Open Source EV Home Charger Offered at $99, With Caveats

By · July 19, 2013

Juicebox Open Source EV Charging Equipment

A Juicebox prototype built by Enel X.

Think home electric car charging equipment is too expensive? Well, maybe you heard about The Juicebox, the new 240-volt charger available for a bargain basement price of $99. Sounds great, but expect to face additional costs, possible safety concerns and, like a piece of furniture from Ikea, once you get it home the device must be assembled.

The Juicebox, a Level 2 Open Source charger, is produced by Enel X, a Boston, Mass. company that is raising money to expand production on Kickstarter, the crowd-source fundraising site. Enel X has been selling kits to covert gas-powered vehicles to pure electric vehicles for more than two and a half years, founder Valery Miftakhov told PluginCars.com. “Earlier this year, we looked at how quickly the production plug-in electric cars were picking up, and thought there has to be something in the production EV market that we can sell,” he said. “That is how the idea was born for a home charging system.”

The base price, $99, will buy the 60A 15-kW Juicebox do-it-yourself kit. Enel X offers a fully assembled premium version for $329 that includes a color L.C.D. interface and time-of-day charging. A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (G.F.C.I.) is optional in the base kit but is included in the premium unit. The separate parts are certified by Underwriters Laboratory, he said. The fully assembled unit has a one-year warranty, but there is no warranty on the basic unit.

For D.I.Y. Crowd

The base kit is the most popular level. “Most of our supporters are D.I.Y. enthusiasts,” said Miftakhov. Currently, purchase is only through Kickstarter. Users must either buy a cord and plug, or use the one they got with their electric vehicle, said Miktakhov. The cord price varies depending on the length and power. The shortest 30-amp cord will set you back around $100, said Miftakhov.

He brushed off safety concerns. Enel X sold a much more complex D.I.Y. product that involved building a full-scale charger, said Miftakhov. “We have over 100 people who have bought the kit and completed the project without an incident,” he said.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Juicebox is a safe product, said Phil Sadow, whose company EVSE Upgrade sells a J1772 compliant kit to upgrade a Level 1 charging cord to Level 2 for under $300. The price varies depending on the EV make. Thousands of Nissan LEAF owners use his product everyday, said Sadow.

“Assembling something dealing with high voltages and thousands of watts or power should not be attempted unless the builder is experienced and qualified,” he told PluginCars. He also took issue with the lack of a Ground Circuit Fault Interrupter, which adds safety, in the base Enel X model.

Tried and True

The manufacturers of electric cars recommend chargers produced by well-established companies, because of a track record of safety and reliability, said Steve Gitlin, vice president of marketing strategy at Aerovironment Inc., whose charger is recommended by several EV makers. An AV home charger starts at $999.

“It is tempting to look at a product in and of itself and say this is how much (the materials) cost,” Gitlin told PluginCars. “But behind any company’s product you have that company. We have been doing this for decades.”

The price of the Bosch home charger includes the development process and extensive testing done with the vehicle maker, Kevin Mull, vice president of business development at Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, told PluginCars.com Bosch home chargers start at $449.

There is one area where Mull and Miftakhov agree. Open source is a good way to bring down charger costs. “We applaud new approaches like open source and believe the mass market consumer will benefit from the variety of business models and technologies that are being explored,” said Mull.

If you're shopping for a home EV charger, check out PluginCars.com's guide to buying your first home electric car charging equipment.

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