Plugged In On The First Try
Over the years, I always argued that electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle ownership would serve a homeowner better than a renter.
What does it take to live with a plug-in electrified vehicle?
For one, you have to be able to have the facility to be able to charge at home. That means a high amperage circuit breaker that is fed from the power coming into your home. It also means choosing the right charging unit that is hard-wired – preferably – into the 220-volt circuit.
Over the years, I always argued that electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle ownership would serve a homeowner better than a renter. Rather, a homeowner with a detached home and enough juice to accommodate a wall-mounted, hard-wired charging unit.
The one concern I always had was with not just rental units, but with multi-dwelling properties, such as apartments, condominiums, and townhomes. There are always some contingencies with an owner’s association about whether you can do something like install a charging unit for an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid or not.
I figured that whenever I work with a plug-in hybrid such as the 2021 Ford Escape PHEV Titanium that arrived two days after my – ahem – birthday, I would have to use the public charging infrastructure in our area.
Considering my experience with the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon I had a few weeks earlier, I found that the current charging infrastructure as mostly hit-and-miss. I had only one successful charging experience out of several other attempts. Most of the public chargers were not working properly.
My strategy was to find a good public charging unit – preferably one near a coffeehouse that I could work at that is open for business – and let it go until I have more than enough miles of electricity inside the Escape PHEV’s batteries.
Then, our videographer George informed me that he just bought a ChargePoint wall unit for his townhome.
I had to pick up my jaw first, took a deep breath, and acknowledged his purchase.
The idea behind George’s installation of his home charger was to help me with the plug-in vehicles we work with. That also includes full battery-electric models. Originally, we had one scheduled for us. Unfortunately, that got cancelled. However, the Escape PHEV was available to put George’s new home charger to the test.
According to George, installing the charger and getting to work wasn’t easy. He dealt with getting the right circuit breaker that will run the charging unit. After bringing in an electrician, the right circuit breaker was installed, but the charging unit was not powering up. ChargePoint sent him a replacement unit and he was able to get it eventually going from his circuit breaker.
One question I had for George was whether the grid at his townhome complex had was suitable to run a charging unit in his garage. I guess he calculated that he did. That was after some discussion with his townhome owner’s association and with one of the electricians listed on our electrical power service utility’s website for recommended companies who can install an electric vehicle wall charger for the home.
Once everything was lined up and working properly, it was time for our test.
At first, we were able to leave the Escape PHEV outside of the garage, while running the plug from the ChargePoint unit to the J1772 port. In a way, this was to emulate service from a public charging station in winter conditions. The air temperature was a balmy -2 degrees Fahrenheit. At least it was sunny outside.
The Escape PHEV’s charging rate of 3.6 kilowatt-hour is extremely slow. Even slower than the maximum 6.6 kilowatt-hour public Level 2 chargers around the Twin Cities. When the battery reached 51 percent, the Escape PHEV only regained 9 miles of range. At 100 percent charged, the battery only recouped 21 miles.
A very interesting tidbit we found in comparing the ChargePoint and FordPass apps. ChargePoint showed a “ramp down” when it reached 99 percent battery capacity. The session lasted around three hours and 30 minutes. Also, according to the ChargePoint app, it would cost $1.58 to fully charge the Escape PHEV’s small battery.
However, the FordPass app kept on pushing back the time for completion of the charging to the Escape PHEV. The reason is that the last cells of the battery needs to be filled by spreading out the charge across the battery pack evenly. That last bit of charge takes time. Therefore, the lower rate of charge at the end is done to level out capacity for all functions to operate properly.
One thing we learned is that recharging a battery is not like refueling an internal combustion engine, where fuel delivery is more linear.
With the battery charged up, we set out in the Escape PHEV as the as temperature finally climbed over zero Fahrenheit. In EV Mode, the vehicle drove just fine. It never sipped any gasoline, but it certainly used up a lot of battery energy.
In the end, my time in the Escape PHEV yielded an average of 33.8 MPG in combined gasoline and electric usage.
The point about living with a plug-in vehicle comes down to commitment. Are you willing to go through all of the hoops to get a charger installed at your home, apartment complex, or workplace to get in on wave of the electric vehicle? If so, do you understand what it takes to live with a plug-in vehicle?
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by the Ford Motor Company
All photos by Randy Stern