Review: AeroVironment TurboCord Dual 120/240V Level 1/2 charger is a perfect EV companion

turbocord

Aerovironment is a company with a long history of innovation. I first encountered the company in the 90s in undergraduate Aerospace Engineering when the Southern California company took part in USC’s engineering and internship program. At the time, founder Paul McCready and Co were working on human powered flight and then solar powered flight, which required radical battery and charging systems.

Since then, the company moved on to building drones for governments (boo!) and working on innovation in the electric car space (yay!).  AeroVironment was a big part of the Sunraycer and Impact/EV1 project with GM in the late 80s and 90s and now powers the charging solutions with a number of automobiles through its EV Solutions subsidiary.

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Their main consumer product is the TurboCord Dual, a tiny combination Level 1/2 charger that can be plugged into a normal 110V outlet or with the included adapter, 240V NEMA 6-20 outlet and charge a vehicle at three times the speed.  How well does it do? I’ve been using one as my main on board charger with vehicles ranging from the Plug in Prius to the Tesla Model S since the beginning of the year…

The first thing you will notice about the TurboCord is how small it is. It comes in a little purse-sized zipper bag and is about the same size as a lunch bag. It can fit in a glovebox or tucked under a seat, as well as in the usual charging cable locations in the trunk.

The cable is thin and very flexible — unlike the cables that came with the default Tesla charger or Prius Plug-in charger. It loops up quickly and easily for storage. The “brains” of a Level 1/2 charger are tucked in the little square at the base of the cord, which has a big bright blue charging indicator light. The whole package is light but super durable, thanks to Nema 6P weather proofing and ruggedness.

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That was the good. There were a few downsides to the package, however. The design of the plug is a square and is sometimes hard to fit in a standard outlet. And while level 1 charging was pretty standard, level 2 charging only went up to 20A, the limit of the 6-20R interface. That means it only charges at half the speed (~14 miles/hour of charge on the Tesla) as the 40A adapter that comes with the Tesla. While much faster that level 1 AC charging, it isn’t what you are going to want to use on a daily basis with a big-battery car. For our Prius, which we plug into a 110V, it charged about twice as fast on 240V.

Still, it was fantastic in a pinch. On a ski trip where my options were 110 or 240V at 20A on a NEMA 6-20, it pretty much save my life, or a few hours of it, by giving us the charge we needed to make it back three times faster than using a 110v outlet would have been.

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Wrap up:

Overall, I would recommend the TurboCord for certain uses. I wouldn’t recommend the TurboCord to be your daily, home charging solution. Bulkier stationary chargers are much less expensive and more powerful and connect to the Internet.

However, the TurboCord works incredibly well as a stopgap until you get a permanent charging solution and you *can* use it every day.

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Most importantly, as an EV owner, you need to make sure you have a charging option on the road. The ruggedness, utility and svelte design of the TurboCord make it an easy choice. You can leave your manufacturer-issued charger in your garage instead of yanking it out of the wall and packing it in the car every time you go on a trip.

I’d love to see a NEMA 14-50 compatible TurboCord that charges at double the speed but I realize the size of the adapter would grow as well. This is a pretty good balance of speedy charging and small size.

TurboCord Dual is $50 off at Amazon where it gets 4.7/5 star ratings.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Steve Grenier - 7 years ago

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing this. I always wanted something like this for when I travel and end up somewhere without a properly charging station. Nice safety net.

  2. Dan - 7 years ago

    I love Mine! Its expensive, but its has easily paid itself off by being more versatile that the rest!

  3. Dan - 7 years ago

    Not sure why one would buy this for $600 when you can buy a spare Tesla kit for $650 and add the 6-15 adapter for $45. Throw that in the trunk and you’re pretty much covered and if you come across a 14-50 at least your charge adapter can handle it. With the AeroVironment kit, you’re limited to a slow Level 2 no matter options you find. This might be a nice kit for a car that’s limited to Level 2 charging, but we wouldn’t buy one for travel in the Model S.

  4. danfrederiksen1 - 7 years ago

    It could easily be much smaller and dirt cheap. J1772 is afterall only a glorified extension cord. By having minimal electronics in the handle instead of at the plug, you only need a 2 wire cable. And a J1772 plug can be much smaller than that pistol nonsense. It’s an unintelligent plug design but you can still make a very small plug that is compatible. About the size of a round european 220 plug. A 16A cable is quite thin and you could easily step it up to 32.
    A portable J1772 should be under 100$

  5. danfrederiksen1 - 7 years ago

    One thing I wonder though, is the signal fixed to 16A? or configurable. Because it might be a shared supply and drawing 16A might trip all kinds of things.
    Maybe most EVs can set the draw?
    Is it not a problem in practice?

  6. Danger Dan - 6 years ago

    Not happy with Aerovironment or their 240V turbocord!!! Got a second hand unit a couple of months ago (to go with my shiny new kinetic blue Gen 2 Volt!!!), charger worked until a couple of days ago. Came home to find my charger no longer had any lights on (not blue nor fault-indicating red) and was concerningly hot. Not (yet) dripping flaming plastic hot but yeah, toasty. It’s now dead dead dead, I guess some component shorted. Apparently it turns out to have been a demo only unit, so they won’t honor the warranty. That’s weird, not sure if the original owner knew either, but okay fine – fml. Also found out it’s four months after the warranty would have expired (as they pointed out as a rationale in disowning the charger). So I guess I was always screwed, but just be aware that after three years they will absolutely wash their hands of their product. No help from them, and not a hint of interest in a potentially dangerous failure mode. If I were them I would at least be asking for the return of the unit to debug what component shorted out and do a risk assessment on it. I sure won’t be replacing it with another one.

Author

Avatar for Seth Weintraub Seth Weintraub

Publisher and Editorial Director of the 9to5/Electrek sites. Tesla Model 3, X and Chevy Bolt owner…5 ebikes and counting