Nissan Promises Dealership-Based EV Quick Charging

By · January 14, 2013

Nissan's Tim Gallagher

Nissan's Tim Gallagher on Saturday discussing the 2013 Nissan LEAF, seen in background, and Quick Charging, at Luscious Garage in San Francisco, at a meeting of the Bay Area Nissan LEAF Owners Association.

On Saturday, Nissan gave a sneak peak of the 2013 LEAF to the Bay Area Nissan LEAF Owners Association in San Francisco—a few days before the new model year is unveiled at this year’s Detroit auto show. Tim Gallagher, a Nissan spokesman, said the 2013 enhancements were “simple, small changes, a nice generational move of the car,” as I reported for The New York Times. But to me, and the 60 or so LEAF owners on hand in San Francisco, the big news was the imminent roll out of Quick Chargers throughout California at Nissan dealerships.

I’ve been driving my Nissan LEAF for more than 18 months, and have yet to use the Quick Charger—the main added feature of the more expensive SL model. Knowing that there are Quick Chargers throughout the Bay Area would enable me to take trips—from my hometown of Berkeley maybe as far as Santa Cruz and up to Sacramento—that I have not dared try.

“I can finally say that I’m confident that in the next 60 days, we’re going to have a lot of Quick Chargers in the ground, that we’re doing with our dealerships.” Said Gallagher. “I’ve seen the list of dealerships that have been identified that will get Quick Chargers. It’s great coverage throughout the state. It’s sort of a test program for us, because we want to see about usage. But if I were here in 60 days, we would be having a lot different conversation about a lot of Nissan Chargers in the ground.”

Managing Expectations

When asked if the Quick Chargers, capable of adding about 50 to 60 miles of range in about 20 to 25 minutes, would be available 24/7 at dealerships, Gallagher replied, “That’s the intent,” leaving some flexibility in case some dealerships have physical locations that would make that impossible. “I’m sure the community will get the word out about which dealers don’t have 24/7 access.”

Gallagher also left some wiggle room about whether or not the Quick Chargers would be free—but that was clearly the understanding of LEAF owners who are in close communication with Nissan. The availability of free 24/7 chargers at dozens of Bay Area Nissan dealerships—and other prime markets in the state (and across the country) could put competing charging infrastructure providers at a disadvantage. Why pay for something when it’s offered free elsewhere?

The purpose of putting the Quick Chargers at dealerships is apparently not only to cut through the red tape of installing in other public locations, but to be used as a sales tool. Nissan sales staff would be able to demonstrate Quick Charging, or better yet, just to point to the Quick Charger being used by a happy LEAF owner.

Nissan will use its own CHAdeMo-based Quick Charge equipment at dealerships. “Three or four years ago, it was not part of the business plan to do our own Quick Chargers, because we thought the community would already be up and running. But a couple of years ago we decided to jump in and do our own. We lowered the cost of it.”

Looking to 2013

As an existing owner, the news of Quick Charging overshadowed the 2013 feature enhancement. The news of the LEAF using a 6.6-kW onboard charger for Level 2 charging—cutting most charging times in half—is a no-brainer. But almost all of my charging is done overnight anyhow. The 2013 should have a bit more range, but that remains to be seen. The range-enhancements come from a combination of an aerodynamic tweak to the front fascia, a more efficient heater and the addition of a driver-selected B-mode that increases regenerative braking. A feature long demanded by Leaf owners, a dashboard display of the battery’s state of charge on a percentage basis will be offered in the 2013 model.

The available of a less expensive stripped-down S model, with a basic audio system and no Quick Charge port, could make a difference for future sales—but we won’t know how significant the move is until pricing in announced from Detroit later today.

I’m also glad to see that the charging port will have a light—a personal pet peeve—and that buyers of 2013 LEAFs will have the option of a black interior, in cloth or leather, rather than the single bland beige currently available.

Live and Learn

All these tweaks, and the roll out of the Quick Charging at dealerships, in no small part resulted from rank-and-file EV drivers expressing the importance of these changes loud and clear to Nissan.

On Saturday, Gallagher specifically called out Marc Geller—a LEAF driver, long-time EV advocate, and co-founder of Plug In America—for his role in educating Nissan about the needs of everyday EV drivers, and how that plays out in terms of LEAF features and EV charging infrastructure. “I’ve learned a lot from Marc Geller,” said Gallagher. “I’ve argued with Marc about a lot of things that I didn’t know anything about.”

Nissan's Gallagher, who has 9,000 miles on his own LEAF, now has direct first-hand experience with driving electric. “Now I can look back and say, well, Marc was right.”

Comments

· · 1 year ago

This is very exciting news indeed, although my excitement is tempered by the fact that this is in CA. CA/OR/WA/TN already have the best quick-charge networks in the US. Bring this to the northeast, and you will change a lot of people's minds about buying the Leaf. QC's use as a sales tool is something I've been saying for over a year now (and many others, even longer). I'm glad Nissan seems to be listening.

· · 1 year ago

I'm told that my dealership, Nissan of Downtown LA, will be one of the first to install a fast charger. We're very excited since we are located at the intersection of two of the busiest freeways in the country. Our location will be very popular indeed.

Good for Tim Gallagher acknowledging Marc Geller as the impetus for many of the changes. Marc's been a tireless advocate for much that has come to pass in the EV world. Sometimes the behind the scenes people don't get the credit they deserve.

· · 1 year ago

Yay, Marc! Nissan does seem to be turning over a new... well, they seem to be listening. I'm saddened that it took so long, however. Many of us have been wondering for years why EV makers haven't used the knowledge of experienced EV drivers to avoid making the same mistakes... again.

· · 1 year ago

I bet the Nissan dealerships by me *DO NOT* install fast chargers...All the dealerships by me do not have a spare 200 amps at 208 volts and most have already installed larger services before to take care of the mostly unused level 2 aerovironment 30 amp things. They probably were reluctant to change out what they had before and now can't do it again until their formerly 'new' services are fully amortized.

· · 1 year ago

I will be very interested to see how they control access to these chargers. Personally I think having EV enthusiasts of all stripes walking around the dealership for 30 minutes could be a good thing for them, but I don't think Nissan would appreciate Mitsubishi i-MiEVs or Fiat 500es hogging the spaces if a Leaf needed to charge. At a minimum it seems like they would have to have RFID fobs to activate them similar to Blink or eVgo, unless they feel a "Non Nissan vehicles will be towed at owner's expense" will do the trick for a lot less money.

· · 1 year ago

Nissan installed QC is the big news, unshackling LEAF owners from their garage. Sharing with iMiEV drivers would be justice for all the LEAF drivers that have used the QC in Cypress, shared generously by Mitsubishi. But free will make these a traffic jam. Much better to cover basic convenience and cost for a nominal charge, using the credit card ID most drivers already have. Insuring access to customers and protecting QC viability, Nissan will also learn more about who there customers are and how they use their products with this energy distribution model that ICE drivers already accept. Nissan/Foodmart anyone?

· · 1 year ago

Maybe Nissan should offer free quick charges to LEAF owners exclusively -- if a Volt or other plug-in car owner wants to charge at a Nissan dealership, they can, but they need to pay for it -- then it's a free service to Nissan customers and a marketing advantage to the company. Would please this LEAF owner immensely!

· · 1 year ago

The only other current-produced EV that would be vying for CHAdeMO charging at a Nissan dealership would be the upper end Mitsubishi i. The Fiat 500e (unless I misread the spec sheet) has no quick charge capability, but better than 3.3kWh on its Level 2 J1772 port. This is also the case on the current Ford Focus EV.

Likewise, Chevy's Volt is not equipped with a fast charge port, as it's ICE is deemed the "quick charging" backup. Whenever these European and US manufacturers finally get around to building EVs with quick charge capabilities, they will be using SAE J1772 Combo protocol, not the Japanese CHAdeMO.

· · 1 year ago

Yes, yes, yes. At long last.
Quick-charging is a very effective way to boost the usefulness of affordable, otherwise range-limited, EVs. It baffles me that Nissan waited for Ford, Honda, Fiat, Chevy to all come up their own EVs before realizing that quick-charging could indeed be a key competitive advantage for the Leaf.

It makes even more sense now that on the 2013 Leaf, even the cheapest trim can be fitted with a quick-charge port -- and IMHO, should be.
(see slide on http://www.plugincars.com/nissan-brings-2013-leaf-market-major-price-red...)

I'm sure that some dealers are still pushing back against EVs, and therefore QCs, they'd rather continue selling gas-burners which better support their service department. Good if Nissan Corp finally manages to convince them otherwise.
[Hey, SF bay area dealerships: first one to get a QC gets my business]

Tesla enjoyed great publicity by announcing its Supercharger network, even though there were significantly more CHAdeMO QCs deployed already.
Nissan could have stolen their thunder by helping just a few dealerships to installing QCs when the Leaf came out, instead of waiting 2 years.

@stephenpace: given how many i-MiEVs have been sold so far (let alone 500es), and how quickly they would fill up on a 50kW QC, I think it's fair to say that them hogging Nissan's chargers won't be much of an issue.
Who knows, dealerships might even see this as an opportunity to get those drivers to upgrade...? :-)

· · 1 year ago

Benjamin -- thanks for the info on differences between quick charger ports on various EVs -- I'd thought all auto mfgrs. were doing "universal" plugs/charging capability. Definitely does make these quick charger installations at Nissan dealerships a competitive advantage for the brand...and would have helped me get home more easily tonight. Accident forced a detour, which ate range...so it was off to the mall with the charging station and a 45-minute stroll w/coffee. Will be much better when I can stop at the dealer and quick-charge in those situations!

· · 1 year ago

Brian S, I would not agree that California has one of the best quick charge networks. We do have more Level 2 infrastructure than many other states, but the QCs are very thin on the ground. Head up to Oregon and Washington where they have I-5 well covered. I am delighted to hear of this new Nissan announcement because it makes my Leaf a LOT more useful. If there were a reliable string of QCs along major freeways, there are many trips I would make that I now use a gas vehicle for. We have several QCs within 10 miles of each other on the SF Peninsula (Menlo Park/Redwood City/Belmont), and then none for hundreds of miles in several directions. What's worse if most of them are down so often they cannot be counted on.

Obvious areas for QCs such as SF and Silicon Valley have zero QCs, but I hear our city's dealer is already arranging for a QC install. (I hope so, they are one of the biggest Leaf movers in the country.)

· · 1 year ago

I would gladly pay a small fee to use a QC, and might even prefer it if it means that I'm less likely to have to wait. Nissan dealers could then offer free charge coupons to owners like they do for free oil changes for ICE cars (and sometime EV owners) to get folks into the dealership and earn more business. And odds are that I'd buy snacks if they had them there too. (Oh, and restrooms! I've used a tree or two by some current QC stations...)

· · 1 year ago

@madhaus,

I thought there was a QC in the Stanford Shopping Center. You don't get much more Silicon Valley than that.

Also, "one of the best" does not mean that it's adequate. If you disagree with CA being in the top 4 states (even if it's at the bottom of them), please tell me which state I missed that's better off than CA (other than OR/WA/TN, which I mentioned already).

The northeast megalopolis, which spans from Washington DC to Boston MA, has ZERO QCs available. This area is home to 1.5x the population of CA. Put QCs there, and you open up a whole new market.

@Bill Howland,

I am with you. They probably won't put a QC in the dealership in Buffalo just yet. But they're even less likely to put one in Syracuse in the foreseeable future.

· · 1 year ago

Forget this charging infrastructure. Nat gas ( made synthetically with co2 and windmills and water), green algae fuels are better and it will cut the price of conventionnal petrol. Nobody will travel only 80 miles and charge for three hours, ha ha ha. Charging will grab 1% of the market before going bankrupt.

· · 1 year ago

@Gorr

When are those household $500 CNG compressors going to be available with the GE or Eaton nameplates on them? I assume they are going to be the 'indirect' style, in that the compression plunger(s) will be hydraulicly powered and the electric motor will drive an oil pump.

There is a vid on YouTube which I cannot at the moment where a retired gent has a farm with his own private natural gas well. Somewhere he's located a 25 horsepower 3500 PSI compressor, put a natural gas fired engine on it, and runs a converted Ford LTD on FREE GAS (he doesn't even have to pay for electricity for the compressor since the motive power runs off the same gas well).

Unfortunately for me, there is little choice available in CNG vehicles,j (Honda Civic only) and home refueling is difficult. I can't see doing it currently myself with new equipment for under $6000.

Right Now EV's do it for me, and hopefully VIA MOTORS will take off, they having none of the limitations you so rightly claim. In the press conference at the NAAS in Detroit's Cobo center, one of the speakers mentioned that, with increased volume will come decreased cost. These units primarily plug into a standard 110 volt outlet, or in half the time at 14 amps/240 volts, and have much lower operating costs RIGHT NOW, since the first 40 miles per day is 100% battery, with another 350 miles available running on gasoline. The exportable power option is supposedly less cost (I'd have to see hard numbers before I can categorically state that) and more convenient than towing around a separate genset for those tradesmen who need mobile power. Currently at $80000 per vehicle, the prices are expected to drop very shortly, but for buisness use, they make economic sense right now, with a benefit of less smog generating pollutants, and of course less dependence on foreign oil no matter whether gasoline prices stay the same or rise.

· · 1 year ago

This is really a "marketing" scheme by Nissan.

It is trying to gain market share by providing free charging to Leaf owners. Unless it has significant number of spots, it won't do much to the real need of Leaf owners. 1 spot can easily be "taken" when needed.

Also, I wonder if the dealer is going to restrict the spot to only the owners that bought the car from them...

· · 1 year ago

What will you do if you need a recharge and when you arrive with and empty battery and there is 2 cars before you that also need to recharge for 2 hours each.

· · 1 year ago

@gorr, there will always be situations where inconvenience occurs. The thing to keep in mind is that these stations are just the beginning of will soon be a robust fast charging network. Just the knowledge that they are there will embolden EV drivers to go further as they can easily get a fast charge.

The truth is, those kinds of problems will merely be an indication to add another charger. The whole charging infrastructure is just getting started. Within ten years, many municipalities will be ripping up the current antiquated parking meters and replacing them with a networked Level 1 or 2 charge station. The city can get money for parking and more money for the electricity. They can contract with a renewable energy company for wind and/or solar power, mark up the price and make a profit selling it to their citizens.

Why is this good?

The city could sell the energy at a 50% markup and it would still be half the cost of gasoline. Instead of sending 50 billion dollars out of our state every year, we'd spend about half that for electricity, which is local or regional, and the balance we keep for ourselves. In CA, that would be a cool $25 billion saved every year. Think what that money would do for your state if $25 billion every year was pumped back into your economy.

· · 1 year ago

This is awesome, Dealers will have both L2, and L3 to introduce to new and current customers at time of delivery. If only the East Coast Dealers located right off major interstates would adopt or hell..purchase a L3 of their own and place it in their lots, this would be outstanding for commuters. Im going to push this article to my 3 local Nissan Dealers (2 of which are right off I-95) and suggest they follow up. a 9k investment vs their 3 L2 AV EVSE's would be ideal. Even if they got greedy and wanted to charge $1-2 per charge, they could recoop that cost over time.

· · 1 year ago

Recent remodelings at the smaller dealerships near me seem to have panned out more as I have claimed than any claim the level III chargers will be installed around here. Lockport Nissan just got done with a big remodeling, and as of last week, just increased their Aerovironment 200 volt 30 amp units from 2 to 4 (installing them in the lowest cost way for the dealership, i.e.. on the outside walls) but, the remodel is done and no provision made for a big level 3 in this remodel. And since they've just put in a relatively new 400 amp 208 volt service as the sole power point for the entire complex, I don't see them doing anything else unless Manna starts falling from Nissan-Heaven, which, seeing as Ghosn is a big numbers guy, I'd very much doubt he'd do. Unless he can get the gov't to pay for it, but I'll lose some respect for him if he tries that tack.

· · 21 weeks ago

Don't buy an EV because they free charging or free charging stations. It's very likely to be temporary to sucker people to buy their vehicle then they switch policy on you at a later date to no longer be free.
Especially for those that have bought or lease their Nissan leaf, it appears Nissan is no longer offering free quick charging to existing leaf customers around my area in CA. Even at my local Nissan dealer, EG Nissan, CA, where I bought the car and the fact that they said quick charging are free to their customers helped convinced me to buy it are No longer valid after April 16, 2014 is a Nissan Corporate decision. So if you ever do want to travel a little further than usual and had planned on using a quick charging station along the way, you will be in for a rude awakening that you will not be able to charge it. Even If you have a charge point card, that doesn’t work as their quick chargers are now maintain through a company NRG - ie. EVgo. EVgo charging fees are high in my opinion, requires a monthly subscription to get access to charging like quick chargers (each quick charging can cost $10.95 to charge for a 30 minute session). I found out the hard way last Saturday. Also that would make a leaf cost more than a Prius for energy. Took 20+ minutes on the phone, they ask for all sorts of information, almost like buying a car, then after signing up in hopes to get a quick charge in so I can get home, they end up telling me that it takes 72 hours to activate my account. So no quick charging for that day which I ended up needing to go to an L2 charging station for 3 hours. Very disappointed at Nissan, imo Nissan has alienated their existing leaf customers with a bait and switch on quick charging.

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