Nissan: Sorry, No Exceptions to Charging Equipment Process

By · July 16, 2010

Nissan LEAF/Aerovironment Charger

How many drivers does it take to plug in an electric vehicle? One, as long as you’ve installed a $2,200 home charging station.

Okay, it’s not really a funny joke. Then again, all the players involved with the rollout of the Nissan LEAF, and other upcoming electric cars, are not in a laughing mood as they take on the serious responsibility of rolling out thousands of the first plug-in cars to a new generation of electric car drivers.

For Nissan, that means establishing standard and streamlined processes for installing the required home charging equipment, with standard costs—with little or no exceptions to the rules. After a prospective LEAF buyer plunks down $99 for a pre-order deposit, Nissan, working with Aeronvironment—its charging equipment provider—sends out a contractor to assess the electrical service of the customer’s house. Sounds pleasant enough until the itemized bill arrives:

$1,296.68 (Standard installation)

$721.12 (Charging dock, wall mount 15' cable)

$300.00 (Installation permit and processing)

$49.95 (Shipping and delivery)

$66.70 (Sales tax)

$2,434.45 (Total)

In other words, the home charger costs $721.12 and rest is installation fees. Forget that the federal government will give you a tax credit for about half the cost. The big bill for installing what is essentially a special plug connected to a round electrical box with a start button is hardly a joke for many EV customers. Some customers, especially the hundreds of people who already own one of the previous generation of electric cars, are especially unhappy. They just want to buy the charging dock and install it. After all, they’ve been charging up their Toyota RAV4 EVs, electric Ford Rangers, and electric car conversions for years.

A group of drivers of the Toyota RAV4 EV fired off emails to Nissan to see why they can’t more simply add the new equipment to their existing home EV connections. In this way, experienced EV drivers could save time and money.

Folks from Nissan want to make the EV old-guard happy, and at the same time protect the streamlined process they’ve worked hard to establish. Mark Perry, Nissan’s North American director of EV and Advanced Technology, directly responded by email to the complaints—but he’s holding firm to the process: “A buyer is able to install [the equipment] as long as permitted [by] local codes, inspections etc. So that means a trained/certified electrician MUST do the work. Driving an EV does not qualify someone as electrician.”

Standard Installation, Revisited

So, at least for now, the company is focusing on the thousands of new electric car buyers who are starting fresh with home charging—and asking the more experienced plug-in owners to line up, and pay up, with the rest. (The conversations between Nissan and the EV old-timers are continuing.)

For some of the most ardent EV supporters, it’s not just a matter of money and convenience. Chelsea Sexton, a leading figure in the plug-in car movement, said, “The challenge in the bigger picture is not the effect any of these individual issues have on any particular company or vehicle, but that combined, they create the public and media perception that EVs are complicated, expensive, and generally not ready for prime time.” Sexton said that "standard installation" was tried in the 1990s, with the same result of creating backlash by consumers whose installs were far simpler.

In the end, it might not be the batteries, charging equipment or driving range that causes bumps in the road for makers of electric cars. Those issues have been anticipated and addressed. As usual, it’s the unforeseen issues that get you. It’s time for Nissan to step to the challenge of serving existing electric car owners—a consumer group not afraid to stand up for its rights and for the success of the product they love.

Comments

· Ron (not verified) · 4 years ago

Me thinks if they really wanted to sell electric cars, they would put something toward the install price!

· · 4 years ago

What's also frustrating is that those living in designated EV hotbed cities are getting preferential treatment, and in some cases, free charging stations (though I don't think LEAF owners will get these, only Volt and Focus EV owners?).

And, while it's my understanding folks in California who've signed on for LEAF (and other EV hotspots) are already getting visits from Aeronvironment for future charging stations, I haven't heard a peep from Nissan about when they might be getting out our way -- Colorado. I'm betting other prospective LEAF buyers in other non EV hotspots haven't gotten any detailed information from Nissan about a timeline for charging station installation either...

· Anonymous (not verified) · 4 years ago

We really want a Leaf, however there are a few potential deal killers for us:

1. Warranty Duration--I keep hearing 5 years from various sources, Volt is 8 years, 100K miles, Nissan should do at least the same.

2. Battery pack replacement cost--If $10K or over, the pack really needs to last close to 10 years without too much loss in range.

3. California State Rebate--If this rebate pool is only $4.1M, that means only the 1st 820 Leaf owners in Ca. are eligible, probably the San Diego folks only.

4. AV charger/installation--cost to me is over $2400, pretty high for a $721 charger, plus I've got to have a gas line installed at my dryer location and switch to a gas dryer, now I'm more in the neighborhood of $4K before Federal charger cost help of $1200ish.

5. Ordering window--is this going to occur prior to test drives(supposedly August)? I don't want to order without driving first(supposedly September).

6. Delivery date--it seems unlikely that an SF Bay Area resident will get a December delivery date, which means no Federal tax credit until 2012.

7. Real range--if using the Leaf on the freeway even at 55MPH, it looks like the expected range in good weather is only around 70 miles--not much more than people with EV's using Nimh batteries have been getting for years.

8. Sales tax and registration are calculated at MSRP of vehicle, that's over $5K for my state/county.

A friend of mine also ordered a Leaf and when I brought up a couple of these issues, he wasn't sure whether he wanted to proceed with his order.

· · 4 years ago

This is an unfortunate decision. Why not strongly urge potential customers to go through their process but if the customer refuses then make them sign a waiver before they can buy the car. I already have two Clipper Creek chargers (1 a 32 amp & 1 a 50amp) installed and next spring they will be swapped with new ones that have j1772 connectors when the ActiveE program begins. I don't need a charger. I know I'm in the minority (maybe not in this forum) and most folks have never dealt with this before but Nissan is running the risk of losing many of their prime customers, the people that already have or have had, an EV. I hope they realize their error and change position on this. People don't like when they are forced to do anything. Even if it makes sense, if you remove choice than people get defensive and confrontational. I'm feeling that way now over this issue and I shouldn't have to. I should be excited about the proposition of buying an electric car, not frustrated about how I can "get around" a rule I think is wrong. I hope your reading this Nissan.....

· evnow (not verified) · 4 years ago

I'm not sure this is correct. Nissan will allow you to sign a waiver and get your car. You can then get an EVSE and install it - get the permit from your city and do the paperwork etc. Nothing stopping this (except nobody is offering to sell an EVSE yet).

Check all the related issues we are tracking here ...

http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=710

· · 4 years ago

I think Nissan is a lot more flexible than you are giving them credit for. When I inquired about the requirements, I got this answer, which I believe contradicts the "no exceptions" assertion you have made:

"The charging readiness survey is a tool to assist LEAF owners with ensuring that all of their charging needs are met. The home charging dock provided by AeroVironment, Inc. is compatible with the Nissan LEAF. Other manufacturer products may or may not be compatible. Prior to purchasing and/or using another manufacturer's charging equipment, you need to confirm its compatibility with the Nissan LEAF. If you have confirmed that your current charging setup will work with the Nissan LEAF then you can sign a waiver upon purchasing the Nissan
LEAF."

· AndyH (not verified) · 4 years ago

There are a couple of problems here. First error is the author's assumption that the EVSE is 'required'. The second is that the EVSE must be sourced thru Nissan's process. The third is that one must use the Aerovironment EVSE.

AV isn't the only game in town. The EVSE is an optional purchase - not required to purchase the car (and it's illegal in the US to require a tie-in sale EVSE per Magnuson-Moss). There are other EVSE devices in the UL approval process today that will be on the streets before the first Leaf is delivered.

And from Mr. Perry's quote - he clearly said that we COULD buy and install even the AV EVSE if allowed by our local code.

Nothing to see here...move along. ;)

· · 4 years ago

I happily stand corrected. My article was based on threads forwarded to me from EV email discussions. I didn't reach out to Nissan, in the name of speed, but should have. Can we say "problem solved" on this issue--and all OEMs from now on can build in a waiver process for plug-in drivers who want to go their own route? In the end, small potatoes. Next?

· · 4 years ago

Glad to hear this. The funny thing is, I was at the NY auto show a few months ago on press day. There were a few German journalists that wanted to interview me so BMW set it up and got me the press credentials. It was great to be able to walk around without hundreds of other people there and talk to the representatives without rushing. I spent a lot of time with the LEAF reps, primarily badgering them about the omission of a thermal management system. Then I asked them about the charger and how they would sell it or include it in the price, etc. I was told that a home inspection would be mandatory, you had to have it done before you could buy the car. I then asked "What if I live in an apartment and don't have a home or a garage?" She just smiled and said she wasn't sure and that they were just told the inspection was mandatory to confirm you have enough supply. I'm guessing maybe Nissan didn't really have a strict, defined policy at that time and later realized that they need to be flexible. I am still wondering what the "you need to confirm it's compatibility with the Nissan LEAF" means from the above post. Will I need to pay the $99 fee to have someone come to my home and look at my current set up and approve it?

· LEAFguy (not verified) · 4 years ago

Brad:

Thanks for clarifying your statements. I didn't think that Nissan required installation of a charger with a LEAF purchase. I did though, wish to clarify a couple items from a previous commenter (anonymous).

1. Nissan has not announced any warranty information. Anything currently available is speculation.

2. Nissan has not announced battery pack pricing. They have said that they expect it to have 70-80% remaining capacity in 10 years.

3. While your statement is correct, the California Center for Sustainable Energy has already stated that they expect to fund at least the same amount next year.

4. That quote was for that particular installation. As Brad has stated, Nissan does not require that you purchase their, or any, charger prior to purchase of the LEAF.

5. Nissan will start taking firm orders in August. Consumer drives will be offered starting in September in certain areas. Presumably Nissan will not force those with reservations to place an order in August.

6. San Francisco is not one of the 5 initial market areas - Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Phoenix/Tucson, Tennessee. It should be available in San Francisco in spring of 2011.

7. Range being quoted is based on the EPA LA4 (city) driving cycle. Information has already been published about expected range in other driving situations.

8. Sales tax and registration are calculated at MSRP for any vehicle.

LEAF will not be the right vehicle for every driver and every situation. It makes for a great alternative as a second vehicle. If this does not describe your situation, perhaps the LEAF is not for you - yet. As with all new technology, it is expected to improve over time. Battery costs will come down or driving range will increase. Perhaps both.

For more info about the Nissan LEAF, and to determine if it is the right vehicle for you, please visit http://livingleaf.info. Living LEAF is a consumer oriented, San Diego based website that seeks to answer this question - Is the Nissan LEAF the right vehicle for me?

· Anonymous (not verified) · 4 years ago

@LEAFguy, the survey sent out by Nissan late on Friday, along with the fact that NIssan still hasn't announced a warranty for the Leaf, along with the ordering details that were supposed to be communicated on June 30, but delayed, could lead one to believe that they are reacting to the Chevy Volt warranty and were leaning towards a 5 year/60K mile warranty. The survey brought up items like what kind of loss of battery efficiency is acceptable after one year? What would we pay for a service contract to extend the warranty? The trend was that loss of efficiency could be greater than that originally stated for 10 years.

These survey questions did not instill a warm fuzzy feeling in me and these kind of questions can't be answered properly if we have no idea what the battery replacement cost is. Does Nissan NOT know what to expect about battery life, efficiency loss? Or DO they know and aren't comfortable with doing a 10 or even 8 year warranty? It's mid-July and we're supposed to order in August. Even if the warranty is announced soon, we won't be able to test drive until September.

If California funds the state tax rebate in 2011 to a similar level as 2010, it will be long gone for SF Bay Area customers if delivery doesn't commence until Spring.

The cost of my home assessment was $2400. Okay, one example, so let's go to the default, $2200. Have you heard of anybody getting quotes from Nissan for much less than $2200?

It is the range being reported by Nissan themselves that leads me to believe that Li-Ion batteries are not such a big step over NiMh, 70 miles @55MPH in good weather is not a lot of progress over a factory Toyota RAV EV from the early part of this decade.

I realize that sales tax and registration are calculated from MSRP on any vehicle, but I'm not sure everybody has thought that through--that's an additional $5K or more for most Californian's.

I am very aware that the Leaf is aimed at surburbanites or urbanites with garages and as second cars with low daily driving range requirements, it's just that even with lots of help from Federal and state governments, if the warranty is only 5 years and the battery pack is still at $10K or more, it would be hard for ANYBODY to justify the purchase of the Leaf should the battery pack fail to live up to expectations and have a substantial range loss in year six and seven. Any fuel savings would be lost.

· · 4 years ago

The LEAF charger looks relatively simple. I don't see why I couldn't just purchase the equipment and have an electrician of my choice install it, at substantial savings. Presumably it comes with documentation understandable to any decent electrician. Permit fees, if any, would be far less than $300 for me if I simply went to the local building and safety office myself.

Of course, that's if I don't cancel my LEAF reservation, which I'm tempted to do if the battery is likely going to retain only about 80% of its initial capacity after as little as five years. 80% after 10 years would be much more acceptable. In my survey response, I indicated that I would be canceling my reservation if the Nissan warranty turns out to be only five years.

· Kei Jidosha (not verified) · 4 years ago

While I think Nissan will eventually deliver to those that bypass the AV unit, I expect delivery to be delayed for non AV customers as Nissans "manages" the launch process. delay = loss of incentives = increased cost. Discussion now is added cost for battery service contract and for Level 3 charge capability. Do I have to buy undercoating too?

It’s starting to feel like a teaser price, but wait till we get you into the finance office.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 1 year ago

Humph... when I called Aerovironment they wouldn't sell me the charger for $721 plus tax.. For me it was going to be $1160 plus tax. Well they missed out on a sale. If they would have told me $721 (as they charge Nissan customers) I would have bought it on the spot!

They could have even given me the Nissan Leaf branded one. I'll do some free advertising for Nissan in my garage, what the hell.

In retrospect seeing as the GE Wattstations blew out the Leaf's on-board-chargers, maybe Nissan's policy wasn't that restrictive at all, at least when charging Leaf's...

· · 1 year ago

@Bill Howland,
AV definitely wasn't ready to retail their charger back then. They are now available on Amazon.com
(http://www.amazon.com/AeroVironment-Residential-Charger-Level-EVSE-RS/dp...)
They've sold over 10,000 of their chargers so they are definitely the leader in charger sales but they focused on the installation process for those, other than you, who needed an expert to handle the permitting and installation issues. The RAV4EV folks who already had installed chargers and just needed to swap hardware weren't too happy with AV's policy either.
Conversely, I've heard few complaints from newbies who went with AV's turn-key installation. This is completely counter to Blink with which I've had nothing but trouble with, both in the equipment quality and the turn-key installation process.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 1 year ago

@Ex-ev1 driver

Thanks.... $1000 isn't too bad for a weather proof unit. Schneider I think wants $1300 for a weather proof unit.. The other nice thing is this unit will work unchanged with a Tesla Roadster with the adapter cable. I haven't done an extended load test on this unit but loading to 30 amps for 1/2 hour didn't show undue heating at the unit. I needed to Robustify the Schneider to have it to be able to withstand 10 hours at 30 amps.

I wonder if with all the manufacturers out making these things, I wonder if someone will come out with a $200 unit that will still allow them 50% markup. Or how bout a 80 amp unit for $600 (due to the expense of the 80 amp j1772 connector).

· · 1 year ago

@Bill Howland,
I've charged the Roadster at 30 Amps many times with an AV charger, even with ambient temperatures exceeding 100F.
Schneider, unfortunately, is a "johnny-come-lately" to the EVSE business while AV invented the modern electric car and fast charging. They had a 20 year head start on everyone else.
The Clipper Creek unit is at least as good as AV but I chose the Clipper Creek mainly because their CS100 can charge the Roadster at 70 Amps. While unnecessary most of the time, it has been convenient a few times for quick turn arounds.
I don't believe the market is big enough to bear a $200 unit yet and with as many people trying to get into it, It could be a while before any one EVSE manufacturer has enough market share to invest in bringing the costs down that far.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 1 year ago

@Ex-Ev1 driver

Well since the thing is just a glorified light switch there really is no problem making it reliable. It took me a whole 1/2 hour to convert mine from something that was overheating into something that was cool running just by digging around in my junk box for some bigger Box Lugs. So any manufacturer bragging about reliability is rather bogus to my mind. ALL these units by any manufacturer should last at least 50 years. The fact that people have had so much trouble with Blinks says something about the rotten J1772 standard, and / or their quality control/chinsy parts.

The absolute most popular reliable unit is the various versions of the GE Durastation (30 amps maximum). Once correctly set up ( yes, most i've seen were incorrectly initially set up) , they seem to last a long time. But they start at around $2500 each.

· · 1 year ago

@Bill Howland,
The power handling stuff is fairly easy to make reliable. The trick is the 'small-signal' electronics that turn the light switch on and off. If one buys standard consumer electronics grade junk, they'll have lots of problems in the real world, especially with all of the transients one can expect around switching several kW. Consumer junk is generally only designed for 5 year product life.
You seem to have a bias toward the old-school electric suppliers.
I think that AV, and Coulomb have the record for reliable units installed thus far. AV went over 10K and Coulomb must be approaching that many. SPX may be doing well too but I don't know for sure. So many Volt owners are just using 120V plugs.
Clipper Creek definitely has the record for longevity. Their stuff has been going for over a decade in CA.
I have to admit that I've never even seen a GE Durastation except on posters at Lowes. Do you know very many people who have them?
I agree that everything should last 50 years or longer but, then I seem to be a minority in that respect. Just look at the flack I caught when I told people how to max out their Leaf batteries beyond the 8 year warranty on a different thread here.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 1 year ago

@ex-ev1 driver

Because of the high cost of the GE Durastation, they are almost all Federal Gov't Grants. Of course its just a coincidence that Jeffrey Immult besides being GE CEO is also Obama's economic advisor. That's why we have Hillary pressuring the Japanese not to give up Nuclear Power as the Germans say they are going to. Afraid of the opposition to it reaching critical mass. Only 23 GE BWR Mark 1's in this country same as the 4 that blew up in Fukushima prefecture. And giving the west coast and to a lesser extent world wide, radioactive rain, tuna, salmon, etc. Obviously you'll hear nothing of that in any US papers. Stephen Chen (?) the energy advisor initially stated Fuku Daiichi was only a level 4, when anyone paying attention knew it was at least as bad as Chernobyl, and at least now is universally categorized as a level 7... Not to go off on a tangent about this stuff, but I'm just explaining things as I see them.

At this point, everyone will chime in that I don't like the Obama Administration, actually, I'll grant them this, that things would be even more Fascist under another Bush or Romney administration and the Obama Administration is at least not doing overt wars like Bush did but just sneaky behind the scenes stuff, which if I was forced to pick, I'd pick the latter.

I'd assume they're the most popular models. When you look at any pictures of Ev's outside of California you used to see those Tornado Shaped Colorful Hello GE chargers, but now all the pictures are only of Durastations. All the public stuff L2 stuff in Western New York (what precious little there is, with the exception of Nissan dealerships having Aerovironment - part of the franchise agreement to sell Leafs) is only Durastations, nothing else besides 110 outlets.

At the time, as I've mentioned I tried to purchase Aerovironment but they hemmed and hawed and then finally decided on a ridiculous price.. Same for Clipper Creek. Too much money for a basically in my mind useless product. So I've been enamored of old school products merely by trying to save a buck. Its rather as if we were back in the 60's and I was being forced to wire my house with 100% aluminum wire. I would object to that , and would try to use copper-clad aluminum as a compromise. The Home Improvement columns around here says while you can try splices, the only thing that is sure to work is Total rewire of your entire house. Same with the plumbers who have made a career of replacing that early pex from 20 years ago and now has become brittle and they go through and replace all the water supply piping in your house with copper pipe for $6000-$12000. These are all examples of collusion, of which the SAE j1772 standard is just the latest example. I'm fighting in my own way both for it, (standardization), and against it (not wanting to spend too much money on a basically useless product).

How many years have people filled their gas tanks without the gas pump communicating with the car to make sure the octane is right, the tank isn't full, etc.

A Hot Tub ground fault box is sufficient protection to make sure its idiot proof, and as I've stated several times. GE economizations in the cable is probably the reason for blowouts of some Nissan Leafs.

The very humorous thing about this J1772 standard is what a crappy job they've done codifying it. And the various vendors have been having all kinds of problems, Blink comes to mind, and someone was mentioning even Clipper Creek is incompatible with something, the user is in one of these blogs somewhere recently. Not blaming CC, just using it to illustrate a lousy standard.

Leviton nowadays makes fairly decent stuff, (40 years ago most of their stuff was real trash), but their stuff is simply overpriced. like $95 for a prewire kit thats an outlet, cover, box, and a paper template? C'mon. Then they make a really nice looking 40 amp L2 charger but wont sell it to you if you don't have a Rav4, and of course they want too much money for it.

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