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