The New Level 2 Charger

Tl:dr: We upgraded to a level 2 charger and wonder why we didn’t do it earlier. It charges the car in 6 hours as opposed to a level 1 charger at 20 hours and totally improves the electric car experience.

There are certain things that you do that you wonder why you didn’t do earlier. This was the case before with my old, piece-of-junk car. As probably noted earlier, I had a Chevy Cavalier — a 1998 — and the thing had over 200,000 miles on it. The maintenance was beginning to be a pain in the ass. Something would go wrong with the car and I’d toss time and money at it to fix it as promptly as I could before something else would go wrong. I did all these repairs myself so the cost wasn’t too big but the hassle was immense. My reasoning at the time was that the car was paid off and very cheap to operate so why wouldn’t I drive it for as long as I could. I thought getting a new car would just be a waste of money because at the very least I’d have to make a payment on the thing whereas my old, trash car was free(ish) to use. I was wrong.

I got the new car and after a few days I was wondering why the hell I dealt with driving the ‘98 Cavalier around for so long; it was so much nicer having a car that actually worked and wasn’t constantly falling apart. I just had the same feeling a few days ago with my new level 2 charger. After using it for a few days I was thinking “Why didn’t I do this earlier?”

We’ve owned the Focus Electric for over two years and have successfully used only the stock level 1 charger that came with the car. I’m talking the 1,200 watt charger that would take up to twenty hours to charge the car! In the summer we could get up to 80 or 90 miles so a nightly charge wasn’t a big deal, but in the winter our range was closer to 35 or 40! Driving that few miles daily and needing nearly 15 hours to charge was doable, but you really had to plan your stuff out. Sometimes we’d have to use the heat for only part of the trip. Sometimes the car wouldn’t get a full charge until the weekend. Either way, while doable, we had to be careful.

A few months ago I noticed on Amazon that there are affordable 240 volt, level 2 chargers available for purchase. Some of these were even plug-in chargers meaning you just find yourself (or create) a 240 volt outlet at your house and plug in the thing; you wouldn’t need to hardwire the unit to the electrical box. This was appealing to me for a few reasons: if we moved we could take the charger with us and the house would still have a 240 outlet for use. It’s also portable. If we ever drove somewhere that had a 240 volt outlet we could bring our charger. I purchased one for around $200 and began the task that would take the most time and effort: planning what I was going to do.

We opted on installing the outlet in the garage as it would make the most sense. Most appliances that use 240 volt outlets would be at home in a garage. Thankfully, there was already a 240 volt line ran to where and old electric stove used to be. While the outlet itself was removed the nice thing was the wiring and the circuit breaker were all still in place. I wouldn’t have to deal with making a new line from scratch! While doing the work was a pain, I “simply” ran new 10 gauge wires out into a conduit underground to our garage. I nailed in a 2×4 and hooked the NEMA 10-30 outlet to that. It was fairly straightforward even for an amateur such as myself.

And the charger is phenomenal! I might do a proper review of it later because why the hell not, but so far the thing charges the car in around 6 hours with a fully drained battery. (I estimate, roughly, that the thing provides about 3,000 watts to the car!) While this sounds bad compared to a gas car it is a blessing compared to the 20 hours the old level 1 charger required!

I said this was one of those things you didn’t realize was so nice until you actually had it and it has never been more fitting for this case. I would say the level 2 charger now gives us a ton of flexibility with the car. While the level 1 charger worked, you would have to do much more planning with your trip and be much more aware of your energy usage. With the level 2 you can beat the hell out of the battery as much as you want as long as you have a few hours before you need to drive again!

With the level 1 we would have to plan our larger trips, especially in the winter. If we did a 40 mile round trip we would have to postpone another large trip until the next day. It was doable we’d just have to plan ahead. Some trips we would have to have the AC/heat off to make sure we could do everything we needed to do. The level 2 charger lets us not worry about stuff like that. We can do one large trip (like we did this past weekend) and do a second trip across town in a few hours. On the way back we blasted the heater because we could and it was chilly out! Since the car would charge in a handful of hours we could afford to run the heat.

Having a level 2 charger allows us to be much more flexible with using the car and makes the car feel more like a traditional gasoline car. While we still can’t “refuel” as instantaneously as a gas car can, it is still a huge improvement over a level 1 charger. The past few weeks have been so damn enjoyable I’ve been wonder why the hell I didn’t install a level 2 charger earlier. The electric car experience was already very enjoyable with a level 1 charger and is only better with our new level 2 charger. If anyone who reads this is a sadist still getting by with a level 1 charger I recommend you upgrade as soon as possible. Even if it isn’t “required” it does help the enjoyment you get from your car!

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