By J. Lloyd Dent
In the beginning, arranging for the charging station installation will be part of the purchasing process of buying your first Electric Vehicle (EV). All approved chargers by the various manufacturers will be compliant with SAE J1772 standards for electric vehicles and electrical connectors.
You won't be able to buy the car unless you are willing to install a charging station your home. Consumers who buy the Nissan Leaf will be required to use their exclusive contractor, AeroVironment, for installation of the home chargers. They may be able to install their own charging equipment if they sign a waiver.
The Chevy Volt will come standard with a 110 volt charger which will allow you to charge directly from your home wall outlet. For Volt customers who prefer to have a 240 V rapid charger installed, SPX service solutions is the exclusive contractor for the installation of their rapid charging station.
There is a big difference in the vehicles range due to the size of their battery packs. Chevrolet considers the Volt to be a hybrid vehicle which can be plugged in. GM describes the car as an extended range EV (electric vehicle) with a smaller battery. The LEAF is strictly electric with a much larger battery pack that is 2-3 times the size of the Volts. The Chevy Volts 16kwh battery will probably only ever use 8 kw of it. The Leaf will contain a 24 KWh battery, but will probably need to use 80-90% in order to increase the battery life. In order to fully charge the LEAF, it will need to be plugged into a 110v outlet for the entire day. It is expected that the cost to install a Level II home charging unit will run about $2,200.
Because the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt are expected to be the first cars which will require the installation of a Level 2 home charger until 2012, it is expected that the demand for home charging units will remain low, unless a surprising number of first owners opt to have the rapid chargers professionally installed.
Now there are a number of companies entering the charging station market. AeroVironment was the first company to devote itself to developing and building Level II home charging units. The reason they won the contract from Nissan was probably because they were the first one with a product to offer. Most of the other companies that are developing and building charging stations focused on industrial units for commercial and municipal installations. However that is changing as the first mass market electric vehicles are finally ready to launch.
Below are the current companies that manufacture Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Now called ECOtality North America, ECOtality has been producing electric charging stations for quite a while. Industrial equipment such as forklifts have used electric charging technology for some time. They have used their experience to market the Minit-Charger for both residential and commercial charging applications. The EV Project which is managed by ECOtalty is seeking to install thousands of charging stations over the next year in the 5 states where the EV's will first be released. ECOtality also installs stations made by other manufacturers. ECOtality builds both level I and level II chargers but does not make fast DC charging equipment. ECOtality has recently introduced a new line of commercial and home Level II charging stations. It is believed that the new stations-designed by global industrial design firm, frog design-will help update their conservative image.
SPX has been selected by Chevrolet to be the exclusive service provider for the purchase and installation of the Chevy Volt 240 Volt rapid home charger. SPX will facilitate every aspect of the purchase and installation of the rapid chargers which will charge the Volt in approximately 4 hours. The SPX team will advise homeowners on the requirements to upgrade their electrical service to accommodate the home charging system and will even assist them in taking the necessary steps to qualify for reduced electric utility rates.
AeroVironment was chosen to be the exclusive home charging installation contractor for the Nissan LEAF. Even though AeroVironment is mostly known for residential installations, they are one of the few companies that sell both Level II and fast charging DC chargers for commercial use. AeroVironment is a well established company that developed unmanned aircraft for the military for many years. The company was responsible for the charger for the Impact, the precursor to the GM EV1 built in the 1990's. They also developed the charging stations for the EV1, so it is only natural that they would manufacture the new versions of charging stations.
Coulomb technologies is one of the better known EV charging manufacturers. Coulomb is rapidly building out their membership Charge Point network which will allow their members to pull up to any of their stations and begin charging immediately. Currently most of the 300 stations they have installed are Level I, however they have now begun installing Level II chargers as well.
A less well known company, Clipper Creek has been selling chargers for decades. The design of their equipment is not as modern and sleek as some of the newer styles. Their chargers are geared more towards fleet installation rather than residential or businesses. Clipper Creek has made it well known that their products can be installed anywhere. They handle the home charging installations for the Tesla Roadster. These charging stations are meant for Level II charging only and come in a variety of configurations to meet their customers' needs.
The newest entrant in the EV charging station market is GE. They just introduced their new Watt Station charger. The first release is meant primarily for commercial installations, but there are plans to introduce a residential version later this year. The Watt Station is known for its attractive design. Legendary designer Yves Behar is the genius behind the sleek style of the Watt Station. It is also the first model that incorporates Wi-Fi smart technology.
A little known company called PEP has begun working with Ford to build rugged robust charging stations that can handle rough usage. These units are architectural in design with a concrete base and stainless steel top. These units are primarily marketed to commercial and municipal installations. This obscure company has no track record, so their quality remains to be seen. The designers used high quality automotive grade components, so they are built to be robust.
Better Place is known for battery switching techniques. They have now begun installation of vehicle charging stations in Israel and Denmark. So far they don't have any plans to sell their units for residential use. We mention them here because they may change their strategy to offer residential charging options.
Leviton is a huge and well known electrical supply company. They are along established company with a large number of service technicians. Leviton is including a 10 year warranty on their "Evr-green" home and commercial charging stations. The Leviton Evr-Green charging stations can support both Level I and Level II charging and will integrate with Charge Point charging stations. Leviton has also introduced a standard installation method that is the industry's first pre-wired plug in system for their Level II chargers. This system will enable consumers to make their homes "plug in ready" before they purchase any electric car. This prewired system has a starting price of less than $200, not including installation and is meant to lower installation costs and reduce installation times. The prewired kits are required to be installed by an installer certified by Leviton, but once the system has been installed, the Level II charging station can later be easily added by the consumer.
Currently these are the main players in the electric car charging market place. Only time will tell who will emerge as the market leader and what other new players will join the fray. If you have heard of any other players that are making electric car charging stations, please let me know so that I can include them in this list.
For the most up to date information on EV Charging stations, visit the Electric Vehicle Charging station blog at: http://www.ElectricVehicleChargingStations.org
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