Monday, April 9, 2018

EV Charging Product Review Update: eMotorWerks JuiceBox Pro 40

Product Update: I originally posted a JuiceBox review here on June 14th 2015. Since then, eMotorWerks has made improvements and is positioned as a leader in the home charging industry. I felt it was time to update the post.

One of the first things many first-time electric car owners ask once they've bought (or are about to buy) their new car is what home charging solution should they choose. In fact, other than asking for advice on specific plug-in cars, it's the most popular question I get from readers.

Luckily, there are some really good choices on the market now, and the prices for home EVSEs are considerably less than they were when I first started driving electric in 2009. Back then, the only level 2 home EVSEs that I would recommend were from Clipper Creek. Clipper Creek still makes very good products, and I still recommend them, but the competition is getting better all of the time, and one company in particular, eMotorWerks has rapidly climbing to the top of home EV charging market. 

Before I get into the review, I'd first like to explain some basic EV charging levels and terminology. This applies to charging in North America, as electric supply is different for most European countries.

EVSE: Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. These are quite often called "chargers" or "charging stations." That really isn't the correct terminology though, because they don't actually charge the car. They really just supply the electricity safely, from the power source to the vehicle. The actual charging equipment is built into the electric cars. Some EVSEs are portable, while others are hard wired and permanently installed. 

Level 1: Every electric car sold or leased in the US that isn't a Tesla comes with a Level 1 portable EVSE. Some manufacturers, like BMW, call it an "occasional use charger." Level 1 EVSEs can be plugged into a simple 120-volt household outlet and typically charge at 6, 8 or 12 amps. Tesla doesn't bother supplying their customers with a basic Level 1, 120-volt EVSE, because their vehicles have such large batteries that they would take very long to slow-charge on 120 volts. For that reason, every Tesla comes standard with a portable 240-volt EVSE for more robust charging at home or on the road. 

Level 2: Level 2 EVSEs charge at 240 volts and most of the time are permanently installed in a garage or public parking lot. However, recently some manufacturers have been selling portable 240-volt EVSEs, allowing the owner the flexibility of using the equipment at home as well as on the road, provided they can find a 240 volt outlet that they can plug into. 
The JuiceBox Pro 40 which I'll be reviewing here today is one of the few EVSEs that comes with a NEMA 14-50 plug option, instead of requiring the owner to hard wire it to their home. I think it’s important to give the customer the choice to decide if they want a hard-wired, or portable EVSE. For that reason, I hope that all EVSE manufacturers decide to give the customer both options.  

DCQC / DCFC: DC Quick Charge or DC Fast Charge. DC fast charge allows rapid charging of electric vehicles, enabling long distance travel with little inconvenience. DC Quick Charge stations can charge many EVs up to 80% full in about 30 minutes, but are not something an individual would buy for home use because of the cost and required 480 volt electric supply. These units are very expensive and are only just beginning to really proliferate. Unlike Level 1 and 2 charging, there are multiple connectors used by different manufacturers, as a single standard hasn't been established yet. 

Some people live fine with their EV charging solely with the supplied 120-volt portable EVSE. However, most owners will prefer using a 240-volt EVSE, so that they can charge much faster, enabling the vehicle to be driven more miles if needed. For example, a basic 120-volt EVSE will replenish about 4 to 5 miles of range per hour. A standard 30-amp 240-volt Level 2 EVSE will add 20 to 30 miles of range per hour to the typical EV. That can make the difference of being able to use the car or not on some days.
I've charged my EVs on pretty much every brand of EVSE on the market today, and I have a host of different EVSEs in the garage at my house, which I use for various testing and when I have multiple visitors that also have cars that plug in. This gives me an opportunity to really compare the units side by side.
When I did my JuiceBox review in 2015, eMotorWerks was still a very new company, and had just announced that they had recently sold their 3,500th JuiceBox. Less than three years later, they have sold close to 30,000 EVSEs, and were recently acquired by Enel, a multinational power company, and one of Europe’s largest Utilities. Also, at the time of that review, eMotorWerks hadn’t yet received UL safety certification for the JuiceBox Pro 40, and they now have that certification.

First, I'd like to point out the JuiceBox Pro 40 can deliver up to 40 amps of power. The vast majority of Level 2 EVSEs currently on the market are limited to delivering 30 or 32 amps of power. There are a few other companies like Clipper Creek for instance, that do offer a 40 amp EVSE, but for the most part, the industry norm is 30-32 amps, and even less in many cases. When buying any EVSE, make sure you find out what the maximum power the unit can deliver before purchasing it. I know more than one EV owner who bought an EVSE and didn't know it could only deliver 16 or 20 amps until they installed it. Why does 40 amps matter as compared to 30 amps? Well, for many EVs today, it doesn't. Only Tesla makes on board charging equipment that can accept more than 32 amps from a level 2 source, however that is going to change. I like to recommend future-proofing your garage, and if you're investing in a home charging solution which you may be using for ten or more years, why limit the charging supply to today's norm when home charging will only get faster as EV adoption increases? If your home has the capacity to add a dedicated 50 amp circuit (a 50 amp circuit is required for a continuous 40 amp load), then I say pay the few extra dollars today so you don't have to go back and upgrade in the future.
My 2018 BMW i3s charging on the eMotorWerks Pro 40 EVSE
The feature I love the most about the JuiceBox Pro 40 is that is has built in WiFi and connects to eMotorWerks servers. This allows for real time charging monitoring which includes voltage and current measurement accurate to 0.2%. This is one of the only EVSEs currently available today which allows you to monitor this kind of charging data. I know a lot of EV owners, and one of the things that keeps coming up is people asking how they can find out what the car is drawing during charging. Having the ability to monitor your vehicle's electric draw is particularly useful to BMW i3 owners like myself. The original 2014 i3 shipped with faulty onboard chargers, causing many of them to fail. This resulted in the car charging at half the speed than it was supposed to (15 amps instead of 30 amps). To make matters worse, while BMW engineered a new onboard charger, the dealers were instructed to de-rate the i3's current charging capabilities to about 24 amps, in an effort to keep the charger from failing. Many i3 owners didn't know if their car was de-rated, if their charger had failed or if they were charging at the full 30-amp rate. Without a way to really measure the energy the car was accepting, many were left in the dark for a few months while BMW built and installed the new, modified onboard chargers. This is just one example of why having the ability to monitor your charging can be useful. If they had an EVSE that had the capability of displaying the rate the car was charging at, they would never have to wonder what the car was capable of drawing since they could simply look at the app when they plugged in.

The JuiceBox app has lots of useful information about current and past charging sessions. You can also set it up for notifications, start or end a charging session, raise or lower the output to the vehicle. 

As mentioned above, the JuiceBox Pro 40 doesn't need to be hardwired. Instead, it comes with a NEMA 14-50 connector. This allows the owner to take the EVSE with them, all they need to do is find a NEMA 14-50 receptacle and they can plug in. The 14-50 outlet is commonly used by RVs and thousands of RV parks across the country have 14-50 receptacles where you can plug in on the road if needed. But in my opinion, the real beauty of having a portable, plug-in EVSE is you can install 14-50 receptacles in places like your parents or friends home, or even work, and take the EVSE with you and charge at your destination. This is much less expensive than installing EVSEs in locations you may need to occasionally charge at. The JuiceBox is small and light enough to take with you when needed. You can see this on the photo above compared to the other EVSEs I have mounted on my garage wall. The connector also has a rubber cap if you do mount or use it outdoors. I also like that it’s the only EVSE with a sturdy aluminum outer case. All of the other EVSEs have outer cases that are made of plastic. eMotorWerks also offers a handy carrying case for those that use thier JuiceBox at multiple locations.
eMotorWerks offers a carrying case for the JuiceBox Pro 40. It's available on thier website for $49.95
The app is very easy to set up and should take you less than ten minutes to complete. There is also a web portal which you can log into for past history charging info, set up notifications and view your current charging status. eMotorWerks offers the Pro 40 EVSE in two versions: Standard and Lite. The JuiceBox Pro 40 costs $579.00 and the Pro 40 Lite costs $529.00. Both units offer WiFi connectivity with the app, the difference is in the features available. The Pro 40 Lite doesn’t have the “Smart Charger” features that the basic Pro 40 does. These features include: Time of Use configuration, Amazon Alexa voice activation, Load balancing across multiple EVSEs, notifications and alerts. Many of these “smart” charging features aren’t going to be important to buyers, but the charging history and notifications are definitely useful tools, so I recommend considering the basic Pro 40. It’s only $50 more and there’s a lot of features included for the slight upcharge.
The Pro 40 Lite may be $50.00 less than the basic Pro 40, but it doesn't have any of the smart charging features.
Personally, having a WiFi connected EVSE is well worth the upcharge, and I highly recommend it. You'll really appreciate the ability to look at your past charging sessions and energy consumption and it definitely helps you to see exactly how much energy your EV car uses, because you'll have a true "wall to wheels" measurement, which includes charging losses. The in-car energy use calculators don't include charging losses or the energy used from battery or cabin preconditioning while charging, but this does. The difference can be significant, especially during the winter months when the battery may need to be warmed while charging. The JuiceBox Pro 40 comes with a 24 foot cable which is a little longer than most standard EVSE cables. The extra few feet of cable can make the difference of having to back into your garage or pull straight in, and possibly allow you to park on either side of the garage in any position and still have enough cable to plug in. 

The home EV charging market is getting better all the time. The products available today are more powerful, lighter, some are portable and overall less expensive than the products available only a few years ago, and this is welcome news to EV owners. I recommend eMotorWerks products because I’ve used them for over three years now and they are high quality and offer features that no other EVSE from any competitor does. The price is right, the size is right, it’s powerful and portable. If you’re in the market for a home charging solution, you definitely should consider the JuiceBox Pro 40.

Note: As with all of the electric vehicle equipment that I test out and review, I received the JuiceBox Pro 40 from eMotorWerks for free in retuen for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions here are my own and not influenced by eMotorWerks or their affiliated in any way.