2011 Nissan Leaf: Free Recharging At Dealers, Except When They Balk

EDITOR'S NOTE: We received the article below on July 6th from Nissan Leaf owner Bill Schwartz, and asked Nissan Americas for a comment before we published it.

Brendan Jones, director of Leaf marketing and sales strategy, said that the comments by the Surf City Nissan employee "were not authorized statements," and that the owner of the dealership was "extremely upset" by the incident, which had already been brought to his attention by Nissan when High Gear Media received Schwartz's article.

Most states legally require cars to be sold by independently owned parties--i.e. car dealers--and make it illegal for car companies to sell you a car directly. That means Nissan cannot always control the actions of its dealers, though it can recommend, advise, and admonish, as it appears to have done here.

Offering charging services "is a way to bring people to Nissan dealers," Jones said, adding that many Nissan dealers were happy to provide recharging to drivers of electric cars from other carmakers as well, as space permits.


2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

Enlarge Photo
The 2011 Nissan Leaf is a 100-percent electric car. On a full charge, it travels anywhere from 50 miles if you run the air conditioner and climb hills hard to 100-plus miles if you baby the pedal, keep the air conditioner or heater off, and drive at 55 mph on nice flat streets or highways.

For those thinking of buying a Leaf, let me assure you about one thing -- it's fun to drive and gets you where you want to go, as long as you have enough electric juice to get you there.

But the success of the Leaf beyond duties as a short-haul commuter car for work or errands depends totally on the availability of charging stations away from home. Early studies have pegged that 85 percent of charging will be done at night in owners' garages, mostly with a Level 2 charger that does the job in 6 hours or less.

"Range anxiety" (the fear of running out of electric charge) is the main reason most people won't go near an electric car. Even though the average person drives less than 50 miles a day -- more than adequate for a Leaf -- just knowing you can't jump in the car and drive to some exotic destination at the drop of a hat is a buzz killer.

Amazingly, even Leaf owners are susceptible to this fear...which brings me to the incident that prompted this article.

Fast Charging 2011 Nissan Leaf

Fast Charging 2011 Nissan Leaf

Enlarge Photo
After a few weeks of short trips doing errands to the bank and dry cleaner, I decided it was time to take the plunge. The Fourth of July weekend was party time, specifically a shindig at my brother-in-law's in Huntington Beach, California. I live in Agoura, about 75 miles away. On a full charge with no air conditioning, I figured I could make it without incident.

Nissan is a smart company. It knows "range anxiety" is a huge buyer issue, and it has instituted a very credible charging system. Every Nissan dealer is required to offer a minimum of two Level 2 charging stations for Leaf drivers to use, for free. 

Call it an incentive to buy a Leaf. I call it smart. There are lots of dealers across the county and if a Leaf driver is really dedicated, s/he can drive the Leaf just about anywhere -- assuming adequate time to spend, a good book to read, or laptop work to be done during the recharging period.

My wife wouldn't come with me to the party; neither would my daughter. They didn't want to get stuck. I assured them little "Greenfoot" (that's what I call my Leaf) would make it just fine. They smiled and wished me a nice drive; they'd meet me in Huntington Beach.

I left an hour before they did. I figured I'd keep my speed at 60 mph and crack the window in lieu of the air conditioner just to be safe. When I left my house I had a full charge and the electronic calculator estimated I could drive 105 miles. I was feeling pretty good.

My 70-plus-mile drive was completely and utterly uneventful: light traffic and some decent talk on the radio. I used the Nissan Carwings navigation system to locate the Nissan dealer closest to my destination for recharging: Surf City Nissan, in Huntington Beach.

Fantastic. What a cool spot to recharge my Leaf!

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Comments (13)
  1. This has happened before at other Nissan dealers. Nobody has accused the typical car store of being visionary or customer focused. We were told by Nissan that unimpeded access to Nissan dealers for charging was part of what we were getting with the Leaf.

    Nissan has an obligation to ensure this is the case or pull the Leaf model from a dealer.

  2. What should be made clear by this incident is that the leaf is only practical for very short commutes. The owner of his leaf was using the car for something it was not designed to do. The fact that Surf City Nissan located their charging stations in their favorite promotional spot shows that the charging station and the promise of dealer recharge idea was just a gimmick to entice new buyers, nothing that the dealership had seriously bought into.

  3. @tlushnia Nissan Leaf was designed for the majority of commutes in this country, with twice the EV range of a Chevy Volt, which at 40 miles, is adequate for most commuters as well. With the continuing roll out of L2 chargers and hopefully L3 chargers, there is no reason why the author shouldn't be able to accomplish the round trip distance he sought to achieve--it should become more and more doable, even if not as reliable currently as home charging.

  4. The Leaf has a stated range of approximately 100 miles. How is a 70 mile trip exceed the design criteria of the car? If the dealer had charging stations installed they should expect that someone would want to use them. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. The sales manager that chased this gentleman off the lot should be shown the door by the general manager if he has half a brain. A stretch, I know! Nissan will be not be pleased to hear about this. Thanks to social media stories such as these could kill the leaf before it even catches on. I'm sure Nissan is smart enough not to let that happen as there is too much riding on new technologies like the electric car.

  5. Unbelievable. We all need to spread this around!

  6. Good article!!

  7. What a POS dealer - I wouldn't expect any more or less from these guys though.

  8. This is an interesting article.I have read the article and some of the responses below.Some of the responses logical and some not so much.Im a Sales manager here at Surf City Nissan and was present at the time when Mr.Schwartz drove his Leaf onto the lot.Seems like some miscommunication lead to a frustrated customer.We are Leaf friendly here ofcourse and anyone is more than welcome to come use our charging station.Just come in politely and ask us.We will assist you as best we can to get your car charged in a timely manner.We can also assist in parking your vehicle next to the charger so that it isnt blocking any entrances or exits.Any questions contact Ken,Tristan or Tam we are the Sales managers in the store.

  9. Tristan: Thanks for your response. Good to have it here associated with the story.

  10. Know what I'd have done if this douchebag left us hanging? To the chagrin of my spouse, I'd have told him I need a charge so I'm not leaving. That way (hopefully he'd call the Cops. Now THAT would haver REALLY shown off the dealership's douchery ... as even ICE drivers would get incensed at that level.

  11. It is an unfortunate course of events that happened to you Bill and I hope it will generate positive changes in the future. I wish to share one of the best practices I have seen with Nissan dealers. Last week,the NorthBay CalNissan dealer of CA inaugurated the public access to a Schneider Electric dual Level 2 charging station for free charging, open to any electric car owner. Volt, Tesla, i-Miev owners and others are welcomed as much as Leaf owners.

    The local community got engaged in the event: Petaluma Mayor David Glass, Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbit, NB Nissan owner Greg Dexter, Mike Calise, Dr of EV Business at Schneider Electric, Dale Miller, President of the GG EV Association, Marc Geller, PlugIn America(...) see posting 2

  12. (...) Steve Atwater, founder of EvolvElectric and Maltby Electric Supply. In addition, a few Leaf owners came to the lot to support the initiative and share their experience of driving electric vehicles in the bay area of San Francisco.

    The initiative demonstrated the common goal of supporting alternative transportation in a region sensitive to green solutions and thought leader approach. As we witness deployment of more charging stations in the field, the range anxiety issue simply disappears.

    No wonder why this Nissan dealer is listed as the multi-year winner of the Award of Excellence for outstanding customer satisfaction and the #1 US dealer of Nissan Leaf sales in 2011.

  13. No doubt there are enlightened Nissan dealerships. Nissan of Thousand Oaks welcomes all EV drivers as well. Santa Monica Nissan had a terrible record and closed their doors only a few months. Don't know if customer service was a reason but it wouldn't surprise me. All in all, true success for EV driving will depend on increasing public awareness to the benefits, and I suspect, good word of mouth from EV drivers will be very helpful.

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