Saturday, May 18, 2013

Not With My Charger!

What has long been expected is now officially a fact released by Nissan that LEAF sales in both Portland, OR and Seattle, WA areas is leading all Nissan model sales for both March and April. Bellevue, WA's (across the lake from Seattle)  Eastside Nissan claims more sales than any other Nissan dealer in the country and boasts a 25 LEAF loaner fleet to boot.

But the huge increase in LEAFs on the streets has not happened without a significant amount of growing pains. The quick charge network had been slow getting off the ground and the ones that are out there are just now getting to the point where they are becoming semi-reliable.  Nissan has recognized this and announced they would put in several hundred across the country and this has resulted in a lot of confusion for new LEAF drivers.

There is little doubt that LEAF salesman are using this information as a selling tool but access to chargers has not been as rosy Nissan had intended or as we had anticipated.  Already several reports of LEAFers being turned away from a QC at a dealer because they had gotten their LEAF from a competitor.  One Seattle area resident was 8½ months pregnant and Eastside Nissan of Bellevue still turned them away. To be fair, Eastside Nissan does have "some" valid reasons for their policies.  With a 25 car LEAF loaner fleet their QC that is pretty much being used all the time to keep them on the road.  Since they put in the QC at their own expense  they should have the right to do as they please with that station AND they are installing a Blink that is actually outside their compound that will be intended for public use only and that is supposed to be as unrestricted as you can get when Blink is involved.  But I think Eastside Nissan may have screwed themselves on this one.  Car dealerships spend tens of thousands of dollars building community relationships and this would have been a small thing to do in what anyone would recognize as a special circumstance. The special circumstance would not have opened a floodgate of unwelcome requests.

There have also been several reports in CA over issues with dealers. Some are allowing anyone to charge, others are not so very much a confusing time for us.

Another thing that is also starting to rear its ugly head is jealousy for lack of a better term. A handful of EV'ers are getting upset that many of the chargers are being taken up by plug ins like the Chevy Volt or the PiP (Plug in Prius)  Many have expressed that they feel that a Volt that is charging should be unplugged if the LEAF needs the charge and is creating a lot of bad blood.

Since all this is new, there is not a lot of "charging etiquette" to fall back on here. But its really common sense that "first come, first served" should be rule #1 so an actively charging car has just as much right to be there as any other vehicle. Just because a Volt could use gas to get to where they are going is not really the point here.  The Volt was purchased to drive electric, PERIOD.  The Volt has a shorter range which means is has to be plugged in more often so what is the problem?  Some blame free charging  but whether the person is paying for the juice or not does not change the fact that he got there first so he should be able to get his charge.

Now all of this changes dramatically if the vehicle is not actively charging. WA amongst other states are enacting fines for people who choose to park at a charging station but not charge and that is only fair.  The company that paid to install the charger is expecting people to charge and pay and to park there and not charge is blocking that company's chance to earn a living. Just because a lot of fast chargers are currently free does not mean that we should start practicing good habits right away.

Finally the question of 80% verses 100% at a fast charger.  Due to time constraints, my average charge time is less than 20 minutes but other EV'ers are staying longer and sometimes, MUCH longer.

The fast chargers are really only fast up to about 60-65% SOC.  The speed of charging starts out fast but drops off rather quickly after you get past the halfway point. So the best practice would be to get the charge you need to get to your destination (or the next charging station) and go. This reduces the time for anyone waiting to use the charger.  Or just get the 80% charge and move on. Charging to 100% from 80% can almost double the time. But the number of  people charging to 100% has increased as quickly as LEAF sales over the past 2 months.  I think part of it is due to lack of education for new LEAFers and their still existing range anxiety. This will be alleviated over time but maybe an informational flyer needs to be distributed to new LEAFers?

All in all, we EV'ers need to understand that the public charging support has a long way to go to become even borderline acceptable. So when charging, keep a few things in mind.

1) Don't charge unless you need it. Don't assume that because the charger is not being used when you get there that its ok. You never know who could show up 5 minutes later.

2) Don't unplug any actively charging car for ANY REASON.

3) If you are charging, make sure you are able to move your car when its done charging. Don't plug it in in the morning knowing that you will be fully charged in 3 hours and you wont be able to get out there for 8 hours.  If that is the case, wait till lunch time, hope that other EV'ers are following basic etiquette and plug in then.

4) Have a way for your car to notify you when your charge is complete so you can be reminded of when you need to move your car.

5) Leave contact info or basic instructions for charging in the car so others can see it. This is especially vital if you choose to ignore rule #1 or if you do not have a time crunch.  One program that uses a 1-800 # and an access code (this way you don't have to display your personal #) is the type of program that would work very well. check it out and support a fellow EV'er too!

All in all, if the various private and governmental agencies would have been more organized and proactive about getting the proper legislation on the books, the public charging experience could have gone much smoother but it didn't.  So lets not take out our frustrations on our fellow EV'ers (even if they are only "half-stepping" it with a Volt)  because we already have too many strikes against us.  Working together wont solve all the issues before us by any stretch of the imagination but fighting amongst ourselves will only make it worse.


I have been advised that the pregnant lady story does have two sides to it (as always). Apparently when she arrived, the charger was already being used and there were two cars waiting to charge. She was offered the L2 to charge with and was in a time crunch and declined. They also advised her of a QC just down the road and she declined?? apparently thinking there was a charge associated with using it (although often threatened, there is still not a QC in the state that is billing as of today...)

As usual, I suspect the real truth to the story probably lies somewhere in the middle.

****Public Service  Alert****
Help us help you! Plug in America has a survey to measure LEAF battery degradation. It takes only a few minutes and will help the EV Brainiacs get the data they need so they can tell us what we can expect down the line


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