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Should GM improve the power cord and plug on the 120 volt Voltec Charger?

  • Yes. Mine gets hot! This needs to be fixed.

    Votes: 33 42.9%
  • No. It's fine.

    Votes: 44 57.1%
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For a full year now I've charged my Volt every night using the standard 120V EVSE. I must be lucky, because I have not had any trouble whatsoever. The wall plug and short cord do get slightly warm, but certainly nothing to worry about.

I've said before that copper gets quite warm under load. Try running a hair dryer for 5 minutes, pull out the plug, and (carefully!) feel the copper. Yes, it's hot. I suspect that heat is unavoidable, and that plugs/recepticles must be designed to handle it.

Chris
Volt #541
Best car I've ever owned.
 

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How may times has it proved to be an old outlet and/or poor contacts? 9-10hrs at 1400kW is a lot. If your run your/a hair dryer in the same outlet for 9hrs does it's plug get hot. Ok, I realize you would not do that but it does make a point.

And, I do think (it is SPX not GM) they should put heavier wire and a heavy duty plug on it because the price difference is little. The MSRP is like $450 after all (if you buy a second one yourself).
My two cents... GM could have used a higher quality plug, and that would also eliminate a lof of issues with lower quality outlets. Is easy to blame the outlet, but if they used a better plug, hat likely would eliminate issues too. I think that's a better solution than continuing to blame the outlets, because I don't have control over many outlets at motels, restaurants, and the workplace. Having a high quality plug would diminish the significance and problems associated with using a lower quality outlet, IMO.
 

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I have owned Volt #232 for the past 13 months and 15,000 trouble free miles. We love this car and burn nearly 0 gas. I hope you all do not think I am a bad man, but after 3 months of watching my plug heat up and become flexible, I replaced it with the toughest looking 3 prong plug I could find at Home Depot for $7.00. I simply spliced the plug onto the existing wires. In the 10 months since I have spliced the new plug to the 120 volt charger, gone are all the problems of the plug heating up etc.
 

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China DID manufacture this wire with a 16 AWG rating on it. And you can read it on the cord. It says "16 AWG" and it says "Made in China".
Are you claiming that because China doesn't use the AWG system they can't make a UL certified, UL factory inspected AWG cord? My company does buy UL certified wire from China. The wire we buy is good wire. But we had to pick our suppliers carefully and we need to have a good on going relationship to ensure good product.

Our company makes a lot of cable in the US that goes to Europe. Does that somehow mean we don't know how to make wire to European standards?

BTW UL has a huge operation in China.
 

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My first 120 volt charge cord supply wire was so hot you could not hold it. I had to use a fan blowing air into the vents on the back (with the mounting plate removed) to keep the charge cord electronics from overheating and causing faults. The Volt horn would blast in the middle of the night when a fault took place. Since this was a year ago, I requested a new charge cord from the dealer. The dealer said to wait until GM made changes, as there were problems with some of the first batch of charge cords. I posted all of this during that time.

Several months later the dealer got a replacement charge cord that was from the latest production run, it was exchanged, and the new one worked fine. The supply wire is still 16 gauge, but it should only be warm. It should NOT be as hot as a supply cord for a 1500 watt heater. If anyone is having overheating problems or excessive faults with the 120 volt charge cord they should request a replacement from their dealer.

I think of the 16 gauge supply cord as a temperature meter, as the weakest link in the chain. If it was 14 gauge, then the hot cord temperature would not be as high when things are wrong with the electronics. Perhaps that is why it was designed with that wire size. Either that, or maybe the design team couldn't fit a 14 gauge cable into the cord holder between the mounting plate and the charge cord case.
 

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My two cents... GM could have used a higher quality plug, and that would also eliminate a lof of issues with lower quality outlets. Is easy to blame the outlet, but if they used a better plug, hat likely would eliminate issues too. I think that's a better solution than continuing to blame the outlets, because I don't have control over many outlets at motels, restaurants, and the workplace. Having a high quality plug would diminish the significance and problems associated with using a lower quality outlet, IMO.
With all due respect Scott, that doesn't make the point. And so what if the problems are in the outlet?

Let's look at the facts. Tell me where I go wrong here...

1) The 120V charge unit is INTENDED for people to plug in for up to 10 straight hours in order to charge up their Volt.
2) As a portable unit, it is INTENDED for people to plug in to random 120V outlets wherever they may find themselves. Whether that's an outlet at home, work, a friend's home, a hotel, a rest stop, the grocery store, etc. Basically, anywhere they can find a 120V exterior outlet they should be able to plug in.

Given the above I would argue the following:

1) The wiring should be such that heat buildup is NEVER an issue. If it's an issue, the charge unit is defective.
2) If the outlet is less than optimal, the unit should be able to protect itself from meltdown. There is no way for the layperson to know if there's a floating ground in an outlet. No way to know if underground wiring somewhere is in a conduit filling with water in the rain. No way to know if there's a nick in the wiring somewhere. And those things all happen. The portable unit should be able to deal with it - even if that means it trips itself off - without melting itself down.
I understand your guys points. Thanks.

I do wonder what other 120v (NEMA 5-15) devices run for 9-10hrs at 1400watts. I'm guessing very few. Perhaps the standards for that plug really are meant to handle a defined typically type of load and time.

There is not doubt to me that if they could have they should have put the as good of plug and wire to the unit that is what they should have. I wonder if per codes they were very restricted on what they could use given that it is only meant for 15amp circuits. Certainly they couldn't put a 20amp plug on it (one with a T) but I wonder about the quality of various 15amp plugs. Certainly this stuff is coded/spec'd to the max include thickness of blades (thicker = better contacts on old outlet?), internal connections, etc. Perhaps their hands were tied? I would not be surprised.

As was stated above certainly some of the heat is expected ... and technically it would always occur. Of course outside in the sun, or in a hot AZ garage, is different than a MT garage in 3 seasons. The plug meeting stand specs (NEMA 5-15P?) could overheat.

I'd say anyone with any problem of it heating up get it replaced. Certainly then GM has facts to take to the OEM. However, there is probably a standard allowance of expected % of problems (contractually).

If in doubt and witnessing overheating, one of the first things I'd do is replace my outlet. They are cheap.

I like the idea of replacing the plug too that was mentioned but then you take responsibility for it and it if does go bad (unit circuit board or something unrelated to the plug) I suspect they would not replace it under warranty. Those things are $450!!



Above plug meets: UL Listed to UL498 File E1706, CSA Certified to C22.2 No. 42 File 280
Per this spec on above plug: http://www.stayonline.com/documents/6257-pdf.pdf

That lead me to looking up UL498. Found some info here. See section 8.

http://www.85217358.cn/goods/23.pdf
 

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My Thoughts

Check out this article from a few years back.
More recently, I read about a Chinese company that was making AC cords for the U.S. They had a stash of "cords to be presented to outside inspectors" - these were compliant with the AWG standard. When the inspectors left, they would continue to manufacture cords with cheaper wire have fewer strands. I believe when this was publicized, the QC manager was "fired" as in the attached article. Not that this couldn't, wouldn't or doesn't happen elsewhere - but let the buyer beware.
My plug got hot and the unit tripped when I first got it. Then I replaced the AC outlet on the wall. I used a $20 GFI outlet - don't be tempted to use the $0.69 specials that are sold in the big bins at the home improvement stores. I also found out that my hot and neutral lines were reversed. Now, my plug is only warm to the touch. The cable is never coiled - it is being fed out the window to my driveway as it has been for the past year. The cable gets a bit warm, but not hot.
BTW: I just noticed last week when it was about 18F outside, that the cable was much stiffer than usual.

However, with so many people having problems related to heat, GM should (if they haven't already) improve the EVSE and offer it to owners; either as a swap or as a discounted accessory (that way I can have two!).
 

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Discussion Starter #49
Are you claiming that because China doesn't use the AWG system they can't make a UL certified, UL factory inspected AWG cord? My company does buy UL certified wire from China. The wire we buy is good wire. But we had to pick our suppliers carefully and we need to have a good on going relationship to ensure good product.

Our company makes a lot of cable in the US that goes to Europe. Does that somehow mean we don't know how to make wire to European standards?

BTW UL has a huge operation in China.
No I am not saying that Chinese manufacturers are incapable of making 16 AWG wire. But I AM saying that you have to monitor the quality control more strictly when you buy components from China. There are a lot of inferior quality components coming out of China and you need to be vigilant. I also believe there is some truth in "You get what you pay for". Using 16 AWG wire on an appliance that draws 1250 watts is marginal at best. And the proof is hot cords and melting connectors.

Almost 50% of the respondents of a recent poll I posted asking if they thought the cord is under rated and gets hot answered yes. Can GM really afford to be making 50% of their customers feel like the charger is a fire hazard?

Sounds like your company found a source of Chinese components that are working for you. I am sure you are also monitoring the quality of these components to ensure your products are safe. Keep up the good work. I wish GM would do the same.
 

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Using a Kill-A-Watt partially melted my first plug, although the Kill-A-Watt itself took the brunt of the damage. When plugged directly into the heavy duty 50' extension cord (12ga? or maybe 14?) it no longer got warm, even post melt-down. The new one doesn't either.

I agree that it's obviously a little under spec'd though. They (GM) should expect to encounter marginal connections all the time. I find it hard to believe this didn't pop up in testing.
 

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Discussion Starter #51
My plug got hot and the unit tripped when I first got it. Then I replaced the AC outlet on the wall. I used a $20 GFI outlet - don't be tempted to use the $0.69 specials that are sold in the big bins at the home improvement stores.
I am not sure about this but... I don't think GM recommends a GFI outlet with this 120 volt charger. The Voltec chargers have a GFI circuit detection built in. I think the manual mentions that using a GFI outlet can interfere with the Voltec's GFI circuit.

I may be wrong about that but you might want to double check the manual. I know for sure that my ChargePoint charger will not operate on a GFI breaker.
 

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Well, most people will have no choice but to plug it into a GFCI outlet as it's been code for years in garages, and outside plugs. There used to be an exemption for a single outlet serving like a washer or freezer, but that went away recently I understand.

My outlet (I don't use 120 at home since about a week after I got mine) is a 20 AMP COMMERCIAL grade outlet (like $2.50 or more), fed by a GFCI Breaker, on a single line (no other items), ran in EMT conduit from the panel using 20 gauge THHN wire with a less than 50 ft run. And yes, the plug got hot. I had an older charger, I just got mine replaced a few weeks ago and haven't tried it yet (new GM part number). So I'm hoping the new part number is better, but we shall see.
 

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I am not sure about this but... I don't think GM recommends a GFI outlet with this 120 volt charger.
The manual does not say that you should not use a GFCI outlet. However, it says that if you need to use an extension cord, it should be 12 or 14 AWG and GFCI protected.

Interesting how they want us to use 12 or 14 AWG but they use 16.
 

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Hey i'm not attesting to the Volt EVSE quality. I'm just saying don't blame the wire gauge. A 16 AWG wire will handle a 12A current no problem. There could be many other things that are causing the wires and plug to get hot.

A 16 AWG wire will dissipate about 0.6 W/ft of heat running at 12 A continuous. Not nearly enough to get hot.
Bottom line question, will upgrading to a 14 gauge wire and cadium plated plug help eliminate the problem? It seems to be with Nissan Leaf. Will the price increase be that much, with respect to the price of the Volt?

Many builders have the mentality of using smaller wires because it saves them little money. I have a pre-wired home theater, and the builders used smaller gauge wire, and they must have saved about $2 in all, but the cost for me to replace and rewire to really get a good theater sound by upgrading to slightly bigger gauge is 500 times as much!
 

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For a full year now I've charged my Volt every night using the standard 120V EVSE. I must be lucky, because I have not had any trouble whatsoever. The wall plug and short cord do get slightly warm, but certainly nothing to worry about.
I've been using the original 120V EVSE connected through a Watts Up meter for over a year with no problems to a 15 year old contractor-grade GFCI-protected socket in my garage.

I would not be surprised if some Volt EVSE units with 16 gauge wire had problems due to a few strands of wire being inadvertently cut and removed at the wire stripping stage during manufacturing. It also seems likely that some problems were due to old customer-site sockets that were not making good low resistance connections with the EVSE plug.
 

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From a previous post on the subject of "hot" plugs on 120v charger cords:

The few times I have touched my cord/wall plug, it was warm but I would not say it was hot. Some heat is expected. Mine is plugged into a vertically oriented GFI outlet, ground plug down.

I think part of the issue is lack of data. Warm vs Hot can be very subjective. I do have a digital infrared scanner that can read surface temps of an object (from -50 to 550F), be it a wall, turkey, body, or cord. I took some surface readings tonight.

The wall plug is 104.6F, the cord just above the unit's handle is 95.6F, the ambient wall temp is 87.7F. The plug itself is not too hot to handle.
 

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Discussion Starter #57
I hope someone from GM sees that this poll proves that OVER 50% of Volt customers feel that this cord is undersized. I don't care if some engineers said it's adequate... (And they are wrong.) We WON. The cord is undersized. Most customers agree the cord is undersized. It needs to be upgraded.
 

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Someone is tampering with poll results. The count was 75% Yes and 25% no yesterday.
While that large a vote swing would seem unlikely, using admin tools I see no evidence of tampering. If it changed that much overnight, apparently several people voted yesterday. The admin tools don't provide a sufficient level of detail to see who voted when.
 

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If your worried about the cord ... why not just get one yourself? Get a 12awg... there will be less resistance but I doubt if it will make any difference .. maybe it won't be as warm to the touch... touch the cord on your sweeper after you run it.... being warm doesn't mean there is something wrong... it just means that you are utilizing the size of the cable .. oversizing is OK but most of the time is just wasting money.. and copper... and isn't the Volt all about saving resources?
 
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