Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021

RVelectricity – Just Ask Mike (J.A.M.): “Ball of Confusion” – new USB-C connectors in cars

Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM. This week I talk about USB-C connectors to charge cell phones in the car.


Dear Mike,
I know you’re a computer guy in addition to being an electrical guy, so here’s a quick question for you. I just bought a Volkswagen ID.4 Electric Vehicle exactly like the one VW loaned you, so perhaps you’ve figured this out already.

How do I plug in my Apple cell phone to charge? I’ve asked the sales guy at the dealership and he seemed clueless. I did find a cigarette lighter port all the way in the back by the hatchback, but my cell phone charger won’t reach. So how do I make this work? —Larry the cable guy

Dear Larry,

(First, thank you to The Temptations for “Ball of Confusion.”) Don’t feel bad as this one threw me for a loop at first also. Like you, I searched all over the car and found the standard cigarette lighter outlet in the back. But then I noticed a pair of USB-C connectors in the storage compartment between the front seats. And, bingo, these are the new USB-C connectors found on the latest computers. So it’s out with the cigarette lighter outlets and USB-A ports, and in with the very high-powered and high-speed USB-C ports.

Time marches on…

Just as soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out, things change. So I just ordered one of these cables from Amazon. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m 99.99% certain it will work to charge and link my phone into the ID.4 computer. It’s a USB-C to Lightning charging cable you can get on Amazon or Best Buy. HERE is what I just bought from Amazon.

The Right Stuff…

Of course this exact cable is for an iPhone charging port. But if you have an older Droid phone you can simply get a USB-C to Micro-USB charging cable. Or a new Droid phone uses a USB-C connection. So get the “Right Stuff” for your brand of smartphone and all will be well.

The beauty of USB-C cable is that it can provide up to 100 watts of power bidirectionally. It’s now being used on the latest HDMI displays, laptop computers, and apparently Volkswagen electric vehicles. Soon you’ll have this kind of cable all over the place. But for now you just need one to charge your iPhone while driving. Please remember not to text while driving!

UPDATE!

I was just informed by a VW salesman that the ID.4 has a wireless charging pad for most new cell phones. I did test it and it does indeed work. But I didn’t know this at first because it took a few extra seconds for the ID.4 to play nice with my iPhone charging circuitry. So be sure to check for this feature in the newest vehicles.

OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.

Let’s play safe out there….

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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Arthur Jacobson
1 month ago

Mike,
I own a 2021 VW ID.4. The charge pad is a much slower way to charge my IPhone 12. The USB-C ports are very fast. There two in the front and two more for back seat passengers. Also, the front seatbacks have a nice pouch at the top for a backseat passenger’s phone. The tech laden ID.4 also has both wireless Car Play and Android Auto.
Great small SUV. Really enjoy mine!

Danny
1 month ago

VW Salesman here! The ID.4 has a wireless charging pad standard! You dont even need cables if you’re just charging one device and if you have a new-ish phone (most phones in the last 4-5 years or so). Its just above the USB C outlets you posted the photo of.

Mike Sokol
1 month ago
Reply to  Danny

I’m going to go try it right now even though it’s 95 degrees outside in the shade. Thanks for the tip! 😁

Last edited 1 month ago by Mike Sokol
Mike Sokol
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

It works… I tried this initially but wasn’t patient enough to wait the few extra seconds for it to sync. Silly me!

Last edited 1 month ago by Mike Sokol
billh42
1 month ago

One correction. Newer Android phones have USB C connectors so the correct cable is USB C to USB C. Usually comes with the phone and an AC power block.

One other point. USB 3.1 refers to the data transfer speed not the connector. Any USB connector regardless of shape or size can utilize USB 3.1 or 3.0 or 2.0 for data transfer.

Mike Sokol
1 month ago
Reply to  billh42

Yup, and I also bought a few USB-C to USB-C cables for my new droid phone. It’s the new thing… 😁

Bob
1 month ago

I just bought a new Iphone Se. It came with the USB-C lighting cable. Problem is my 6 year old truck does not have the USB-C connectors, neither does my computer, only USB-B. I called Apple and asked them why they didn’t include the USB-B to USB-C adapter. They told me it was to reduce the packaging size. Really??

Bob M
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

Apple is in the business to make money. So they change things every couple years to get more from you. That’s why they also stopped giving the charging plug. No matter what excuse they tell you.

John
1 month ago

My year old Samsung S20+ Android phone came with a USB-C port for charging and interface. The included charging cord is USB-C on both ends and so the included charging block is USB-C also. As Mike said, USB-C is the new standard and has/will begun/begin appearing on all sorts of electronic devices. My source for that info is the website How-To-Geek (howtogeek.com), from which I get emails everyday, just like RV travel.

tom
1 month ago

EU regulations is going to require USB-3.1 for all future devices. Apple is fighting the regulation, but will probably lose.

tom
1 month ago
Reply to  tom

The bureaucrats of the EU have spoken. Apple,you lose. a BIG WIN FOR CONSUMERS

Michael Gardner
1 month ago

How’s the Hughes autoformer test coming?

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