Day 1 Recap: Charging in the Wild

6pm: Arriving at our hotel in San Francisco, we plugged into the Park Pod charging station. Supposedly this charging station was a 240V 35A (64A?), however, the car is telling us that the actual draw is 240V at 17A. Weird.

Tesla has crafted an adapter for the really slick charge port on the Model S (shown above) that fits onto the J1772 plug adapter.

We leave for the evening and upon returning to the hotel, find that the charge also cut out after 3 hours. Not sure what’s going on here but we’ll be spending a good chunk of today troubleshooting the problem with both the cutout and amperage discrepancy, conducting similar experiments at other charging stations in the area to try to get to the root of the problem.

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22 thoughts on “Day 1 Recap: Charging in the Wild

  1. I’m hopeful for you that the issue is with occasionally unreliable public charging infrastructure. While you wait for the Tesla iPhone app, utilizing ChargePoint network EVSEs would still get your text updates in the event of interruptions. I’ve had their text alerts work for me.

  2. As I recall, (vaguely from the Get Amped factory event) you need to set the maximum draw on the car’s MFD when using the J1772 adapter. I believe there’s a setting here that needs to be specified on the car so it will keep drawing. Not sure why it stopped though…

    • Matt, thanks for the suggestion. This morning when we plugged in again, we set that limit to 50A, however the charging station still topped out at 17A. I met an electrician today that said its most likely due to the physical wire size used to install the charging stations. Regardless, we ran into the issue again this afternoon. Hmmm, will keep exploring.

      • You’d probably want to set the limit based on the charging stations maximum output as opposed to the max. In this case, the 17A limitation may be more of a design artifact in the charger. In looking at the Park Pod website, their charger hardware tops out at 17 amps currently. This roughly maps to the maximum input on our Leaf, which I suspect was the reference they had in mind.

        As an alternate example, the Blink charger at home maxes out at 30 amps. So it’s a combination of the utility wiring and the charging hardware. Hope that helps.

  3. Sorry, I misread — it does support 30A on 240, but I do see in Europe it can be set to other maximum output settings. On our blink charger this is all configurable at the time of installation; so this could be a misconfiguration. I’d contact the Park Pod folks and let them know.

  4. Both the Roadster and the Model S look at the J1772 PILOT signal (both vehicles use a proprietary connector that is mechanically different, but electrically equivalent (in this aspect) to the J1772-2010 standard) to determine the available current from the charger. The vehicle will let you set the current lower, but not higher, than that advertised by the charger. (When you use the Tesla-provided charge cord, the adapter which you connect to it encodes the maximum current, and the “bump-in-snake” electronics convert this into a J1772 PILOT signal for the car to see).

    The J1772 PILOT signal is a 1kHz square wave whose duty cycle encode the current. The best way to check on a problem like this is to examine the signal to see what the charger is offering — it is easily decoded. As Matt mentioned above, if for some site-specific reason the maximum circuit size isn’t available to a charger, many chargers let the installer “set” the current offered to a lower value.

    There is no way to cheat this in the vehicle. The only way to cheat is to generate a new PILOT signal to feed into the vehicle. THIS CAN BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN —> One way people have been known to cheat is to use the Tesla charger cord with the “wrong” adapter on the end (say, use the NEMA 14-50 adapter) and further adapt to fit a different size plug (say, NEMA 14-30). Normally a 14-30 (new style dryer plug) is on a 30A circuit breaker, and offers 24A. If you use the 14-50 adapter, the Tesla charge cord offers 40A. If you’re smart, you’ll set this down to 24A, but if you want to live closer to the edge, set it to something closer to 30A. BUT YOU MUST SET IT DOWN FROM THE 40A default!!! Use this advise at your own risk.

    Another common cheat is to modify the Tesla 14-50 plug so that it can fit either a 14-30 or 14-50 outlet. The “U”-shaped plug is the ground and the two flat blades on either end bear the 220V current. The center flat blade is the line neutral and doesn’t bear any significant current. On a 14-30, this is “L”-shaped. On a 14-50, it is a straight blade. You can cut some material off this blade to make it fit both 14-30 and 14-50 sockets, but if you do so, you MUST set the current down to well below 40A when you use it in a 14-30 socket!!!

  5. How full was the battery when you observed 17A? As you probably already know from Roadster experience, the charge current tapers down as the battery approaches full.

    • Right, but this was definitely not a case of “battery close to full,” as the battery was about 2/3 full. We did manage to get a full 30 amp charge from another charge. I think in the case of the Charge Pod, it’s a matter of the wire size used to install the charger that’s the bottle neck. We’re headed to test some more chargers today.

      • For what it’s worth, I contacted Charge Pod and received a response this morning; indeed, there are some locations where they have had to “derate” the maximum power based on the power available at certain locations.

        The e-mail I received confirmed that they have engineered their hardware to support up to 80 amps but in practice many locations simply don’t have that power — yet. So they good news is that this will hopefully improve over time as people plan infrastructure accordingly.

        I did encourage them to think about more prominently offer up the maximum output power on their units so that this data would be available to the driver during planning.

  6. I noticed the following posted on teslamotorsclub, could it be the root cause?

    http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/10078-Our-first-18-hours-with-the-model-S

    “The adapter is the black part above. The white is the J1772 connector that’s part of the station. The charger cables and the adapter lock in when the proximity sensor detects they are fully inserted. (One note about this. The proximity sensor couldn’t pick up the first J1772 adapter they gave us. As a result, the car would only draw 16 amps from it. You can tell because the car’s charge port only glows a greenish yellow, not true green, and an error about the charge connector not being latched comes up on the display. Our delivery experience rep had to drive all the way to Salinas to bring us another one while we ate dinner. The replacement worked perfect. Lesson: As an early adopter, test everything before going too far if you’re going to be counting on it for the trip home. I’d suggest swinging by the closest J1772 station after taking delivery to make sure you are good before getting too far away. But alls well that ends well!)”

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    • This isn’t a problem with the charge adapter. Either the OP manually set the current limit down in the car (I doubt it, they would have known), or the EVSE was misidentified and is really a 17A charger (most likely). The adapter is purely mechanical and doesn’t change the signal the EVSE sends to the car.

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