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How to Charge a Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle


Where to Charge a Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle
A Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid vehicle is shown with a Smartlet charging station at the Coulomb Technologies exhibit at the Plug-In 2008 conference on plug-in hybrid vehicles in San Jose, Calif.
A Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid vehicle is shown with a Smartlet charging station at the Coulomb Technologies exhibit at the Plug-In 2008 conference on plug-in hybrid vehicles in San Jose, Calif.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

For the near future, the place where you're most likely to charge your plug-in hybrid is in your own garage or carport. How you'll actually do this will depend on the specific plug-in hybrid you own. We'll use the Chevy Volt as an example.

The Volt comes with two chargers that you can use on home electric current. The smaller, 120-volt charger is designed to be portable and will plug into a standard electric outlet. It's switchable between an 8-amp recharge and a 12-amp recharge, depending on what your system will bear. If the 12-amp recharge sets off the circuit breaker, just drop the charge to 8 amps. It'll take longer to charge (see the next page of this article for details), but you'll have fewer problems. The larger, 240-volt charger will have to be hardwired into your home's electric system, so it's not portable, and it'll require a heavy duty power supply to prevent circuit breakers from going off. You'll probably want to get this one installed in your garage or next to the carport.

The Volt charging units are cleverly designed. First, they're rugged, so if you accidentally drive over one it won't come to harm. And the car can detect if the plug is still attached, so that you won't be able to drive away while recharging. The charging units are designed to be good for 10,000 charge cycles total, so if you charge the vehicle once per day they'll last for almost 30 years -- probably longer than the life of the car.

But what if you don't have a garage or need to recharge your Volt when you're far from home? With the portable recharging unit, you can recharge anyplace there's an electric outlet. However, the local garage might not take kindly to your using the electric socket on their wall, unless you're paying them for the privilege, that is. In the near future there will be recharging networks and public recharging stations available along many major routes, but that infrastructure is still mostly in the planning stage at this point.

Once you have a place to recharge your plug-in hybrid, how often do you need to recharge it? How long will the recharge take? How much is this going to cost? We'll answer those questions in the rest of this article.


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