In between following sports and writing haikus, I've noticed that the Leaf can't catch a break. As if temperature management problems in Phoenix weren't enough, the NY Times' Wheels blog and Plugin Cars each report that for eleven Leaf owners, something has gone haywire between the Nissan Leaf and the GE Wattstation, leaving their batteries severely damaged.
TTAC's Alex Dykes offers a clear explanation of charging an EV or plugin hybrid in the US. Briefly, the EV's onboard system manages the charging as long as the charging station meets the minimum Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) J1772 standard. What could go wrong? Dykes speculates:
Assuming there is no design fault inherent in the Wattstation’s “control pilot” design (and we might assume this logically because the issues are limited to Nissan Leaf vehicles only), the most likely possibility is a problem with an underrated or faulty D1 diode in the Leaf’s charger that makes the control pilot circuit more susceptible to transient current and failure. While it does seem fishy that the problems are only reported with the Wattstation and not the popular Leviton and Nissan branded chargers, the issue likely comes down to surge suppression and bad luck. It is likely that Nissan uses a D1 diode with a lower rating (and therefore affording less protection) than the Volt and Prius plug-in. With so few EVs on the road, and little public information on the specifications of electrical components in the chargers it is hard to say for sure.
But whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, or so saith Murphy. When electricity works, it is great. When it doesn't, it is maddening, because the problems are so often invisible.
... your home might be killing your leaf. If you live in a home built before 1960, your home was likely built without grounded outlets, and possibly without the neutral line being connected to ground properly. If the neutral is “floating,” there is the possibility of having some very strange voltage potentials at the charging connector to your car.
Also known as dirty power. So, if you're just praying for HGTV to show up and rewire your house for free, you might not want to put in a charging station.
BTW, MyNissanLeaf's list of lost battery bar Leafs is up to 27, and some Phoenix bar losers are planning to meet at the Roosevelt bar to drown their sorrows — there's a charging station nearby. The Leaf's dashboard indicates twelve bars when new, and fewer bars means less battery capacity. Nissan advised that owners would gradually lose bars, but over years, not months. Many owner have lost two bars, and one owner has lost three.
Gasless in Seattle, who is not even close to Phoenix, is worried about value, and is considering switching to Tesla:
The northwest will likely fair amongst the best in the country due to the cool ambient year round temps. My concern is that Nissan is botching this so bad that the market for the car will be irreparably damaged. While I was very clear about the (lack of) guarantee I signed and it's limits, I was very much going on a variety of things that have come out of the Nissan camp such as that they plowed 4 Billion into the battery research, that they'd thoroughly tested in Phoenix, even had a car on a track there with over 100,000 miles on it and ticking, getting quick charged continuously, with no signs of degradation (been told this by more than one Nissan salesman, even recently). Nowhere did I hear that "gradual" could mean 20+% in one year, I was prepared for 20% over 5 years. What is happening now is so beyond anything spelled out that it brings into question the validity of any claims coming from Nissan. the fear contagion is dangerous and will likely cause a contraction of caution in the market. I can't afford that hit, even if protecting myself means feeding the trend.