Small, light and portable, but still packing a 240-volt punch
We recently posted our Ultimate Buyers Guide to Level 2 Chargers, that included our Top 5 picks for wall-mounted, medium power (30-amps to 40-amps) level 2 charging stations. We're now turning our attention to lower-powered, portable Level 2 EVSE units, and have selected the ClipperCreek LCS-20P, the AmazingE, and the AeroVironment (now Webasto) TurboCord for our side-by-side comparison.
Charging Station News
These devices offer a middle-ground between the standard 120-volt, level 1 chargers that most EVs come standard with, and a typical wall-mounted EVSE like the ones we compared in our Ultimate Buyers Guide. These units are especially well-suited for those customers who want to charge at multiple locations (home, work, a relative's house, etc) with only one unit, and also for those who don't have the electric capacity to install a higher powered unit at home. Also, they allow PHEV owners to fully recharge their batteries in a couple of hours, instead of the 10 to 15 hours that it would take on level 1. PHEV owners may not feel the need for a more powerful, wall-mounted unit since their car has a smaller battery, and a lower charge rate than a pure EV.
The ClipperCreek and Webasto units have been available for years now, and have long since established themselves as high quality, dependable units. However, these well known favorites aren't inexpensive, and have recently been challenged by a number of new entries to the market, many of which are offered at a significantly lower price point.
One example of the new, lower-priced units is the AmazingE. The AmazingE has been available for a little over a year now, and seems to have a relatively high customer satisfaction rate. It has an Amazon rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, and the reviews on many online EV forums are mostly satisfactory.
High Powered or Low Powered? That Depends.
Before we start the comparison, we'd like to talk a little about the power delivery of these units. Some manufacturers like to boast about the charging speed of these units in their advertisements, and it can sometimes get a little confusing. We've seen claims of "charges three times as fast" and "lightning fast" being used, and some people new to EVs may not fully understand how EV charging works. Some EVs can only accept 16-amps of power, while others, like the new Audi e-Tron for instance, can accept up to 40-amps. Therefore, make sure you know your car's charging capabilities before you purchase charging equipment, or you may not pair the correct device with your car's charging ability, and your driving needs.
Most EVs today come with a 120-volt portable EVSE. Some EVs however, come standard with a portable level-2 unit, and this trend seems to be increasing. Tesla for instance, provides a 120-v/240-v Mobile Charger with every car they sell. Therefore, Tesla owners typically wouldn't be in the market for a portable unit like those we're comparing here. Audi is also going to be providing a high-powered (40-amp) portable 240-v EVSE with every e-Tron, so it's possible that more OEMs may start to follow Tesla's model of including a 240-v EVSE with the car.
If your EV comes with a portable 240-volt charger, then you probably have no need for another one. In that case, you're more likely to be in the market for a higher-amperage wall mounted unit. As for charging speed, it is true that a 16-amp portable 240-volt EVSE will charge an EV at nearly three times as fast as a 120-volt, 12-amp unit as the ads claim. Just make sure you know exactly what charging equipment came with your EV before making a purchase, or you may end up buying something that isn't really better than what you already have. The advertisments that claim their products will "charge your car 3 times faster" don't always tell the whole story.
There are also many EV owners who may be better served buying a 32-amp wall mounted unit for only a little more than the cost of many of these lower-powered, portable 240-volt units. These wall-mounted chargers are twice as powerful as the 16-amp portable units we're discussing here today. Therefore, "powerful" is a relative term, and we urge customers to do their due-diligence before purchasing any EV charging equipment.
Part of your research should be determining whether or not it's even possible to add a dedicated 40-amp or 50-amp circuit necessary for a 32-amp or 40-amp higher powered wall unit to your home. Many homes, especially older ones, cannot add a 40-amp circuit without an entire service upgrade that costs thousands of dollars. Those in that position may have no choice but to settle for a lower-powered 16-amp 240-volt EVSE. All three of the units in our comparison can deliver 16-amps of power, which will charge a typical EV at a rate of rough 11 to 15 miles of range per hour, depending on how efficient the vehicle is.
One last consideration is the plug. While they all use the same industry-standard J1772 connector to plug into the car, each of the three units in our comparison uses a different wall plug on the other end. The variety of different types of outlets can be a big problem for those who want to take these small, portable units on the road with them. It's not an issue for home charging, because you can install the outlet you need at home, your place of work or maybe even at a relative or friend's house.
However, trying to find an available NEMA 14-30 outlet at the local shopping mall, or a NEMA 6-50 at a rest stop along the highway can be challenging. The NEMA 14-50 outlet seems to be the most popular, and that's probably because Tesla uses it for their Mobile Charger. Tesla has had them installed for destination charging in many locations, as have Tesla owners. If it's your intention to use your portable 240-volt EVSE at multiple locations and opportunity charge whenever possible, we'd recommend investing in an array of adapters, definitely including a NEMA 14-50, so you're ready for any available 240-volt outlet that you come across.
ClipperCreek has been making electric vehicle charging equipment at least as long, if not longer, than anyone in the business. Many manufactures have turned to them for the standard level 1 charging equipment that is supplied with their electric vehicles. The LCS-20P we're using for the comparison is the heaviest of the three and weighs 6 lbs. However, it also has a standard 25-foot cable, which is 5-feet longer than the other two units. It has a built-in cable management by coiling the cable around the unit, and securing it in place with a locking strap. There are four holes (two on top and two on the bottom of the unit) which allow for easy wall mounting and removal if desired. The unit is NEMA 4 rated which is good for outdoor use even in extreme weather.
ClipperCreek includes a wall-mounted connector holster in the box with all of their EVSE, which is especially useful if you're going to be charging outside. We at InsideEVs recommend always holstering or capping your EVSE connector when not in use to prevent dust, water and other contaminants from infiltrating the connector head. Unlike Webasto or AmazingE, ClipperCreek doesn't provide a carrying case or bag with the unit. However, as mentioned above, it does have a nice cable management system to make handling and transporting it easy.
One notable point is that ClipperCreek is the only company that allows their customers to choose which plug they would like on the unit. They offer the LCS-20P with four different plug configurations: NEMA 14-50, NEMA 6-50, NEMA 14-30 or NEMA L6-30. By allowing the customer to choose which plug is used, the customer could potentially save up to a couple hundred dollars by not needing to install a new outlet, or needing to upgrade the wiring in the existing circuit. We got our unit in a NEMA 14-50 plug configuration because that seems to be the most popular. Plugshare even has a 14-50 plug option in their search criteria, so you can search a destination for available outlets. You can't do that for the other 240v plug configurations.
The TurboCord was developed and sold by AeroVironment until earlier in 2018 when Webasto purchased AeroVironmant's EV charging business. AeroVironment specializes in "Unmanned Aircraft Systems and tactical missile systems used for surveillance and reconnaissance by the military," so EV-charging equipment should be pretty simple for them. They did in fact, prove their engineering expertise when they developed and introduced the TurboCord in 2014.
The TurboCord is tiny, and weighs only 4 lbs. It's so small and light, that it plugs directly into the outlet, so there's no need to have any kind of wall mounting system. It has a 20-foot cable and the unit has a NEMA-6 rating, which is not only good for all kinds of weather, including direct hose spray like the NEMA 4 rated ClipperCreek and AmazingE, but it is also rated for up to 30 minutes of complete immersion in up to a meter of water. It's the smallest, lightest and highest NEMA-rated unit of the three. Webasto includes a wall-mounted cable hanger in the box, but not a connector holster.
The TurboCord is also the only 120-volt/240-volt unit of the three in our comparison. It's worth noting that you can get the TurboCord in a dedicated 240-volt configuration for $389, which is $110 less than the dual-voltage version we have that retails for $499. To switch from 240-volts, to 120-volt charging on the dual-voltage unit, you simply remove the 240-volt adapter and locking clip, and plug the unit into any simple household outlet.
When the unit is charging on 120-volts, it will deliver up to 12-amps (1.4kW) of power which will charge a typical EV at about 3 to 5 miles of range per hour. Add the NEMA 6-20, 240-volt adapter, and the charge rate jumps up to roughly 11 to 15 miles per hour. Having the ability to switch between 120-volts and 240-volts is desirable, because the one unit is all you ever need to charge at home or take with you on the road.
The AmazingE is the lowest-cost choice of the three, and by a significant amount. At only $219.00 it's a good value for a solid 240-volt portable charger. Like the ClipperCreek unit, it's NEMA 4 rated, which is fine for use in all outdoor weather conditions.
Unlike the two other units, there's no cable management system. The only thing included for cable management is a small Velcro strap attached to the cable. As for wall mounting, there are two brackets on the rear of the unit which will slide over screw heads to hold it on a wall. It works, but it's not as easy or as secure as the ClipperCreek's mounting process. There is no connector holster included but their website does have a connector holster available for $19.00. It's actually the exact same holster that's included with the ClipperCreek unit.
In fact, the AmazingE is sold through, serviced by, and uses components made by ClipperCreek, and that offers buyers a higher level of confidence, since ClipperCreek is an established brand with high customer satisfaction. As mentioned above, AmazingE has started off well, and currently has a very-high 4.8 of out 5-star rating on Amazon, which is part of the reason why we chose to include it in this review, instead of one of the other new-to-market portable 16-amp EVSE.
On the negative side, AmazingE only offers an 18-month warranty, which is half as long as what ClipperCreek and Webasto offers on their products. That's a significant shortcomming in our opinion, and buyers should definitely take warranty length into consideration when making a purchase decision. It also uses a NEMA 14-30 plug which aren't very common in many public places. We'd recommend getting a NEMA 14-50 adapter if you have an AmazingE and plan to charge on the road at times.
By the numbers:
ClipperCreek HCS-20P Webasto TurboCord AmazingE
Power: 16-amps @240v 12-amps @120v 16-amps @240v 16-amps @240v
Weight: 6 lbs. 4 lbs. 4.6 lbs.
Cord Lenght: 25-feet 20-feet 20-feet
Dimensions: 11"L x 4"W x 3"D 5.5"L x 3.7"W x 1.8"D 9.2"L x 3.5"W x 2"D
NEMA Rating: NEMA-4 NEMA-6P NEMA-4
Plug: (NEMA 14-50, 6-50, L6-30 or 14-30) NEMA 6-20 NEMA 14-30
Connector Holster: Included No Optional
Cable Mgmt: Built-in w/locking strap Included- wall mounted Velcro Strap
Warranty: 3 Years 3 Years 1.5 Years
Price: $395.00 $389.00(240-v only) $499.00 (120/240v) $219.00
As mentioned above, there have been a lot of new entries in the portable 240v EVSE market in the past couple of years. The units selected for this comparison are, in our opinion, some of the better choices available today.
InsideEVs also reached out to Duosida to see if they wanted to be included in this comparison test, but they didn't respond back. Duosida offers a low cost (sub-$200) portable 120v / 240v EVSE that is marketed and sold under 4 or 5 different names (Zencar, EVChargeSolutions, BougeRV, OrionMotorTech and more). However, this unit seems to have many unfavorable ratings on Amazon, with customers complaining that their units failed within the first year of use. Also, the Duosida website states that the product is only covered by a 30-day warranty, so buyer beware.
Another consideration worth mentioning is the fact that ClipperCreek offers a variety of different power level options to meet the customer's needs. We focused on 16-amp unit here, because 16-amp units are the most popular, and what the majority of the competition is offering. In addition to offering four different plug configurations, ClipperCreek also offers their LCS models in power ratings of:
- 12-amps (2.8 kW) - Delivers about 8-11 miles of range per hour
- 16-amps (3.8 kW) - Delivers about 11-15 mph (The model used in our comparison)
- 20-amps (4.8 kW) - Delivers about 14-19 mph
- 24-amps (5.8 kW) - Delivers about 17-23 mph
Choosing the right level 2 portable EVSE for your needs is a personal decision based on budget, the charging capability of your EV, the power you have available at your house, the daily driving range you need, and perhaps the outlets you have available for you to use at work or other locations you frequent.
The three units we present here are all very capable, well made devices and InsideEVs feels comfortable recommending all of them. With that said, it would be hard to say that ClipperCreek isn't our favorite brand for portable EV charging for the following reasons:
- They offer units in 4 different power levels, and all come in 4 different plug configurations
- All of their units come with the industry-best 25-foot cables
- All of their products come with a robust 3-year warranty
- They have built-in cable management, and include a wall-mounted connector holster
- ClipperCreek has a long history of making top-quality products & great customer service
The TurboCord's ability to switch between 120-volts and 240-volts is a feature that others will put a premium on. It's small, light, and comes with a nice carrying case, but at $499 it's more than twice the price of the AmazingE. On the other hand, the warranty is twice as long as the AmazingE's, and it's the only unit of the three that's NEMA 6P rated, which means it can be fully submerged in up to a meter of water for at least 30 minutes and still operate and quality like that does come with a price.
While there's no one-size-fits-all when buying electric vehicle charging equipment, there are some important features and other considerations when shopping for one. First, make sure your home can accommodate the electric demand the unit you want needs. Make sure it's paired well with the amount of electric your EV can accept (the car always dictates how much power it will accept, so you don't have to worry if you get a charger that can deliver more than your car's maximum charge rate). Decide which plug you want, and get adapters if necessary. Check to see if the unit is safety certified and that it has at least a NEMA 4 outdoor rating for adverse weather conditions. Make sure the cable is long enough for your needs, and that you have a holster or cap for the connector when not in use. Finally, don't rush to buy a unit that is a few dollars less without thoroughly checking product reviews and ratings.
There are a lot of new entries to this market, and many of these units aren't built as well, and don't have the proven track record as the three we used for this comparison. Since these devices will likely be used every day and for many continous hours, and if they aren't well-made you could run into serious problems. Saving a few bucks today could be very costly down the road, so do your homework before buying an EVSE, and certainly make sure it's safety-certified and market tested.