The Problem with Auto Brand Home Chargers: Your Ford Volt is Ready


Let’s say I buy a Chevrolet Volt, and in a few years I sell my home to a Focus Electric owner. Sure, it should still charge your car, but do you want to charge your Ford with a Chevy charger?

The Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, and Ford Focus Electric all use an industry-standard five-prong Level 2 charging ports, so the charging ports are interchangeable. They also all have “convenience cords” that can offer a trickle charge that takes between 8 and 20 hours to completely charge. The problem is the home charging station. Nissan, Ford, and GM are all offering their own branded take on the home charger. These stations cost between $1,000 and $2,000 installed, which shouldn’t break the bank, but isn’t exactly a negligible sum either, and its a big advertisement for that brand.

Common sense should say any electric charging station should only add to home’s property value. However, I’ve met many people who have strong automotive grudges. A lot of people my age still won’t give American cars any consideration due to past experiences, even when they come to me for car advice and I try to tell them these cars have gotten better. If you’re a member of Generation Y and you see a big ol’ Ford symbol glaring back at you every time you pull into your garage with your Nissan Leaf, it could conjure up memories of that time the family Ford Windstar broke down on your way to soccer practice. So do you replace it, or suffer through it?

I’m not saying this is some huge problem that’s going to derail electric car acceptance. Not at all. But unless you have one vehicle or another come to completely dominate the EV market, there are going to be a whole slew of home chargers bearing many different brand name. It should be noted that the GM symbol is conspicuously absent from its “Voltec” home charger. Wise move, General.

Even though the Society of Automotive Engineers is still trying to figure out a Level 3 charging standard, it bears asking, will Level 2 charging stations be old news two years from now? It’s possible. What then? It’s a well documented fact that Americans are rarely satisfied with “good enough,” and if you’re stuck with a Level 2 charger while everybody else is getting Level 3 chargers, it could cause charging envy. Another point; as electric vehicle range grows longer, batteries are likely to get bigger, at least in electrical capacity if not physical terms. That could pose its own set of problems.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not sure how long the automaker-branded home charger will be around. Maybe one day it will be just another piece of automotive memorabilia, a reminder of the early days of electric vehicle innovation and the dawn of a new era of motoring.

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMI’s. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Christopher
    There is even more to worry about. The Frd chargers do 6.6 kw per hour while the Aeroviromental one from Nissan does 3.3 kw per hour. So you might want the Ford charger even though you are buying a Nissan figuring that you will be better prepared for the faster charging rates that are sure to come. Cost is also a factor. Prices vary widely now.

    • JBB

      @Frank: That has to do only with the on-board charger, not the EVSE in the garage. The Aerovironment EVSE should be able to handle the 6.6 kW charger at full capacity, as it’s still rated at same amperage/voltage.

    • Nissan Leaf’s onboard charger is 3.3KW, but the Aerovironment charging station used by the Leaf can support 6.6KW (32amps) so there is no issue. There are rumors the Leafs will later on get an option to upgrade their onboard charger to 6.6KW.

  • Having just purchased a Nissan Charger, I would note that there are tax credits available this year, covering 30% of the installation cost up to $2,500. So the offset is, the longer you wait, the greater the cost.

    • Actually it 50% on IRS form 8911 up to some maximum amount (I can’t remember).

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  • Just a note on L2 vs. L3… Unless you live in an industrial park, you are not going to be installing a 50+kW L3 charge station in your garage any time soon, mate.

    Also, the Nissan (AV) supports full L2 6.6kW. It is just that the LEAF has a 3.3 charger on-board. The AV unit’s face plate design seems to have made a provision for an interchangability.

  • Sounds like another job for duct tape or bearbond.
    Cover the brand label and get over it.

  • FastDC charging isn’t going to replace anything, certainly not in the next 2 – 3 years. Beyond the already stated fact that there is currently no “standard” connector, FastDC charging negatively impacts overall battery life. In fact, the Leaf Owner’s Manual suggests a limit of one FastDC charge a day.

    Most people who buy an EV will end up buying a L2 charger for the home that will cover about 95% of their needs. If you are that concerned about “range anxiety” you should be considering a Volt or wait for the Ford Fusion next year.