Purchasing your first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or all-electric vehicle (BEV) is both exciting and rewarding. It’s exciting because you’re on the leading edge of technology and it’s rewarding because you’re doing good for the environment. I got to experience these feelings twice for my new 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid PHEV, and the second time involved the process of upgrading the equipment used to charge the vehicle’s battery system.
Level 1 Charging: 120V for 12 Hours
Shortly after I parked my Pacifica Hybrid in my garage for the first time, I was ready to initiate my next plan of action. The Pacific Hybrid comes equipped with a battery charging cord that simply plugs into an existing 120V outlet in my garage. This cord works perfectly fine and was ready to use immediately. The only problem is that it takes about 12 hours to fully charge the Pacifica Hybrid to achieve the maximum 33 miles of battery-only range. The reason for this is the limited transfer of energy from the relatively low 120V circuit. Charging an electric vehicle using a 120V circuit is known as Level 1 charging.
Level 2 Charging: 240V for 2 Hours
While the 12-hour charge time would not be much of a problem during the work week for my daily 15 mile round-trip commute, it was on the weekends where I found that the Pacifica Hybrid would end up using a bit of gasoline because my frequent trips throughout the day never provided enough time to re-charge the battery. Therefore, I quickly became very interested in finding a way to charge my Pacifica Hybrid’s battery at a higher voltage, which would result in drastically reduce the charging time. Known as Level 2 charging, this higher voltage charging using 240V instead of 120V reduced the charge time of my particular vehicle from 12 hours to 2 hours!
How to Upgrade
So what is required to upgrade from Level 1 charging to Level 2 charging? Two things.
- You need to purchase a Level 2 EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment), also known as a Level 2 Charger.
- You need to add a 240 Volt / ~30 Amp circuit to your garage to allow the greater flow of electricity from your home to your electric vehicle.
While the second item is easily performed by a qualified electrician, I’d like to go back to the first item and walk you through my experience.
Recommended EV Charger
After completing my normal overdose of internet research on the best value Level 2 EV Charger on the market, I ended up purchasing a ChargePoint Home WiFi Enabled Electric Vehicle Charger. It is a Level 2 EVSE and operates on a 240V / 32A circuit. The unit is available with two sets of options.
Option #1: the method of connecting the unit to your new home circuit. You can either select a unit that plugs directly into a new 240V outlet that an electrician can install, or you can have the EVSE hard-wired so that there is no plug needed. I opted for the latter option because I wanted a cleaner look and also to avoid having a high-voltage outlet in the garage that one of my kids might think is a normal plug and mess around with.
Option #2: the length of cord that is provided. I chose the 25’ charging cord over the 18’ charging cord so I could continue to charge my car in case I needed to park my electric vehicle in my driveway instead of the garage.
Experience with Free ChargePoint App
Naturally, I was very excited when my ChargePoint Level 2 EVSE arrived at my door and even more excited when the electrician I hired completed the job of adding the new 240V circuit and hard-wire connecting my new “super-charger”! While not necessary to begin charging, I had already downloaded and installed the free ChargePoint App (available for Apple and Android mobile devices) on my iPhone and was ready to set-up my new charger and start the juice flowing to my electric vehicle!
I was very pleased with the design of the ChargePoint App, as it is simple and intuitive. The ChargePoint App quickly identified the Level 2 charger close in proximity, and easily connected to my home WiFi network. Literally, in a matter of a couple minutes, I was plugged in and charging at Level 2 speed!
The ChargePoint App allows a user to easily set a schedule of when to charge if you happen to be on a plan with your utility provider that charges different rates for different times of day. In my case, my San Diego Gas & Electric utility plan is not based on time-of-use, so I didn’t need to set-up charging at different times of day. When I plug-in, it just begins charging immediately. Of course, if you do set a schedule to charge every night when rates are low and want to charge anyway on a Saturday afternoon, the system is easily overridden either within the ChargePoint App or just by unplugging and re-plugging the charge cord from the vehicle within a few seconds.
Another nice feature of the ChargePoint App is the auto-notification that allows a user to set a time of day to have the App alert you if your cord is not plugged in. So if I happen to forget to plug in my electric vehicle when I get home from work, when 9:00 pm rolls around, the App will send me a notification that my Pacifica Hybrid is not plugged in.
The free ChargePoint App also includes a GPS map of all charging stations in a given area, so if I decide to charge while on the go or during a road trip, I can easily find a place to plug-in and extend my electric range.
Charging my new electric vehicle with Level 2 power is very rewarding because I am now able to maximize the use of my battery and minimize how much gasoline I have to purchase and consume. If you’re in the market for a home “super-charger” for your electric vehicle, I would highly recommend the ChargePoint Home WiFi Enabled Level 2 Electric Vehicle Charger!