Owners of fully electric and hybrid vehicles so far haven’t enjoyed too much freedom when it comes to the choice of charging equipment. On one hand, there are public charging stations, which charge much faster but sacrifice all convenience. On the other hand, E.V.S.E. (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) modules give owners the freedom to charge from the safety of their own garage, but they require costly installation and lack portability.
AeroVironment, a leading supplier of electric vehicle charging equipment, saw this as an opportunity for innovation. Their newly released TurboCord Dual Plug-in EV charger is, according to their own words, world’s first dual-voltage cordset. This means that this handy charging device can be plug-in into any electrical outlet that supplies either 120V or 240V. What’s more, if you already have a compatible circuit breaker and electrical outlet already in place, you won’t have to spend a single penny on installation – just plug the TurboCord in and start charging.
Wahid Nawabi, a Chief Operating Officer of AeroVironment, wants to work hand-in-hand with automakers to include TurboCord in the trunk of every new electric vehicle. This would largely remove the single biggest barrier to purchase that new EV owners have to face – the charging itself. AeroVironment is definitely in an excellent position to realize this vision. The company has more than 20 years of practical experience, and they even co-developed what is commonly considered to be the first modern electric car.
Let’s take a closer look at what this innovative, portable charger has to offer, and what are some potential caveats that buyers should keep in mind.
What We Like
- Plug and play: AeroVironment TurboCord Dual Plug-in EV Charger is completely free from complicated (and often costly) installation. All that’s required is a NEMA 6-20R receptacle and, at least, 20A circuit breaker. Of course, you shouldn’t forget to add a suitable cover on the receptacle, if you intend to have it installed outdoors.
- Long cord: TurboCord comes with 20’ long cord, which should be more than enough for most users. Those who need an extra length can easily purchase an extension cord for just a few extra dollars. The cord itself is relatively thin, thus making operation easy even for elderly.
- Fast charging: It’s important to keep in mind that TurboCord comes in two different versions: one compatible with 120V and 240V, and the other one compatible only with 240V. A quick look at the timetable provided by AeroVironment reveals just how much faster the 240V option really is. For example, it can charge Volvo XC90 T8 in just 2.5 hours and Nissan LEAF in 6.3 hours. In comparison, the same cars would take 7 and 18 hours respectively on 120V. Such rates make for a reasonable backup solution, but they would hardly suffice for daily use. The way we see it, the 240V-only option actually makes quite a bit of sense. You’ll save $100, but keep most of the utility.
- Automatic operation: TurboCord is designed to be as hassle-free as possible. The cord can keep your car battery healthy by automatically detecting when a full capacity is reached. It will then simply turn itself off and wait until you manually disconnect it and drive away. To start charging, just plug it in and watch as the flashing blue light turns solid to indicate that there is power coming to the charger. You are free to stop the charging process as you like, which means that there’s no need to wait until the battery is at 100% before you can leave for work or soccer practice. There’s also nothing to worry about if you forget and leave the charger plugged into your car. It’s been designed to accommodate your needs; not the other way around.
- Safety first: AeroVironment has partnered with Underwriters’ Laboratories, a global independent safety science company with more than a century of expertise innovating safety solutions, to fit TurboCord with state-of-the-art technology for careful monitoring of the internal temperature of the unit. This helps to keep charging as safe as possible and quickly turn everything off when something doesn’t seem right. You can also enjoy peace of mind knowing that the charger has NEMA 6P waterproof rating and has been thoroughly tested for durability.
- Handy accessories: The company behind TurboCord went the extra mile to include some useful accessories with the unit. In addition to the charger itself, customers also receive a cord hanger and a black travel case. The cord hanger can be mounted on any wall to hold the cable neatly coiled up for storage purposes. This will prevent debris and moisture from getting inside. The travel case is great for storing the charger in your car, or for when you want to lend it to your neighbor.
What We Don’t Like
- Suited mostly for hybrids: Most modern electric vehicles use 6.6-kilowatt charging rate. It’s advisable to use 30A equipment in order to take full advantage of this rate and charge at maximum speed. However, TurboCord operates only on 16A, which means that even the 240V still seriously lacks behind many non-portable charging stations. You probably won’t find this to be an issue if you own a plug-in hybrid car, but charging a fully electric vehicle could prove to be a rather lengthy affair. That being said, the charger still makes for a great backup device that you could carry in your car no matter where you go.
At the time of writing this article, the dual-mode version costs $599, while the 240-volt only version retails for $100 less. These prices are quite similar to what you would pay for a regular, stationary E.V.S.E. unit. Such unit may charge a bit faster, but it lacks the compact form factor and high utility of TurboCord. Your decision will then depend mainly on your lifestyle. If you like the idea of being able to take your own personal charging station with you anywhere you go or lack the dedicated space, then TurboCord by AeroVironment is the right choice for you.