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Ford, Leviton Develop Cheaper, Faster Home Station for Focus EV


Ford Motor Co. is hoping to make marketing points – and probably will – by chiding electric-car rival Nissan about the relative slowness of the Nissan’s 240-volt battery charging system.

The Nissan home charging system takes around 7 hours to replenish the Leaf EV’s 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack versus 3.5 hours on average for the Ford system to work its magic on the upcoming 2012 Focus EV’s 23 kWh pack.

For us the difference isn’t all that critical because either rate still makes it difficult to see the cars as all-purpose transportation useful both for daily commuting and weekend trips.

If we’re traveling 300 miles in a Focus EV, having to stop every 100 miles for 3.5 hours or so doesn’t make the trip much more practical than stopping every 100 miles for a 7-hour recharge of a 2011 Leaf EV’s battery.

Sure, Ford’s system is faster, but its still gonna be a long 300 miles (albeit 7 hours shorter than with a Leaf). And for overnight charging, well, we don’t really care whether the charger goes on at midnight and clicks off at 3:30 a.m., or runs til 7 a.m.

But the quicker charging time will be important to some – there’s a psychological boost to knowing your electric car’s battery will fill up in less time than the other guy’s.

And Nissan – which defends its present charging system as quite practical – has seen the writing on the wall and already indicated it will have a much faster one in the next-generation Leaf a few years from now.

CHARGER Vs CHARGING STATION

We were curious as to how Ford managed the quicker charging time, and asked the automaker and its charger partner, Leviton, for an explanation.

To understand what’s going on, it first helps to understand that what we routinely call an EV charger really isn’t.

The charger for 100- and 240-volt system is actually built into the car. The thing on the wall or on a pole in the parking lot is a communications box – a gatekeeper, if you will – that connects the car’s charger to the source of electricity and “talks” to the charger on the car to determine how much juice is needed and how rapidly the battery pack can accept it.

So from now on, we’ll call the box on the wall the charging station rather than the charger.

The basics seem pretty simple: the Focus EV charging station, co-developed by the two companies, uses a 40-amp circuit, effectively a bigger pipeline that lets the electrons flow twice as fast as the 20-amp circuits used by Nissan and most other 240-volt home stations on the market now.

Additionally, the Focus was built with a 6.6 kilowatt on-board charger while the Leaf’s is rated at just 3.3 kilowatt hours. The on-board charger is what lets the electrons flow into the battery, and Ford’s has twice the capacity.

“It’s mostly a matter of cost and weight,” said Mike Tinskey, manager of vehicle electrification and infrastructure at Ford. The automaker believes the faster charging rate is worth a few extra pounds (about 15) and dollars (Ford won’t provide that info).

LevitonPlugIn.jpgNO PORTABILITY

We got all excited when Ford and Leviton released more information on the charging station earlier today – it doesn’t need to be hard-wired like others but can simply be plugged into a pre-installed 40-amp, 240-volt line.
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