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.”

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