Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nissan Offering 2 Years of Free Charging

Nissan is handing out free charging to any new LEAFers retroactive to April 1st.  They will be issuing EZ Charge  Cards that will pay for the first 30 minutes on a Chademo Fast Charger or the first hour on a 240 L2 charger.  The freebies will last 2 years and is estimated to be worth about $500 in free juice per car.

This move was apparently encouraged by the wild success of a similar pilot program Nissan ran in Texas.   Nissan also mentioned they will introduce "special" pricing for existing LEAFers starting July 1st.

Since I was one of the first to get a LEAF and charging fees are still relatively new, I had enjoyed a lot of charging on someone else's dime so begrudging any new LEAFers rights would seem to be a bit wrong to most but most of my free charging days were still in the early days of the renewed EV revolution so there was not a whole lot of LEAFs competing for plugs. That has changed and rapidly over the past year.

Being in an area where the LEAF has been the dominant Nissan model has simply hastened the situation where public charging support has not kept up with sales.

Undoubtedly, Nissan is doing this  to increase sales and it does benefit all LEAFers in general because it eliminates the need to carry and maintain several accounts.  a single price paid that covers all major players at a reasonable price is something I am very interested in doing.  Right now, there is no subscription plan out there I am even remotely interested and its because each company on its own simply does not come close to covering as much as half my needs.  But all of them together? That is something worth looking into!

But announcing this program without bolstering the charging network does not seem like a good idea to me.  There are still a few Nissan dealerships that do not have fast chargers. Putting one in each dealership would help but there is simply not that many dealerships around and West of here, there is none. The other thing is simply the free concept itself.

The other day, we spent the day in Seattle and decided to stop at the Nissan Dealer in Renton to get enough of a charge to make it home. I pulled up and there was already a LEAF plugged in who had Renton Nissan license plate frame so guessing he was a "local".  (ya, might have been way off as well since a lot of people did not get their LEAF from their local dealer)

When I got there, I checked the charger status and right away, I was a bit dismayed. He had been charging only 6 minutes but already had 82% SOC.  Wondering what he was doing or where he was going to plug in at what had to be greater than 50% SOC but I decided to hope for the best.  It did not happen.  43 minutes after I arrived, someone from the service dept came out and unplugged him at 98% to plug me in.  They apologized explaining they generally don't let anyone charge beyond 80% on the fast charger especially if someone is waiting.  Now, this they explained was not a Nissan charger, but their own and it was still free (I was expecting to pay at least $3) so I was happy about that. Either way,  23 minutes later, I had enough to make the 50 mile trip home.

But if the charger was billing based on time or had a timer limit, these things would not happen or at least, would not happen as often. But free is a very powerful marketing tool.

I think Nissan might have been better off to examine the usage of the charging stations.  Granted, it would have been better to collect data of how many people had to wait to use a charger or simply kept driving because there was too much of a line, etc.  and yes those types of situations could be present at L2's although its my opinion that is not likely.  There are several chargers I pass by frequently with the Blink complex at Tahoma Market in Fife being one of them.  I have NEVER driven by there when all the L2's were in use (but that could be because they were broken :) ) but have seen several times when there were 2 OR MORE LEAFs waiting to use the quick charger.

I think Nissan could help utilize the existing network with that very same free tactic while relieving other parts of the network. Maybe 20 minutes free on the fast chargers and 2 hours free on the L2's might shift the balance a bit.  Plus 2 hours on a fast charger is almost certain to encourage the LEAFer to investigate some of the retail establishments in the area which only makes hosting a charger more attractive.

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