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Nissan LEAF fire blamed on faulty charger, NHTSA investigates

Another electric vehicle fire, this time involving a Nissan LEAF, is being blamed on the charging unit and has prompted the NHTSA to get involved, but the investigation isn't looking at the LEAF.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating another electric vehicle (EV) fire. The fire was in a parked and plugged-in Nissan LEAF, but the investigation isn't looking at the car. It's looking at the charging unit.

According to the NHTSA, which opened its investigation yesterday (Monday, April 21), the fire was another in a suspected series of potentially faulty charging units that are overheating their plugs and creating a fire hazard. This latest complaint was from the owner of a plugged-in LEAF whose car began to smolder and smoke at the plug interface while charging from a Bosch Power Xpress 250V charging unit installed at the residence.

After ninety minutes of charging, "signs of overheating were first noticed," the NHTSA preliminary report states. "The overheating condition can cause damage to the vehicle and charger rendering both inoperable. Charging vehicles are typically left unattended and there is a risk of fire that could affect the vehicle and its surrounding environment."

The original complaint against the charging unit was filed in August and Nissan determined that it was not the LEAF at fault, forwarding their investigation to the NHTSA after denying warranty coverage for vehicle damage to the owner.

The investigation is ongoing, of course, but anecdotal information from electric vehicle forums online appear to show that the Bosch charging stations can be problematic, though whether it's due to faulty installation or bad design for the charger is not decided.


bruce dp (not verified)    April 22, 2014 - 5:07AM

I have a couple of items I want to point out. 1st an error: The news item is about a Leaf charging using a level-2 (240VAC) charger (EVSE). But the image is of a Leaf charging using a level-3 (~400VDC) EVSE which is never at home.

This is very misleading. It would be like having a news story of a gas car, and showing a vehicle being pumped full of diesel = wrong!

If the Bosch EVSE is the cause, why isn't there an image of a Bosch Power Xpress EVSE?

Lastly, was the Bosch Power Xpress hard wired (no plug, wired directly to circuit by a certified Electrician), or was the Bosch Power Xpress just plugged into an outlet?

IMO, either way, it seems more likely the problem isn't the EVSE, but the human error of bad electrical power work on the source side (either the wiring or the wiring of the outlet). If too much current had been demanded by the EVSE, the breaker would have tripped/popped. So, the over heating means to me the electrical work was faulty.

Aaron Turpen    April 27, 2014 - 1:12AM

In reply to by bruce dp (not verified)

Well, the photo is stock and easier to use than to hunt down some photo of some charger that may or may not be the one in question and whose source may or may not be legally usable on the site. You nitpick.

Second, the investigation is looking into what caused it. You ASSume that it's faulty wiring. It could also be faulty manufacture. Or misuse by the owners. Or any of a number of things, including programming miscalculations, errors in the feed.. who knows? That's the point of INVESTIGATING, rather than jumping to conclusions or making assumptions.

EVSE Safeguy (not verified)    April 22, 2014 - 2:26PM


During my years of investigation into charging station safety, I have found numerous safety concerns and issues with different charging stations and from different manufacturers. The fact that you would assume the breaker is a fool proof system is ludicrous

My company has investigated numerous overheating situation with EVSE .and it seems to be an ongoing problem. The article did not give enough details to conclude the cause of the overheating problem and fire. Late last year, a company discovered relay issues that left the relay in a closed position and left the charging cable electrified. Because of non existence of mandates on charging station inspections, there will be more incidents upcoming, I will say this, do not get to comfy on the manufacturers so called preventive safety features.