Ford: Big Box Retailers Not Right Path for Electric Car Charging Equipment

By · July 09, 2013

AV charger in garage

According to Ford, customers wanting an EV charger in their garage will received better service and prices from specialized providers like Aerovironment, rather than major retailer outlets.

In May, Ford announced that it dropped Best Buy as its home charging unit provider and installer. The relationship between Ford and Best Buy, when it was unveiled in the earliest days of the plug-in market, was supposed to signal a move toward mainstream EV acceptance. But Stephanie Janczak, manager for sustainability, environment and safety engineering at Ford Motor Co. told yesterday that Best Buy was not the right path toward building economies of scale in the electric car charging market. “It was a mutual decision,” said Janczak. “We decided this would be a good time to start consolidating the industry.”

As reported in May, Ford switched to Aerovironment Inc. of Monrovia, Calif., a company that provides EVSEs to other automakers including Nissan. “This is a way to increase service and get more volume in one (EVSE) manufacturer, which will give us a cost advantage going forward,” said Janczak. “One installation partner or electrician installing across a number of manufacturers will be willing to charge less because they will have volume.”
Best Buy has sold and installed about 1,000 Leviton 240-volt home charging units, she said. The cost was $1,499.

The partnership with Aerovironment is both a product and installation partnership, giving buyers of Ford’s plug-in electric vehicles more purchase and installation options, said Janczak.

They can chose to buy a Ford-branded AV charging station for $899 and have it installed by someone else. Or, they can buy the AV station including installation for $1,799 including all permitting, she said. They can also buy a Ford-branded Leviton charging station and have it installed by Aerovironment for $1,799.

Buyers of the Nissan LEAF can include the cost of an AV charger in their financing package. Ford is looking into similar financing opportunities. “We wanted to take it one step at a time,” said Janczak.

The 240-volt AV home chargers will recharge Ford C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi PHEVs in 2.5 hours. The Focus Electric takes about 4 hours for 76 miles of charge.

One-Day Turnaround

Leviton became Ford’s preferred EVSE provider in 2011 when Ford was about to launch the all-electric Ford Focus. It remained the sole recommended provider until the recent addition of Aerovironment. Ford uses Aerovironment chargers at its campus and became comfortable the quality and the company, said Janczak.

Ford also likes Aerovironment because of its “unique” one-day installation, available in 75 percent of the country, she said. “We think the one day service is an incredible way to really make it easy to get this installed,” she said. “The easier we can make it, the more likely consumers are to incorporate (PEVs) into their lifestyle.”

The remaining 25 percent of customers can’t receive one-day service because of lack of capacity in the electric panel or the need to dig a trench for the connection, said Janczak. Since the May 1 launch, “We are seeing a lot of interest in the one-day install,” she said.

For now, customers can only order the AV charger online through Aerovironment, or by calling AV, said Janczak. Ford dealers aren’t selling it yet. “We really wanted to focus our dealers on selling the vehicle at this point,” she said. Through June, Ford has sold about 900 Ford Focus Electric cars in 2013—compared to nearly 10,000 sales of the Nissan LEAF.

If you're in the market for home charging equipment, see our Quick Guide to Buying Your First Home EV Charger.

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