Ecotality Reduced Current on Level 2 Blink Electric Car Chargers

By · August 19, 2013

Blink Charger

Ecotality, the company that manages the Blink Network of public electric car chargers, reduced the amount of power delivered at its stations, in order to prevent potential technical problems. The reduction of power at some of the Blink stations, which started on August 9, 2013, was disclosed in the charging network provider's Form 8-K, filed last week with the Securities and Exchanges Commission. The disclosure warned that Ecotality had run out of funding and was facing bankruptcy.

The change of delivered power affects cars capable of pulling more than 16 amps (3.3 kilowatts), when using Blink-branded Level 2 charging stations. There are multiple reported incidents of problems occurring when charging at 30 amps or higher. The J1772 connector can overheat, possibly melting of the handle and in some cases, the car being charged has been damaged. Plug-in car drivers have reported the design flaw since 2012, when cars including the Toyota RAV 4 EV, Ford Focus Electric, BMW Active E, and Honda Fit EV—among the first cars to offer 32-amp charging—hit the market.

In its 8-K filing, Ecotality said it was running low on funds and is unable to find new capital for operations, presumably including capital to replace J1772 charging hardware on an estimated 12,000 public charging stations. Instead, Ecotality said it reduced the power "by certain of the EVSEs" to mitigate ongoing technical issues.

With many plug-in car owners—particularly those with high-power 6-kW or higher on-board chargers—already wary of using Blink charging stations, Ecotality’s decision to reduce power could further deteriorate the company's standing among its user base.

If you drive a plug-in car that can take a charge at relatively higher power—such as a 2013 Nissan LEAF with a 6.6-kW charger—expect charging at level 2 to take about twice as long as advertised, when using a Level 2 Blink charger. At a full 6.6-kW charge, EV drivers can add 20 to 25 miles of range in about an hour of charging. At the lower 3.3-kW rate, about 10 to 12 miles of range is added in an hour. As with gas cars, your mileage may vary.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

I've wondered about 6.6kW (32A) charging ever since the Focus Electric was announced with this capability, and for this very reason. My local power utility had enough questions about the 3.3kW charging station for my i-MiEV that I'm pretty sure I'd have had trouble getting approval for a 6.6kW without paying them to upgrade some of their equipment in my built-out neighborhood (we don't all live in EV-friendly service areas). It's great to be able to slap on another 10 miles range in a quick half-hour stop at the store or fast food joint (or even at home), but it suddenly seems it may not be a good idea to count on stations supplying that level of power. And again, depending on service area, there might even be constraints on home charger installs (as there might have been in my case).

We know there aren't many Focus-Es out there, but I hope this change by Blink will be more of an inconvenience than a major problem for them or the more numerous 6.6kW 2013 LEAFs. If nothing else, doubling charge times may worsen plug-sharing problems.

· · 1 year ago

Its pretty pathetic when a company cannot sell an expensive connector and have it withstand a miniscule 30 amps for a few hours.

My Schneider (Square - D) was overheating at 30 amps after 9 hours of charging until I reconfigured it. Fortunately, the j1772 end stayed cool operating. They like to overhype their loadcenters (e.g. QO --> The World's Finest! ) but more and more electricians are getting wise to them... Besides the breakers pulling out of the stabs too easily, I've also had one case of a factory weld opening.

These companies much think we're all really dumb and don't remember bad experiences.

· · 1 year ago

Have a PEV capable of charging at 6.6 kW/h and the cost of charging at a Blink station just doubled as did the time to charge. ($2-$4 with an increase of 1.2-3 hours for a charge; based on EV Project data the average charge being ~8 kW, which is consistent with ~30 miles of driving.)

Of the LEAFs on the road in US, ~30% already have 6.6 kW capability along with 500e, Fit, Focus, Rav4, S, & Volt EVs. By 2014 over 70% of US BEVs will have at least 6.6 kW Level 2 charging capability. By 2014 about 50% of US Leafs (2013 model) will have 6.6 vs 3.3 kW Level 2, with over 85% Leafs having Level 3 CHAdeMO (50+ kW/h max. charging rate). Makes 3.3 kW charging seem so yesterday. ;)

Charging infrastructure needs to be designed with a five year window into the future to meet the capabilities of the majority of EVs on the road. Not being able to support vehicles of the coming model year could require costsly re-deployments of EVSE infrastructure every few of years. In five years an EV will have twice the battery capacity at today's vehicle prices. (based on historic ~5-7%/year battery improvements)

By late 2014 Tesla will have a charging network of 80+ kW chargers covering 80% of US. The charging bar is rising quickly to a new level of expectations, both for competition and for government body's planning charging infrastructure.

· · 1 year ago

What's interesting is that most EVSE units do not display their maximum allowed charge current, so you never know what your vehicle is allowed to charge at. What incentive does a EVSE host have to crank the amperage to the maximum? Why not set it at 16 amps or even 12 amps?

· · 1 year ago

Damn . . . didn't they test these things first? Don't sell a 30 Amp EVSE if it can't really handle 30 Amps of current.

Bill, Schneider/SquareD has a LOT of trouble with forgery breakers from Chinese manufacturers so you might want to make sure you have an authentic product before blaming them.

· · 1 year ago

@DarkStar - The EVSE host has to decide who they want to serve. For workplace charging, if they don't want to encourage people to move their cars when charging is complete, then they should install more units at lower amperage. In fact, the new CT4000 series public chargers from ChargePoint have an option for the dual port chargers to run on either one 40 amp circuit or two 40 amp circuits. If it is configured for one 40 amp circuit, it will supply up to 30 amps to one vehicle or 16 amps to two connected and charging vehicles.

Presumably, when one car is finished charging it will allow the other vehicle to increase its draw. However, this brings up an interesting question - are all cars designed to detect changing values on the pilot signal? How will the charging station react if it drops the pilot signal to a lower allowable current and the car does not comply? If the station then drops the pilot completely and basically sends a disconnect signal to the car, will the car automatically resume when the connection signal returns at the reduced pilot signal? These are all edge cases that lead to compatibility problems between stations and cars.

· · 1 year ago

@Spec.

I've made sure that I'm soley talking about GENUINE Peru, Indiana Square - D products, therefore, I'm Blaming them. I've also discussed the issue with Genuine arrogant American Schneider Electric Enginneering Employees, (though these guys that I've spoken to are either in Cary or Research Triangle Park).

· · 1 year ago

@Mike I

I don't think there's much of a problem along those lines as long as the car works period to begin with. That was the problem with the new Rav4EV and also my Roadster.

· · 1 year ago

@Spec

As I've mentioned before about the Genuine Arrogant Engineers; My local distributor was so HORRIFIED at the treatment I received where I had to redesign the unit myself to get it to work, (especially being the first customer in the entire Northeast), that said enginneer came back to be with his tail between his legs, thanks to an almost threatening tone of voice from my distributor.

· · 1 year ago

That is one empty Blink parking lot....

· · 1 year ago

Nikki - where is that picture from? It looks an awful lot like Synapse's lot in downtown Syracuse, particularly with the Hess and brick building in the background.

· · 1 year ago

Maybe it's time to start investing in a hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

· · 1 year ago

Where's Gorr when we need him?

· · 1 year ago

Bill, all EVSE manufacturers have discovered this past year that some plug styles survive long term life tests, and others do not. Speaking from personal experience as an engineer at Schneider Electric, we have ramped up extensive life testing of plug vendors, beyond required for the standards, to ensure long plug life our EVlink products.

· · 1 year ago

One of the guys in our local EV club, a Leaf owner who will be trading over to a BMW i3 soon, mentions subtle measurement difference in J1772 L-2 plugs. He's got an early generation Blink home unit (as distributed through the EV Project) and notes that the plug has always been a wobbly loose fit into his Leaf's port. More recently, he bought a Clipper Creek unit and notes the opposite problem: a plug that's so tight that it requires almost brute force to insert and extract.

Observation: not all J1772 plugs are created equal. Different manufacturers (even though there are a plethora of L-2 EVSE "brands," there are probably only a handful electronics firms that actually manufacture the plugs themselves) will use differing blends of plastics that may or may not hold up as well as others when exposed to temperature extremes, which can also include electronically-produced heat at the wire/connector terminations. Tolerances as little as a few hundredths of an inch - or tenths of a millimeter - in the plastic molding process can make a big difference as to how the plugs fits into the car's charging port. It would be interesting to find out who makes the female halves of the J1772 connector for any given auto manufacturer (Nissan, for instance, almost certainly farms this sort of thing out to a third party supplier.) Logic would dictate that the same people who mold the receptacles and also going to make the best-fitting plugs.

Regarding hydrogen: welcome aboard, Fuel Cells. Bill alludes to a fellow named gorr, who used to post here regularly and kept us entertained with sometimes hysterical proclamations as to how hydrogen will "crush" battery technology and would do so today, if it only wasn't being held back by any number of dark conspiracies (my personal favorite was when Adolf Hilter's name popped up one day as being firmly in the anti-H crowd.)

Seriously, though, some here have an appreciation of what the technology can do for us eventually. Some are committed doubters, while an additional slice of us are ardent and vocal supporters.

My thoughts are that building out the infrastructure to get us all tooling down the "Hydrogen Highway" might be too big an economic bullet to bite. It's going to require a massive influx of government money (dwarfing anything witnessed via the EV project) and the will of the American people to embark on such an endeavor simply doesn't exist right now.

While there appears to be technical progress announced on an almost daily basis in regards to fuel cell reliability/durability/cost and the whole business of refining/extracting the gas with a diminishing environmental impact , it's still going to be a tough nut to crack before we see the cars for sale at dealer lots. An article pops up here from time to time on hydrogen, so we hope you'll give us your take on it at that juncture.

· · 1 year ago

@Gwizzz

HA! My point exactly. The Cord and the J1772 connector are the only things that work right on this unit. It does look nice though. I can confirm 30 amps for 9 hours and the connector stays cool as it should.

· · 1 year ago

My J1772 connector gets warm, while charging our Ford Focus Electric.
When charging from a public outlet (Charge Point) at similar power, its connector does not feel warm.
My J1772 connector is marked model REV-1-30C / REMA (rema-ev.com), suggesting 30A max., BUT the EVSE (by spx) is set to 24 A. (* 240 = 5,760 W., assuming nominal ...). Should be no problem.
(The Charge Point digital readout shows about the same number of kW.)
a) My connector seems lower quality (sample defect?).
b) Maybe I should switch the spx to its next lower current (16A) setting. Slower, but cooler. Would mean any extra (like running the Ford battery temperature cooler, or the cabin warmer) would reduce power to the battery, but seems worth it.

Anything I am missing here?

· · 1 year ago

@Jim T

Sounds like youve got it to me..

If its any comfort, the SPX 'skinny brick' charger is rated for 30 amps (some literature even said 32 but I think they changed their minds and put it back to 30).

BUT, if you have the cord and plug version they only put a 30 amp plug on it for use on a 30 amp circuit, and therefore any continuous load must be 80 % of this, hence 24 amps.

Since you are ALREADY derating your SPX, so to speak, you should be fine all the way around.

If you electric service is small (say, 60 amps) and you have lots of electric stuff running all the time, you may occassionally need to set your car for 16 amps so that you don't run out of juice. Otherwise there should be little to worry about.

· · 1 year ago

@Benjamin Nead

Thanks for the warm welcome. I do not plan to make hysterical proclamations and I do not believe battery electric will get crushed. But I do believe that fuel cells will have a very bright future.

· · 1 year ago

@Fuel Cells are the Future

Could you give the rest of us the current retail price of Hydrogen as it relates to how much it will cost to drive a hydrogen powered vehicle say, 100 miles? That kind of thing.

· · 1 year ago

There is a really great report on FCEVs at the link below.

http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/analysis/analyst-views/2013/13-02-13-fcev-t...

This report, originally published in 2012, reviews the application and history of fuel cells and the planned market introduction of FCEVs by seven manufacturers Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, and Toyota. As the industry changes rapidly this latest report provides updates.

· · 1 year ago

"Maybe it's time to start investing in a hydrogen fueling infrastructure."

There are already a few hydrogen fueling stations available. Now about offering a single fuel cell car for sale in unlimited quantities. (Not just limited-quantity heavily-subsidized lease-only demo cars.) Their move.

· · 1 year ago

Yes there are a "few" fueling stations, but not enough to make owning an FCEV practical. Infrastructure and cost remain as the biggest challenges for hydrogen cars. The cost has already been reduced significantly over the past 5 years, and the industry is continuing to work on that (for all fuel cell applications, not just transportation). Unfortunately, there seems to be no interest in building a refueling infrastructure in this country, unlike Europe and some Asian countries. I think we may see limited introduction of FCEVs in California in the next 3 to 5 years, but the main launch of these vehicles will be in Europe.

· · 1 year ago

@FCatf: We're a wee bit off-topic, but I'll just toss in a thumbnail of one FC skeptic's main objection.

As far as I know, we get hydrogen from refactoring fossil fuels (most reasonably natural gas) or cracking water with electricity. Using fossil fuels is non-renewable, while using electricity from renewable sources to generate hydrogen is less efficient than using that same electricity to charge batteries. Keep in mind that either way, the end goal is to deliver electricity to an electric motor.

I'm still not clear on why, full lifecycle considered, we're better off feeding generated H2 to a fuel cell (a device with its own manufacturing costs and carbon footprint) than we are putting natural gas directly into an ICEV's tank or putting electricity directly into a BEV's battery.

None of this is addressed in the report to which you linked, which as far as I can tell is mainly concerned with tracking the progress of various FCEV promotion and development efforts. I did note one statement that "by 2030....51% of the fuel mix should be coming from water electrolysis", and honestly, if that's the grand goal, I just have to come back to "why not charge a battery?" As ever, it was fun to see the usual suspects on the manufacturing side, "seven major global automotive OEMs -- Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, and Toyota", all but Nissan well-known BEV doubters. It never ceases to amaze me that these engineering organizations, who seem to find BEVs powered from the existing grid impractically difficult, turn right around and extol the virtues of bleeding-edge FCEVs and the fantasyland infrastructure to support them, all without cracking a smile.

Viewed in isolation, the FCEV is very attractive, with range and refueling times more like ICEV than BEV, while only water vapor leaves the tail pipe. But widen the scope to take in the infrastructure, and the problems of generating and handling hydrogen appear quite a bit more challenging than those of generating and storing electricity. Indeed, I still contend that H2 is not an energy source per se, but rather an energy currency, just a medium for storing and moving energy. And as a medium, hydrogen leaves a lot to be desired.

· · 1 year ago

"using electricity from renewable sources to generate hydrogen is less efficient than using that same electricity to charge batteries"

I hear that argument a lot, but it is such a blanket statement. Is it always more efficient to use batteries? How about energy transmission? Unless the renewable energy generation is right next to the battery, about 85% of the electricity that is generated is lost during transmission in the power grid.

What about charing a BEV when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing? At those times the electricity is certainly not coming from a renewable source, unless we have adequate energy storage. There are various energy storage systems in use today. In fact, the largest battery energy storage system is in Fairbanks Alaska and produces 26MW of power for 15 minutes. While this is impressive, this type of energy storage is only feasible for short time scales.

I often hear the blanket statement that hydrogen is "dangerous and difficult to handle". In fact, hydrogen is a stable chemical that can be stored over long periods of time and will not degrade. It can be stored in gaseous or liquid form, or in some instances absorbed onto a solid. It is miscible with other gases, so is suitable for injection into the existing natural gas grid. It is great for energy storage.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there are no issues with fuel cells and hydrogen. But I don't agree that batteries are always better and more efficient.

Note: I took some arguments and facts from the following source:
Source: http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/analysis/surveys/2013/water-electrolysis-re...

· · 1 year ago

@FCATF

Agreed, hydrogen is as safe as gasoline.

The Hindenburg's skin caught fire initially, NOT the Hydrogen. A Helium Blimp would have caused essentially the same devestation and Zeppein company engineers quickly figured this out and changed its consistency on later models. They never publicly admitted it for litigious reasons, of course.

So you are saying a hydrogen fueled car can go the same distance as a diesel fueled similiarly sized car for the same price?

· · 1 year ago

Bill, I honestly do not know how much it costs to drive an FCEV. However, there are some exciting developments in the works. For example, recently ACAL Energy has developed a PEM hydrogen fuel cell to reach 10,000 hours runtime on a third party automotive industry durability test without any significant signs of degradation. This is equivalent of driving 300,000 miles (500,000 km) and makes hydrogen fuel cell endurance comparable to the best light-weight diesel engines under similar test conditions. ACAL Energy’s breakthrough approach is also significantly cheaper than conventional fuel cell technology.

Source: http://fuelcellsworks.com/news/2013/06/27/hydrogen-fuel-cell-thats-as-du...

· · 1 year ago

@FCatF wrote: >>>>>>> I often hear the blanket statement that hydrogen is "dangerous and difficult to handle". In fact, hydrogen is a stable chemical that can be stored over long periods of time and will not degrade. It can be stored in gaseous or liquid form, or in some instances absorbed onto a solid. It is miscible with other gases, so is suitable for injection into the existing natural gas grid. It is great for energy storage.<<<<<<<

You may often hear that, but not from me. I only said "the problems of generating and handling hydrogen appear quite a bit more challenging than those of generating and storing electricity," and while I think that's true, that doesn't make me a "hydrogen's in bombs!" idiot. Technology evolves of course, but hydrogen liquefaction and compression are both huge energy consumers, while various hydride schemes remain in the research labs, years from deployment (e.g., none of the FCEVs or fueling stations today use such tech).

None of this means FCEVs will never work, and I certainly don't doubt the sincerity of FC enthusiasts. But right now, I'm convinced FC tech is mainly used by automakers as a stalling tactic to divert attention from the more practical BEV solutions deliverable today and tomorrow, knowing full well that FCEVs face engineering challenges that push their deployment to the far side of 2 or 3 more generations of meaningful BEV improvements.

· · 1 year ago

@Bill Howland wrote "Agreed, hydrogen is as safe as gasoline."

Oh, I wouldn't agree to that at all - hydrogen's MUCH safer. If the Hindenburg had been filled with gasoline vapor, we wouldn't have that heartbreaking narrated footage of the tragedy - the camera, film, cameraman, and radio announcer would all have been cinders following an event not unlike the detonation of a small nuke.

I am amused to this day by all the safety concerns about batteries and hydrogen tanks, voiced by people who think nothing of driving around with an undetonated fuel-air bomb at their backs.

· · 1 year ago

@vike1108

Yeah, but I didn't want to actually write that since I've learned here to keep claims on the very obvious, and conservative side of things.

· · 1 year ago

@Vike1108

I believe the word you wanted is "Deflagration" (under the sonic speed, as the explosions of Fukushima 1, 2, and 4 were.

Unit #3 explosion (of the initial ones I mean the cascading "big" one), it was faster than the speed of sound (big black things were blown 1000 feet into the sky at around 1000 feet per second, much faster than even a high temperature (say at very high temperatures 800 feet per second) Deflagration.

· · 1 year ago

@Bill - perhaps so. But I'm not technical enough to say that ;-)

· · 1 year ago

@Benjamin Nead

"....(my personal favorite was when Adolf Hilter's name popped up one day as being firmly in the anti-H crowd)....."

Actually its just the opposite. The head of the Zeppelin company disliked Hitler, although obviously being in favor of Hydrogen (it was their sole business plan, obviously), quickly named their new Luxurious Dirigible
"Hindenburg", and put swastikas (The Blood Flag) on the tail since they were afraid that otherwise since it was so impressive and prestigious, that it would be forcibly named, "The Adolf Hitler".

· · 1 year ago

@Bill Howland,

I believe Ben was referring to one of Gorr's more rambling comments. At one point he started listing all of the conspiring forces keeping hydrogen from taking over and Hitler's name appeared somewhere in the middle of a rant of random names and events.

· · 1 year ago

@Fuel Cells are the Future

"......Unless the renewable energy generation is right next to the battery, about 85% of the electricity that is generated is lost during transmission in the power grid......"

So you are saying they have traditionally built almost 6 power generating stations anywhere they have needed the power of only 1?

85% loss is clearly nonsense, even a child can see that.

The absolute worst case I've heard of is the link between Montreal and NYC occassionally losing 50% of the power generated prior to getting to homes in NYC. This works because electricity is so expensive in NYC and so cheap in Quebec.

California's electric system is such a convoluted mess that there may be cases as 'bad' as this there. But they are exceptions to the general rule.

The loss to my house from the generating station rarely exceeds 10%, and if it does, its only during shutdowns and hot weather. Seeing as 2 plants near me will shut down within the year, its conceivable that the loss will occassionally go to 15% in the near future.

But 85% loss? This is such an outlandish statement that it brings into question anything else you say. Many Solar and Wind Installations are colocated with the consumption, and the overall loss is actually under 5%. Larger wind installations are induction machines and connect directly to the 60 cycle system, some even without so much as an intervening inverter or transformer since the output from the windmill is immediately useable 480 volts, 60 hz , 3-phase. These are the constant speed windmills since they use an overspun induction motor as the generating device.

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