How the Struggles of One Nissan LEAF Owner Highlight the Need for More Quick Chargers in US

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 34

The Quick-Charge Capable Nissan LEAF Seeks More Quick Chargers in US

The Quick-Charge Capable Nissan LEAF Seeks More Quick Chargers in US

We’re sure that this story, or one similar, could be told by several electric vehicle owners in the US, but here we’ll focus on Laura Powers and the issue she’s experiencing with her Nissan LEAF.

The ECOtality Blink DC Fast Charger Can Provide an EV With Approximately 80% Charge in 30 Minutes

The ECOtality Blink DC Fast Charger Can Provide an EV With Approximately 80% Charge in 30 Minutes

Powers, a Washington resident, is not an average LEAF owner.  Her one-way commute exceeds one hour and her place of work lacks a charging station.

This makes commuting in her LEAF rather difficult, but Powers has devised a solution.

Powers leaves her workplace in Tacoma in the afternoon and heads in the opposite direction of her home to a city called Fife.  There, Powers juices up her LEAF at a quick charge station before heading off for her hour-long commute.

Powers says she must do this because Fife is the only city around with a quick charger.

This lengthens her commute considerable, as Fife is some 6-plus miles from her workplace.  Since it’s in the opposite direction of her home, it actually adds over 12 miles to her commute, which would have been around 40 miles had it not been for the side trip to Fife to charge.

Fife, Tacoma and Tumwater

Fife, Tacoma and Tumwater

Still, Powers says:

“Saying $600 a month in fuel is worth it.”

And we’re sure it is, but even Powers is frustrated by the US lack of an adequate quick-charge infrastructure.  As she says:

“It would be nice if there were more of them.”

We agree.

Why aren’t there more in Washington, a state that’s considered a hotbed for electric vehicles?

Blame it on ECOtality.

In 2009, the US government dished out $115 million to ECOtality as part of a public-private partnership to install chargers in select cities across the country, including in and around the Seattle area and on I-5 between Seattle and Olympia (right along Powers’ daily route).

Then, in 2011, ECOtality announced its Seattle-area goals goal of 22 quick chargers, all of which were  supposed to be installed by the end of 2011.

Today, there are only 6 quick chargers in the area.

In response, Amy Hillman, ECOtality’s Northwest sales manager, says this:

More Blink Charging Stations Extend the Range of the Nissan LEAF

More Blink Charging Stations Extend the Range of the Nissan LEAF

“The early car sales were not what we had anticipated.”

Hillman further adds that some of the chargers planned for the Seattle area were instead installed elsewhere, as sales of EVs in Seattle got off to a slow start.

We’re not so sure we buy the excuses and Seattle certainly didn’t, so it turned to AeroVironment for assistance in getting more chargers installed.

Much of that work is done now, but the quick charger count in the Seattle area is still on the low, especially when you consider that Washington is home to at least 2,500 EVs, most of which roam Seattle’s roads quite frequently.  In fact, Seattle ranks second to only San Francisco in EV sales right now, yet the areas quick-charge network is lacking.

ECOtality does intend to install 5 more quick chargers in the Seattle area by the end of 2013.  That’ll bring the total to 11, which is still way shy of the 22 the company had promised years ago.

And we’d be willing to bet that Powers bought the LEAF under the assumption that those quick chargers promised by ECOtality would’ve been up and running years ago.  We might have made the same move, too.  Now, Powers is left with an out-of-the-way daily commute to a quick charger that we’d guess she never planned on using on a daily basis.

Source: King 5

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34 responses to "How the Struggles of One Nissan LEAF Owner Highlight the Need for More Quick Chargers in US"

  1. David Murray says:

    I think if I were her, I’d find some other solution. I’d have a serious chat with my workplace about installing at least a 120V outlet or maybe a L2 station even if I had to foot the bill myself.

    1. Taser54 says:

      Moving closer to her job is the common sense solution.

      1. TeriJ says:

        Agreed.

      2. Vin says:

        Another common sense solution is to ditch the Leaf and get a Volt, Energi, or other plug-in hybrid, especially if she owns her dwelling as opposed to renting.

        Her dilemma doesn’t scream for more quick chargers on her route. It screams for employers to offer L1 and L2 charging stations.

      3. Cavaron says:

        Gnah… her home is in the green, not in a polluted city and maybe she has kids which don’t want to change the school, or she has to take care of some old folks there. Come on guys.
        I would go with Murrays idea – offer the boss to pay an 120V outlet and the power needed.

        1. taser54 says:

          Sorry, but that’s not the charging network’s problem that’s her problem. There’s a fast charger in Tumwater and there’s a fast charger in Fife. That’s 35 miles apart.

          Forgive me if I don’t see the problem if she is unwilling to do the true green thing and live close to her job or telecommute.

  2. pjs says:

    I don’t see how she saves/spends $600/month on a 40 mile (80 roundtrip) commute. At $4.00/gallon x 80 miles per day, 22 work days, in a car getting 20 mpg, she saves about $350 – is she going back home for lunch???

    1. Suprise Cat says:

      Using the car for other drives too?

    2. TeriJ says:

      In order to save that much I guess she used to commute in a Hummer with a boat behind it.

      Her inflated $600 savings also assumes that her electricity is free.

      1. Bonaire says:

        It’s probably the number she gives family and friends about the savings. It’s a “look-at-me” number.

        1. pjs says:

          So that’s kind of like saying it’s a lie? Or just bad, bad math skills…you decide!

  3. GeorgeS says:

    Just shows how free enterprise (Tesla) can make things happen quicker and cheaper than just letting the government throw money at ECOtality. What does she pay for her quick charge??

    Still I’m with David. She should find another solution. I think the same company that sold battery conversion kits for the Prius also sells kits to extend the range of the Leaf…..can’t think of the name now.

    1. Brian says:

      http://enginer.us/

      Yes, they do. It’s pricey, but a solution. She could also offer to pay for a 120V outlet at her work as David suggests.

  4. James says:

    “We’re not so sure we buy the excuses and Seattle certainly didn’t, so it turned to AeroVironment for assistance in getting more chargers installed.”

    I posted on King5 TV’s segment and article a while back. Not only did ECOtality
    bail on Western Washington and claim to install it’s federal gov.-funded chargers
    elsewhere – when I contact them, they either deflect the questions elsewhere or
    make excuses. In other words, nobody knows where these “other” chargers,
    previously pegged for Washington – went! This is basically a shell game with
    your tax funded chargers basically getting sucked up in government waste.
    Just like the IRS partying in Vegas and spending $1,000,000 doing so. ECOtality
    isn’t accountable – plain and simple.

    Here’s some excuses – also noted in the KING5 article: “It’s really difficult obtaining
    permitting and getting past codes to install chargers”… And how about this one?:
    ” We didn’t install chargers in Seattle as not to overlap other state and privately-funded
    charging installations in the city ” – Thus creating a so-called “donut hole” where
    the outlying areas have a charger, but the densely-populated urban areas have none!
    The Aerovironment and state efforts claimed they didn’t put chargers in the city
    because they thought ECOtality was going to! So there you have it – governments at
    work – meeting the needs of the people ( yeah, RIGHT! ).

    So big government says toss a lot of money at a problem and it will be solved,
    ( again, yeah RIIIIIGGGHHHT! ).

    So here in my city, Seattle, you see Nissan LEAFs all over, they really are becoming
    numerous. Yet we have a smattering of level 2 chargers at Walgreen’s and maybe
    a department store or at the airport – but QCs are uber scarce and in outlying areas
    off the freeway. Sure, it will fill in, but it has to be private businesses, theaters and
    shopping malls that step up and see the value in installing QCs and Lvl 2s.
    We can’t count on governments or “public-private” nonsense because their
    middle name is waste and deception.

    1. James says:

      * Or a 3 billion dollar NSA facility in Utah to collect your private emails and
      phone calls.

  5. James says:

    ECOtality – ” ….we installed them elsewhere as EV sales in Seattle got off to a slow start”.

    Hey – I live here, and there are 4 LEAFs at parent pickup at my kid’s elementary school!
    I can’t drive 1/2 hour and not see 1 Volt, 2 Model S, and 6 or 7 LEAFs. Seattle is truly
    a “hotbed” of EV activity.

    An EV fueling infrastructure needs to be a private venture. Just like gasoline stations were
    in the old days. Mom and Pops store sees the value in drawing in business by setting up
    a charging station or four in their parking lot. Superchargers are not even indirectly
    funded by our taxes after Tesla paid off all their loans seven years early. If Tesla
    can set up a charging network, possibly with battery swap stations in the mix, what
    more can large energy corporations accomplish?

    Parking companies need to take heed. EVs are coming. Think of the big names
    in the parking industry – this is un-tilled ground. Seattle is a perfect example of
    stinkin’ thinkin’ in the “green” energy sector. There is profit to be had by installing
    charging stations at your business.

    1. George Parrott says:

      And even more “profit” taking government funds and NOT installing those funded chargers?

  6. Tom says:

    Hi,
    I am a German Leaf driver and there are no fast chargers here in Germany. Of courde it would be nice if there were some, but how does that quoted lady know that the charger is free when she gets there?? And if the operating company want to make money on the charger how much must refill cost? Probably the same price as gas. The lady should rather ask her employer for a normal socket at her parking spot.
    Nobody really uses the public charging infrastructure in the US when they are not for free any more. Check Ecotality quartly report, they earned less than 100.000 dollar from charging ! Soon they will be bankrupt.

    1. David Murray says:

      I would hope that any charging company understands that they will need to be in this game for the long haul. There is no way these companies will be profitable for at least 5 years. There just aren’t enough EVs on the road right now.

  7. tonyspin says:

    The reason she was spending so much on gas with her other car was because she was driving 60 miles the other way to the gas station.

  8. Point of Order says:

    My Honda Fit gets 36+ mpg. So it would take on a bad day 2.1 gallons of gas x 22 work days = 46.2 gallons of gas/month. It is $3.40 where I am at, but let’s say it is $4 in Seattle. So rounding up it would be $200 for gas, not $600. Plus electricity would be about $35 a month.

    It is people like this with their inflated stories that give EV’s and supporters a bad name. So other people are supposed to pay for her electricity? I live 6 miles from work and ride bike 70% of the time.

    1. DrInnovaiton says:

      Point well taken.

      People like the lady are doing us all a diservice when their arguments don’t stand up to analysis.

      An analysis of ECOtality would be worth doing, but one cannot blame them until there is data to support the claims. I think its unfair that those programs were focused on certain states (there were no government installed even L2 any near me.. but I still see 3-4 volts and 2-3 leafs and one model S on a regular basis. My little town of 5300 people is pretty EV dense..

    2. DaveinOlyWA says:

      Point of Order; if it was REALLY all about money, then you need to do an analysis of what it costs WA State to drive on gas verses electric. Remember, this is a state that has zero oil wells, zero gas wells and must send money out of the state for every drop.

      There is a reason why WA has put some much money and time into promoting EV’s as a significant source of personal transportation. it is a HUGE financial benefit to the state for every mile of gas driving replaced by EV driving.

  9. jzj says:

    Leaf’s charge on 120V at the rate of about 4 miles an hour. Assuming she works 10 hours a day, that’s 40 miles worth of added juice: the entire commute’s only 40 miles, so she completely fills up, just on 120V. Seriously, how hard would it be to plug in somewhere at work or near work?

  10. Mike says:

    I sometimes commute in a Leaf to a jobsite with a 120 outlet in the building. The commute is 71.5 miles one way. As they get me a hotel room, I charge at the jobsite and from an outlet outside at the hotel. This is with a 25 ft extension cord and the trickle charger. If I don’t stay over, the Nissan dealer has let me use his level 2 charger and I walk a quarter mile. The only wrinkle is having to drive at 60 mph and getting passed by everyone on the interstate.

    Jzj is totally right about a good solution for her. She can also get a mod to her trickle charger and charge on 120 a lot faster.

    1. DaveinOlyWA says:

      Mike; sorry to hear you feel driving the speed limit is an inconvenience but your speed limit might be higher. I travel I-5 in the same area as the OP and FREQUENTLY 55 mph if I can to avoid stopping to charge. My job has 24/7 time demands which means any charging time is frequently done on my personal time which can be very limited at times. (Case in point. I got 5 days off for the 4th which means I worked 40+ hours in THREE days)

      i think its a pretty foregone conclusion she does not have the flexibility to charge and that should be changed.

  11. Chris says:

    I have a 35 mile trip to work and don’t need to recharge to get home. But my company lets me charge on a standard 120v and I get full battery to run errands on lunch or after work.

  12. Dave R says:

    “Blame it on ECOtality.”

    A bit harsh. I highly doubt that anyone slinging blame around has actually tried to get a DC quick charger installed – even when some of the cost is paid for through government grants. Is ECOtality perfect? Absolutely not, but I don’t see anyone else competing. Everyone else installing DC QCs has completely failed and gone out of business.

    Please give it a shot – see if you can find a host willing to pay for the install cost ($50-100k+ is typical) and then also commit to paying the electricity bill (another $1k / mo+) for eternity with no real ROI. The DOE grants only pay for the hardware and perhaps some small portion of the install.

    The only companies you see installing them are either paid for completely by govt grants (west coast green highway), high-tech companies with deep pockets and high concentation of EVs (see the dozen or so DC QCs installed in the Bay Area), or companies dedicated to purchasing “green” credits and cost is not an issue (a few stores here and there). And then you have Nissan dealers installing a huge number of DC QC stations with no cost to the end-user – making a business case for installing them is extremely challenging unless your business model completely depends on them (eg Tesla)!

    1. Bonaire says:

      We don’t need 100-200 DC fast chargers for people like in the story above. We need 1000-2000 L2 chargers or 10,000-20,000 at-workplace 120V plugs installed. That is what will drive the EV adoption rate much faster. Forget the DC fast chargers – the subject of the story needs a 120V plug at her workplace and she’d do “just fine”.

      1. pjs says:

        The question is how much are you willing to pay for these quick charge privileges? Tesla charges per car for the superchargers, which will be free to owners for the foreseeable future. There will have to be a monetary reward for the system to grow at any reasonable rate.

      2. DaveinOlyWA says:

        Bonaire; you are half right. We do need MANDATORY workplace charging options but the fast chargers still address a need that workplace charging cannot. we need it all

  13. Bonaire says:

    I would indeed blame ECOtality. Why?
    The amount of KW of charging infrastructure they oversaw “per dollar” is quite low. Someone should audit their budget, funding, amount put into stations, any kick-backs they paid electricians, etc. I would have to bet that with the federal dollars involved they did misuse some of it – whether it is 10% or 40% – undoubtably, something went wrong with the promises versus the deliveries. If they spent like it was their own money rather than the federal government’s (ie. “our taxpayer revenues”) – they could have done far more by now.

  14. DaveinOlyWA says:

    I am in Laura’s situation as well. I live in Lacey, my office is in Tacoma (off 56th street which is a 7 mile backtrack to Fife) and my work takes me all over the Puget Sound region. Despite all that, I can still make more than half my work assignments with the LEAF (company van pools take up about 35% leaving only 5-10% that I have to switch to personal gas vehicle)

    But things are afoot. Ecotality has announced new stations that will cover her needs lncluding the one that will become my new favorite station in Dupont. The Olympic Peninsula will receive two as will Puyallup and several in SoKingCo.

    In my 6 years of driving EVs including the past 31 months in my LEAF, the public charging situation has improved daily. Before Fife, there was a HUGE dead area for anyone trying to negotiate the 60 mile gap between the AV Quick Charger in Tumwater and the SLU Quick charge in downtown Seattle. Fife has been a godsend but that only covers travel going North. Dupont, Puyallup and the Olympic Peninsula is progress in other directions. No doubt it has been slow in coming, but it WILL come. There is no turning back now and the sooner the status quo realizes that, the better off we will all be.

  15. Jack Brown says:

    It seems to me that she needs an adjustment in her mindset. The story is written like she must be waiting for the ca similar to how people wait for a full tank to fill up at a gas station. Using this manner to charge rather than set it to charge and forget about it is not very good use of her time. For one, she needs level 2 charging at her home, if she was spending $350-$600 a month on gas, $500 for a Bosch L2 and $400-$500 to have it installed is recouped in under 2 months. This way she can start her commute with a full charge. I would then at least look for some sort of L1 solution at work where in a 9 hour day she can pick up 25-30 miles and then she should only need to charge 50-65% once she returns home. Her current method can work, but it seems to me that she could be spending her time a little better with the approach I noted and there is less risk in case the charger is occupied or out of commission.