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.

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