How hard can it be? We had the hardware (a CHAdeMO socket salvaged from a wrecked Mitsubishi i-MiEV), and the software (Orion BMS2), which proclaims to support CHAdeMO charging “out of the box”. Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly a plug-n-play exercise to get DC fast charging to work on a non-OEM electric car. See the previous post for why you should want DC fast charging in an electric car.
Here’s some of the issues we had to work through:
- Software parameters: hundreds of them, in the BMS utility. Extremely complicated and sometimes convoluted (probably with good reason, as this tool is protecting the valuable batteries and keeping everything safe and under control).
- Firmware: We had to work with Orion on not one, but two firmware updates for the BMS utility as a result of finding errors or blockers to successfully (and repeatedly) charging on public chargers without error codes.
- Connections: Wiring the batteries, contactors, fuses, switches etc and checking them all at least three times over:
- Protocols: Public chargers follow certain protocols upon plugging in and if anything goes wrong it won’t start charging and instead spits out error codes. Fortunately all of the 50kW DC fast chargers in Queensland are the Tritium brand (made right here in Brisbane!), so we only had to focus on how their software handshake worked when communicating with the car to initiate a charging session. Fortunately again I have a working relationship with some of the Tritium engineers who were helpful in determining the source of some of the error codes we were receiving early on.
- Voltage: We are running the Cortina at 120V, compared to 300-400V for most OEM EVs. Many DC Chargers only operate at minimum 200V, but not the Tritium Veefil 50kW charger, which operates as low as 50V according to the specs. Phew!
- Countless trips to the nearest DC charger, and countless CANBUS logs and analyses to identify errors over the course of 4-5 months…
I can now proudly say that this electric 1965 Ford Cortina can successfully charge at the DC chargers in my region. I am quite sure that this is the first classic electric car in Australia (or anywhere outside of perhaps Europe or USA) that can DC charge. I look forward to driving on longer trips and taking advantage of the Queensland Electric Super Highway network soon!
Some stats and to answer some common questions I get about public fast charging:
How fast does it charge? Only around 14-15kW, as this is the result of the operating voltage (~120V) times the max current rating of a 50kW CHAdeMO charger which is 125A. Therefore 120 x 125 = 15kW.
How long does it take to charge? About an hour or so to get from say 20% to 80% which is the optimum recharge range for most EVs.
Where can you get a rapid DC charge? Check out plugshare.com and filter for CCS/CHAdeMO fast chargers. The network is growing rapidly all around Australia.
How much do public fast chargers cost? Depends on the operating network. Check out Evie Networks, NRMA, Yurika, and Chargefox networks for their respective pricing. In some cases it is free, others you are paying for the convenience of fast charging so expect to pay close to the equivalent of petrol. Considering this only constitutes a tiny proportion of most EV drivers’ charging habits, paying for the ability to travel on long zero-emission journeys is hardly a concern. In fact, I’m happy to pay a premium price, and support the host site facility by purchasing lots of coffee and snacks if it means those networks can keep building more public fast charging stations!
Can you use Tesla chargers? Yes and No. Most Tesla destination AC chargers are free to use for most EVs, though some are software limited to only work with Tesla cars. The Tesla Superchargers (their DC fast charging network) is definitely only for Tesla cars. Check out this pic of the Cortina charging on a Tesla AC destination charger at the Sandstone Point Hotel. Thanks Elon!