Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Product Review: ClipperCreek HCS-40p EVSE

My i3 charging from the HSC-40p. You can see my older ClipperCreek CS-40 all the way on the left.
When it comes to electric vehicle charging equipment, there’s certainly no shortage of choices. Even though it’s a relatively new market, there are dozens of manufacturers selling products that allow owners to safely and conveniently charge their electric cars. Although this equipment is commonly referred to as a "charger" or "wallbox", the proper term is actually EVSE, which stands for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. 

These devices don't actually charge the car; they provide the electricity to do so. That's because the actual charging equipment is built into the car. The EVSE's purpose is to safely deliver the correct amount of electricity to the onboard charging equipment. 

Now that electric cars are beginning to gain momentum in the marketplace, there are a lot of companies jockeying to get a market share of the EVSE business. The vast majority of these companies have been manufacturing and selling EVSEs for less than six years. However, there is one EVSE manufacturer that has more experience than any other company, with roots that go back into the early 1990s, as well as supplying the home charging equipment for the Tesla Roadster. ClipperCreek, has been making EV charging equipment for over twenty years now, and manufactures all of their products in the USA.

I’ve been using ClipperCreek products to charge my electric cars since 2009, as BMW choose ClipperCreek as their partner to provide the charging equipment for the MINI-E Trial Lease Program.  I’ve never had any problems with any of my ClipperCreek equipment and I still use my original CS-40 EVSE that came with my MINI-E.

However, I also have a version of the latest generation of EVSEs from ClipperCreek, an HCS-40p.  The HCS-40 & the HCS 40p can supply 32 amps at 240v, and deliver up to 7.7kW to the vehicle.  The only EVs currently on sale that can accept more than 7.7kW at 240v are the Tesla Models S & X, and the Mercedes B250e (which uses a Tesla-made onboard charger). So the HCS-40 line of EVSEs is more than powerful enough for the vast majority of today’s electric vehicles. 

For instance, my 2014 BMW i3 can only accept up to 7.2kW, and the rest of BMW’s line of PHEVs, including the i8, the X5-40e, the 330e, the 530e and the 740e, are all limited to a maximum of charging at 3.7kW. This is because plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have smaller batteries than full electric cars do, and thus charge quicker and don’t require such high speed charging.
ClipperCreek uses high quality connectors with a rubberized grip for added comfort when plugging in.
However, if you do want more power, for instance to future-proof your garage, ClipperCreek has you covered. They also sell the HCS-50 & HCS-50p, which both deliver 40amps of power, which translates to a maximum of 9.6kW. The HCS-60 steps up the delivery to 48 amps and a full 11.5kW. For the ultimate in home EV charging, the CS-100 can deliver 80 amps to the vehicle, which is a whopping 19.2kW.  This power delivery rivals the speed that some of the lower-powered DC Fast chargers, but currently only Tesla vehicles can accept such high a level of power from a level 2, 240v EVSE. I believe that's going to change in the coming years, and many EVs will come standard with higher power level 2 charging capabilities of at least 9.6kW.

I received my HCS-40p about a year ago and it’s lived up to the reputation that past ClipperCreek products have earned.  Made from airline-grade plastics they are probably the toughest EVSEs on the market. There’s even a video of ClipperCreek employees beating an HCS-40 with a baseball bat, and the bat broke before the station did:

The HCS line comes in both hard-wired and plug-in models. The plug-in offerings are distinguishable by the “p” at the end of the model name. If it has the “p”, than it’s the plug in version. You can order the plug-in versions with either a NEMA 14-50 or NEMA 6-50 plug.  Therefore, you can have your electrician install the 240v you choose before you even buy the EVSE. 
Two screws & it's done!

Personally I prefer having the plug in option, which is why I got the HCS-40p. It’s a little more expensive, ($589 compared to $565 for the HSC-40) but it offers the flexibility of easy installation – you simply screw it into the wall and plug it in. Having the plug also means it’s not permanently installed in one place.  If the need arises, you can unplug it, remove the two screws and relocate it. This can also work very well if you need to take the unit to a second location, like a summer house. All you need to do is install the outlet in the second location and just take the unit there when you need to.

I test electric vehicle charging equipment and review new products, so you can see how the HCS-40 compares in size to many other EVSE options available today in the picture below. It is one of the larger packages available today, and the body of the unit is used for cable management, you simply wrap the cable around it. There is a separate connector holster included that you can locate where it’s most convenient, as well as a lock and key so you can deter someone from unplugging your car.
My "Power Wall"

ClipperCreek has an extensive list of electric vehicle charging equipment and probably offer more options than any other company. All of their Level 2, 240v EVSEs come standard with a 25 foot cable, which is optional on the products of many of their competitors. Many EVSE purchasers don't consider the cable length when they buy one. I think some may assume they all are a standard length, but that's not true. Some EVSEs come standard with a 15 or 18 foot cable, and that may come up short in certain circumstances. With a standard 25 foot cable, you are pretty much assured you can reach any point in your garage, and even outside the garage if you park close enough. 

Note: I received the HCS-40p from ClipperCreek for free for the purpose of testing, feedback and product review. No other compensation was made.


  1. Tom: thanks for your post. Long time, no speak. I have had this charger since taking delivery of one of the earliest i3s. While it generally works, I must say, it throws a lot of faults both on the unit itself, requiring me to unplug and reboot, and on the i3 as well. I actually had Clipper Creek replace it to see if that would fix the problem. It is running off a dedicated 100Amp line, so building power is not the issue. Could be a fault with my car - who knows, but I cannot say this has been trouble free for me. Does seem to be well-made and we all know the i3 is a really flaky car, but I have more than enough frustration to go around and so a bit is rubbing off on Clipper Creek.

    1. Christopher: I own the Clipper Creek HCS-40P and used it for a while with an early i3 BEV. For whatever reason, I also experienced a number of faults, enough that I contacted BMW and they replaced the onboard charger (on warranty). That helped, but the problems didn't go away completely. I'll note, however, that I have used the same charger connected through the same power source with my Chevy Volt and have never experienced the same issues.

    2. Thanks for the comments, guys. One of the challenges with determining a problem with EV charging is there are a lot of variables. Just because you have a dedicated 100amp line doesn't mean there isn't a power issue. I'm not saying that's the case, but it still very could be.

      I had a friend that was having a terrible time trying to figure out why he was always having problems charging his LEAF at home. He had his AeroVironment EVSE replaced, the onboard charger on the car replaced, and still he would have the car stop charging almost on a weekly basis for no apparent reason. He nearly gave up and sold it. Then, the transformer that fed his house blew up one day. Once it was replaced, he never has another problem charging at home. The transformer must have been messing up the electric delivery intermittently. Not enough to cause any other noticeable problems in his house, but it wreaked havoc on his attempt to charge the car.

      If CLipperCreek replaced the EVSE, and you are still having the same problem, I'm inclined to think this problem isn't that of the EVSE. Or you have very bad luck getting two bad ones... Hope you get this figured out.

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  2. Good post on electric vehicle charging equipment. Great for any BMW i3 owner.

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