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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Your Volt owner's manual has details on using a 120V outlet to charge your car and the safety issues and precautions surrounding that. It's important you read it. This guide does not replace that, nor is it meant to be the final authority. Instead it's a compilation of what other owners have posted. Do not mistake us for electricians, experts on electrical codes, or the like.

Terminology
The charge cord is also known as an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment). It's not a "charger". The actual charger is behind the Volt's bumper on the right side.

Don't Skimp on Safety
Consider doing these:

  • Hire an electrician to inspect the 120V outlet you will be plugging into, the wiring and circuit breaker that it's connected to. You'll be saving up to $2k/year on gas. Invest some savings in electrical safety.
  • Make sure the wiring is rated for 15 Amps minimum. A dedicated circuit (not shared with any other appliances) is best.
  • Regardless of how new the house it, replace the outlet with a new heavy duty, commercial-grade ($6-$25) or hospital grade ($25-$50) outlet. Don't argue, just do it. You spend more than that on dinner, haha.
    If you have a GFCI breaker you can use a standard hospital grade outlet that costs under $10 on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0030CZSE8/ref=oh_details_o08_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    If you need a hospital grade GFCI outlet you can find one for about $25 on Amazon.
    http://www.amazon.com/Cooper-Wiring-Devices-VGFH20W-Hospital/dp/B008OW88RS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386610672&sr=8-1&keywords=VGFH15
  • Make sure the outlet is grounded, and the Neutral and Hot wires are connected to the outlet using the side screws not the back stab holes. Lazy electricians love those stab holes. But they don't love your family as much as you do.
  • In the U.S. 120v outlets in garages and outdoors must be protected by a GFCI per the NEC. Typically this is done with a GFCI outlet. But could also be implemented with a GFCI circuit breaker or a fed-through "upstream" GFCI. The "Don't Skimp on Safety" section is a bit vague on this. Again, for EV application (high current, lots of plugging/unplugging) use a commercial grade or better GFCI. Regardless, a GFCI is needed if an extension cord (not recommended by GM) will be used with the EVSE.
  • Install a hanger or the mounting plate on the wall. Installation instructions came with the charge cord. Do not hang the EVSE from the plug.
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Common 120V Outlet Charging Questions
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Why can't I just plug an extension cord into the car?
Safety. The charge cord has many safety features that an extension cord lacks:
  • The charging handle (a.k.a the coupler) is not powered until plugged into and commanded by the Volt. This is very advantageous when plugging in outside during a rain or snow fall. You would not want to carry around a live wire in those conditions.
  • While not required by code, a J1772 compliant 125V cord and plug EVSE will de-energize the cable connecting to the Volt whenever the electrical connector is uncoupled from the vehicle. Again, an advantage when unplugging during rain or snow.
  • The 120V Voltec charge cord charge current can be selected at 12A or 8A to accommodate use on circuits with non-continuous loads. (MY 2011, 2012) In MY 2013, the car controls this selection.
  • The Ground pin is the first to engage, last to disengage and break (for safety).
  • Proximity Detection pin prevents the car from moving while charging (for safety). Prevents driving away and tearing electrical wires from the wall or car.
  • The Control Pilot pin is the last to engage, first to disengage and break. It communicates charge rate available to determine amount of current (amperes) allowed for the vehicle being charged.
Do I need to hire an electrician?
The best recommendation I can give is to hire an electrician to inspect your outlets, wiring, and breaker to make sure they are adequate for the Volt's continuous 12A load over 12 hours. The breaker should be 15A. Before doing any electrical repair or replacement, be sure to kill the power at the breaker and verify it's off at the outlet. If you don't understand all the technical jargon, or you don't want to understand it, you should call a qualified electrician.

Do I need a dedicated circuit?
That would be best. 12 Amps is the allowable limit for a continuous load (longer than 3 hrs.) on a 15 amp circuit. If anything else is on the circuit (a microwave oven, toaster ovens, hair dryer, TV, stereo, etc.), then it would be in violation of code. The breaker can't stop you from foolishly plugging in other devices until it heats up enough to trip itself, but if it does NOT trip for some reason, excessive heat, melting, charring, arcing or worse could result. So, if you're using 12 amps to charge, make sure it's the only load on that circuit. And don't switch out the breaker for a higher rating just to avoid tripping it. That's asking for big trouble up to and including fire.

Can I plug into any 120V wall outlet?
Probably, but depending on the age and quality of the outlet, it's wiring connections, and other appliances that may be sharing the same circuit, you may need to use the Volt's lower 8 Amp setting. If the condition of the electrical system is unknown (opportunity charging, or grandma's cottage), either don't plug in, or only charge at 8 Amps. The AC outlet must have a grounded, dedicated, 15 amp or greater, three‐prong wall plug. That means there should be no other major appliances connected to the same circuit. If it is not a dedicated circuit, the current rating of the outlet circuit breaker could be exceeded and cause it to trip or open. If you have no choice but to plug into a non‐dedicated circuit, the vehicle can be charged in the reduced level mode (8 Amps), but it increases the charging time.

Can I keep the EVSE plugged into the outlet all the time?
Yes. However, if your EVSE is plugged in more or less full time, remove and reinsert the plug a few times a year. It gives an opportunity to check for any obvious damage, plus rubs the copper contacts clean of oxide. The OCD types may wish to lightly sand (and thoroughly clean afterward) the plug prongs to expose new shiny copper once a year.

Does my portable EVSE (a.k.a. charge cord) need to be plugged in to a GFI/GFCI protected outlet?
No, the EVSE has a built-in GFI/GFCI function as part of the SAE specification for a J1772 plug (called a CCID—Circuit Current Interrupt Device—also UL specs UL2202). Note: GFCI use IS required when using extension cords.
An EVSE may cause some GFI/GFCI outlets to trip. There are 5 mA threshold and 30 mA threshold GFCI's. If you have the lower threshold kind, the EVSE may trip it. The 30 mA threshold is slower to trip and often used in garages and workshops. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Residual-current_device

Can I use the charge cord outside?
Yes, but plug into a weather protected outlet. Though rated for outdoor use, some place their EVSE in a clear or colored plastic container (below), with notches for the cables to add protection from standing water or puddles. The container lid keeps out the rain.

EVSE Container.jpg

Can I precondition my car using 120V or do I need 240V?
Preconditioning (warming or cooling the car while it's plugged in) prior to a trip can be done with 120V but takes longer because it requires more electricity than the 120V connection can supply. The balance is taken from the battery. The car then needs to be recharged to top off the battery. A 240V EVSE will be faster for preconditioning.

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Potential 120V Outlet Charging Issues
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WARNING. Using the charge cord with a worn or damaged AC outlet may cause burns or start a fire. Periodically, check the AC wall plug and charge cord while the vehicle is charging. If the AC wall plug feels hot, unplug the charge cord and have the AC outlet replaced by a qualified electrician. Replace the charge cord if the AC wall plug or cord are damaged. Do not use an AC outlet that is worn or damaged.

Old, Worn or Cheap Outlets. The outlet must be three prong not an old two prong outlet (below). Older outlets may have brass female receptacles that are worn or corroded due to age or repeated use. This can cause excessive heat, melting, charring, arcing or worse. Cheap receptacles may allow the plug to fit in loose instead of nice and tight and it gets worse the more it is used. When you get loose fitting connections, you may get "micro arcing" that leaves deposits of carbon on the metal parts. As it loosens more, you get more carbon buildup and this is where the resulting electrical resistance starts to cause heat, melting, charring, arcing or worse. Replace an old, worn, or cheap outlet with a new heavy duty, commercial-grade ($6-$25) or hospital grade ($25-$50) outlet. If the outlet is protected by a 15 Amp breaker, use a 15A outlet. If it's a 20 Amp circuit, use a 20A outlet.

Old_2-prong_outlet.jpg

Mis-Wired Outlets. The outlet may have a poor or missing ground, or the polarity of the Neutral and Hot terminals may be reversed. These can cause the EVSE to not work, to work intermittently, or to stop working altogether. Check the outlet with an outlet circuit tester (below) for these and other easily identified issues. Fix as needed.

LineTester.jpg

Inadequate Wiring. The wire connected to the outlet must be sized according to the draw. A 15A circuit requires a minimum 14 awg wire, and a 20A circuit requires a minimum 12 awg. If the wire size is too small, this can cause excessive heat, melting, charring or worse. A properly-wired circuit should be able to provide 80% of 15 A (i.e., 12 A) continuously 24/7 with no trip and no damage. Shoddy work goes undetected until it gets put under heavy sustained load (such as charging an EV).

Back-Stab Wiring. This wiring shortcut results in more electrical resistance and under high loads—like charging a car—can cause excessive heat, melting, charring, arcing or worse. Make sure the outlet is using the screw terminals in the side instead of the rear back stab holes (below)*. Screws have more contact area with the wire and therefore less resistance. Make sure the wires are torqued tight to the mounting screws. Of course, you never know which other plugs are daisy chained between your charging outlet and the main panel. Those may be wired using the push-in terminals. So check all the outlets on the same circuit, or have a dedicated 120V, 15A circuit installed for your car. *Note, some newer back stab holes use side screw to squeeze the wire between two pretty good sized pieces of copper. This design may be replacing the older spring-loaded back-stab and would seem to offer the contact area of side screws with the convenience of back stabbing.

On the 'back stab' outlets caution - the versions with the screw-in side plates (rather than the push-in holes on cheapo outlets) are generally the commercial/"Spec" grade or higher (i.e., Industrial or hospital.) Good examples are the Leviton BR15s and BR20s and their Hubbell/Eagle/P&S equivalents. Even these clamping style terminals on spec grade outlets are suspect if they don't clamp with enough pressure. Just say no to cheapo residential grade outlets.


back-stabbed outlet.jpg

Extension Cords. An extension cord should not be used to charge the vehicle. Use of an extension cord may increase the risk of electric shock or other hazards. If an extension cord is used because of limited access to 120V AC power, the extension cord should be GFCI protected, 3 conductor, rated for outdoor and 12 gauge (10 gauge would be better). Though not recommended, some use extension cords with success. Those who use extension cords successfully prefer:

Plug Strain. Hanging the EVSE from the plug puts strain on the plug, the wire, and the EVSE. This can lead to shorts, melting, charring, sparking or worse. Hang the EVSE from it's handle instead, or use the wall mounting plate that came with the EVSE to have a convenient docking station for the EVSE to slip into. Recommended distance from the vehicle charge port is 2 ft.(.5m) to 15 ft.(5m). The appropriate height is 3 ft. (1m) from the floor.

110vStation.jpg


Hot Cord or Plug. The charge cord used to charge the vehicle is a high‐powered electrical device. The AC wall plug must fit tightly into an AC outlet that is in good condition. During normal operation, the AC wall plug of the charge cord may feel warm. This is normal. If your cord or its plug are too hot to touch (instead of warm), stop using the outlet and have the outlet checked by an electrician for the issues above.

120V EVSE Installation Instructions PDF
Here's a PDF of the L1 installation instructions: http://gm-volt.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=528&d=1290195000

120V EVSE User Instructions
The user instructions that came printed on plastic hang tag can be seen here: http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?15259-Voltec-120v-and-240v-Hang-Tags&p=168840#post168840
 

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Excellent post. I think you covered all of the most recently discussed items.
 

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Great post and one of those photo's shows what can happen when the circuit is shared. 100% user error. I have since fixed this by installing a 240V 30 amp circuit connected to a brand new Clipper Creek LCS-25 by a licensed contractor, which included pulling the required permits and having the work inspected by my village.

BEFORE


AFTER



I sleep better at night and may have increased the value of my home, not to mention the tax credit I'm entitled to next year.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm trying to get a PDF of the L1 installation instructions to post. I have the book version, but a PDF online is unavailable, If someone has a PDF (there are 3 pages), please let me know.
 

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If you "fry" the outlet you may have "fried" the plug on the charge cord. Plugging a bad plug into a good outlet may repeat the problem. Bad plug has to go back to the dealer.
First time in an outlet check the temperature after about 15 minutes.
 

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Super good writeup!

One specific thing I might add is if your EVSE is plugged in more or less full time, remove and reinsert the plug a few times a year. It gives an opportunity to check for any obvious damage, plus rubs the copper contacts clean of oxide. The OCD types may wish to lightly sand (and thoroughly clean afterward) the plug prongs to expose new shiny copper once a year.

Another thing I might emphasize is, if the condition of the electrical system is unknown (opportunity charging, or grandma's cottage), either don't plug in, or only charge at 8 Amps. At a minimum, carry around the little yellow circuit tester (~$10) and check each outlet before using. Also be mindful of generating trip hazards for passers by; they trip, you get sued. It's nice to have high mpgs for voltstats, but the Volt has an engine for a reason. The only good charge is a SAFE charge!

30 years of working with high current devices have made me rather overly cautious I suppose. But then, it's expected after personally putting out a total of 12 electrical fires and helping the fire department put out one that caused ~ $3 million in damage.

YMMV
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Super good writeup!
YMMV
Thanks, HiFlight! I have seen so many of the same questions and concerns by new owners that an FAQ seemed to be called for.

I have added your suggestions to the FAQ. The "8A when unsure" was already in there, but I added your note. Using an outlet tester was one of the listed points (with a picture) but your point above re-emphasizes the need for this yet again. I actually do have an anti-trip cord cover to carry with me when I know I'll be using an extension cord across a walkway type area but forgot to add this to the FAQ. Thanks for the reminder, I have added this anti-trip cord cover to the extension cord list.
 

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This is definitely a great FAQ on the 120v charger.

The one thing I would add as reported in the thread below is that if the outlet you plug into shares the line with other outlets / switches, you must inspect every one of them and make sure they are up to the same standard you want for the one you plug into.

If not, you may end up as I did with a dead line due to some other outlet on the circuit.

http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?55313-Standard-120v-EVSE-electrical-wiring-experience-and-recommendations
 

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Some of the new 20A outlets I have gotten from HD have a back-stab design, but, they use the side screw to squeeze the wire between two pretty good sized pieces of copper. I'm thinking that this design is replacing the older spring-loaded back-stab and should be included in your FAQ.
 

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EVSE cycling - Car honking - Root cause was an outlet upstream has a loose connector

I've had the car less than 2 months. Last night I had my 2013 EVSE turn off. Both lights off. Car honking quietly. I checked the plug it was not hot. Cord temp fine. EVSE warm. So I decided to plug it into a differend outlet. I reached to unplug something in the first outlet of the chain. It was also the GFCI outlet. To my surprise the plug was very hot. The metal plug connections were too hot to touch. The outlet was too hot to touch. More investigation, found all of the screws were not tight. I was able to turn one screw two full turns more. I will replace this GFCI outlet to be safe.

The point is, as mentioned in the first post, check all outlets in the chain. Use the first outlet in the chain or as I plan to do very soon, put in a new dedicated line to avoid future problems.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I've had the car less than 2 months. Last night I had my 2013 EVSE turn off. Both lights off. Car honking quietly. I checked the plug it was not hot. Cord temp fine. EVSE warm. So I decided to plug it into a differend outlet. I reached to unplug something in the first outlet of the chain. It was also the GFCI outlet. To my surprise the plug was very hot. The metal plug connections were too hot to touch. The outlet was too hot to touch. More investigation, found all of the screws were not tight. I was able to turn one screw two full turns more. I will replace this GFCI outlet to be safe.

The point is, as mentioned in the first post, check all outlets in the chain. Use the first outlet in the chain or as I plan to do very soon, put in a new dedicated line to avoid future problems.
Even though I dislike it, this is why GM changed the default to 8 amps. I suspect there is a lot of marginal wiring out there that 10 hours of higher current charging will stress.
 

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Some of the new 20A outlets I have gotten from HD have a back-stab design, but, they use the side screw to squeeze the wire between two pretty good sized pieces of copper. I'm thinking that this design is replacing the older spring-loaded back-stab and should be included in your FAQ.
Thanks for the heads up Loboc. I have added your comments.
 

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Great post and one of those photo's shows what can happen when the circuit is shared. 100% user error. I have since fixed this by installing a 240V 30 amp circuit connected to a brand new Clipper Creek LCS-25 by a licensed contractor, which included pulling the required permits and having the work inspected by my village.

I sleep better at night and may have increased the value of my home, not to mention the tax credit I'm entitled to next year.
I live in IL, too. What "tax credit" are you entitled to? Are you ONLY referring to the $4,000 IL state credit for the Volt purchase, or am I missing something?

Thanks, and nice pic!
 

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I live in IL, too. What "tax credit" are you entitled to? Are you ONLY referring to the $4,000 IL state credit for the Volt purchase, or am I missing something?

Thanks, and nice pic!
There is a Federal 30% (up to $1000?) "Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit", IRS Form 8911 that applies to EVSE installation (parts + labor). "...the property must be installed on property used as your main home". I took advantage of this as do most who know about it.

If you expect a tax refund next year or can overpay taxes going into next year so you don't get a refund, then you can claim the 30% of your EVSE installationwith limits on your taxes. TurboTax supports this as would a CPA who knows what they're doing.
 

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There is a Federal 30% (up to $1000?) "Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit", IRS Form 8911 that applies to EVSE installation (parts + labor). "...the property must be installed on property used as your main home". I took advantage of this as do most who know about it.

If you expect a tax refund next year or can overpay taxes going into next year so you don't get a refund, then you can claim the 30% of your EVSE installationwith limits on your taxes. TurboTax supports this as would a CPA who knows what they're doing.
Is it a different form for a business? I thought business could get the 30% too
 
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