Leviton's Portable Electric Car Charging Stations Are a Big Deal, Here's Why

By · March 07, 2011

The Leviton Evr-Green series of home charging units is designed to be unplugged from the wall, making them the first portable units on the market. Left: Evr-Green 320 32 amp charging station. Right: Evr=Green 160 16 amp charging station.

The lack of public charging stations for electric cars is often cited by EV foes and skeptics alike as one of the major reasons they aren't practical for daily driving.

But imagine if you could pop your personal charging station into the trunk of your Nissan LEAF at the beginning of every day, drive to whatever destinations you needed to go that day, and add 15 miles of driving range every time you stopped for an hour without depending on there being an existing charging station? Having that capability would certainly add some security to your EV lifestyle.

Now that Leviton's new Evr-Green line of charging stations has been UL-listed, that concept is not a dream—all it takes is a standard 240 volt outlet installed at each location you want to charge.

To be Sure, Public Charging Isn't a Requirement for Sales Success

Before we get too far into this let's make it clear that the naysayers who think EVs will fail because of a lack of public charging are assuming electric cars have to work for every need of every individual to be successful. The fact of the matter is that a very large portion of the U.S. population could switch out one of the cars in their garage for an electric car, charge it up at night from their home charging station in the garage, drive it every day with the exception of using their gas car for the long trips, and never know the difference except in the vast savings on "fuel" costs.

If that kind of arrangement doesn't work for you then an electric car may not fit your lifestyle—and that's okay. If you're a farmer and need a work truck you're not going to buy a Camaro—but a lot of Camaros and F-250s are still sold. While having a robust public charging infrastructure will certainly bring an electric car more utility in terms of being able to drive longer distances, it's not required for them to be sales successes.

Almost 20,000 Public Charge Stations Will be Installed in 2011 and 2012

Even if public charging infrastructure isn't a requirement for EV success, there are nonetheless multiple tens of thousands of charging stations slated for installation in select early deployment regions in the U.S. over the course of 2011—in large part thanks to the joint federal-private EV Project. The project will install 15,000 charging stations over the course of 2011. In addition, many other local municipalities and utilities are planning on installing several thousand more in select regions as well.

Most of the stations installed under these initiatives will be 240 Volt "Level 2" stations (capable of adding between 15 and 30 miles of driving range per hour of charging depending on station and vehicle), and a few hundred of them will be the high speed DC fast chargers (capable of adding 80 miles in a half hour of charging on a properly equipped vehicle).

Why Does Leviton's Model Have the Potential to Change the Industry?

While installing lots of public charging stations will certainly help EV drivers make their cars more useful, the problem is that those stations may not be where you need them and much of the time they will likely sit unused given that most people don't need more than the 80-100 miles a day an EV battery provides. And in terms of time, most people's cars spend 80% of the time parked at home, 15% at work, and 5% doing everything else. It's that 5% of the time that these charging network providers are hoping will make their businesses profitable. That's hardly a recipe for business success.

On the other hand, almost every EV owner will have a home charging station that will provide them with enough charging to satisfy their needs almost every day. Since most every EV driver will have one, wouldn't it make more sense if that home charging unit were portable just like the charging cable you lug around with your laptop? Of course, this capability already exists to a certain extent because every modern electric car comes with a portable cable that you can plug into a standard 120 Volt three-prong household outlet—but that can only add about 5 miles of driving range for every hour of charging. These Level 2 home chargers are what really make sense for adding extra range while your car is sitting during the day.

Leviton's stations could make this a reality—and no other manufacturer is providing portable Level 2 chargers at this point. Early on in the process of figuring out standards for EV charging equipment and writing new national electrical code to allow for their installation, most companies that were getting into it read the code to mean that all Level 2 stations had to be hardwired into a dedicated circuit. As a result almost every supplier right now only offers hard wired solutions—meaning that station is stuck where it's installed unless an electrician comes out and uninstalls it.

Leviton was the only manufacturer who read the code to mean a charging station could be plugged into a dedicated outlet—thereby providing for the station to be plugged and unplugged at will. Voila, a portable station. All it requires is that wherever you want to charge has one of two standard outlets installed. If an electric dryer or tablesaw or dedicated air conditioner or any number of everyday pieces of equipment is installed at your desired location, one of those outlets will likely already be installed.

And if not, asking a business/grandma/vacation rental to install a new outlet for less than $200 isn't that big of a deal compared to the $1,500 to $3,000 estimated for a complete charging station.

The standard outlets and associated equipment needed to plug a Leviton Evr-Green charging station into the wall. Bottom right corner are the actual outlets. On the right is the outlet for the 16 amp Evr-Green 160 and on the left is the outlet for the 32 amp Evr-Green 320.

Leviton will be offering two different portable Level 2 residential charging stations:

  • Evr-Green 160: Provides 3.8kW output (16A @ 240V), enough to add about 15 miles of range for every hour of charging. The 160 plugs into an individual 20A circuit and uses a standard NEMA 6-20R receptacle (bottom right corner of picture above)
  • Evr-Green 320: Provides 7.7kW output (32A @ 240V), enough to add about 30 miles of range for every hour of charging. The 320 plugs into an individual 40A circuit and uses a standard NEMA 6-50R receptacle (to the left of the NEMA 6-20R in the picture above)

The company even sells a carrying bag to make taking your station to the cabin for vacation easier. The Evr-Green 160 will be available within the next month, likely at brick and mortar stores, online retail outlets and other suppliers around the country. Although Leviton hasn't yet announced specifics, it is likely that it will show up at the locations Leviton already sells their vast catalogue of electrical supply equipment—places such as Home Depot and other major home electronic supply stores. The higher speed Evr-Green 320 is scheduled for release later in 2011.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
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  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
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  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.