Is it safe to charge an EV from any regular power point?September 4, 2019
[images / Bridie Schmidt
Fig. 1: Degraded rubber insulated wiring behind a power point in a 70 year
Fig. 4: Internal melting of one pin of a 3 pin, 15A plug used for EV
Fig. 5: failed 15A plug/socket combination (most likely through water
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At the EV Transition conference, one of the speakers (possibly James Kennedy
from Tritium) mentioned that you should never plug an EV into a normal power
point (via the ‘mobile charging’ or ‘contingency’ cable supplied with a
vehicle), due to the possibility that the wiring on that power point’s
circuit is old / damaged, or that other devices on the same circuit would
result in too much load.
Can you elaborate on the risk involved in doing this, such as the likelihood
of the vehicle and/or electrical circuit being damaged, and if there are any
precautions / testing that can be done to reduce this risk?
Also, does this risk vary between different EV models? Obviously EV owners
should use a wall-charger on a separate circuit at home, but I’m thinking
about the consumer who travels (for work or holiday) and would ideally like
to charge overnight where they are staying.
Hi Peter – that is an excellent question, and one as an electrician and EVSE
(electric vehicle supply equipment) installer I regularly address. The short
answer is … ‘it depends’. The long answer is given below:
If the socket outlet is newly installed with minimum 20A (4.8kW) rated wire,
and that wire runs to that outlet only (as per the new Appendix P for EVSEs
in AS/NZS3000:2017 – otherwise known as ‘The Wiring Rules’), then it is
fine to plug in the contingency EVSE to recharge.
Same applies to outlets rated at 25 or even 32A – if the outlet is installed
with a potential high and continuous load in mind – i.e. to Appendix P – you
can use any EVSE rated at or below the current rating of the outlet. All is
therefore fine for an overnight charge at a friend’s.
(As an example, I carry a selection of portable EVSEs rated to 2.4, 3.6 and
7kW for my Kona. BUT I only plug them when I can determine the quality of
the wiring – otherwise I stick to the 8A EVSE ‘emergency’ EVSE that came
with the car, and not even that if I am suspicious of the wiring).
On the flip side: if you are plugging into an unknown power point at a
friend’s for an overnight charge – you could have/cause problems. The power
point will be on a circuit shared by several others … including the kettle.
Normally a fuse or circuit breaker solves that problem. (But leaves you
without a charged EV if you don’t find out in time). A worse complication is
if the wiring is old or has a dodgy connection somewhere. That sort of
problem can easily result in a fire. (See figure 1).
A further complication is that extension leadsa have the same issue: many
15A rated leads are not good for the continuous supply of high currents.
Newer 15A leads in fact have only 1.5mm2 conductors. (As comparison, the
wire to an EVSE socket outlet must be a minimum of 2.5mm2. By the way: cheap
10A leads often only have 0.75mm2 conductors!)
That 15A lead rating relies on a ‘diversity factor’, this being that a
normal electrical load fluctuates between maximum and lower amounts as the
items plugged into it are used intermittently (e.g. hair drier) or have a
duty cycle (e.g. refrigerator or fan-heater).
This means the lead heats up and cools down as the load increases and
decreases: but it never reaches its maximum temperature rating for any
period of time.
Running a continuous high current through a lead (which is often left lying
in the hot Australian sun making good heat dissipation difficult) will
result in the lead eventually exceeding its design temperature as it simply
can’t lose heat fast enough.
At that point it will start to soften, the conductors and particularly the
pins/sockets begin oxidising, as well as the excess heat hastening the
aging/degradation of the insulation.
Yet another complication is that the flat pins in a household plug are just
not up to week-in, week-out high current use. They were never designed for
it, and I have plenty of examples of what happens to them if you keep up
that sort of punishment. Industrial rated 3 pin plugs are an improvement as
they screw together to minimise moisture entry and reduce movement (see
figures 2 and 3).
[image] Fig. 2: Weather rated 15A outlet with screw coupling
[image] Fig. 3: screwed 3 pin 15A plug connected to outlet in Fig. 2
However this is still not a good solution for long-term EV charging as
regular plugging/unplugging the sockets eventually loosens the pin/socket
combinations and the loose connection results in the connection heating up.
(I recently burnt my hand on just such a one pulled out of a supposedly good
Once that happens – you will soon get the results shown in figures 4 and 5
All this is in comparison to the utility of installing a dedicated EVSE that
utilises the much more robust pin and socket arrangement found in Type 1 and
Type 2 connections.
These connections are designed to an internationally agreed standard for
carrying the higher currents that modern EVs can draw, plus plug together in
a way that minimises sideways movement when connected and disconnected (i.e.
reducing the chances of loosening the connections through many plug/unplug
cycles). They occasionally fail too – but at a much lower rate.
It is fine to use a portable EVSE IF:
the wiring to the outlet is good (and in particular it is installed
according to Appendix P in AS/NZS 3000:2017),
any extension lead used contains 2.5mm2 conductors AND
you use screwed together connections (or the connection is placed in a
weather rated enclosure).
It is also OK to use a portable EVSE on a semi-regular basis at home so long
as you don’t unplug/replug it every time from the outlet – this is the
biggest reason for why sockets loosen and eventually melt.
In addition: remember to always check the plug and outlet immediately after
use for a raised temperature and/or any scorch marks. If either is detected,
replace the offending item at once.
You should also regularly check the portable EVSE lead and box for any
damage. Cracked EVSE boxes or split leads are a recipe for death: safety
switches do not entirely protect you from electrocution.
Overall though, it is better to install a dedicated EVSE at home if it is at
all practicable. They last longer, generally give a quicker recharge time
(3.6 or 7kW from a fixed EVSE vs 2 or 2.4kW from a portable EVSE), offer
more flexible recharge options to use the output from solar panels (e.g. an
EVSE programmable to use part or all of your solar output) AND will give you
a more pleasant charging experience as you don’t need to pack up the lead
every time you use it.
All portable EVSEs come with a warning to never use them with an
extension lead. I am talking about the use of extension leads only in the
light that all EV owners resort to the use of them at some point. Therefore
please note I am NOT recommending or endorsing the use of extension leads
with portable EVSEs. Rather, I am pointing out the dangers associated with
the use of inappropriate extension leads.
+ (like Apple donating Mac PCs to schools= establishes market foothold)
Tesla is donating 50 electric car charging stations at Parks Canada
Sep. 6th 2019 Under the program, Tesla deploys both Wall Connectors for its
own cars and universal AC chargers for other electric vehicles at locations,
like hotels, restaurants ...
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