As the launch date for its new Alpha EV charger draws near, United Chargers' CEO, Gleb Nikiforov, is offering us an inside look at what makes the Alpha so special. In the video above, Nikiforov explains why smart chargers will play an important role in the future of home EV charging, and how the Alpha will make living the EV life even better.
Why bother with a smart charger? All you really need is your car charged, and the unit doesn't need to be "smart" to do that. Yes, that is correct. The main task of a charger is simply to charge your EV and do so quickly enough that it's always ready with a full charge when you need it.
However, smart chargers can make living with an EV easier, and they can even save you money. Many EV owners already know the benefits of registering for time-of-use (TOU) electricity plans. Depending on where you live, TOU plans can save a lot of money by encouraging you to charge when the utility has excess electricity, which is usually overnight.
Most EVs allow you to set the time they will charge in the vehicle, but a problem arises when you need to charge during the day or use public charging infrastructure. You have to go into the vehicle's settings and set the vehicle to "charge now" and it's cumbersome to do. Plus, many people forget to change the setting and plug their EV in and walk away, only to come back later to find the vehicle never charged because it was abiding by the TOU schedule.
That's why having your smart charger at home control the TOU schedule is better than the vehicle doing it. But even then it can be inconvenient at times, as Nikiforov explains in the video. The Alpha eliminates this problem and is the first EV charger that allows the user to instantly override the TOU schedule without the need to fumble through your app.
When the Alpha is set to charge on a schedule and you plug in your car, you can charge out of schedule by simply tagging the "Start Now" icon on the Alpha's crisp 7-inch touchscreen. Doing so overrides the stored schedule and lets you charge up immediately.
You don't have to unlock your phone, find the charger's app, open it, override the TOU schedule, and wait until the app confirms that it has completed the task. That's can be inconvenient when you arrive home and are possibly carrying items inside.
But the Alpha isn't just smart, it's also powerful. It shares the same internal components as the extremely popular and tough Grizzl-E charger and can deliver up to 40-amps (10 kW) to your vehicle. However, if your power circuit cannot deliver that much power, the Alpha can be set by internal dip switches to limit the power delivery from as little as 3.3 kW up to the 10 kW maximum.
This means you aren't forced to upgrade your circuit to use the Alpha, but you do have the ability to do so in the future and still remain code-compliant with the internal dip switches controlling the power delivery. Some chargers that have adjustable power delivery are controlled only by the software of an app, and that runs afoul of some electrical codes; that's not the case with the Alpha smart charger.
Another useful feature that Alpha has that typically isn't available on low-cost home and multi-family charging equipment is the ability to set up multiple accounts and supply users with PIN codes to access the unit. That's typically only available on much higher-priced commercial chargers that cost many thousands of dollars.
Why would you want a feature like that? There are a few scenarios where this would be useful. Perhaps the charger will be located in a common area and used by a number of different people in a multi-family residence. The Alpha allows the management to set up accounts with unique PIN codes, so each person using the Alpha will know exactly how much energy they used. That allows fair charger-sharing, with each person only responsible for the electricity they use. It also prevents unauthorized use, which will happen with an unprotected charger in a common area parking lot or garage.
You may also have multiple EVs in a household and want to know exactly how much energy each car is using. You can set up an account for each car, and the person plugging in uses the PIN code for the car they are charging. Some people may also want family members to pay for the electricity they use to charge their EV, and the Alpha allows the individual account records via PIN access.
Even if you don't have the need to set up individual accounts and use PIN codes, the Alpha's reports will tell you exactly how much energy your EV has used and how much your car is costing you to charge. Without the ability to see reports like that, you're really just guessing how much the car costs you to operate.
You can't rely on the energy consumption figures the car provides, because that doesn't account for charging losses, which could be as high as 10%, especially in the colder months when the car's thermal management system is working while the vehicle is charging. Alpha will let you know exactly how much electricity was delivered to the vehicle, and therefore your exact cost for charging.
The Alpha is the future of EV charging
Nikiforov explains that when the cell phone was first invented, its purpose was simply to allow people to make a phone call. Nobody realized how the cell phone would evolve into a portable smart device that would change our lives. He then points out that while the main purpose of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) is to simply charge your car, adding smart charging features will improve the EV experience, and smart chargers will one day be the central hub of the connected smart home.
Right now, the main reasons people buy smart EV chargers are to save money by scheduling and having the ability to view charging data. That's going to change as the smart charger has the ability to perform more tasks in the connected home. The Alpha is the first EV charger that is designed to get better the longer you have it because it comes pre-loaded with applications, and additional apps will be added monthly with over-the-air (OTA) updates.
United Chargers will be allowing 3rd party applications through a dedicated app store that's coming soon. The Alpha is an OCPP-compliant smart charger that's also the world's first interactive multimedia EVSE. Whatever the future holds for smart EV charging, the Alpha will be able to adapt via its OTA updates.
So don't wait any longer! Join the many who have already pre-ordered the Alpha from United Chargers and save $100 off of the purchase. For a limited time, pre-order customers can order the Alpha for only $599. Plus, you'll get an additional $100 coupon that's good to use on future United Chargers purchases.
Special pre-order bonus!
There's another reason why you might want to pre-order your Alpha now. United Chargers will be selecting 50 people who have pre-ordered an Alpha and asking them if they would like to be part of the Alpha beta-testing team. If you are chosen and elect to participate, you'll get your Alpha before the end of the year and you'll have direct access to the engineers working on the Alpha. Your feedback will help shape the future of EV charging.