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Old 06-07-16, 12:24 PM   #1
AC_Hacker
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Default AC_Hacker and the Nissan Leaf

About a year ago, I bought a two-year used Leaf, that had been a leased car, and I thought that a review of my experiences would be appropriate.

The car came with a 120v charger, that Nissan calls a 'trickle charger'. It works fine off of 120v but the charging time is slow. Even with that, my daily driving was such that charging overnight gave me a fully charged car when I wanted it next day.

More research revealed that the Leaf has its charger built in, and the "trickle charger" is really a charge adapter. The way it works is that there is some 'intelligence' built into the charger. When the charger is plugged into the car, its tiny brain communicates with the car's tiny brain, and the voltage is tested and if it qualifies, the charge connection is made and charging begins. So you can't just plug the car into raw AC Power, there must be a qualifying dialog before charging starts.

I learned that there are three levels of charge that the car can accept,

L1 - 120 VAC ('trickle charge')
L2 - 240 VAC
L3 - 400 VDC (AKA: "Fast Charge")

My experience with the L1 that came with the car is positive, but there were instances when I would use the car more if I could charge more quickly.

Enough instances that I began to investigate the best solution...

(* to be continued *)



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Old 06-07-16, 07:06 PM   #2
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Used EV is a great way to go. Let someone else take the depreciation.
L2 makes a big difference. We would not be happy with the Volt without L2 charging.

We have a place on lake Hartwell and I even have L2 charging out there.
This is the one I built a couple years ago. It has worked great but there are more options out there now.
http://ecorenovator.org/forum/applia...ment-evse.html
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Old 06-07-16, 07:23 PM   #3
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I found that there are ways to modify the 120v L1 charger, such that it will use 240v. Some plans are easily reversible, some are not. Some require you to send in your old unit, and "professionals" do the work. The result is a 240v 12A charger that charges faster. If you DIY, it is not so expensive, but if you hire it out, it gets more expensive.

Here are some schemes:

(3.0)CONVERTING A LEAF LEVEL 1 (12AMP) CHARGER TO A LEVEL 2 (12AMP) CHARGER

EVSE Upgrade - Low-Cost EV Charging Solutions

Project to modify '13 Volt portable charger to do L1/L2 using Open EVSE components


I decided not to go this route, rather to buy or make my own L2 charger.`The factors in my decision were that it is very handy to have a L1 charger in the car, but even more convincing, I live in Oregon, where it rains a lot in the winter, I have no garage, and my charging will be done in the rain.

I searched for used L2 chargers and found some on Craigslist at a reasonable price. I also looked into Open Source chargers. I have more confidence in Open Source chargers because they use no proprietary parts, and the software is also open source, so the thousands of geek users will pour over the code, looking for existing flaws, and also improvements.

The price of a used proprietary charger and a complete open source kit were about the same.

There were two options I found, Juice Box, and Open EVSE.

A fellow EcoRenovator gave me a Juice Box, original model, that had failed after exhibiting signs that it might burn down his garage (sparks, smoke, flame, etc).

I rebuilt it, found an error in wiring, and still have it ready for charging cables.

I also looked over the Open EVSE, and decided to order and build that kit. It was $224 + $140 for the kit & cables. Everything about it looked live a very well thought out design, especially compared to the Juice Box. In fairness, the Juice Box was an older design (and may be updated by now), so Open EVSE had it's example to improve upon. Improve they did.

Both companies have easily available documentation, and builders forums that were very helpful. Also, there are extensive YouTube videos available. for both brands.

Open EVSE is designed such that sub-assemblies are soldered & tested, and the buyer is not required to do any soldering in the course of a complete kit build.

I had the Open EVSE 90% built, when I started thinking about where would I put the finished unit. A garage would be perfect, but I have no garage.

Worse, there are meth-crazed thieves who have stolen metal stuff to sell by the pound, to feed their habit.

So I thought that a weather resistant box bolted to the side of my house would be good, secure, and hopefully not an obvious target for thieves.

I found a large used electric panel box at a salvage store and for $15 I brought it home. It was full of the stuff I didn't want so I did a stuff-ectomy on it and the parts for the charger fit very nicely inside.


I tried everything out for fit...


So I bolted it to the side of my house, being very careful to leave the original dirt intact. I used regulation electrical fittings.





It is done! Handy & Secure.

Best,

-AC_Hacker


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Old 06-07-16, 07:30 PM   #4
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That looks great very professional looking. Their kit is much simpler and clean looking.
I think you made a good choice.
Is it 6.6 KW (I see from your picture it is 6.6 kW)
Does it have wifi?
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Last edited by pinballlooking; 06-07-16 at 08:26 PM..
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Old 06-07-16, 08:27 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinballlooking View Post
That looks great very professional looking. There kit is much simpler and clean looking.
I think you made a good choice.
Is it 6.6 KW does it have wifi?
It is the 50A kit. The Leaf maxes out at 30A, so I have room to grow.

It does have a wifi module available.

With the unit completely enclosed in a steel box, wifi may be a problem. I plan to get the wifi module, I may have to hack an antenna on to it.

-AC

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Old 06-07-16, 08:32 PM   #6
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Nice… mine was before the Wi-Fi module but it would be nice to collect all that charging data.

I am zeroing out with solar for the year but I would still like be able to share better charging data.
How many miles have you put on your car?

Yours has a very clean look. Mine certainly looks more home grown.
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Old 06-08-16, 08:49 AM   #7
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AC

Do you drive with the EV grin?? How do you feel driving by the gasoline station??

So your leaf can be charged a 6.6 kw. At that rate a complete charge would be somewhere around 2-3 hrs. depending how depleted your pack is. Have you tried any of the public charge stations yet.??

Your EVSE looks great!

I'm in the market for EVSE for the electric truck. I'm still hard wiring and removing the connections for a test ride. It's getting old.

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Old 06-08-16, 10:45 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinballlooking View Post
How many miles have you put on your car?
I got the 2-year used Leaf with just over 12K. Now it's 19K. My other car is a 2000 Honda Insight, awesome mileage (up to 70+ mpg on hi-way). It goes where the Leaf will not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pinballlooking View Post
Yours has a very clean look. Mine certainly looks more home grown.
I assume you mean my EVSE. Yes, I formerly worked for Intel as a Manufacturing Engineer, and I have come to know the aesthetics of well-designed electronics. That's why it was a joy building it. Well considered at every turn.

My enclosure turned out pretty well, too... just an unremarkable part of the house... Stealth.


Best,

-AC




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Old 06-08-16, 11:27 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randen View Post
Do you drive with the EV grin?? How do you feel driving by the gasoline station??
I guess I just got jaded right away... I mostly don't even think about my car being an EV car. I am daily appreciative of how quiet, and smooth and comfortable this car is. And it is really powerful, too. When I take it out of ECO mode, it feels like driving a serious, taunt, expensive, powerful performance sedan. I love it that I can 'refuel' in my driveway.

I am becoming a stranger to filling stations. When I pass them now, they seem quaint. I hear ICE engines and think, "That was an amazing era."

I also think about the long, vulnerable chain of technology that makes driving and charging an EV possible. Possibly no longer, maybe a bit less vulnerable than for ICE engines. Having your own PV-charging array makes brilliant sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by randen View Post
So your leaf can be charged at 6.6 kw. At that rate a complete charge would be somewhere around 2-3 hrs. depending how depleted your pack is. Have you tried any of the public charge stations yet.??
You are spot on regarding charge time. With my home charger, I can stop by for lunch, charge while I eat, and get enough charge for errands. Kind of opportunity charging.

There is/was a "Charge Point" station about one block from my house, that had a large solar array and was free (10 free charges intro). It was very convenient for the most part. Some people abused it, plugged their EV in, walked away and used it as their parking lot (I made my displeasure known to them in dark, measured words). But the machine is now on the fritz and "Charge Point" takes no responsibility for it. Time for some Japanese company to come in and do it right.

I think the public stations charge 4X the going electric rate. So far home charging is working out just great.


Quote:
Originally Posted by randen View Post
Your EVSE looks great!

I'm in the market for EVSE for the electric truck. I'm still hard wiring and removing the connections for a test ride. It's getting old.
Thanks for the EVSE kudo.

Regarding a charger for your truck, Open EVSE has all the theory and code and parts openly available. It will not be a straight-cross swap, but the basic building blocks are all there.

Best,

-AC



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Old 06-08-16, 04:25 PM   #10
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nice build AC Hacker!

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