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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chargepoint Introduces Their Next Generation Public EVSE's

The recently released ChargePoint Ct 4021 will very likely be the most desirable public charging station on the market

Since I still haven't gotten a replacement for my ActiveE (stay tuned because that will change soon!), I thought it would be a good time to do a post about the new line of charging equipment from ChargePoint. I frequently have people reach out to me for advice on charging equipment for home and for public charging and I am a big fan of ChargePoint and ClipperCreek for that matter. However ChargePoint has recently unveiled their new family of CT4000 public chargers and they are worth checking out. According to their website, ChargePoint is the largest of electric vehicle charging locations worldwide. They have over 13,200 charging stations deployed and have completed nearly 3,000,000 electric vehicle charging sessions. I personally account for about 1,500 of those charging sessions as I have a ChargePoint CT500 EVSE at my home and a CT 2100 public charger at my restaurant in Montclair, NJ.

The CT2100 at my restaurant
The holster broken off
I have been very pleased with both units, and neither has had a single problem in the year and a half I have had them. The only thing I could really complain about was how the CT2100 holster for the connector was attached to the side of the unit. The holster cap was plastic and if a 'curious' passerby decided they really wanted to grab the connector and pull it hard while it was locked in the holster, they could break the plastic holster off the side of the unit. I know this from personal experience as I had some curious teenagers do just that and it cost me $300 to replace the holster. So I was pretty happy when I saw the new design which eliminated the side holster. When not in use, the connectors now plug into the center of the unit. I believe this is a much better, more robust design.

A Volt charging on Nauna's CT2100
However the improvements don't end there. The units now have customizable video and branding options with a 5.7-inch color LCD screen that allows station owners to run their own video content. They also feature built-in signage that is easily replaceable with custom branding. This is very important. Public charging stations need ancillary support outside of the revenue stream of charging for the electric in order to be a profitable venture. By allowing the station manager to advertise on the stations, they can attract additional revenue and subsidize the expense of buying, installing and maintaining the stations. Electricity is inexpensive and electric vehicle drivers won't pay much more for it at a public station than they do at home. Sure they'll agree to pay a little more for the convenience of charging in public, but if the rates are too high people simply won't use the station. By offering the station manager an additional revenue stream, they can charge lower rates for charging and still recoup their investment.over time.  

A new CT4021 in the wild!
The new stations also have what ChargePoint calls Clean Cord Technology. It's maintenance-free, light-weight, self-retracting cords come standard on all models. This keeps the cable from being left on the ground by an inconsiderate EV driver after they've used it. It's unfortunate, but I can tell you that happens a lot and I have to walk out to the parking lot and coil up the cable myself after someone left it lying on the pavement. Another feature the new stations have is that they have the ability to share power between the two connectors if needed. That means the station owner can use a single 40amp feed to power the station and it can still charge two cars on 240/208v. The previous versions like I have could not do that; you would need to run two 40amp feeds to charge two cars on 240v or 208v at the same time. The only downside to this is if you do use one feed to charge two cars then they will charge at a slower rate since they are sharing power. Station managers need to have proper signage if they have a single feed powering two connectors so the EV driver knows they may get reduced power if someone plugs in while they are charging. This will not effect most PHEV vehicles like the Chevy Volt or Ford C-Max since they charge at 3.3kWs and even if they were power sharing on a CT 4021 they would both get the maximum 3.3kWs they can charge at.  I would still recommend new installations to use two 40amp feeds and allow both connectors to charge at the higher rate, but if the feed is already there, and the owner doesn't want to incur the expense of trenching, and running a second cable then this is a good way to allow more cars to plug in without adding much cost.

All this adds up to a much improved EVSE, which is the best option available for networked public charging today in my opinion. Add that to the great service ChargePoint has always provided and it's easy to see why ChargePoint seems to be pulling ahead of the others in the relatively new world of electric vehicle charging.


  1. Looks good. I agree these are very nice improvments

  2. Have yet to see the CT4xxx series in Southern California... There are plenty of the CT2xxx series for public EVSEs here though.

    More importantly... "replacement for my ActiveE"... Another Active E, or dare I say it... an i3?

  3. Wow, nice write up on the CT4000 and how it addresses your needs. There's a lot of work, thought and innovation behind the scenes to make these chargers reliable over all the operating conditions, convenient for the driver and meet the economic, business / pricing and management needs of the station owner. Power Sharing is one of the innovations to increase port count and reduce installation costs where a 40 Amp circuit for each port isn't feasible.
    - Mikey T.

  4. Since the day this station was announced I have been chomping at the bit to find out if this power sharing actually WORKS with cars on the road.

    "The only downside to this is if you do use one feed to charge two cars then they will charge at a slower rate since they are sharing power."

    Here's the key issue. Imagine the following scenario.
    1. CT4000 station with two plugs and one 40A power circuit
    2. Car A shows up and plugs in and draws full power (32A)
    3. Car B shows up and plugs in
    4. Station rebalances the load and offers half power to each (16A)

    At that instant, what happens to Car A? You say it drops in power, right? HOW EXACTLY? By changing the J1772 control pilot signal that advertises how much current the EVSE can supply to the car, right?

    Well, I will bet that some cars will have a problem with that control pilot signal CHANGING during a session. I bet the car engineers expect the control pilot signal to stay at the same value as when the session started. And for a CT4000 to work, the car must clearly react to a new J1772 control pilot signal.

    I can't wait to see someone actually test this. I bet we'll find that some cars are incompatible with the control pilot signal changing on the fly.

  5. I've actually tested this. It works. It's been tested with Tesla Model S, Nisan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Ford Focus EV and other EVs. J1772 spec REQUIRES the car to follow changes in the Pilot. All the cars tested, which include all but one or two models in the market place work fine. ChargePoint support is always there, should you ever need it.
    Mikey T.

  6. I have a few concerns with this new model:

    1. The reliability of the retractable cord cables and mechanisms. The retractable cords on the new round WattStations for example are hard to pull, require both hands, and could put strain on the EV J1772 receptacle if used improperly.
    2. The durability and use of the LCD screens. We saw what happened to the screens and the ability to use vandalized Blink stations. Those screens should be used to display realtime and cumulative measurements of delivered power and energy as well as the rate and the incurred cost.
    3. The durability of the J1772 plug release solenoid, a big issue with the 21xx series.
    4. The lack of a 120V outlet still used by older and converted EVs, as well as bikes and motorcycles.
    5. The cost of these EVSEs. We want more businesses and institutions to install and maintain these. With the cost running at several thousands of dollars that is a barrier. Other charging networks, such as SemaConnect have implemented a lower cost commercial grade networked EVSEs that are reliable.

    1. 1. The CT4000 retraction mechanism is a completely different technology from the WattStation, allowing for easy, smooth, constant force, one handed pull. Many issues are avoided by not retracting the actual J1772 cord and dirt accumulated on it into the unit.

      2. It's an LCD screen, selected and tested for it's reliability. It is not a touch screen LCD. I suspect many of the issues you are concerned about have to do with the calibration and reliability of a touch screen, which do not apply to the CT4000, since it's not a touch screen. I too, have used the Blink touch screen and I re-calibrate my fingers to make up for incorrect calibration of the Blink touch screen.

      3. Lessons from the 21xx series are incorporated into the CT4000 design. The holster design should prove to be much more reliable.

      4. Motorcycles are moving to J1772. There's nothing that prevents the installation of a stand alone 120V GFCI protected outlet to serve bicycles and motorcycles that have not yet upgraded to J1772. Moving to mass adoption, many consumers do not like having to carry, unstow, use and restow a charge cord required for 120V GFCI outlets. There are of course exceptional people who don't mind using their own cord, but to reach the largest market with a single connector, J1772 is the way forward.

      5. Installation of any J1772 EVSE in public / commercial spaces tend to run in the roughly $3,000 to $6,000 range per station, not including the cost of the charging station. The CT4000 has several features to reduce installation and maintenance costs. It's also a dual port station, which can lower the per port installation cost to $1,500 to $3,000 per port. The ability to set your own pricing as a station owner allows you to mold driver behavior by pricing instead of having to resort to negative enforcement tactics like towing for most issues. The pricing also allows you to decide if you want to price it so people won't use it as preferred parking while not charging, or to cover your operating / electrical costs, or to pay for the station in a few years - or to help finance the installation of additional stations. You, as station owner, have the flexibility to set the pricing to meet the goals of your organization or business. Do the lifetime analysis for your situation, in many cases, you'll find the upfront costs are paid back several times over the life of the station.

      Find a CT4000 station near you, and evaluate it first hand.

      Mikey T.