Don’t Blink…

Honda Fit EV charging from a Blink that used to work fine, but now overheats

I charge my Honda Fit EV almost exclusively on Ecotality’s Blink charging stations. Well, I used to. Ecotality installed seven Blink EVSEs at my work and when I first got my Fit EV, I charged on them without any problems. However, over the course of a few months more and more of them wouldn’t charge my car. After about 20 minutes of charging, the car would stop charging. Honda sent some engineers out and determined that the charge connectors were overheating and the Fit EV was stopping the charge before damage occurred. The J1772 spec says that the connection should not exceed 50 degrees Celsius over ambient temperature, or about 75 degrees Celsius (167 Fahrenheit). This is about the temperature that the Fit EV cuts off power. Over just a few months, more and more of the Blinks started having this issue. Now, 6 out of the 7 Blinks overheat in just 20 minutes. For this reason, I now charge at level 1 (120V, 12A) using the provided Honda cordset on a 20A rated outlet. A full charge takes about 15 hours, but this is sufficient for me. I’m generally at work for about 9 hours and I rarely arrive empty.

ImageThis issue is inconvenient, because when I plug into a Blink EVSE, I can never know if it’s going to overheat or not, unless I wait for about 20 minutes. Not having confidence that a charging station is going to work is inconvenient, as I have to continually check the charging status from my iPhone. However, it’s better than the alternative.

Melted J1772 Inlet on RAV4EV, photo courtesy of MyNissanLeaf user TonyWilliams. More pics here.

Most other EV manufacturers did not put in thermal monitoring. The LEAF, Volt, iMiEV, and Plug-in Prius have been okay, because they don’t pull more than 16A. They don’t monitor temperature, but so far temperatures haven’t been an issue for them. I understand the Tesla Model S monitors temperature, but when using the “coke can” adapter, I don’t see how it could monitor the temperature of the adapter as well. Still, a melted adapter isn’t the end of the world. The cars I’m worried about are EVs that charge at 30A, but don’t monitor temperature like the Ford Focus and Toyota RAV4 EV (2nd gen).

So far, only one RAV4 EV has reported an issue with this, but it is a pretty serious issue. The owner’s charge port and J1772 connector melted. The issue seems to have stemmed from an improper crimping job on the J1772 pins in the REMA connector. This is consistent with what I have seen, as an improper crimp like this will get worse over time.

Poor Crimp in REMA Connector

Poor Crimp in REMA Connector, courtesy of My Nissan LEAF user Ingineer

What worries me is that while my car stops after hitting ~75°C on these faulty stations, I have seen other cars charging at 30A for several hours on the same stations. I have felt the connectors when the other cars are charging and they are warm (the non-faulty ones do not get warm at all), which means these cars are charging with very hot charge ports. While it’s not currently enough heat to melt the connector, it is putting extreme wear on the bad crimp, meaning the connector will get hotter and hotter each time. I always leave a note on these cars, warning them of the potential issues.

Image

Thermal Image of ITT inlet after using Blink REMA connector, courtesy of Ingineer. I have measured similar temperatures (131°F) on faulty connectors. I’ve measured good connectors at around 95°F after charging at 30A.

I’ve attempted to contact Ecotality several times regarding this issue, but have never gotten a response. I’ve heard that “REMA and others” are looking into the issue, but I’d really like to see some action or at least an acknowledgement of the issue. What Ecotality needs to do is replace all of their connectors with better ones. Either REMA needs to fix their manufacturing process and make better connectors or Ecotality can purchase them from ITT or Yazaki.

Image

A properly crimped pin in a Yazaki connector, photo courtesy of MyNissanLeaf member, Ingineer

Luckily, the issue hasn’t caused any major damage (i.e. fires) yet, but with the wave of 2013 LEAFs (which charge at 30A) coming, I’m worried. I’m hoping that Nissan puts a temperature monitor in the charge port like Honda did. I think when 2013 LEAF drivers are only able to charge for 20 minutes, there will be a lot more complaints to Ecotality. I’d rather see the issue resolved that way than by a bunch of 2013 LEAF owners with melted charge ports.

So, if you are an EV owner, what should you do? Here are some suggestions for some common situations:

If you drive a LEAF, Volt, or other vehicle that charges at less than 16A

You are probably okay, but if you are technically inclined and own your vehicle, you can add temperature cutoff to your vehicle as described here.

If you drive a Tesla Vehicle

To avoid melting your adapter, dial your charge current down from 30A when using a Blink (or any other EVSE with a REMA connector). We know that 16A is pretty safe and 30A isn’t, so be careful when going above 16A.

If you drive a Toyota RAV4 EV, Ford Focus EV, BMW ActiveE, or other vehicle that can charge at <30A, but does not monitor the temperature of the J1772 inlet

Avoid Blink EVSE (or any other EVSE with a REMA connector) unless absolutely necessary to charge. While charging, feel the plastic shell of the connector; it should not get warm. If you are technically inclined and own your vehicle, you may want to add temperature cutoff to your vehicle or build/buy a J1772 extension cord, so the cord will melt and not your car.

If you drive a Honda Fit EV or other vehicle that monitors the J1772 port’s temperature

Whenever a Blink station overheats, report the issue to Ecotality via the Blink’s touchscreen. Avoid this charging station in the future.

About these ads

10 thoughts on “Don’t Blink…

  1. Is the Fit EV not able to dial down to 16A like the Tesla? Hopefully, I won’t see this issue with the Leviton EVSE installed in the garage a couple days ago. Pretty sure it’s not a Rema connector.

    • The fit EV cannot be dialed down manually. This really shouldn’t be necessary since the charging station signals how much power it can provide. The issue is that even though the REMA connectors are rated for 30A, they are unable to meet that rating.

      The leviton units use an ITT connector, which you can tell by looking at it is way nicer than the REMA ones.

    • This is always a good idea. However, the issue noted above can not be seen on the connector. I’ve looked at tons of them and the defective ones look exactly the same as the working ones. Still inspect for other issues though!

  2. It was my Rav4 with the melted pin. I did get a follow up call from Ecotality about a week ago. They were planning a conference call the next day with all the “players”; Yazaki (built the charge port in the Rav4, REMA, Toyota, Tesla (built the EV drive train in Rav4).

    The engineer I talked with reached out to me, and didn’t really sugar coat anything. They did open up the REMA handle and he said the pins appeared to be crimped properly. He also said it was the first case of melted pins with 14,000 units deployed. He mentioned the Fit EV issues, and that they had taken those EVSE’s back for testing.

    Anyway, I’ve installed a thermal protection device on my Rav4 which will turn off the charging when the temperature exceeds 70C (158F). I think I would like a way to lower the charge rate above 50C (122F), and there are folks working on that with the OpenEVSE project.

    I am now using a Clipper Creek CS-50 (40 amp continuous) with an ITT 75amp J1772 handle. It doesn’t even get slightly warm, even at the full 40 amps. I do plan to put smoke detectors in my garage, however. Any component could fry while I’m sleeping and the car is charging. I’d like some heads up.

    Tony Williams
    San Diego
    2012 Rav4 EV
    previous 2011 and 2012 LEAF owner

    • Thanks Tony. Glad to hear they are looking into it.

      I can tell you that they haven’t taken back any of the six EVSEs that overheat with my Fit. Hopefully they are looking at others.

  3. Those 7 stations your work place got were free… unfortunately you get what you pay for. This is not the first time we’ve heard of this…

    These kinds of problems can’t be happening…its bad for EV adoption and for the industry in general, especially if they’re gov’t grant funded.

    I work for ChargePoint, if you’re interested in having your work rip/replace with chargers that actually work, let me know.

  4. Pingback: An Update on Blink Network | A Perfect Fit

  5. Pingback: Noisy Gearbox in Fit EV | A Perfect Fit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s