2016 Chevrolet Volt: Charge Time Surprise and the Importance of Power
by Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor on May 11, 2016
I arrived at Edmunds HQ at 6:45 on Monday morning. The 2016 Chevrolet Volt was in desperate need of a bath, and our preferred car wash wouldn't open for another couple hours. Perfect, I thought. This would (or should) be enough time to fully recharge the Volt's depleted battery
Based on my experience with our old 2014 BMW i3, I estimated I would make it out of the office with the Volt around 10 a.m.. The i3 had a 22 kilowatt-hour battery and an all-electric range of 72 miles. It took about four hours to fully charge.
Our Volt, meanwhile, has a range of 53 miles from an 18.4 kWh battery. Using the i3 as my mental yardstick, I reasoned that it would take less time for the Volt to charge.
Nope. It took five hours.
The difference is all in the capacity of the onboard charger. The i3 has a 7.4 kilowatt charger, while the Volt makes do with a 3.6 kW charger. Assuming it's plugged into a system that accommodates the maximum charging rate, the i3 will "fill" faster than the Volt even though the i3's battery is larger.
Sure, a higher-power onboard charger would be far more convenient, but at least the Volt has a gasoline engine to fall back on when its juice runs out. I only make this point because there are pure electric vehicles out there with low-flow chargers like the Volt's. They include:
2016 Chevrolet Spark EV: 3.3 kW onboard charger (7 hours @ 82 miles of range)
2016 Mitsubishi i-Miev: 3.3 kW onboard charger (7 or 8 hours [claimed vs observed] @ 62 miles of range)
2016 Nissan Leaf S: 3.3 kW onboard charger (8 hours @ 84 miles of range)
2016 Volkswagen e-Golf SE: 3.6 kW onboard charger (7 hours @ 83 miles of range)
All of the above charging times assume a connection to a Level 2 charger.
Keep in mind that the Leaf and e-Golf offer more powerful chargers in upper trim levels that significantly reduce charging times. For example, the Leaf SV and SL have a 6.6 kW onboard charger that cuts the charging time to five hours despite also having a larger battery pack with greater range. The e-Golf SE's DC Fast Charging package (standard on the SEL) includes a 7.2 kW charger that reduces charging time to about four hours.
The benefits to a quick charging time aren't limited to reducing the impact on your personal schedule. While there are public charging stations out there that cost nothing to use, many charge per kilowatt-hour of energy transferred or per hour that the vehicle is plugged in. If you're using a station with per-hour pricing, the higher-capacity onboard chargers mean you'll pay less to charge it.
The old saw "time is money" has never been more true.
Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor @ 7,987 miles