Volvo’s 22 kilowatt charger requires 3 phase power
Volvo has just announced a new fast charger that cuts recharge time to just 90 minutes, as opposed to the eight hour time required of a typical 240-volt charging dock. The problem is, it requires a three-phase, 400-volt electrical supply to provide that level of service. This is not the electrical service that you will find in your normal drive around town.
The advantage of the Volvo device is that it is built into the vehicle, which means that it goes where you go. When you locate a typical single-phase 240-volt outlet, it provides the same eight to ten hour charge available to the Nissan LEAF owner.
With every LEAF, Nissan provides a 120-volt device that will trickle charge the battery. This suited our purposes for the first few weeks of our own ownership (charging overnight) prior to the installation of our 240-volt wall mounted unit. This electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) is not really suited for topping up around town, as you will only get a few miles for every hour plugged in to a typical 120-volt outlet. Many LEAF owners have sent their original factory 120-volt portable device in to an enterprising aftermarket LEAF owner/electrical engineer (found here), who (for a fee) can modify the device to operate on either a single-phase 240-volt supply or a normal 120-volt household outlet. This modified unit has also provided the answer to those (such as apartment dwellers) that cannot install a permanent 240-volt unit at their residence.
While the various manufacturers look to improve the electric vehicle (EV) driving experience, we will find many alternative paths to drive this innovation. In the end, the consumer will drive the final decisions as they provide the ultimate funding to these manufacturers as they vote with their wallets. We applaud Volvo for evaluating an on-board fast charging solution, but we don’t think that currently available electrical service will make this a feasible solution for most.