Charging, Part Zero/Nothing But Zero Part III

How do I charge my plug-in vehicle? I plug it in.

Oh, you want more? I add an extension cord, since the Zero Motorcycles included cord is 10 feet.  Otherwise, it’s a standard household outlet: 3-prong, 120 volt (officially, “NEMA 5-15R“).  In the EV world, this is then called Level 1 charging.

The motorcycle end is actually IEC320 (actually, IEC 60320-C14), the standard  power connector for desktop-computer power supplies, monitors, larger printers, AV equipment and guitar amps, stationary medical devices, etc.  Basically anything that’s usually or often rackmounted.  It’s not a proprietary plug by any means; if you need a spare or replacement, find someone tossing their desktop for a laptop.  Why IEC320?  I’ll speculate: it’s geeky.  Zero is based near Silicon Valley, after all.  The IEC320 standard also autoranges from 120 to 240 volts, so the company doesn’t have to homologate European and Asian sub-variants.  They just ship with a different wall end, while the bike end stays IEC320.

The bike draws 10 amps- this charges mine in 6 hours, or 9 for the larger ZF9 battery pack.  Or rather, 6 hours from completely empty, which is essentially never.  If you actually hit empty, you planned poorly.  Also note that charging from partway to, say, 80-90% full is faster than charging from 90-95% to 100%.  Lithium cells are vulnerable to overcharging, so the battery management system slows down as you approach 100%.  There’s no timer, if you want to save even more by charging at off-peak or super-off-peak hours after you go to bed.  Just buy a COTS timer, plug it into the wall, then plug into that.

Most residential circuit breakers today are rated to 15 amps; some upscale homes  now get built with 20A circuits, old homes might have 12A.  Adding more amps actually doesn’t charge you any faster; the power supply built into the motorcycle can’t take any more than 10.

What you can do for faster charging is purchase optional, external power supplies from Zero.  An external power brick then plugs into a 2nd household outlet. Combined, the 2 power supplies can halve the charge time.  Of course, they both draw 10 amps, so the outlets have to be on 2 circuits, or you’ll trip a breaker.  (No, a 20A circuit can’t take two 10A loads- you have no margin for grid hiccups, or parts running off-spec.)  You can daisy chain up to 4 power supplies (the 1 internal, plus 3 external) with included Y-adapters. This then cuts the charge time to 90 minutes (with the ZF6 pack, 135 min with the ZF9 pack).  But no one does that. (Well, one…)

What you can’t do is plug this motorcycle into a J1772 charging point (Level 2), the standard for public charging locations.  More and more chargers are being installed with J1772, fewer and fewer with slow ol’ NEMA 5-15.  Zero sells an adapter (J1772-to-IEC320), but it’s $700, and doesn’t charge any faster.  No thanks…


18 thoughts on “Charging, Part Zero/Nothing But Zero Part III

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