CarCharging Network Derates Blink Residential Charging Stations to 24 Amps Due to Safety Concerns

The Florida-based company which acquired the troubled Blink network of public and private electric car charging stations in October last year for $3.335 million is de-rating the current output of the Blink domestic level 2 charging station from 30 amps to 24 amps in the interests of safety.

The reduction in power will affect Blink domestic customers.

The reduction in power will affect Blink domestic customers.

In an email sent yesterday, CarCharging notified owners of affected stations that the power output of their home charging stations would be reduced to address safety concerns of overheating charge cords.

The reduction will take the current output of affected charging stations from 30 amps down to 24 amps, slightly increasing charging times for any electric car customers with powerful on-board chargers capable of charge rates of 6 kilowatts or higher.

Originally designed and installed by the now bankrupt ECOtality, the Blink domestic charging stations were offered free to residential customers in key electric vehicle market areas in order to collect and collate data on electric vehicle usage.

The scheme, initially funded by a $99.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy — and later topped up by another 15 million in DoE funds along with more than $230 million in private investment — was maintained by the ECOtality group until last summer.

But when the U.S. DoE decided ECOtality’s business model was not sustainable, it halted any future payments to the company, forcing it to eventually declare bankruptcy a few months later.

The reduction in charging current will reduce charging times on certain cars and not others.

The reduction in charging current will reduce charging times on certain cars and not others.

Even before ECOtality’s bankruptcy last September however, there were cases of its domestic charging stations suffering overheating issues. In fact, the earliest report we know of this comes from 2012, long before ECOtality declared bankruptcy. When the U.S. DoE withdrew any future monies from the company in August last year, ECOtaility was faced with a recall of some 12,000 public charging station receptacles for damage caused by overheating. At the time, it reduced the power output of affected charging stations to half their original design capacity.

It is not clear at the current time if all 12,000 affected charging stations from last year received replacement charging cords and plugs, or if the bankruptcy halted any remedial work, but it appears yesterday’s decision regarding domestic charging stations is related to previous problems at Blink’s public charging stations.

According to yesterday’s email, the drop in charger power is a temporary fix until CarCharging can obtain replacement parts.

The reduction in power is expected to be a temporary fix until replacement parts can be sourced.

The reduction in power is expected to be a temporary fix until replacement parts can be sourced.

While ECOtality’s original warranty is null and void, CarCharging says it has acted to respond to this particular problem in order to ensure customer safety, although at this time it appears replacement parts will be fitted at cost to the customer.

In its letter, CarCharging also takes the opportunity to offer $200 in incentives to customers willing to replace their old Blink charging station for a new one, called the BlinkHQ. While the new station will not be free, CarCharging say it will offer a $100 for customers who return their old charging station, along with $100 in charging credits to use on the Blink network of public charging stations.

While the reduction in power will slightly increase charging times for those with powerful 6.6 kilowatt or larger on-board chargers in their car, it’s worth noting that the drop in power will not affect those who have 3.3 kilowatt on-board chargers, such as owners of the 2011-2012 Nissan LEAF, all model years to date of the Chevrolet Volt, and the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid.

As you may know, in October of 2013, CarCharging acquired the Blink Network and the Blink EV charging stations. While the warranty for the Blink residential Level 2 charging station (Blink L2AC) previously deployed by ECOtality at your residence is no longer active, safety is of the utmost concern to CarCharging. It has come to our attention that there may be safety concerns with some of the cords included on Blink residential Level 2 EV charging stations.

This concern is related to high temperatures, which can potentially cause overheating. While this may not be a current issue with your charger, as a precaution, CarCharging has elected to reduce the amperage of your specific charging station to 24 Amps at this time. In all cases where Blink L2 chargers have been rated to 24 Amps, there have been no reported high-temperature or safety issues. This reduction has been completed remotely and does not require any action by you.

Please note that most older model EVs whose onboard chargers draw power at lower rates, such as pre-2013 Nissan LEAFs and the Chevy Volt, should not experience a change in charging times due to the reduction in amperage. EVs with higher capacity onboard chargers should still be able to fully charge during a typical overnight charging session.

While we anticipate that this reduction in amperage is only temporary until replacement parts are available for purchase, we invite you to upgrade to our newly designed residential charging station, the Blink HQ (www.BlinkHQ.com).  With the purchase of the Blink HQ and upon the successful return of your existing Level 2 charger (shipping box and label provided), you will be eligible to receive a $100 rebate for the return of your Blink L2AC, as well as a $100 credit for the Blink Network, which includes use on any of our public Blink charging stations.

If you have any questions or would like more information on upgrading and/or start the upgrade process to the Blink HQ, please contact Blink Customer Support at (888) 998-2546 or [email protected]

Sincerely,

Copyright © 2014 Blink, All rights reserved.

Do you have a Blink charging station? Have you noticed a drop in power of late? Do you think this is the correct solution, or do you expect more?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

[Hat-tip: Charles Bonville]

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