By on August 22, 2018

Going green shouldn’t lead to the appearance of orange flames, so Ford Motor Company wants you to bring your charging cord back to the dealer. A number of fires associated with the 120-volt factory charging cord provided with C-Max and Fusion plug-in hybrids, as well as the Focus Electric, forced Ford’s hand in the recall.

It seems some owners’ wall outlets aren’t the beefy piece of infrastructure Ford engineers assumed, but some owners can be faulted for using a cheap extension cord to “refuel” their environmentally sensitive ride.

The recall covers cords provided with Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi models from the 2013 to 2015 model year, plus the 2012-2015 Focus Electric. The 120V convenience charger, also known as a trickle charger, allows owners to plug in their PHEV or EV into a standard wall outlet, but not all wall outlets (or breakers) are made equal.

“Using the 120-volt convenience charge cord originally provided with the affected vehicles with an AC outlet that is not on a dedicated circuit or is damaged, worn or corroded may result in increased temperature at the wall outlet and potentially lead to a fire,” the automaker stated.

Ford claims it’s aware of a number of fires linked to this issue. Continent-wide, some 50,524 vehicles left the factory with this cord on board — 49,197 in the United States and its federalized territories and 1,327 in Canada.

In its mail-out to owners, Ford plans to remind these greenies of what constitutes a proper wall outlet, as well as warn them not to use an extension cord “under any circumstances.” (The owner’s manual originally stated this.) Recalled vehicles gain a new version of the 120V cord, this one containing a thermistor to identify when things are heating up at the wall outlet and shut off the flow of charged particles if necessary.

Most trickle charge cords draw about 12 amps, which theoretically shouldn’t be a problem, as household wall plugs are capable of providing 15 amps. However, unless your garage plug is on a dedicated circuit, lights and appliances can suck away that current. That’s when things heat up at the plug-in point. Connecting your PHEV or EV to the outlet with an extension cord of insufficient gauge also runs the risk of impromptu pyrotechnics.

[Image: Ford]

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18 Comments on “Ford Recalls Green Car Charging Cords Because House Fires Aren’t Good For the Environment...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    I foresee this becoming a regular thing as plug-in availability grows.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      people need to quit acting like everything lasts forever and never wears out. if the plug don’t fit tightly in the receptacle, the receptacle needs to be replaced.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Fords and fires *sigh*

  • avatar
    TR4

    Ghost of the Pinto?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    These things can pull 1400 W for hours at a time, and heat is no joke even at that load. When we moved into our current house, I had to replace the wall outlet where we plug ours in because the existing outlet was worn and would get hot after a few minutes of charging. Fortunately the wiring behind it was fine, so a new outlet took care of the problem. (My car is a 2016 so the charger presumably already has the thermal sensor installed.)

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Sounds like a problem with electrical standards rather than Ford’s plug.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Yes, the problem is on the homeowner’s end. But you are more likely to get money by suing deep pockets Ford than by suing the folks who had to sell you the house when kindly old grandma and grandpa had to move into a nursing home. If nothing else, Ford wants to protect itself in the court of public opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yep; a toaster, hair dryer, or a space heater would produce the same results, but only Ford is recalling its products to protect themselves against homeowner neglect.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      The problem is that the chargers draw a relatively high current. I’m willing to bet that the typical garage receptacle is old and has had a plug inserted and removed thousands of times in an older home. Those tired brass tangs inside the receptacle no longer grip the plug well. A loose plug introduces resistance. That resistance becomes a voltage drop at the receptacle which manifests itself as heat. Or in addition to this, the wires on the terminal screws are no longer nice and tight. Again resistance. If the receptacle was in good condition, and the wiring connections nice and tight, there would not be any overheating. Aluminum wiring, with its non-conductive corrosion, will exacerbate this problem even more. I’m sure Ford’s cord merly has a temperature sensor in the plug. Too hot and the circuit opens.

      This problem is not related to the breaker/fuse or whether the circuit is dedicated or not. Loose connections make heat. The breaker never trips because it does not see any overcurrent condition, nor does it experience excessive heating.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        residential circuits are *supposed* to be sized to carry ~80% of the rated current as a continuous load. which for your typical 120VAC, 15A circuit is 12 amps. but yeah, poor connections or worn out receptacles will cause resistive heating. If I recall GM had to change the Volt’s software to default to charging at 8 amps because of this. Unfortunately the average person seems to think everything should last literally forever and never wear out.

        if I was to own an EV (and it looks like my next vehicle might be one) then I’d pay a licensed electrician to run a dedicated circuit to the garage and direct wire the charger.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          You can easily do this yourself. 240 volts is just phase to phase as opposed to phase to neutral for 120 volts. Hence the 2 pole breaker. Funny how people wig out when you say 240 volts. You will have to install a service disconnect for the charger if it is hard wired…Of course if you are not comfortable with wiring then by all means hire the men in white vans…though you do know the max loading for continuous (greater than three hours) loads so you seem to know…

  • avatar
    TR4

    It would probably be a good idea for EV owners to replace their residential grade outlet (likely with push in wire connections) with a commercial grade with screw on connections.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Didn’t the Volt have to downgrade its home charging rate a few years ago, because the charge cable was getting too hot?? Is this the same issue with different solutions?

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    You can blame home owners and builders for this all you want, but didn’t Ford prove there was some problem by adding a thermal switch to the cord? That’s a good idea in any major appliance. I’ve heard no word of this on my 2017, and it appears to charge just fine, though it’s powered from my home office, with lots of other loads.

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