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Old 02-13-2016, 09:26 PM   #1
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Charging an Electric Vehicle dinghy

I'm just wondering...
If I dinghy tow a small electric vehicle, can I charge it while towing? Here is what I am thinking: A bicycle wheel with a generator. This is attached independently to the rear bumper between the RV and the towed vehicle. The output of the charger goes to a voltage regulator attached to the charging system of the towed vehicle. What are your thoughts? Can the 12V auto generator create enough power to charge the other vehicle?
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Old 02-13-2016, 11:30 PM   #2
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If you are talking about a electric car, no.
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Old 02-14-2016, 12:43 AM   #3
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No. Electric vehicles use either 120V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2) chargers. In both cases they convert the A/C to a much higher voltage DC to charge the battery (in the case of my old Focus Electric that was 350V). (Not to mention the Tesla Supercharger, Chademo chargers, or the CCS charger which all pump high current DC into the car--superchargers are up to 120kW.)

You'd be better off letting the car charge itself (all EVs have regenerative brakes where the electric motor is used as a generator to stop the car storing the excess energy back into the battery instead of wasting it as heat like conventional cars do). Many people have thought about simply pulling the EV with it turned "on" forcing the car to charge via regen. Unfortunately this isn't possible with any EV today (and I wouldn't want to leave an energized car behind me).

There are people who have extended the range of their EVs by making a pusher trailer with a gas engine on it (the idea being you crank up the engine and let off the throttle causing the car to regen as the trailer pushes the car along--much like descending a hill).
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Old 02-14-2016, 05:43 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JamieGeek View Post
No. Electric vehicles use either 120V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2) chargers. In both cases they convert the A/C to a much higher voltage DC to charge the battery (in the case of my old Focus Electric that was 350V). ...cut.....
Can't you power the Level 1 charger (120 Volts) from motorhome's generator while driving down the road? Some electric cars carry the 120 Volt charger on board, and if the toad doesn't know it's being towed (I'm not sure if in "off" position the car's computer could detect movement from wheel speed and stop any possibility of charging battery; although I'd guess it would probably not prevent charging from onboard charger) then Onan generator could help charge the EV while being towed. Granted most are very slow and may take 20 hours or longer to charge from empty, but if owner only wants to top-off battery so car is fully charged at destination, then it might work.

Charging from campground power would seem simpler, but I'm guessing that's not allowed unless electric power is metered separately. Is that right? Running generator all day to charge batteries could also get expensive since Onan fuel consumption is relatively high.
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Old 02-14-2016, 11:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chance
Can't you power the Level 1 charger (120 Volts) from motorhome's generator while driving down the road? Some electric cars carry the 120 Volt charger on board, and if the toad doesn't know it's being towed (I'm not sure if in "off" position the car's computer could detect movement from wheel speed and stop any possibility of charging battery; although I'd guess it would probably not prevent charging from onboard charger) then Onan generator could help charge the EV while being towed. Granted most are very slow and may take 20 hours or longer to charge from empty, but if owner only wants to top-off battery so car is fully charged at destination, then it might work.

Charging from campground power would seem simpler, but I'm guessing that's not allowed unless electric power is metered separately. Is that right? Running generator all day to charge batteries could also get expensive since Onan fuel consumption is relatively high.
Yes/No: Yes you could use the genny to charge while driving down the road. In that case you'd be drawing 12A @ 120V from the genny to charge but, as you mention, that method of charging could take 20 hours or more to fully charge the car if it was empty. (Note that 20 hours figure is based on the older Leaf and other <100 mile range cars; newer ones like the Bolt will likely double that figure as their batteries are even bigger.)

The No part of that question is that the cars are smart enough to know when they are plugged in and won't let you charge while in any gear other than park. Thus even if you're dolly towing the car it may not let you charge as you have to leave it in neutral (well at least on my dolly, the Acme dolly, you have to leave in neutral).

Right now many campgrounds don't have an issue with charging there (I have a 50A adapter with a portable Level 2 charger purposely for campground use) but over time if more and more EVs are sold I'm sure campgrounds will start charging extra if you show up with an EV (much like many campgrounds charge extra for running A/C).

When the <100 mile EVs were new there were a few enthusiasts that took on the challenge of driving cross country in them simply to prove it was possible (if impracticable). Those people mainly used campgrounds to recharge the EVs as there was no infrastructure for recharging at the time (now there barely is with the exception of the Tesla Superchargers).

Since we're talking about this, and I turned in my Focus Electric lease I can now post these pictures showing me voiding the warranty by towing it on our dolly:


The owner's manual explicitly states that the Focus Electric can only be towed on a flatbed or trailer what you see here "could damage it". I only did a test tow for about 5 miles with it--I really couldn't see why Ford doesn't want you to do it as the car is front wheel drive just like the gas version and the rear axle is mechanically identical to the gas version. The only thing I could come up with was that Ford was worried about the geometry with all the extra weight over the rear axle. When I turned the car on after the tow it was really unhappy with ABS and traction control errors--took a few key cycles and driving around to make it content again.

Thus I never towed it again...(and now I have the C-Max which can be flat towed.)

When in winter storage I would occasionally use the Focus Electric as a load on the generator during the occasional runs to keep everything working.
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Old 02-14-2016, 01:16 PM   #6
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We did take the Focus Electric camping once, at a campground within its range:
https://spareelectrons.wordpress.com...maiden-voyage/
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