This spring Daimler will introduce the third generation of its smart fortwo electric drive (ED) vehicle to the North American consumer market. Technically, the electric version of the vehicle has already made landfall through Daimler’s carshare program car2go in San Diego and Portland; however, this year’s introduction is especially important, as the vehicle will be the lowest priced battery electric vehicle (BEV) on the market at $25,000 MSRP.
The vehicle entered mass production in June of last year, and sales to various European markets have begun over the last few months. In Europe the automaker offers an optional on-board 22 kW charger for its 17.6 kWh battery, which can charge the battery from a high capacity AC power supply in around an hour. This gives the ED the potential to charge from AC power at a rate 3 times faster than all other BEVs. Daimler has yet to announce whether the 22 kW onboard charger will be an option in North America, but it probably won’t since the standard outlet in North America can supply far less power than outlets in Europe.
The onboard charger capacity determines the amount of time it takes to recharge a vehicle’s battery. The first generation Nissan LEAF used a 3.3 kW onboard charger, but 2013 versions are being outfitted with 6.6 kW chargers. This upgrade allows the LEAF to be charged twice as fast when using Level 2 charging equipment. High capacity chargers generally require a lot of space and therefore most BEVs have a max capacity charger of 6.6 kW. Daimler’s integration of a 22 kW onboard charger is a leap forward.
Low Power Solution
However, in order for individual and fleet EV owners to use the higher capacity onboard chargers they must first install the infrastructure capable of delivering such a charge. This is much easier in Europe, where the standard electrical outlet is 230V, whereas outlets in the United States and Canada are 120V. The difference means that (depending on amperage) standard outlets in Europe can theoretically deliver around 19 kW whereas standard North American outlets max at 1.8 kW. In North America, 230V outlets are usually for high power appliances like washers and dryers, but they can also be installed with the addition of a circuit from the electrical panel to the outlet.
Installing the necessary infrastructure to deliver such a high power charge is not necessarily expensive in comparison to the purchase price of the BEV; however, the cost may be unnecessary as charging at lower power capacities is proving sufficient for many early BEV adopters. A survey of 3,703 fleet EVs administered by Fleetcarma measured vehicle rest times and states of charge (SOC) at the end of the day. The survey found that charging at 1.3 kW could meet the needs of 88% of the average fleet BEV. The 22 kW onboard charger would be an intriguing option for the North American market, but its incremental costs will make it of interest to only a few early adopters. Like the 35-hour work week and real Champagne, it will likely remain a European luxury.
Tags: Advanced Batteries, Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Europe, EV Charging, Smart Transportation Practice
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