Should you buy a portable Level 2 electric-car charger?


2017 Kia Soul EV

2017 Kia Soul EV

Electric car chargers are becoming more affordable. Now you can buy a portable, 16-amp charger one for less than the price of a cheap tablet computer. 

Some electric-car drivers find benefit in carrying a portable charger that's faster than the standard Level 1 models that come with every electric car sold so far.

Portable Level 2 chargers will usually deliver 16 amps at 230-volts, or about 3.3 kw of power, good for eight to ten miles of charging per hour. That's as fast as the original Level 2 chargers that came out with the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf in 2011 and about three times faster than the standard cord-set that comes with a plug-in car. .

AmazingE portable Level 2 electric car charger

AmazingE portable Level 2 electric car charger

Several models of these chargers are available, for as little as $199. The newest is from AmazingE, and retails for $219 during its initial launch period.

These chargers (officially called EVSEs) also draw more power than standard Level 1 cord sets, so they need to plug into higher-powered outlets, usually electric clothes-dryer outlets (NEMA 14-30), or sometimes machine-shop NEMA 6-20 or 6-30 outlets.

For some people who work or otherwise regularly travel someplace that has such outlets they can be valuable in today's electric cars with bigger batteries than can be fully charged in a standard work day or overnight on 110 volts.

Some debate has simmered in the electric-car community over the value of these chargers, especially in light of expanding networks of much faster public Level 2 charging stations.

The advantage of a portable Level 2 charger is that you can get three times the power of a standard portable cord set—if you can find someplace to plug one in.

Duosida portable Level 2 electric car charger via Amazon

Duosida portable Level 2 electric car charger via Amazon

 

Finding a 230-volt clothes dryer or shop outlet isn't  a given anywhere you go, though. Carrying a backup 110-volt cord makes some sense, because you can charge just about anywhere, albeit slowly. Many portable chargers on the market can use both 110- and 220-volts and come with an adapter to  plug them in. This seems like a useful addition to us.

Aerovironment TurboCord portable Level 2 electric car charger

Aerovironment TurboCord portable Level 2 electric car charger

If you want to buy one of these chargers, it's important to buy one that's UL rated for safety, as the AmazingE and many other models are.

As the network of public 30 and 40 amp electric car chargers expands, it strikes us that you're more likely to find a full-fledged Level 2 charger in public these days than you are to find somebody's electric dryer outlet that you can plug into

That may leave these 16-amp, Level 2 portable chargers as best for home use, for users who may already have an electric dryer or shop outlet in their garage, and need more power than a standard 110-volt cord set can offer, or who just don't need the higher power of a wall=mounted unit at home and just want to save some money. On the other hand, if you have such an outlet at home and are looking for the cheapest way to use it to charge faster than a standard outlet can, any of these portable chargers will do that for you.

 
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