Sunday, May 10, 2015

Electric Car 240V Charger

What happens when you buy an electric car?

You fill up the tank in your gas car so rarely wasps build a nest under the gas cap!

The Ford Focus electric came with a 120V charger that can plug into a standard U.S. outlet, but it takes 20 hours to charge the car from empty. We had a few times in which we couldn't take a second trip in the car because it was still charging; it was time to get a 240V charger.

I decided on the Juicebox Classic 30 Amp:
 - Rather than being hard wired into the house, it plugs into a standard NEMA 14-50 outlet (common among RV parks). You can also use an adapter to plug into typical dryer outlets. That gives me more options on where to charge.
 - The 30 Amp model meets/exceeds the ability of the car's onboard charger (without going overboard).
 - Long charging cable.
 - It's simple!
 - It's cheap!

Some more advanced chargers allow you to set a delay before charging or report to a smart phone app the charging status, but I didn't need any of that. The car itself allows me to set charging times, and I can use the Ford mobile app to check the charging status. There isn't even a power switch on the Juicebox Classic. When you plug the J1772 into your car, charging starts. Unplug, charging stops.

Please note: I am not an electrician. I just did lots of research on the Internet, spoke with a couple electricians, and managed to put something together that passed the city inspection. (And most importantly not burn down my house.) Don't trust anything I say or did!

Thankfully the distribution panel in my garage has plenty of room.

There are 2 hot leads coming into the panel: the thick red/black wire connected to the top left of the panel and the thick black wire connected to the top right of the panel. Each lead is 120V AC. The 2 leads combined supply 240V.

The white wires along the right side of my panel are the neutral. A 120V outlet will use one hot (either one) and the neutral. The Juicebox doesn't need a neutral wire as it doesn't require a 120V source. However I'll be including the neutral in my 14-50R outlet as who knows what it will be used for in the future.

The bare copper wires along the left side of my panel are the ground.

You can see each one of the hot leads is connected to a bus bar with blades that criss-cross down the panel for the circuit breakers to snap into. A 120V circuit breaker will only snap into one of those blades. A 240V circuit breaker will snap into both blades.

Very educational site / video on this:

Shopping list:
 - NEMA 14-50 Outlet
 - Outlet Enclosure
 - 2x Romex Connectors
 - 6/3 gauge Romex cable (6 gauge for the 2 hots and neutral; ground slightly thinner)
 - Cover plate
 - 40 Amp 240V Breaker (Although my plug and wire are rated up to 50 Amp, my charger should only be pulling 30 amps.)
Total about $40

I cut away a section of drywall below my panel to install the new outlet.

 - Mounted the outlet enclosure into the side of the stud below the panel.
 - Punched out a hole in the bottom of the panel.
 - Fastened the two connectors (one at the new hole in the bottom of the panel and one at the top of the outlet enclosure).
 - Pulled the Romex cable through the enclosure and into the electrical panel.
 - Tightened the two connectors onto the cable.
 - Connected the wires to the 14-50R outlet. It was very easy - there were labels for the two hots, the neutral, and the ground. Just strip back a little bit of insulation and tighten down on the terminal with a screwdriver. Honestly the hardest part was jamming the outlet with those fat 6 gauge wires into the enclosure.
 - Triple checked everything.
 - Connected the wires to the distribution panel. I stripped back the insulation from the wires as necessary to connect the 2 hot wires directly to the circuit breaker and the last 6 gauge wire to the white neutral bar. The bare copper wire connected to the ground bar. (You'll notice I tried to keep things tidy with the wires going along the outside of the panel.)
 - Triple checked everything again.
 - Reattached the drywall.
 - Turned on power to the panel.
 - Triple checked everything yet again. (You've got a multimeter, right?)
 - I was done! (Well I had to wait for the inspector the next day, but I was basically done.)

JuiceBox installation was stupid easy. You attach the mount to your wall (on studs of course) then the box just slides in from above. Plug in the 14-50 cable into your new outlet and it's powered.

Charging from empty is now only 3.5 hours! Multiple long trips in the car in one day are no longer a problem.

Again, I'm not an electrician so don't trust a word I'm saying. Consider me nothing more than another data point on your quest to get a 240V charger installed. :-)

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