The Nissan Leaf is the most popular EV on roads today, but what good is an electric car without somewhere to plug it in? Hence why many companies are trying to get in on the newfound field of public charging stations. Leading the “charge” (heheh) is General Electric, whose Wattstations are popping up everywhere. But Nissan recently told Leaf owners not to use the WattStations due to a charging issue that could leave Leaf EV’s seriously damaged.
Who To Blame? Nissan Or GE?
I’m no electrical engineer, so I won’t pretend to know what I am talking about. Over at The Truth About Cars however, Alex Dykes explains in rather layman terms how the GE WattStation and Nissan Leaf’s on-board charger works. And it seems that the fault lies not with the GE charger, but the Leaf itself.
This is what I could gather from Dyke’s post. The charging standard used by the WattStation and other charging stations is J1772, which has five connecting pins; a ground, two pins for DC1 and two pins for DC2. The only cars affected by this issue is the Leaf, and the only suspect station is GE’s Wattstation. Dykes seems to think the problem could be caused by faulty ground wires, which could send a surge of power into the Leaf’s charger, blowing out the diode. To keep costs down on the Leaf, it is possible that Nissan used a lower-quality diode than say the Chevy Volt, which is why the Volt has not experienced the same issues. If that is the case, a surge of power could seriously damage the onboard charging unit, leaving the Leaf unable to be recharged.
So far, the number of cases is extremely limited, with just a handful of Leaf owners reporting the issue. That said, a San Francisco Nissan dealer felt the need to warn customers of the issue, though they say using a GE Wattstation will NOT void the Leaf’s warranty. Both GE and Nissan are working to resolve the issue, limited in scope though it may be.
EV’s still have plenty of growing pains to mature through, that much is sure, and I don’t expect this to be the last bump in the road.
UPDATED: It was apparently a software issue with the Leaf. See comments below.