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Leafs Encounter Charging Problems; GE’s WattStation Blamed

GE Energy says that it is working with Nissan to determine why owners of the Leaf electric vehicle have encountered charging problems, following complaints about GE’s WattStation charger.

There have been reports that the WattStation is damaging the on-board chargers of some Nissan Leafs. The problem has so far affected 11 Leafs, a New York Times blog reports.

One San Francisco-area dealership emailed customers last week warning them that using the WattStation may make it impossible to recharge the car, reports PlugIn cars. The email, sent by Hanlee Hilltop Nissan of San Pablo, Calif., said that Nissan had documented multiple occurrences of Leafs losing their ability to charge after using the WattStation.

GE says its current analysis does not point to the WattStation as the cause of the reported failures. Nissan North America told the Times that it has no official policy instructing customers not to use the charger.

According to AutoblogGreen, the problem is probably related to a diode on the car’s on-board recharging system. The problem should not affect other models of electric vehicle, AutoblogGreen reports.

The WattStation was unveiled in 2011 at the Plug-In 2011 Conference and Exposition. The charging unit was initially available at just five Lowes home improvement stores in California before being made available at 60 stores across the US and on Lowes.com. In November 2011, GE finalized a sale and distribution agreement with EV manufacturer CODA Automotive, which gives buyers a chance to bundle the WattStation with their car purchase. The following month Amazon.com announced it had started selling the unit.

In October 2011, GE and Nissan launched a two-year collaboration to develop smart charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

The effort is focusing on integration of electric vehicles with homes and buildings, and on the future impact on the electric grid once millions of EVs are on the road, the companies said.

Several projects under the collaboration are already underway. In one, engineers are studying how to connect the electric Nissan Leaf to the GE’s concept for a Smart Home. Nissan recently unveiled a system which enables the Leaf’s lithium-ion batteries to supply electricity to households.

The Leaf was launched in December 2010 in select US markets. In March 2012, Nissan announced that the 2012 Leaf would be available in all 50 states.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that GE has admitted that the WattStation is causing damage to the Leaf charging system. GE has made no such statement. The company says that its current analysis does not indicate that the WattStation is the cause of the reported failures. We regret the error.

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7 thoughts on “Leafs Encounter Charging Problems; GE’s WattStation Blamed

  1. I think that pure electric vehicles will never be more than a niche market, until the battery technology achieves similar range as a gasonline engine vehicle, and similar quickness of charge. Who wants to have to wait 2, or 3 more more hours to charge your car? I think that Hybrid vehicles will make much more inroads into the car market, perhaps to the point where they begin to account for the majority of sales. They are far more cost effective than pure electrics.

  2. Hi, this is Sean Gannon with GE. Your headline and opening sentences in this story are not accurate. I’d like to set the record straight. GE’s current analysis does not indicate
    that the WattStation is the cause of the reported failures.

    We stand by our WattStation Wall Mount, and Leaf owners should continue to use it. Regarding the problem cited in your story, GE and Nissan are aware of several isolated
    instances of Nissan Leafs experiencing on-board charging (OBC) issues when using EV charging units. Because the Wall Mount is one of those charging units, we are working with Nissan to determine the root cause of the identified issue. GE’s WattStation Wall Mount has not encountered a similar issue with other brands of electric vehicles.

    We are only aware of 11 Nissan Leaf owners who experienced this issue with a GE WattStation, and if an issue does arise for a Leaf owner, the Nissan Leaf and the GE WattStation are both covered under their respective warranties. Nissan has also confirmed with us that charging at a GE WattStation will not void a Nissan LEAF warranty.

    As Nissan has said, this issue represents a handful of incidents out of millions of charging events involving the Nissan LEAF.

    • Dear Sean,

      Thank you very much for alerting us to this, and for providing the information on GE’s current analysis. We have now corrected the error – please see above.

      Yours sincerely,
      Tamar Wilner
      Senior Editor
      Environmental Leader

  3. Dear Mr. Gannon,

    I am one of those 11 Nissan LEAF owners mentioned above. You stated, “Nissan has also confirmed with us that charging a GE WattStation will not void a Nissan LEAF Warranty.” My question for you sir, is do you have that in writing from Nissan, and if so, can you publish it or send directly to me? My local Nissan dealership and Big Nissan Customer Service tell me verbally that should I reconnect my LEAF to a GE WattStation again, and my LEAF OBC becomes inoperable again, the repair “may not” be covered under the warranty; and they further advise me to refrain from using my GE WattStation until such time as GE and Nissan come up with a “Fix” for whatever it is that’s causing this charging problem for the LEAF. I’ve been in contact with Mr. Bill Cidela at GE Post Sales Service (888) 437-3765 who kindly provided me a replacement GE WattStation via FEDEX and an RMA and return prepaid FEDEX label to send him the GE WattStation I purchased at Lowes. You also stated, “Because the Wall Mount is one of those charging units, we are working with Nissan to determine the root cause of the identified issue.” As one of those 11 consumers adversely affected, I would expect Nissan to provide a LEAF OBC to GE for indepth diagnostic testing, but according to Mr. Cidela, the Nissan Engineers he’s been in touch with are reticent to do so, and to date have not. It’s my sincere hope that you will conduct a “full court press” with Nissan is resolving this issue, and soon.

    Mr. Hanson

  4. Hybrids will never be able to match a fully electric car. Internal combustion engines are the main culprit. Who wants the maintenance and repair costs when you can have a long life electric motor? Why drag around two propulsion systems? It’s not efficient. It was a good interim step but those days are now numbered. If you are going more than 150km, then use straight internal combustion, if not, go 100% electric.

  5. Paul;
    150km? You must be talking about primitive EVs like the Leaf, Volt, and Coda. A Tesla will go up to 3X that far.

  6. Sean Gannon, Has the root cause been found? We should all know what the answer is. There are a lot of company watt Stations in my area and many LEAF owners and we need to know what to do.

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