Nissan Promises Common Card for All Public EV Charging

By · April 16, 2014

EV driver charging a LEAF

The word “interoperability” doesn’t exactly roll off your tongue. Yet, for electric car owners, it describes something that’s beautiful and necessary: the ability to go to any public EV charging station with any car, and know that you’ll be able to refuel. Auto companies and charging networks have talked about making their systems interoperable, but so far, it’s been more of a noble idea than a reality.

Nissan helped the EV industry take a big step forward to a common public charging platform today when it announced that it will use a new “EZ-Charge card, a first-of-its-kind platform” to promote sales of the all-electric Nissan LEAF.

The main message from Nissan is that public charging—both DC quick charging and Level 2 240-volt refueling—could be free at many charging stations in key markets. In other words, to entice greater EV adoption, Nissan wants to throw in “free fuel” for two years, much the way that Tesla makes road trip recharging free for owners of the Model S.

However, unlike Tesla’s Superchargers, which are entirely owned and operated by Tesla Motors, Nissan relies on the various charging networks—such as ChargePoint, Blink, Aerovironment and eVgo—to play along. The biggest charging network, Chargepoint, in turn, has to get the owners of the charging station properties, to agree to the free offer. In some cases, Nissan might agree to offer “fuel subsidies” via a charging network to owners, to reduce but not entirely eliminate the cost of public charging.

One Card, One Step Closer

Simon Lonsdale, vice-president of business development for Chargepoint, told PluginCars.com, that 65 percent of its locations “are still free for the majority of the time.” However, a number of charging stations that had been available at no cost have started to require payment.

Lonsdale said, “We don’t want to take control of how much is charged. The station hosts choose their business model.” The capability for Nissan to continue offer free charging is more possible than it was before the birth of the common card, but all the dots have not yet been connected.

In addition, it’s still necessary for EV drivers to enroll in memberships in each of the different multiple networks. But after this is completed, a single card in your wallet can get the juice flowing at all participating networks. So, while free (or even common) charging is not yet ubiquitous for LEAF owners, their wallets will soon be liberated from the burden of multiple cards.

Nissan is the first to promote a branded charging card that comes with the purchase of the vehicle, but the underlying technology—an open protocol—would be available to other auto companies. "It’s open to all carmakers," said Lonsdale. "I can't see a reason why everyone wouldn't want to be a part of this. All EV drivers will benefit."

Lonsdale said that ChargePoint, soon after the Nissan program is launched, is expected to issue a map with information about which of its locations will participate. EV drivers who use more than one network will likely rely on a variety of sources to find more information—including when charging is free.

Nissan’s "No Charge to Charge" will launch using the EZ-Charge card on July 1, 2014, in 10 of the top markets for Nissan LEAF sales, including San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston and Washington, DC. The "No Charge to Charge" offer and EZ-Charge card will be provided retroactively to buyers in these markets who purchased their LEAF on or after April 1, 2014.

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