LEAF Owner Denied Charge at Local Nissan Dealership

By · May 07, 2011

Nissan Dealership

This week, contributors at MyNissanLeaf Forum expressed mild outrage over an incident involving a LEAF owner and staff members at a local Northern California dealership, Stevens Creek Nissan. On May 3, someone going by the handle “earther” posted a story about his girlfriend, who was forced to leave work early on the same day she found out that her employer would no longer allow her to charge her car at work.

Finding herself uncomfortably close to running out of juice, the driver used Nissan's CARWINGS navigation system to locate the nearest public charging station, which happened to be at Stevens Creek Nissan in San Jose. Rather than just showing up expecting a free charge, she called the dealership first to ask if she could drop by to plug in during her lunch hour, and was told she was welcome to do so. Upon arriving at the dealership though, the story changed.

According to the poster, a non-EV was parked in one of the charging spots when his girlfriend arrived, and an employee came over to give her a hard time about using the charger because her LEAF was purchased from a dealership other than Stevens Creek. The driver was allegedly told that charging stations were intended for customers only.

After a while, the employee relented and allowed the LEAF driver to charge, and the driver returned home without any further issue.

What Gives?

On Thursday, I called Stevens Creek to confirm the details of the incident and get some information about what their and Nissan's policies are regarding the chargers. General Manager Jack Ma explained that the dealership had just received a shipment of six LEAFs and that due to all of the interest that the car is generating, there was some concern about keeping all of the new vehicles charged with just two available stations.

Ma told me that his policy is to allow all plug-in owners to charge—be they Stevens Creek customers, LEAF drivers, or other—but that priority must go to customers and the vehicles on the lot. I asked him if Nissan North America had any policies in place regarding the chargers at their dealerships, and he explained to me that access entirely at the dealer's discretion—though Nissan says it encourages free and open access.

The significance of this incident isn't that it proves Stevens Creek is mean to EV drivers, but rather that complementary public charging stations will sometimes end up being subject to the whims or confusions of a single employee.

On the other hand, there's the example of LAcarGuy Toyota of Hollywood and Toyota Santa Monica, which late last year became the first automotive dealership to offer electric car charging that’s compatible with the new wave of plug-in cars. And it’s free and open to anybody.

Actor and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr. attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, and christened the charger by plugging in a Prius Plug-in Hybrid. “We think it’s a big deal to have stations where you can charge your electric car or your plug-in hybrid, and come visit the store or go shopping in the neighborhood,” said President of LAcarGuy, Mike Sullivan. “This is yet another step for us to support the community with sustainable options. It's our commitment to ensuring that our daily driving habits contribute to a healthier planet.”

If absolutely all dealerships that sell plug-in cars make a commitment to abundant, free and open charging, the dealership could become a powerful enabler of EV education and adoption.

What's the policy at your local dealership where you bought (or are shopping for) a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt?

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.