New Portable Plug-In Car Charger Offers Increased Flexibility for EV Drivers


  • TurboCord Picture

    TurboCord Picture

    A new portable plug-in car charger called "Turbo Cord" hits the market on February 1. | January 30, 2014

Just the Facts:
  • A new dual-mode portable charging cord for plug-in vehicles hits the market this Saturday.
  • The cord costs $599 as a Level 2, 240-volt charger or $649 as a dual-mode charger that adds 120-volt capability.
  • There are a handful of competing products, but most are slower, bulkier or costlier.

MONROVIA, California — Drivers of plug-in vehicles can often feel tied to their wall-mounted chargers. Now a leading maker of fixed charging stations is offering an alternative.

AeroVironment Inc. which makes wall-mounted stations for a number of plug-in car models, says it will begin selling a portable 240-volt vehicle charging-cord system that lets drivers of EVs and plug-in hybrids simply plug their cars into any available wall socket.

While most plug-in vehicles come with manufacturer-supplied cord sets that permit direct charging from common 120-volt circuits — a very slow way to get power — AeroVironment's "TurboCord" charges at 240 volts for a much quicker so-called Level 2 charge.

The base cord will retail for $599. A $649 dual-mode model adds 120-volt capability to eliminate the need to carry two cord sets. The system, which weighs less than 5 pounds, consists of a thin, 20-foot cord with a standard J1772 connector at the vehicle end and a palm-sized control unit with a direct plug — much like a smartphone charger — at the wall end.

For most plug-in vehicles, the TurboCord is as speedy as most Level 2 wall charging stations, says Wahid Nawabi, senior vice president of the company's efficient energy systems division. Its 15 amp circuit delivers up to 3.8 kilowatts per hour and most plug-in vehicles come standard with 3.3 kwh on-board chargers. Vehicles with faster on-board chargers would get slower charging times from the TurboCord than from an appropriately sized fixed charging station.

Still, AeroVironment (which also makes drone aircraft for the military) says its new charging cord will refill a 24-kilowatt-hour EV battery pack in 6 hours or less and will recharge most plug-in hybrids in 3 hours or less.

The company has few competitors in the portable EV charging cord market: Baltimore-based Electric Vehicle Institute markets a Level 2 charging cord through Amazon.com for $395, and EVSE Upgrade markets a $1,027 Level 2 charging cord and also will convert the Level 1 cords supplied by several major plug-in vehicle manufacturers to Level 2 capacity for under $300.

Nawabi says the company's charging cord is competitive because it is much smaller and lighter and has more features than other, older products in the market. Those features include UL rating for both outdoor and indoor use and dual thermal sensors to prevent overheating of the cord or the wall socket.

The cord set goes on sale February 1 at select auto dealerships and online through Amazon or AeroVironment's EVSolutions Web site.

Edmunds says: This could provide extra security for EV drivers who want to roam farther than a "fill-up" from their home charging station would allow, and relief for PHEV owners who want juice more quickly than the factory-supplied 120-volt cord permits.

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