With 24 Days Left to AT&T 2G Shut-Off, 2011-2014 Nissan LEAF Customers Offered $199 3G Telematics Upgrade

When Nissan launched the LEAF Electric car back in late 2010, it came as standard with an onboard telematics system called CARWINGS. Designed to act as a bridge between a customer’s car and their smartphone or PC, the Nissan CARWINGS allowed owners to remotely monitor their car’s state of charge, remotely start charging, precondition the cabin to a comfortable temperature and (when paired with Nissan’s online web portal) send route-planning information to the car’s satellite navigation system.

It also allowed customers to search for nearby charging stations while in their car, using the telematics system to retrieve charging station data for their area or chosen destination.

Nissan LEAF Carwings

On December 31, 2011-2015 Nissan LEAFs will lose their data connection when AT&T switches off its 2G masts

At a time when very few cars on the market had any form of smart, interconnected telematics system, Nissan’s CARWINGS was cutting edge in terms of the automotive market, yet Nissan chose to rely on a reasonably old 2G cellular data system from AT&T to act as the communication medium with which its North American cars communicated with Nissan’s CARWINGS server. Put bluntly, had a Smartphone launched in 2011 with just a 2G Edge data connection, it would have been laughed out of the marketplace.

Even Nissan's latest telematics system has its problems, but is more reliable than its predecessor

Even Nissan’s latest telematics system has its problems, but is more reliable than its predecessor

Indeed, very few 2G smartphones are even in use any more, which is why AT&T is planning on switching off its 2G cellular data network at the end of this year to repurpose the 2G radio frequencies for new, more advanced cell technology. As we explained back in February, this will leave tens of thousands of 2011-2015 Nissan LEAF SV and Nissan LEAF SL models without a way to call home. Entry-level Nissan LEAF s models, which did not come with on-board telematics, are thus not affected.

At the time, Nissan promised that we’d hear more of the planned telematics upgrade some time before the end of the summer, indicating that it had already begun work on designing a replacement Telematics Control Unit (TCU) to fit 2011-2015 Nissan LEAFs that used a 3G data signal rather than a 2G one.  At the same time, it explained that owners of 2015 Nissan LEAFs would receive their TCU upgrade free of charge, but noted that owners of older LEAFs would be asked to contribute towards the cost of the upgrade.

Far behind promised schedule, Nissan begun to contact affected LEAF owners yesterday and, as we found out this week, is offering to replace the TCU on 2011-2014 LEAFs for $199., The procedure, which will take a few hours, will leave customer’s cars with the same credentials and login information for NissanConnect EV (formerly CARWINGS) as before, and should restore full functionality to cars whose telematics systems would otherwise go dark on December 31, 2016. We should note too, that while the upgrade replaces the TCU with a new 3G model, customers won’t get an upgraded touch-screen display or nav system, meaning they won’t get the enhanced functionality of 2016 -2017 Nissan LEAFs fitted with new NissanConnect EV navigation systems.

As Nissan told Transport Evolved earlier this week, it is subsidizing the cost of the upgrade, but for those with an ageing Nissan LEAF the sudden $199 upgrade fee may be a bitter pill to swallow. To date — despite initial indications that its telematics system would charge a yearly subscription fee after the first three years of use — Nissan’s telematics system has been free for all LEAF SV and SL customers in North America, with counterpart LEAF models in Europe having the same free-to-use policy. But while Nissan CARWINGS (which became NissanConnect EV late last year) has been free to use, it hasn’t won any prizes for reliability.

Due to poor connection issues, many customers have struggled to get their telematics system to properly connect to their car when parked at home or work. Others have found the system will work for a few weeks at a time, then inexplicably go offline for days at a time. Granted, the reliability of the Nissan Telematics system has vastly improved in recent years, but many owners we know gave up on it a long time ago and as such, will be unlikely to pay for the upgrade.

Many will forego the upgrade.

Many will forego the upgrade.

For others however — the Transport Evolved team included — the functionality of the remote telematics system (connection issues aside) has proven itself invaluable time and time again, especially when it comes to sending status updates on vehicle charging or clearing the car’s windscreen on a cold, frosty morning.

That said, Nissan appears to have dropped the ball on this particular problem. Despite knowing about it more than a year ago, it’s taken the Japanese automaker far longer to come up with a solution and a pricing structure for replacement than it should have and, worst of all, it has given customers just three weeks to book their car in to have the replacement unit fitted.

Three weeks which includes the week-long break many people take from work to celebrate the Holidays. And for that, we can’t criticise Nissan enough. Granted, customers don’t have to have their cars upgraded before the end of the year, but those who choose not to will lose connectivity until they take their car into their local Nissan dealership for the upgrade. And while we’re on the subject of Holidays, finding $199 at short notice to upgrade the telematics system is bound to take a chunk out of the (already stretched) December household budget for many.

Will you pay for the upgrade?

Will you pay for the upgrade?

That said, we’ll be shelling out the required $199 and sending our 2013 Nissan LEAF staff car through the process in the coming weeks for the interests of Journalistic investigation– and will of course let you know what the process is like from a consumer’s point of view.

Do you have a 2011-2014 Nissan LEAF? Do you use Carwings/NissanConnect EV? And will you be paying for the upgrade?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • JohnCBriggs

    I haven’t heard anything, but have a 2015 so I hope it is free.

  • geekinthecockpit

    Our 2013 LEAF SL goes back to Nissan in June. We won’t be paying for the upgrade. I can only assume Nissan will upgrade the lease returns as they process them? Would seem like a goodwill gesture for resale. Our next EV, Model X, comes with LTE…so it should be fine for many years to come.

  • Lance Pickup

    After calling my dealer (who was completely clueless about this) and suggesting I call Nissan, I found out that letters informing owners of the update are expected to go out by the end of this week, and by the time I receive my letter, my dealer should have the necessary parts needed. So apparently they are going from knowing nothing to being able to schedule replacements in less than a week. Hmmm…color me VERY skeptical.

    I have a 2012 LEAF and at least for the next 2 months will be parking my car outside. Being able to pre-heat and defrost the window in the morning is fairly critical, as is the ability to pre-condition the car before I leave work or when returning to my car in the evening. I also rely on the text message alert when my car is unplugged or done charging.

    I am pretty dis-enamored with Nissan at this point. I will be willing (grudgingly) to shell out $199 (it should have been $99 in my opinion) if they can offer me uninterrupted service. If they miss this deadline that they have known about for years and I am forced to go without, I may just decide to skip the upgrade and remember this experience when it comes time to buy my next car. It does pain me to do this because I have been a Nissan cheerleader ever since the LEAF first came out. But between this and the delay in coming out with a 200+ mile option on a timely basis, I must say that I am very disappointed in Nissan right now.

    • leptoquark

      “as is the ability to pre-condition the car before I leave work or when returning to my car in the evening.”

      I used this feature all the time on my first two Leafs, and I really missed it when I went to the Kia Soul EV, since the Soul requires you to be plugged in to pre-condition the cabin. Not useful when you’re parked in a cold parking garage with no charging…

      Nikki, my concern is for the thousands of used Leafs out there. Two questions: A) will this upgrade be available for the foreseeable future, so that folks buying used Leafs can get it in 6months, 1 year, two years… B) Is there a way you can tell on a used car if it’s had the upgrade? Hopefully, a buyer could start the car up, pull up a settings screen and get some indication. If the answer to both A) and B) are no, this will essentially kill the used Leaf market, since used Leafs will be deaf and dumb. Blind too, if you include no Nav.

      • Phil Helgen

        found this http://www.electricvehiclewiki.com/Electronics which says how to see if your Leaf has 2G or 3G:

        How to tell if your LEAF’s CARWINGS already have 3G: go into “menu, carwings, carwings settings, down arrow, unit ID information. If TCUID starts with:

        2012-1, or anything other than 2012: already 3G; requires no update.

        2012-0: 2G; requires update.

    • darth

      Is your schedule regular enough to just use the timer? The 2G is so spotty already I just use the timer in the mornings.

      • Lance Pickup

        It used to be, but not really any more. But yes, this is going to be my fallback plan and try to make it work.

  • Karl Boekelheide

    Thanks, Nikki. I assume you shamed someone at Nissan into moving on this. I’ve been calling and emailing for weeks. Nissan and dealers have all claimed to know nothing. I have the upgrade scheduled for next week and everyone now seems to know all about it.

  • Thanks Nikki, great reporting. It’s great to hear an update on this overdue topic.

    Sadly, I expect the frustration is not over for the ~250,000 2011-2016 model LEAF owners.

    Manufacturing 100,000’s electronic units may occur in a few months, but getting inventory to dealers an scheduling installlation may take much longer.

    We’ll see … hope my assumptions are proven incorrect.

  • Jeff Songster

    I plan on getting the free update for the 2015 and testing it out.. only gonna buy it for our 2013 if my wife says she needs it. I don’t think she ever used the app much. I just wish I could swap the head units to get the Android Auto functionality.

  • Dave Davidson

    I only use it to precondition the car and occasionally check the charging status. Since the lease is up on my 2014 in July, I’ll simply turn the car in without getting it done. Only if Nissan makes me a really good offer to purchase the car and I decide to keep it will I then get it done.

  • Mike Loomis

    I also only use it to heat up the car in the garage in the morning, but I do that almost every day this time of year. I just called my dealer to schedule the replacement and they had no idea what I was talking about. After reading them a few select paragraphs of the article they said they would check with the manager and call me back. I am not exactly filled with confidence over this right now.

  • DaveinOlyWA

    haven’t had it on my last 2 LEAFs so still won’t. If NRG would pull their head out and offer notifications of charge status, I would have no reason to miss it either. I garage my LEAF so preheating isn’t necessary since it never freezes while inside but being notified when NRG decides to shut down my charge after a minute or 2 would be pretty nice or get the stations fixed so they don’t do that any more but that might be asking too much!

  • KK6PD Patrick Sullivan

    I have a 2014, bought it used a year and a half ago, and I charge it
    everyday at work. We have 4 Chargepoint stations for our use. I use the
    Connect App, and it’s predecessor, everyday. I will be happy to pay the
    $199 just to maintain this service. Range anxiety is a bitch, but this
    sure helps me!!

  • BEP

    Considering that they never asked any monthly subscription fees for the cellular connectivity, this price is not too high.

  • Don S

    I have a 2011 Leaf. I don’t use the Nissan connect app (charge at home, live in a climate that doesn’t get cold or hot – San Diego CA), but I did subscribe to the Sirius XM Traffic feed. Anybody know if the Sirius traffic feed uses the 2G TCU? Or is there a separate communication channel for Sirius?

  • Kieran Mullen

    Skip the upgrade. Put it towards a Model 3 or a Bolt. Nissan has left its 200K plus leaf owners without a proper battery upgrade path and left us behind.

  • Brian Jones

    Anyone know of a class action on this yet? Would join it in a heartbeat.

    Their going to great lengths to explain details about their service provider issue (not ours) is a common tactic to pass blame and distract customers away from the simple fact that we paid for X, and through no fault of our own, now have X minus Y.

    They picked the service partner with the earliest 2G sunset dates of all major carriers. They could have selected (or switched to) a provider like Verizon who plans to shut down its 2G network by 31 December 2019, or T-Mobile US who has postponed shutdown of their 2G network until 2020.

    Nissan’s bad decision on technology choice followed by another bad choice to selectively pass along costs to customers is not something I’m willing to pay for on principle alone.

    I love my Leaf. I’m surprised and disappointed with Nissan.