EV Noob lesson #1

We woke up for 7AM and Bruce and Carol gave us a ride down to the car. This would be the last time we parked the car overnight in an RV park that wasn’t easy walking distance to a motel, as the rest of our stops would be better planned. We got to the car and I went to check on it to make sure it was full.

It was not.

The car said that charging had been interrupted, and I went to the pedestal that had the breaker box and the breaker had tripped. The car had 39 miles of range available, which basically meant that it had done nothing all night. The breaker must have tripped minutes after we left. We turned it back on and it tripped again in about 11 minutes. The breaker was very hot, too hot to touch. We turned the car down to 32 amps from 40 amps ( we double double checked, this was a 50 amp breaker ) and tried again. The breaker tripped again after 15 minutes.

redding-breaker

We moved the car to the next spot over and tried again at a full 40 amps. The breaker got hot and tripped after 15 minutes. So I dialed it down to 32 amps and then it held. At some point during this process, Bruce and Carol and dad had gone to pick us up some supplies, water, granola bars and snacks. We had brought very little with us. They came back from the brief shopping trip, and I caught them up on the situation. I decided to stay with the car while they went back to the air conditioned house and made some calls up the road to find us the next several places to charge and the next nights lodging. Dad also got a paper map to augment the handheld GPS, which put him back in his navigatory comfort zone.

For the next hour and a half, I watched the car, checking every few minutes for the first half hour, until gradually it was only once every 10 minutes or so. The breaker was warm at 32 amps but did not trip. I talked to the park manager and told her what had happened, and she said she’d have the breakers replaced. She didn’t charge us for the previous night and applied our money to today.

After the hour and a half, I talked with Bruce and Carol and dad on the cellphone, and they came to pick me up so I could enjoy the A/C of the house and we could go off and have lunch and see the famous Redding Sundial Bridge.

redding-bridge

In between each little thing we did: lunch, and visiting, and sightseeing, we stopped by the RV park and made sure the car was still charging ( luckily Redding is very small ).

By about 2 in the afternoon, the car had 85% charge or so ( 214 miles range in range mode ), so we could head to our next charging stop.

To summarize EV Noob lesson #1… circuit breakers can be bad. If they are bad, one common failure mode is to heat up and then trip. Whenever you use one, you should babysit it for a while and make sure it doesn’t heat up and fail. The higher the current you are trying to draw and the older the breaker is, the more likely this is. If you are going to leave and not come back for hours, you should be very sure that the breaker is going to be ok. I should have stuck around at least 5 minutes and checked the breaker to see if it was hot. Since this was my first time ever, I should have stuck around at least 10. After 10 or even 5 minutes, the thing was very hot. By the time it tripped ( when fiddling in the morning ), it was too hot to hold your hand on for more than a second. All old school EVers know this. Probably lots of old school RVers know this. Maybe even some people other than me knew this. I did not.

A follow up to EV Noob lesson #1, is lesson #2. Don’t pull more amps through the breaker than you need to. We were going to charge overnight for 8+ hours, we could have set it down to 32 amps. That actually wouldn’t have saved us in this instance, but it seems like a good idea.

Another follow up is that if you are worried about the breaker because it gets hot, you better stick around, switch breakers, crank down your amps, or something.  To alleviate suspense, I will let you know that this never happened to us again, we just got really unlucky this time.

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One response to “EV Noob lesson #1

  1. Pingback: Lessons Learned. « High Speed Charging

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