Electric Car Battery Charger

Sorry if I'm stating the obvious, but you will need a car battery charger when you drive an electric car! (Unless of course you're like Jay Leno, and just like having your beautiful antique EV sitting in your garage, just for the pleasure of it!)

Here are a few guidelines about battery chargers, before you charge out and buy one!

As usual, you generally get what you pay for. Buy cheap, buy twice is the phrase that comes to mind when it comes to car battery chargers. 'Cheap' can mean cheap-and-nasty!

I know some electric car enthusiasts who did their own conversions on a shoestring budget. Being penniless students, (ah!) by the time they got to buying battery chargers they were broke and opted for the cheapest option, only to regret it later. In fact, those cheap gizmos cost the boys more in time and frustration than they saved in money. They have since upgraded to better chargers.

The popular Italian made Zivan battery charger. Photo: Joe Harris

Basic Car Battery Charger

Surprise, surprise, the basic one is the cheap one! It does what its name implies---it charges car batteries---but in a way that is extremely inconvenient for you and possibly damaging to your batteries.

Electric car batteries are both expensive and somewhat delicate. They like to be treated with care, especially when recharging. They like you to go full steam ahead at first, then slow things down a bit as they fill up. They do not like to get too hot! And they do not like to be overcharged.

A basic car battery charger will allow you to plug your household electricity supply into your car battery. To get a tad technical, car batteries like the voltage to be between 14.2volts and 15 volts, until they are 80% charged up (the absorption phase).

Then, because they are temperamental creatures, they like you to turn the current down to less than 13.8 volts, until they are fully charged (the float phase).

They also like you to plug them out when they are full and not leave them to overcharge, which can shorten their lifespan.

I'm afraid a basic car battery charger cannot make any of these alterations, so you need to be on hand to do it, at each critical moment.

Now this means you cannot actually plug your car in and let it charge overnight while you sleep. It means you shouldn't plug your car in to recharge and then go watch a movie on TV. What if the movie is actually good and you get carried away and forget about your cool electric car, being over-charged?

Not so cool, because the batteries will overheat if you forget to turn down the voltage, or switch off the charger at the critical time.

You may also cause nasty 'gassing'---when excessive hydrogen fumes are created due to overheating. If you do not have adequate ventilation, this could be dangerous. Always have excellent ventilation where you recharge, or else do it outdoors! (Hydrogen can be explosive when there is a build up in enclosed spaces)

Overheating and gassing will do permanent damage to your Very Expensive Batteries! If this happens, you will have to fork out another few thousand to replace them.

If you are somebody who has ever forgotten to take something out of the oven, do not buy one of these battery chargers!

If you need peace of mind, do not buy one. If you need to be able to recharge while you are sleeping, don't buy one. Yep, I don't like them! Life's too short for the hassle!

The Smart Battery Charger

The smart car battery charger hasn't been to Harvard, but it's clever enough for your needs! This type of charger automatically changes the voltage when the battery reaches 80% capacity, so you don't have to stand there watching it:)

It's also smart enough to stop charging when the battery is full. So you can put your feet up, snuggle up on the sofa, watch The Wizard of Oz or even have a little snooze....zzzzzzz

Naturally, all this convenience costs----but you save in terms of damage limitation, and your time.

There are two types of smart battery chargers. One is sensitive to the amount of heat being produced in the charging process and regulates itself accordingly.

The more expensive type works through electronic voltage feedback to alter currents and switch itself off. This is more precise than the heat-sensor car battery chargers.

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