Level 3 Quick Charging For Your Electric Car: How It Works

Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car at quick charging station

Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car at quick charging station

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The formal name for what many of us more casually call “Level 3” charging is CHAdeMo, which is the only currently installed standard to reduce electric-car charging time for an 80-percent charge to less than an hour.  

The CHAdeMo interface is an option on the 2011 Nissan Leaf; on that car, it reduces charge time for an 80-percent charge to around 30 minutes from more than 6 hours suing the more standard 240-Volt, or Level 2, charging station.  

Many of these CHAdeMo charging stations are planned for US installation, though officially this format has not been accepted as a true “national standard.”  Today, only two such stations are available to the public: one in Portland, Oregon, and another in Vacaville, California.  Japan already has more than 530 such charge points.

The Vacaville Level 3 charging point is sited at a park-andride area just off the Davis Street exit on Highway 80, about halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.  According to the early publicity for this unit, it was installed by Pacific Gas & Electric utility company as an “experiment” to see how electric-car drivers would use it.

2011 Nissan Leaf at quick-charging station

2011 Nissan Leaf at quick-charging station

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Currently, the sole electric car sold in the U.S. that can use a CHAdeMo connector is the 2011 Nissan Leaf, which buyers must order with the appropriate connector for fast charging.  The 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' electric car, which will go on sale toward the end of this year, also offers this connector.

A press event group of Mitsubishi 'i' cars were the first to actually use the Vacaville charging service late last year, on a trip between San Francisco and Sacramento (a distance of 90 miles).

Electric cars with the quick-charge connector can make the commute from Sacramento or San Francisco for shopping at the Vacaville Outlet Mall. With a stop at the Davis Street Park and Ride, and perhaps a burger and fries at the adjacent Sonic Drive-In, they get back home without “range anxiety.”

Portable diesel-powered 440-Volt quick charger for Nissan Leaf electric cars

Portable diesel-powered 440-Volt quick charger for Nissan Leaf electric cars

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The Level 3 charger in Portland, Oregon, is sited in the parking garage of the World Trade Center (a $3 parking fee is required), but is open for public use.  The location was chosen as this unit was installed by PG&E, which has offices in the same complex, meaning their employees can potentially get first access to the charger.

The World Trade Center is well set for commuters coming from outlying areas for downtown shopping, theatres, or business, so electric-car drivers can find undercover parking and the power for their return drive in a single place.

Over 300 of these CHAdeMo format chargers are planned for early installation throughout the U.S. The impact of the extensive rollout is expected to exert pressure for adoption of the already formal Japanese commitment to this connector and process in the U.S. as well.

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Comments (10)
  1. Quick correction: The Portland, Oregon unit is owned by PGE, Portland General Electric. Not the California company, PG&E.

  2. My innovation is a global “game changer” because it will allow an electric vehicle to operate under continuous full power, without the normal “downtime” for recharging its’ batteries. The ‘EEV-3’, (Edwards Electric Vehicle; the 3 stands for / or corresponds to the 3 different fuels (energy) used to operate an internal combustion engine (gasoline, diesel and petroleum oil), as well as fuels saved during electrical generation: coal, natural gas and/or oil. The EEV-3 will “travel coast to coast without having to stop for a drop” of gasoline, diesel or other liquid fuel!!!, (or at least try to go 1200 - 1600 miles without stopping for a battery charge).
    The EEV-3 does not need an internal combustion engine like a hybrid EV vehicle, therefore it is saving gasoline or diesel, which is crude oil based. The EEV-3 DOES NOT rely on the perceived but untrue “law of physics” of ‘perpetual motion’.

  3. @Edward Heath: The bicycle has already been invented... :-)

  4. You left out just one thing. HOW IT WORKS. No mention of it in the article. You kind of want to match headlines to article content. Actually I guess you don't, as you can lure readers in with a good headline, and then just give them any old fluff to read once they're there.
    Jack Rickard

  5. Agreed, the title of the article says "how it works", but the only thing explained here is the locations of a couple of "Level 3" charging stations.

    No mention of the fact that this type of charging severely damages batteries, and is only recommended for "occasional" emergency charge situations.

    Also not mentioned is the fact that it needs to suck 50KW from the mains, which would trip the vast majority of household circuit breakers, and is not sustainable for more than a couple of dozen cars per neighbourhood, as 24 x 50KW suddenly added to the load would trip most residential breakers too...

    Nice thought, but not a real solution for anything...

  6. @Dave: A handful of points ...

    (1) The potential for battery damage from quick charging is somewhere between disputed and mythical. Nissan has said that while they do not recommend multiple fast charges per day, a couple of times a week will not damage the battery. There's also an MIT study that allayed much of the FUD.

    (2) No one is suggesting that DC fast charging will EVER be used in residential settings, for which overnight Level 2 charging will be the norm. You're entirely right about the 50-kW draw, and most DC fast-charging stations require close coordination with the local electric utility for installation. So, it's not an issue for residential neighborhoods.

  7. @Jack,
    Well, for the two L3 stations that are public, you simply take the handle off the charge station, insert it into the special L3 or QC charge point on the vehicle (the Leaf has a separate plug point for the L3 charge input, since the handle is larger with special charge points compared to the 110v/220v L2 charge handle), and the charging process begins. In my experience, after 30 minutes or less, the vehicle will be at the maximum charge level allowed via this charging interface, and you are ready to withdraw the charge handle, put it back in the charge station holder and be good to go. When I used the Vacaville station to get home to West Sacramento from the Petaluma Nissan dealership, it was a cold, windy, and raining day, and even though I could sit in the car, the notion of even crossing the parking lot to the Sonic Drive-in was not a pleasant idea, and I lost patience with even the 30 minute charge process at about 25 minutes, pulled the plug at a displayed range of 74 miles and went on my way home to W. Sacramento.

  8. George,
    You left out just one thing AGAIN. (How it works). You have explained how to use it, but I think what Jack was asking was; Is it a direct connection that uses a DC current? is there a data connection involved? How many volts?

  9. Here's how it works. It is high voltage Direct Current. The car transmits battery parameters to the charging station including voltage at which to stop charging, target voltage, and total battery capacity, and the station will vary its output current according to signaling from the car.

  10. Level 3 is actually "DC Level 2 Charging" (aka DC Fast Charging) for those in the know with SAE present prescribed terminology for this new era of plug-in electric vehicles. Level 3 is a left-over from the 90's as now there are 3 levels of AC Charging and 3 levels of DC Charging identified. Only AC Level 1&2 and DC Level 2 are currently in the US market.
    CHAdeMO describes the connector...not chaging level. The future connector in the US for DC Level 2 will most likely be the "Hybrid Connector".

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