Overview Of Plug-In Electric Car Charging Infrastructure In The U.S. – Part 1


Nissan LEAF Uses NRG EVgo CHAdeMO

Nissan LEAF Uses NRG EVgo CHAdeMO

Socks For Everyone

Socks For Everyone

*Editor’s Note: In Part 1 of this two-part series, the focus is on the need for charging stations at multi-unit dwellings. Part 2 (coming soon) will focus on rethinking public charging goals.

Remember when you were a kid and you received a pair of socks from your aunt for Christmas? It didn’t fill your little-kid heart with joy, did it?

But it made your aunt feel good, because it showed she cared. The thing is, she did care–but she just didn’t know what you wanted.

This anecdote explains what’s wrong with public infrastructure for charging electric cars. Individual pieces are installed by well-meaning people and groups, but most of them don’t know what plug-in drivers really need.

As John Oliver eloquently described, infrastructure is both supremely important and also a bit boring. The result is infrastructure often tends to get ignored.

Infrastructure? I need a nap

Today, in some places (California, cough), you can buy almost 30 different electric and plug-in hybrid cars. To the new electric-car advocate, this looks awesome.

What motivates automakers to electrify what they offer to the public? Some part of the motivation is a genuine desire to be green.

eVgo: 80 Fast Chargers in California - Image Dated October 2014

eVgo: 80 Fast Chargers in California – Image Dated October 2014

And there’s a lot to be said for the adrenaline rush provided by the instant torque of electric vehicles; that certainly motivates the addition of plugs to high-end sports cars.

But much of the motivation is no more than government coercion.

First, and most visible, are the rising fuel-efficiency standards under CAFE laws that require the fleet average for passenger vehicles to reach 55 mpg by 2025.

California counts

Not quite as visible are separate requirements by the powerful California Air Resources Board, which affect not only cars sold in the state of California, but also influences buyers in 14 states that follow CARB rules. California is by far the largest state car maker in the U.S., and it would be the eighth-largest economy in the world–so its rules matter.

A patchwork of other incentives by various regional, state, and local governments and corporations–tax credits, rebate programs, parking privileges, single-occupant access to carpool lanes–also drive the electric-car market.

And buyers come to realize the benefits of the cars themselves, from their lower cost per mile driven to the better, smoother, torquier driving experience.

Studies show that the pioneers who embraced electric mobility were motivated by environmental or economic concerns, or felt the electric car provided a superior driving experience. But what will it take to get the average person in the heartland to consider a car with a plug?

The challenge for public acceptance isn’t about range anxiety–not exactly, anyway. The elephant in the room is that until prospective buyers know they can add energy to an electric car as simply and effortlessly as they can now with their conventional car, they won’t embrace electric mobility.

It’s Not Easy to Find a Charger at Most Multi-Unit Dwellings

It’s Not Easy to Find a Charger at Most Multi-Unit Dwellings

The 98-percent problem

One study of the charging habits of plug-in owners showed that roughly 85 percent of all charging is done at home. The same study demonstrated that more than 98 percent of charging was performed at either the home or the workplace.

Taken together, these two statistics tell us everything we need to know about what is required to get an average person to consider an electric car. If people can’t charge at home or at work, they are poor candidates to buy one.

It’s as simple as that.  Cost, range, performance — it’s all inconsequential if people don’t have confidence they can charge.

That 98 percent of charging occurs at home or work should surprise no one. A car’s idle time, overnight or during the workday, offers the perfect opportunity to recharge using a “conventional” 240-Volt Level 2 charging station, which can now recharge a Nissan Leaf in about 4 hours.

Brand-new electric-car owners soon learn to love charging at home. Waking every morning to a “full tank” can be more addictive than crack. One driver likened it to the freedom he felt when he first got an apartment with a built-in washer and dryer and realized he never had to go to the laundromat again.

Misguided efforts

To date, efforts on expanding the public charging infrastructure have been aimed at the needs of the 2 percent of drivers who are away from home or work. In my view, much of this effort is overemphasized.

Really, who expects to spend hours on end at a drugstore to give their car meaningful time to charge on a Level 2 station?

In practical terms, this means that to be a good candidate for an electric car today, you need an overnight parking spot with a charging station or an employer with the same.

I’m not aware of any official studies, but it is a fact of life that many people live in apartment buildings, or rent dwellings where the landlord hasn’t installed charging capability. And the problem is far worse outside the U.S., which has spent 70 building dispersed single-family houses with garages in suburbs.

To make matters worse, the vast majority of Americans today do not have access to reliable charging at their workplace. All of these people are all poor candidates for an electric car.

If we are to act at the scale and the speed required to meet mandates for CO2 reductions, we must focus on the existing 98 percent of charging needs: at home and at work.

How To Not Charge Your Electric Car From A 4th Floor Apartment

How To Not Charge Your Electric Car From A 4th Floor Apartment

So far, that hasn’t happened in any systematic way. And it will take government involvement to make it happen.

All about building codes

The first step is to make all new construction plug-in-friendly. That means newly constructed employment centers, homes and apartment buildings nationwide must have electrical panels with sufficient capacity and conduits installed for at least 50 percent (preferably 100 percent) of parking spaces.

This is not technically challenging, and it’s inexpensive before concrete is poured and sheetrock goes in.

But … “The U.S. does not have official national building codes developed through a federal or national process and adopted uniformly nationwide.”

The federal government is in no position to pass a national law requiring changes to local building codes. Through the guidelines it publishes, however, it can influence state and local officials to adopt such regulations.

Although the federal government can and should deploy financial incentives to incentivize state and local governments to pass “EV friendly” building codes, the real work needs to happen closer to home.

Think Federal, act local

If there is one thing the EV community is guilty of it’s being passionate. We sell a lot of EVs to our coworkers and families. Personally, I’m due a share of a few sales commissions.

It is time to move beyond promoting cars to friends and coworkers. It is time to shape the policy that will shape the future of electric mobility. The action required is to work with state officials and city planners. Obviously the focus of this discussion has been about laws and policy that will enable charging infrastructure where people live and work. But that is merely one aspect of the electric vehicle experience that can be enhanced through public policy. There are obviously others; anti ICE-ing laws quickly come to mind. But the resolution within the EV community should be the same – act locally to shape policy to enable electric mobility.

Make no mistake: We can get glassy-eyed over the Chevy Bolt EV and other coming 200-mile electric cars, but until the vast majority of drivers can reliably charge at home or work, electric mobility will remain an option for the wealthy.

The other 2 percent

The other 2 percent of EV charging infrastructure plays an equally consequential — and perhaps more visible — role. That’s because consumers need to be convinced that an electric car can meet all of their driving needs; not just most.

In my Utopia, about 30 percent of capital and effort should be devoted to what I’m labeling as 2 percent of the problem, and the remaining 70 percent of capital and effort would be devoted the other 98 percent.

But today, most capital and effort is being devoted to meeting that 2 percent of charging needs. This must change.

In the long term, I view the electrification of the automobile as inevitable. Not only do CAFE and emission standards lead to this perception, but driving electric is simply a superior experience.

From chopping wood to plugging in

My kids will likely feel the same way about pumping gas that I do about my grandparents heating their home with wood they chopped themselves–or with the coal that was common before World War II.  

But the path to get there will be a lot more smooth if we start emphasizing infrastructure now.

Elected officials as a group may be a bit like your aunt who gave you socks for Christmas. Both have a job to serve their constituency, as it were. And they are both just a little bit clueless about the best way to do that job.

We just need to tell them.

*Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for Part 2 in this charging infrastructure series!

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52 Comments on "Overview Of Plug-In Electric Car Charging Infrastructure In The U.S. – Part 1"

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Very interesting article. I think that as we see the proliferation of longer range BEV’s, the picture will become much clearer in regards to charging needs. Workplace charging may cease to be as necessary, as long as drivers have access to 240V charging at home.



Local charging locations get blocked by Internal Combustion cars ICE’D. Most police don’t know the law and won’t give them a ticket. If the local law is not posted at the charge location they still won’t give a ticket.
Many charge untis cost more than gas, many don’t work well and don’t even provide their labeled 6 kW rate or a DC Fast Charge it’s 45 kW rate.
Only Tesla has a FREE nationwide network. They are all very fast and all work. Go Tesla.

The article is right, range anxiety is only part of the issues facing EV adoption. It is very real tho. Then there is the issue of reliability. Until EV drivers can add electricity as simply and effortlessly as they can fuel their conventional cars, they won’t embrace electric mobility. Quite true, read my blog below.
And a large part of the market live in apartments where is very difficult to charge, so that needs to be addressed very much too as this article focuses on.

Here is something I wrote titled:
Expansion and Reliability of DCFC Networks Needed for Mainstream Adoption of EV’s


“Unplug A Lamp, Plug In Your Car”

Simple Twitter Quote:

” > 1.5 Billion 110V AC Outlets, N. America, All #EV’s Refuel This Way.
Nails 100% Daily Range For 74% U.S. Drivers”

Brandon, 63% of N. American Famlies has household access to a 110V AC outlet.

Problem is that 95% asked, do not know, all Electric Fueled Vehicles refuel on a properly grounded 110V AC outlet.

Now on my 2nd Chevy Volt EREV. I Continue to use 50′ 12g outdoor rated extension cord running out basement window. Including FREE public Refueling, worlplace charging and home shore power have logged almost 55,000 miles thus far.


14.798 Total Miles
14,550 All Electric Miles

98.3 Percent EV

1286.41 MPG = Miles Driven Vs Gas Used!

Link Goes To My Volt Stats Dot Com Page-


PS, I like 74Percent of US Drivers drive less then 35 Miles per day average.


Thomas J. Thias

Sundance Chevrolet Inc.




The focus for charging infrastructure should be categorized by:

1. Private Dedicated Charging: home & work … with a dedicated charging stall.
(eg: private residence)

2. Private Shared Charging: home & work in a multi/shared charging scenario … includes multi-family residences. Access is limited to group membership that has a specific longterm contract/connection at that location.

3. Destination Charging (Public/Private): publicly shared charging stalls … at a business, or sponsored charging location.

4. Range Extending / En Route High Energy Charging: where the focus is on rapid (40 min or less) high power charging facilities that can serve multiple BEVs and has redundant charging stalls to ensure high reliability and availability. Location of multi-stall charging is near entrance/exit of regional travel coordinators.

Well said. I agree except that I would switch 3 and 4 around. Fast charging needs to be the safety net that’s there when there is no destination charger or if it’s not available. So I would argue that it’s more important. Destination charger proliferation at businesses and public places is the last step. It’s definitely important, but comes after a fast charge network is in place. My view of the purpose of destination charging is that it enables less (or no) time to be spent fast charging. Obviously plug in vehicles are a different story, but I’m talking electric only.

Here is another way to class the types of charging networks and their priority:

The first “network” is private parking locations at home or work.

The second charge network is fast charging. Executed properly, it enables total freedom of reliable travel.

The third network is expected to develop mostly after EV use starts to become established. The largest part of this network will be overnight accommodation providers and employers providing charging for commuting staff. These essentially operate as a ‘home’ away from home.

A fourth network is also expected to develop: tourist destinations (national parks and private attractions), event destinations (sports, performance and conference venues) and some other destinations such as shopping centers or restaurants may provide charge facilities for patrons.

Good reading. I look forward to part 2

Very good article, except the point about the poor and subsidy. If not done carefully, that’ll turn out to be like “the projects” rife with problems. Having grown up poor in poor area, I can tell you that willy-nilly putting up L2 all over with subsidy will result in very high cost with little to show for.

One can see lack of supermarkets and such from south central and east Los Angeles. One can also look at plugshare and see giant “holes” of DCFC in those same areas. I don’t know what the right answer might be, but just throwing subsidy at the problem is not going to work; it has to have some elements of people having some skin in the game. Again, I don’t know what that might be, but smarter people have to figure that out.

Utility companies across the Nation should be required to install 40amp 240V Level 2 chargers on all Utility/light poles. They should be allowed to charge 2 cents more per kWh then their household rate to help recoup installation costs quicker. Utility companies are the automotive fuel companies of the future.


240V L2 chargers on utility poles . . . that is an interesting idea.

How about the utility puts up a google map with all of their utility poles where this is possible and then allows people who want such a charger to request one. However, you have to pay $300 to get them to install a charger on that pole. The charger will be a public charger that makes people pay an amount a few cents above the residential rate.

That way people who want public chargers can get them and the utility gets paid a small fee to install it and recoups the rest of the investment by getting people to pay for charging.

“….Utility companies across the Nation should be required to install 40amp 240V Level 2 chargers on all Utility/light poles….”.

HA! You have any idea how much that would cost?

Seeing as politicians only go for ideas that have relatively broad appeal, (so they can get re-elected), or go for ideas where they personally can make money – until the % purchasing of ev’s goes above the small single digits, I wouldn’t hold my breath as to that Idea.

A far better idea would be to help landlords set aside some space for a few spots that renters could use to charge up the relatively small percentage of cars that will need charging amoungst their renters.

The 16 amp AV turbodock is a product that can be installed in a kiosk group and the relatively small number of ports that will be needed anytime soon won’t overly tax the apartment building’s house meter.

All poles would obviously be ridiculous. But some poles where people request to have chargers?

That could be interesting.

It’s already happening.

Electric Utility companies are the Future automotive fuel companies.


They can add whole $2.00 per kWh if they want, but please only for those electricity users who want to use these “free” chargers and pay for them, not for every unrelated person. How about paying for your lunch yourself? Super high electricity rates are going to price-out the same battery cars out of the market :/

Oh come guys, why are you preaching to the choir? The people reading your comments to this article are already sold on electric vehicles. You need to be writing to your city council and your representatives for state and federal governments.

The building codes in my city have a requirement that all new houses have to be wired for garage door openers. We need the same kind of building codes so all new business and residential properties get wired for EV chargers. Quit writing comments on insiders.com (at least for the next half hour) and go write to a government representative.

National electric code (NEC) is written by the insurance company. Until we see fires in the garage caused by EV charging station, the code will not change.

The NEC is written by NFPA, not insurance companies. NEC covers HOW to install electrical equipment, not WHAT electrical equipment to install. There isn’t any reason the cities can’t adopt an ordinance requiring provision for EV charging equipment be installed in new buildings, that’s the kind of thing cities do all of the time.

I don’t understand your nay sayer attitude. Do you have a problem with getting EV chargers install in homes and businesses? I know a lot of developers would argue that provision for chargers that would be an added expense and would hardly ever get used.

Instead of requiring actual chargers installed, better to make it easier for them to be installed with less red tape and maybe just requiring conduit and wiring to be installed in new construction.

I think that builders need be made awear of the growing need for EV charging stations. That installing the wires when the building is built is cheaper then doing it after construction is finished.

The latest NEC requires a 120 volt outlet on a 20 amp dedicated circuit in front of each car stall.

So a 3 car garage requires 3 additional 20 amp circuits and recepticles.

It doesn’t take a big imagination to guess that when someone wants a level 2 wallbox, r charge their 3,S, or X at 240 volts, the owner will change the existing dedicated circuit to 240 with no change in wiring, pull the nema 5-20R, and replace it with a nema 6-20R, and have a really cheap way to get 3.6 kw charging per car.

If the owner has 3 ev’s the above easy conversion will just be done 3 times.

“Do you have a problem with getting EV chargers install in homes and businesses?”

As a matter of fact, yes. Living with an HOA can make the transition to electric difficult, when they control what is, and is seen outside your residence. And remember, not everyone is lucky enough to have a garage and or driveway.

And having an employer who’s only interest in being green is when it saves them money.

And the nearest freely available charger is twenty minutes out of your way.

Yeah, some of us would have a problem getting a charge.

Yeah, I am a HUGE advocate of getting chargers installed into multi-unit dwellings. It is going to take a little pushing at first because the apartment/condo building owners don’t want to spend money for something that doesn’t provide them with anything.

But eventually, renters will start demanding it.

All new apartment buildings (or existing apartment buildings that have serious rennovations) should be forced to install conduit and breaker space for chargers at every parking spot. The actually chargers & wiring can be installed as people request charngers.

“But eventually, renters will start demanding it.”

Perhaps it works that way in Econ101, but in my observation if a management company can save a nickel, they will. Oh sure they may eventually add a charger and advertising “Charging facilities onsite”, but remind me again how many standards there are? I imagine they’ll implement either the cheapest one available, or the one compatible with the owners car. And then if lucky, one charger per hundreds units.

No, outside of California I see apartment complexes being very slow to offer chargers. They will only do it when they have no way to avoid it.

Well one apartment group here in Atlanta has taken it upon themselves to install EV Charging at all 15 of its properties here.


There are companies that specialize in Charging specifically for Apartment buildings.

Check out http://www.powertreeservices.com

They are deploying in 80 Amp chargers in 100+ buildings in San Francisco right now and access is shared so you don’t have to live in the building to be able to use the chargers.

Article makes sense.

But we should ask ourselves this question. If 98% of the charging are done at home/work and 85% of charging are done at home, then why haven’t those people who can charge at home buy close even 30% of all the EV out there.

What is missing?

The problem is that even though people with infrastructures (those with home/work) charging, they haven’t bought anywhere close to those %.

Work is important, but only if you need extra long range or can’t charge at home. Let us solve the problem of those people who can charge at home first. If we can get 50% of those people convert, we would have 10x more EVs on the road already…

At work , we have 4 Chargepoint charging stations which cost $1 per hour for the first 3 hours and then $3 per hour thereafter. However, we have a cheap co-worker that has a 20 foot extension cord that plugs to the only working outlet in our parking structure. It’s a tripping hazard. I guess, freeloaders are freeloaders.

Maybe its because $1 an hour is double the price of what the same electricity costs at home. Would you pay twice as much to fill up with gas at your job just for the convenience? An early Leaf, all Volts, and iMievs only charge at 3kw which costs less than $.50 an hour. And a full charge on an early Leaf takes 7 hours, so you would really get hammered paying $3 an hour after the first few hours. We need to find a way for the public chargers to charge the same price for electricity as we pay at home. I mean the gas station by my work doesn’t charge any more for gasoline than the one by my house. By the way, im NOT the guy at your work with the extension cord. But i have been the guy at my work with the extension cord. I also drive my Nissan Leaf 25,000 miles a year.

The reason apartment owners resist installing charging stations is they view it as a possible shock hazard. Most people don’t understand the safety systems built into to the J1772 standard. First no high voltage is present in the charge cord until it is plugged into a vehicle. Second the charging stations output power is also GFCI protected. If a ground fault is detected such as from a damaged cord the station cuts the power to the charging cord.

Shock hazard? Nah. They just don’t want to pay for anything.

Shock hazard may be not a big deal, but it is real electrical fire hazard as charging needs to be done at full rated amperage for long time. Many rental buildings are old and electrical installation is old and wasn’t designed with sustained full load in mind even when it was new. You may need approval from insurance underwriters and they may require to change all electrical installation in the building, and it is cost prohibitive.

First, public chargers need to have more than one unit. Imagine a gas station with only one pump. If it goes down, the whole station would be out of business. Same with chargers.

Also pay by the kwh is the only model that makes sense. Charge by time is silly, we are buying a quantity so don’t penalize slower charging cars.

Finally every charger is different. Paying is different, operating is different. Pay with RFID, pay with phone app, QR codes etc. But no one just takes a simple credit card? They are just making it hard for no reason at all. I don’t get it.

Paying by kwh doesn’t make sense when most of the cost is electrical infrastructure upgrade and parking land is expensive or limited. kwh may be extra but a charger has capital costs regardless of kwh used.

Thank you, John, for writing this piece!
It’s refreshing to not read about Tesla, now and then.
Free workplace charging would be a great perk. 20 amp Level 1 EVSE could add over 45 miles in an 8 hour shift. These smaller chargers put less strain on existing electrical equipment. And they don’t cost the employer an arm and a leg in kWh’s used (Well, that may not apply in CA,anyway)

Please stop saying, “recharge a Nissan LEAF in about 4 hours.” That’s only true if you drain the pack. What I prefer to tell people is that you only need to recharge what you use. So for my 80-90 km commute, that’s about 10-12 hr on a 120V outlet. And that would be the same whether I’m driving a 24kWh LEAF or a 60kWh Bolt. Intentionally or not, journalists writing that it takes 24 hours to recharge an EV scares off prospective buyers.

Many people I talk to are surprised to learn that I charge my LEAF on an ordinary 120V outlet. I think the reason more homeowners don’t buy EVs is the perceived need to buy and install Level 2 chargers. I fully agree with the author about the importance of home charging. I almost didn’t buy my LEAF because I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to fully recharge at home. Plan B was to top up at public chargers. So don’t be too dismissive of public charging. They provide a necessary security blanket for prospective EV buyers. They also allow me to exceed my range with short top-ups during the day.

Having both a Tesla Model S and a BMW i3 BEV we get to experience both extremes of the EV experience. The short version is that the Tesla Superchargers are fantastic and made it pretty easy for the Model S to be our primary car even though we tend to go on lots of road trips. But the local CCS chargers are often unavailable either because they are broken or is use (all nearby CCS chargers have a single CCS plug shared with a CHAdeMO plug). Since we can’t trust the CCS charging network, the i3 stays relatively close to home. And while on paper the 81 mile combined range seemed more than enough for my wife’s daily commute, her commute is mostly freeway driving. Throw in a few errands before or after work and things can get too close for comfort. I’ve also observed lots of L2 chargers installed in really dumb places that I assume were installed just to take advantage of the subsidies. Based on what I’ve observed, only the car manufacturers have the proper incentives to put public chargers in places that improves the experience for people who own the cars. Individuals have much more influence… Read more »

Yes! Only 1 DCFC charger with the plug your car needs at a location is unacceptable because if it isn’t working you are SOL. At least with the Leaf, the CCS charger adds a 2nd CHaDeMo at most EvGO locations, so now I have a better chance of charging. But CCS folks still only have 1 plug.

Strip Malls, and Shopping Malls, could use pairs of lower powered DC QC at 20 to 25 kW, plus mixed L2 Stations at 40 Amp and 60 Amp as alternates and extras.

What is also needed is a pre-made concrete footing/foundation that can have DC and AC charging stations pre-installed and wired, so the whole package is set in place and power connected: a more turn key setup.

This article has an important focus on the majority percentage of charging which is done at base,
but its really the easier of the two kinds of charging infrastructure to make happen.
At base charger installation for renters is really a lot up to each tenant and renter to decide that its needed and then do it, while dishing out some money too.
Reliable fast charger installations on the other hand are not only harder to make happen, but IMO are the more critical missing piece of infrastructure. It is probably the hardest part of the equation for EV owners to handle, I agree.
Looking forward to reading Part 2 John, as its probably going to be about this very thing which is my particular area of interest.

Since 2012 I have been assisting multifamily property owners and HOA’s discuss and deploy EV Charging on their properties, both retrofit and development. http://www.evchargingpros.com The crux of the issues are… Parking lots were not designed for power and there is not enough electrical capacity to serve more than a couple of vehicles. However, sharing charging stations does not work well with drivers and tenants who think of themselves at HOME and want a dedicated charger. Solution = have utilities bring in make readies and either provide charing programs or outsource management. The utilities are the only ones who can provide the scalable power! New development is trying to save money and power capacity is very expensive based on the requirement for dedicated load for each charging station. Extend the load to 100% of the spots on a property and that is a huge amount of power capacity and capital cost. Solution = Need more flexibility in NEC 625, and more load management systems. Business models of vendors don’t jibe with business models of property owners. Generally property owners invest in infrastructure and amenities when they can get ROI from 100% of the tenants as rent. Not true with EV Charging… Read more »

This is a problem everywhere …. everyone will be waiting for some sort of government funding, because the costs to implement mas charging in a condominium building are massive and all owners will always agree.

So work is the only option, but that will depend solely on the employer … if the employer is not a Tesla fanatic or EV car enthusiast the only option is public places, so we are back at the 2% …. governments are not stupid, they know it.

It’s much easier to put 20 mils. in public chargers (like Ontario) rather than trying to deal with thousands of condominium boards or companies asking for subsidies …

There is an easier and more effective way of regulating EV chargers in new buildings and properties than the building code. And it can be implemented quickly (within months instead of years).
Get in touch with me via email (I assume that you have access to my email via the submit form)

Jim, there’s no way to contact you unless you list your email in a comment or provide a link to a blog or such. Could you do that?

All that is needed are a lot of 110V outlets at work. You don’t need level 2 chargers there. Cars would sit way too long in front of expensive machines. You wouldn’t get a $10,000 vending machines only to sell one candy bar a day.

Hello, I have a Renault ZE, the car is from 2012, the battery can get me o 90km.
Our cars under warranty but Renault do not fix this issue, they sent me to the local service provider that told me that Renault order them to avoid battery replacement under warranty, I contact Renault again and they sent me to the local service again.

I am strongly suggest you to avoid buying any car from Renault because I do not see any good reason you will get a better service.