Sunday, December 19, 2010

A New Charging Dock and a New Electrical Panel

After months of planning and waiting, in the last two weeks there has been a lot of progress toward driving electric at our home. Our new main electric panel was installed last week, along with the TED (The Energy Detective) power monitoring system.  Our new charging dock (called an EVSE) was installed this week, wired to the new electrical panel with about 70 feet of wire and conduit.

The electric panel was upgraded to a new 200 Amp panel from our old original 100 Amp panel that was fully packed with circuit breakers.  The new panel provided plenty of space to install the new 40 Amp breaker for the EVSE.  The new panel also has space inside for the TED components that will be used to monitor our solar PV system output and the power sent from the home panel to charge the electric car.

We had a local electrician, Jason Wakefield, install the new panel.  Jason and one helper did the job in less than one day and we were without power for only about 6 hours.  Jason also helped me to connect the TED components inside the new panel at no extra charge.  We got a good price for an upgrade of this size, $2,300 including repairing the exterior stucco siding around the panel.

A few notes about installing and activating the TED system:
TED CTs (Current Transformers) clipped over 2 of my 4 incoming power leads
The TED system was the perfect Christmas gift for me.  I've become a "power geek", and I'm really looking forward to measuring the amount and the cost of power that will be used to charge our LEAF.  Also, I've long wanted a way to measure the power output of our solar PV system, and the TED is the way to go.  But as I expected, the TED isn't a simple plug and play system, and it is turning out to be as much of a project as I expected it to be.

1. The components that go inside the electric panel are of two types, MTUs and CTs.  The MTU's need to have three wires connected to the neutral bus and to two different phases (A and B) of a spare breaker.  It was very helpful to me to have an electrician to help me with those connections.  Most homeowners wouldn't know where to make the connections, and I would have found it scary to try to do it myself.

2. The heart of the TED system is a small brick shaped "gateway" that plugs into any home outlet, and connects via a network cable to your computer system's router.  This gateway gets the signals from the MTUs in the main panel.  Most new TED owners have trouble finding an outlet that is free from interference, and they find that they must locate the gateway in an inconvenient place in their home.  I got lucky and found an outlet in my home office that would work, and I just needed to buy a longer network cable to reach my router.

3.  I bought the optional TED handheld wireless display for an extra $40.  Though it isn't necessary, the display did help me in setting up the system, and it is fun to have a display that you can read without having to turn on your computer.   That said, I recently found a free app for my iPod Touch (called "Ted-O-Meter") that does much the same thing, though it does connect wirelessly to the router instead of to the gateway, so it wouldn't have helped in the system setup as much as the TED display did.

4.  I am still having a problem with the TED system being able to monitor my whole-house power usage.  The problem is that my new power panel has a split feed for the incoming power lines from the meter, so I have four incoming wires instead of two.  The TED system isn't set up for this configuration, so I'm going to have to get creative in finding a solution.

The Aerovironment Charging Dock (EVSE)

I finally decided to have the EVSE installed through Aerovironment (AV).  It was a hard decision because it did wind up costing a bit more than if I had had my own electrician run the wiring and conduit and had bought the EVSE separately.  But for the extra few hundred dollars, I got a better warranty on the EVSE and the peace of mind of using Nissan's preferred partner and a guaranteed good fit for my new LEAF.

The EVSE was installed inside my garage. The wiring was run from the new electric panel through an attic, out and down through our atrium garden, into the garage through the stucco wall and finally through a disconnect box to the EVSE.

The EVSE installation took about 5 hours.  The installers were local partners with Aerovironment, who are partners with Nissan.  A special AV diagnostic tool was used to check the function of the new EVSE.

Dude, Where's My Car?

So now we are ready to charge an electric car at home.  I was surprised how good it felt to look at my new EVSE and realize that I now have a filling station in my garage!  Very cool.

 Now comes the big question.  When do I get my new EV?  I hope that the answer is February.  A more likely answer is March.  And April is not out of the question.

The first LEAF worldwide was delivered in San Francisco last week, followed by individual cars in San Diego, Phoenix and a few other areas.  But the next phase of deliveries may not happen this month.  Some very early reservation holders who were able to place their orders on August 31 have been told that they will get their cars in the first week of January.  Some customers with slightly later order dates, like September 1, were first given delivery months of February, but are now being told that March is more likely.

Up to date information can be found on the premier Nissan LEAF discussion forum, .

The delivery status for our car is still listed as "Pending".  Since my BMW is due to be returned on January 13, I stand to be without a car for between one and three months.

Our Costs to Date:
Electric Panel Upgrade:  $2,300
EVSE: $2,636 includes $100 initial assessment fee, credited to total
TED 5003C power monitoring system: $430 including longer network cable