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Discussion Starter #1
http://bit.ly/17MvPNb

Some people are building their own charging station this weekend and doing a video so we can all do the same if we want to.

I broadly support this kind of project. It is fun and innovotive and a cheaper solution to charging on the go. I have not seen this unit myself yet and I look forward to seeing the video next week but as I understand it it will be a unit that can be plugged into a variety of sockets and set to charge at the appropriate rate for the socket it is plugged into.

This is all very well if the correct charging current is set to match the socket it is plugged into but setting the correct charge current is going to be done manually via a switch and so it is prone to someone making a mistake, setting too high a current for the type of socket they are using and at worst blowing the fuse (tripping the circuit breaker) or worse, setting fire to the house wiring!

I have thought hard about whether I am just being a "jobsworth" or whether my comments are a bit nanny-ish. I have been assured via Twitter that they will make sure that the appropriate safety warnings are mentioned and while that may absolve them from responsibility should any incident occur I still feel that may not be adequate to prevent a serious incident happening should someone who builds this unit set the wrong charge current.

The argument has been put to me that there are a million and one things people can do themselves that are potentially dangerous and so people should be able to make up their own minds and take responsibility for their own actions. I agree with all whole-heartedly and that is true for all DIY projects isn't it. But this project is being supported and, in part, instigated, by the charity Zero Carbon World and so because of that fact, it may give the public a false sense of safety especially as they sell and supply charging stations commercially.

My fear is that this DIY-home charging station might be seen by non-enthusiasts as a cheaper/better alternative to a commercially available one and of course, in many respects it is... that is why they are building it! However, commercial units have a certain degree of safety build into them that will not be present in this DIY unit.

I want to support their inventive and innovotive spirit and as a DIY project and for those with adequate experience, and for thoise fully aware of the dangers, it is fun! But on the other hand, I am scared that something may go wrong. Not with the unit they are building but with a unit someone else builds after watching this publicised event. For example, if the unit is set to charge at say, 16A and then plugged into a 13A socket either on purpose (unlikely) or by accident (quite possible), then there is a real risk of overheating the wiring circuit and a fire. You would have to go well out of your way to do that with a commercial unit at all and it certainly could not be done by accident.

I have been called a whole bunch of names for raising this kind of concern and told to mind my own business but I see it like this: if we don't raise the genuine concerns we have then who will look out for the innocent people that are the ones that stand to suffer? We should all be on the look out for dangers like this and making sure that they are raised and discussed openly. I certainly don't want to stop this kind of project but I do feel that the dangers must be adequately pointed out and not trivialised particularly if it is publicised.

I hope the day goes well. I might even build one myself, as I say, I am not against the project, but then I am fully aware of the dangers!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
RickMGoldie said:
You are wrong about the lack of safety in my opinion. Watch the video - it is well thought out.
I agree. It is well thought out and the build day was a great success as far as I can see.

I have no issues at all with them, or anyone else, building your own EVSE. These guys know what they are doing and if you know what you are doing too then I would not expect any safety issues to come out of the build itself other than the normal ones that are associated with doing any electrical work.

I am still unclear though as to the legality of it though especially if you are building a permanent installation because it would then be subject to the various buildings and electrical certification/testing regulations and I am not sure that the video pointed that out clearly.

However, my main concern is over the use of it rather than the build.

It is easy to control the charge rate on this device with a simple rotary switch. In fact that is the next phase of this project IIRC. It will then be able to charge at 7A, 10A, 13A, 16A, 32A etc depending on the switch setting. This is where the danger lies in my opinion. If the switch is set to a rate that is higher than the socket/wiring to which it is plugged in can handle then there is a real risk of a fire. I am not for a minute suggesting someone would do that intentionally but it might just be a mistake... accidentally setting say 13A instead of 10A on a house 13A socket could allow sockets and wires to heat up and potentially catch fire without the 13A fuse in the plug blowing or a circuit breaker tripping.

What would reduce my concerns would be if they didn't implement 13A charging rate. If it could only set 7A, 10A then 16A, 32A etc (missing out 13A) then any accidental setting would almost guarantee blowing a 13A fused plug before the wiring had a chance to heat up.

My concerns still exist at the moment though and will remain until I see what they do but in any case I would reiterate the points they made in the video... don't do it if you are not competent and confident that you know how to do it safely :)
 

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I chose 12A for use with 13A sockets. Anyone who goes to the trouble of building one of these and adding the current selection will be more than capable of getting the use right and judging the suitability of the supply point. IMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I chose 12A for use with 13A sockets. Anyone who goes to the trouble of building one of these and adding the current selection will be more than capable of getting the use right and judging the suitability of the supply point. IMHO.
12A is too high for a 13A circuit IMO. I have charged my Leaf using a EVSE from Mitsubishi which isn't the 10A of the Leaf but nearer the 12A. The plug and socket got hot to touch!!! I was with Matt Trevaskis from EcoDrive and he no longer uses the Mistubishi EVSE as he now considers it dangerous.

Also, I have charged at my sisters house using their garage inside socket at 10A and the socket got too warm for me to feel comfortable leaving it charging overnight. It might have been fine for a one-off charge but it certainly wouldn't be wise to charge there regularly.

I am not doubting the people who build the UVSE in any way. As you say, anyone who considers themselves competent to build one will (mistakes aside) know how to use it :) However, my fear is that some might consider charging at or near the circuit limit safe when in many circumstances it might not be quite so.

I have no issue with the video. I thought you did it well and I am sure it will help many who want to do some DIY. However, I am still a little concerned that there are no real warnings being given about dangers of charging at or near to the circuit limit. That is all.
 

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You prove my point. You are able to determine when 12A is not safe on a given outlet. Just because it is cooking some old/tarnished pinned connections in some sockets does not mean it is not safe in a clean untarnished recently installed dedicated circuit. Give folks the credit to be as careful as you are (well, nearly), and perfectly capable of telling if something is getting hot or not, and no more likely to just leave it and assume it will be fine than you might. Especially those savvy enough to make their own DIY EVSE.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I do give people credit but I still think that the warnings should be given. People will generally be fine I am sure but the consequence of just one not being so justifies a proper warning for the odd few that haven't got the experience or care that you and I have.

Your post is a great example of what I am saying Rick. You said you charge at 12A on a 13A circuit without qualifying it by saying it is a new circuit in good condition and that you would not do that on a circuit you are uncertain of. Anyone new to EVs read your post they might conclude that it is OK to charge at 12A on any 13A circuit. This is my concern. It isn't because I have any doubts about the majority of people doing it. It is about the newcomer who perhaps hasn't had time to read and fully understand the serious implications of charging that close to the circuit limit. They are the ones we should be trying to protect.

If I had a DIY EVSE and was charging at 12A on a 13A circuit then every time I mentioned it I would also mention that it is safe because the circuit is new and i was certain of its condition and that I wouldn't charge at 12A on just any old circuit. In my opinion that is the approach we should all be taking... making sure people know the potential dangers if they want to depart from the supplied EVSE.

Warnings don't cost anything. I am curious as to why people are so reluctant to give them when they would serve as a reminder to those that are careful and worst and has the potential to prevent a disaster at best.
 
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