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Nissan: Leaf Software to Blame for Charging Woes

An investigation by Nissan and GE into reports the WattStation home charger damaged 11 Leaf electric vehicles found that the car’s software can allow damage to occur while using certain chargers in specific circumstances, such as during momentary dips in the power supply.

The investigation found there were problems with chargers from other manufacturers besides General Electric, GE spokesman Sean Gannon said. Gannon, who did not name the other manufacturers, said all GE can speak to is its own product and the fact that WattStation is not the cause.

Nissan said it’s working to address the issue as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the automaker has advised customers to avoid charging the Leaf during times when brownouts or momentary power dips are likely, such as during electrical storms or high power usage on the grid.

Reports emerged earlier this month that the on-board chargers of 11 Nissan Leafs were damaged while using GE’s WattStation. At the time, GE said its analysis didn’t indicate the WattStation was the cause of the reported failures.

Last October, GE and Nissan launched a two-year collaboration to develop smart charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. The two companies are working on ways to integrate EVs with homes and buildings, and to lessen their impact on the power grid once millions of those vehicles are on the road. Engineers working under the collaboration are already studying how to connect the electric Nissan Leaf to GE’s concept for a Smart Home.

Shortly before the GE collaboration announcement, Nissan unveiled a system that enables the Leaf’s lithium-ion batteries to supply electricity to households.

Since the WattStation was introduced last year at the Plug-In 2011 Conference and Exposition, Lowe’s and Amazon have started selling the unit. GE also finalized a sale and distribution agreement with EV manufacturer CODA Automotive, which will give buyers a chance to bundle the WattStation with their car purchase.

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2 thoughts on “Nissan: Leaf Software to Blame for Charging Woes

  1. I had wondered how a EVSE could possible hurt a Leaf. The EVSE is little more than an intelligent contact closure, connecting the Leaf’s inverter directly to the mains. The inverter in the Leaf is responsible for protecting the Leaf from voltage spikes and the like. If the problem is due to a spike that exceeds the PIV of a diode, the diode needs replaced with a higher PIV rating and maybe add a MOV (which could be in the EVSE to simplify replacement) to take the hits. Is software protecting the diode by telling the EVSE to open contacts before the diode blows once it sees a spike? Maybe it is more a low voltage that causes current to increase in the inverter, exceeding the diode’s current rating. In that case software could open the EVSE contacts for 30 seconds, and then reconnect if the EVSE is providing good power. I think we could use more information from the investigation, but I always suspected that the problem was with the Leaf and not the GE Wattstation.

  2. I am one of those 11 Leaf owners mentioned in the article above. I’ve been informed by Nissan USA Customer Service that I may proceed to reconnect my Leaf to my GE WattStation; and should the Leaf OBC again fail, the Leaf warranty will cover any costs to repair; with a statement for the record in this regard entered into my “case file” within Nissan’s propietary computer system, to which the local dealership has access.

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