The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
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    Piling on the Leaf

    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.


    Dyke's advice sounds right.

    The "floating neutral" problem happens in new construction too. The ground for the main box can pass inspection while some portion of the wiring wasn't done correctly.

    If you are going to have a product like this GE charger, it seems odd that they didn't include a surge suppresser in its design. Why not go a little further and include an "idiot light" console that tested the circuit for fatal deficiencies?

    “Nissan and GE have completed their investigation into the instances of Nissan LEAFs experiencing on-board charging (OBC) issues when using certain EV chargers. Nissan has traced the root cause of the issue to the LEAFs OBC software that can allow damage to occur to its OBC components while using certain chargers and in certain instances, such as when a brief under voltage or blackout condition occurs. Nissan is working to address this issue as quickly as possible, and in the meantime is advising customers to avoid charging during times when brownouts or momentary power dips may be likely, such as during electrical storms or high power usage on the grid.”

    Nissan Leaf owners claim AZ desert heat saps batteries (local news video at link)

    Some Nissan Leaf car owners are tempted to pull the plug after a dramatic drop in their driving range. They believe Arizona's scorching heat is baking the batteries of their electric cars.

    Just one year ago, drivers in the desert could count on a full charge to get them around town. But now they say the car they love is losing power, and they are losing patience.

    "I absolutely love this car," said Leaf owner, Scott Yarosh.

    "This car is just built rock solid," adds fellow Leaf owner, Mason Convey. ...

    Of the 400 cars in Arizona, the excitement of Yarosh and Convey about their new Leafs is starting to wilt. They said they are extremely frustrated and disappointed.

    "When I first purchased the vehicle, I could drive to and from work on a single charge, approximately 90 miles round trip," Yarosh said.

    And now, he says, "I can drive approximately 44 miles on this without having to stop and charge."

    The two owners are not alone. They belong to a community of Arizona owners with the same grief about the Leaf. They believe Arizona's extremely high heat might be cooking the car's battery, which has no cooling system.


    A gasoline-less carriage?! Impossible!

    I dunno. Limo Land makes a stretch Leaf limo, four feet longer than standard:


    Some drivers claim AZ heat maybe causing problems for Nissan Leaf (local news video)

    The Leaf is an all electric car. ... There are 13,000 on the road and 400 in Arizona. Tucson was one of the first cities to get the Leaf and was a test city. Because Nissan wanted to make sure the car could handle the heat and dry conditions.

    Two drivers in Phoenix claim their battery is not working properly. One driver claims, he could go 90 miles on one charge and now it is down to 44 miles. Another feels that the car's battery has loss 30% of it's capacity. ...

    I talked with the Director of Tucson Clean Cities, who has been in contact with Nissan. She said, "from her conversation with Nissan, they are aware of what's going on and are looking into it."

    The Roosevelt bar was closed, but perplexed Leaf owners did get together somewhere in Phoenix to drown their early adopter woes.

    The local news reports seem to have gotten results because on MyNissanLeaf, Opossum wrote, "Nissan has informed us that they want to take 5 or 6 of our cars (we were a little fuzzy on which it was) down to their test facility in Casa Grande, AZ and run some tests." According to the user group, Nissan is providing loaner cars and $250 gas cards while they look at the cars  in question. Some of the owners discussed driving to Casa Grande en masse, but the trip was just far enough that they weren't sure they all could make it with their reduced range.

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