Are some Nissan LEAFs struggling to charge in Public?

Does the Nissan LEAF Have Problems Charging in Public?

The Nissan LEAF, with more than 83,000 now sold worldwide, is one of the world’s most recognisable and loved EVs. But has all that attention meant that LEAFs are now to shy to charge in public? Based on our own experiences — and those of other LEAF drivers in the UK, that might just be possible.

OK, so I know cars don’t really have feelings (sorry Herbie) but I’ve noticed recently an increased difficulty getting my 2011 Nissan LEAF to charge at public Type 2 charging stations. It turns out I’m not alone.

According to a thread on the LeafTalk forums, serval owners of the original 2011 and 2012 LEAF, as well as those with brand-new 2013 LEAFs are experiencing problems charging their cars at public Type 2 charge posts. 

No other cars seem to be affected, only LEAFs.

After a software update, some LEAFs no-longer like using public charging stations like this.

After a software update, some LEAFs no-longer like using public charging stations like this.

What we know so far:

The symptoms are fairly easy to spot: on plugging the car in and over-riding any charge timers, the car starts to charge normally, but shortly afterwards the charging abruptly halts.

My own experience of this problem — in a 2011 LEAF with the latest software update from Nissan — often results in my LEAF showing a yellow warning triangle when powering up after a failed charge. Cycling the power seems to clear the error, but on one occasion the car refused to even go into gear, forcing me to get out of the car, lock it up, and wait a few minutes before successfully turning it on and clearing the error.

Initially, the problem appeared to be confined to Japanese-made 2011 and 2012 LEAFs which have been updated with Nissan’s most recent firmware (July 2013) update — ironically designed to improve charging station compatibility. But now we’ve heard from several owners of 2013 LEAFs that they too are experiencing charging incompatibility problems.

Interestingly however, we haven’t heard any reports of problems from LEAF owners who have not had the most recent software update applied to their car, suggesting something in the recent software update may be the cause of the problem.

Not all posts are affected: 

Only some LEAFs have appear to have the problem.

Only some LEAFs have appear to have the problem.

Interestingly, not all Type 2 charging stations appear to be affected either. The problem seems to be most prevalent with Chargemaster (Polar) units and Podpoint-brand units. Since these are the two brands most favoured by public charging networks such as Source London, Source East and Source West, the problem could be fairly widespread. Without full tracking of the issue and with users reporting some posts not working while identical ones do, there’s no way of knowing for sure what the problem is.

Home-based charging stations — those which are mounted in your garage or on the outside of your house — seem unaffected. Indeed, the Transport Evolved team have charged two different LEAFs — one with the software update and one without —  from two different domestic home charging stations without incident.

Nissan’s portable 10 amp charging ‘brick,’ known as a portable EVSE unit by many EV drivers, also works without any problem.

The issue doesn’t even seem to be related to the brand of the cable used. Initial users who reported the problem all used the same charging cable brand — the Type 2 to Type 1 cable sold by Zero Carbon World — but recent reports suggest even using Nissan’s own official Type 2 to Type 1 cable can result in the same fault.

Investigations under way

As with any problem, those who experience the problem should report it both to their local dealer, and to the charging station operator in question. Without empirical data, it becomes very difficult for either the charging provider or Nissan to find the root cause of the problem.

But, while Nissan isn’t able to give an official statement on the matter until it has continued investigations, we do know Nissan is aware of the problem and is looking into possible causes.

At the moment, it’s way too early to lay blame on any one party, but it is worth remembering that while public charging standards are just that — standards — there’s some differentiation between how the standards are interpreted.  Sadly, the original standards set out for public charging are homologous enough that they appear to be universal, yet varied enough that different teams of engineers from different companies can interpret the standards differently yet still comply with them.

And that, we think, is what’s happened here.

Of course, we’re not engineers, but we can at least keep you up to date with any developments as they occur. And if you have a LEAF and have experienced these problems for yourself, tell us about them in the Comments below. We’ll be sure to pass them on to Nissan.

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