothes dryer I've ever seen. (Maybe something's different in California, where AeroVironment is based. I just don't think so.)
The NEMA 6-20 plug, and its matching outlet, are a rare breed in the US electrical system. The most common use might be for a 220-Volt through-the-wall air conditioner you might find in a cheap motel.
Sure, a clever person, with parts from a home improvement store, could conjure up an adapter for the 6-20 to fit a dryer outlet, but I wouldn't recommend this. It would be a hazardous device.
Car and Driver is a major publication. You'd think they'd do their research. If anything, they should know, never fool around when electricity is involved.
Fortunately, AeroVironment doesn't seem recommend (at least in print) trying to fit the TurboCord into a dryer outlet, or use any adapters for that matter. The company could, however, use the introduction of the new product as a little public education and lobbying campaign that could lead to a greater and faster adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.
Here are some points they could make:
First, clothes dryers are not alway near where a car is parked. (Here in Florida, because it's warm all the time, dryers are often in the garage. Mine is. But this not the case elsewhere in the US.) Plugging into a dryer elsewhere in the house would likely necessitate an extension cord, and a rather long one at that, if the dryer were in the home's basement which is common. Extension cords, if properly sized and maintained are OK for occasional use, but are not a permanent wiring solution. They are usually best avoided.
Secondly, a dryer plug is not designed to removed and inserted regularly. It's not like a wall plug like that used to charge a smart phone or kitchen appliance that would be in and out all the time. The dryer plug is only there to make it easy to service the machine, or pull it away for cleaning. Plus, as is obvious by it's size, a stander dryer plug is built to handle a lot of electricity, something you wouldn't want to come in contact with. Ever. If you did it could be your first and last time.
While it's true that the TurboCord won't charge a EV nearly as fast as some higher power chargers (including those offered by Aerovironment) the availability of more places to plug in might (just a 240 Volt outlet on a wall or post in a parking lot) might encourage more to people to switch to electric drive.
And who would pay for the electricity from public 240-Volt outlets? Retailers might pick up the tab as a way to bring shoppers into stores. Businesses might pay for the electricity as an employee perk. And municipalities might buy a combination parking meter/240-Volt outlet should some savvy electronics maker develop one. (There's a free new product hint in that previous sentence.)
With its built-in adapter removed, the TurboCord will also plug into a standard 120-Volt outlet. This is fine, but clearly the 240-Volt option is what will appeal to most.
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