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.
This 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.