Melting EVSE plugs? Not with LEAF

by Ernie Hernandez on December 4, 2011

LEAF Level 1 EVSE

Qualcomm wireless EV charging may eliminate need to plug in

A friend of ours works at Qualcomm and owns a Nissan LEAF. Qualcomm is an environmentally conscious company that operates with an eye toward assisting in providing a cleaner environment. This post, though, is not about that. We learned of some news recently that Qualcomm may be able to assist with in the future.

Yahoo! autos posted a recent article about Chevy Volt 120-volt EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) cords melting. As the Yahoo! article references a Volt owners blog as providing this information, it is fair to say that it is not a just a bunch of anti-Volt bashers out stirring up vitriol. Apparently many Volt owners have experienced overheating, discoloring, and in some cases, melting of a portion of their GM supplied EVSE. Also, it seems, GM is replacing said damaged items brought to them by the equipment owners. To be fair, the article goes on to say that at least one LEAF owner has complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with the same complaint, although it also states that he was using an extension cord – specifically outlined as a “do not do this” activity in the Nissan LEAF owners manual. When a Nissan exec was queried about why the Nissan LEAF 120-volt EVSE was more expensive that that provided with the Chevrolet Volt he replied (flippantly in our view): “Because ours is better.”

Naturally, GM has stated that the problem is with the owners homes and electrical systems, as opposed to General Motors equipment. And while there is likely some truth to that at least in some instances, one must keep in mind that there have been more LEAFs sold than Volts to date. If these problems were all due to irregularities with the home rather than the equipment, we would think that the same issues would be happening to LEAF owners, at least to the same degree. This does not appear to be the case. We are not electricians, and we know that many factors must be considered in evaluating situations such as these, but we find it difficult to believe that the fault lies entirely with the home and none with the EVSE (whether by design or construction).

So where does Qualcomm fit into all of this? Looking on their corporate web site to find out more about their support of EV drivers, we found that Qualcomm is actively pursuing wireless charging for electric vehicles. In fact, Qualcomm has recently acquired HaloIPT, a wireless EV charging developer. The advantage of such a system is that plugging in may be an activity destined for the history books as an EV can be charged just by parking in a certain area. 2012 will find 50 electric vehicles in London testing this Qualcomm system for viability. We look forward to the results of this test.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom K December 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm

As a side note. I own 3 EVSEs to charge up my LEAF. I have an AV unit installed near my job and two portable units, one that came with the car and a spare I bought soon after taking delivery. Both of those units have been modified by evseupgrade.com, delivering full L2 juice to my car. They have performed flawlessly in my 12,500 miles to date and never got even the tiniest bit warm….

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) December 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Thanks for that Tom.

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indyflick December 5, 2011 at 8:15 pm

What I don’t get is how can the Volt EVSE cord connector melt and yet the unit be UL certified? Also, why doesn’t the circuit breaker pop before the cord connector melts?

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) December 6, 2011 at 8:13 pm

indy – not being an electrical engineer, I can’t be sure about this, but in answer to your second question my feeling is this: there is no direct short so not enough amperage draw to trip the breaker. What seems to be happening is extremely high resistance (think space heater), generating high heat (again think space heater) – enough to melt the plastic without tripping the breaker. I may be way off, but that is what I believe might be happening. That would also be a recipe for higher electric bills than are necessary to charge the car if electricity is being turned to heat rather than being routed to the car.

Another consideration here – it doesn’t really matter if the source of the issue is house wiring or EVSE. What matters is that this is a potentially extremely dangerous situation with the possibility of grave consequences. We would think that GM would want to limit their liability by looking into it rather than pointing fingers. But that’s just us.

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Patrick December 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm

I can’t say for sure what is causing the melting. However, it got me to check my outlet in the garage. It is directly under the circuit panel. While looking at it, the previous owner managed to drive a nail though the dry wall and directly though the conduit. Not good. That is an arc fault just waiting to happen. I started reading up potential different faults that could happen and found the below article very informing. It is worth a read and will be replacing the cabling and gfci outlet ASAP. I also want consult an electrician to see if an afci breaker would beneficial. It is worth a read. Make sure your wiring is tightened down and those old loose outlets replaced.

http://www.iaei.org/magazine/2011/09/required-technology-to-prevent-electrical-fire-ignitions/

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) December 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Patrick – welcome to Living LEAF. And thanks for the link to the article – it looks informative.

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Luft January 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I don’t think that GM is being truthful when they say that the problem is in the house wiring. If the house wiring was not up to the job then the HOUSE wires would heat up and could be a fire hazard. It would NOT cause the EVSE wires to overheat.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Luft – Welcome to Living LEAF. Again, not being electricians, we cannot comment authoritatively on the subject, although we can offer our observations. We have noticed that if an electrical outlet is old and does not retain an electrical plug firmly, quite often the outlet and the device/charger/cord plugged into it will become warm, due to the added resistance of the poor connection. So while we will not totally rule out the fact that the house wiring has nothing to do with it (it may), we feel that the EVSE supplied with the Volt certainly carries some (perhaps most) of the burden as well.

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