Nissan Leaf
Luke Ottaway's picture

Nissan streamlines public charging, offers free access for LEAF

The makers of the range-limited LEAF have invested heavily in public charging infrastructure to support sales of their all-electric vehicle. Now they are making another huge investment that is proven to provide a great boost to sales, but not in all markets.

Yesterday at the New York International Auto Show it was announced that Nissan will offer two years of free public charging access to new buyers of the electric LEAF. The program officially begins on July 1, but free charging will be retroactively offered to buyers who purchase a LEAF between April 1 and July 1. It is effectively an expansion of the successful “No Charge to Charge” program that contributed to increased sales in Houston and helped boost Dallas-Fort Worth sales by 500% last year.

In another important move, Nissan has joined forces with four major EV charging networks: AeroVironment, Blink network by CarCharging, ChargePoint, and NRG eVgo. Responding to driver complaints of having to carry around multiple access cards to charge at different stations owned by different networks, Nissan has consolidated access to the aforementioned networks by offering one access card for all four. It will be known as the EZ Charge card and is sure to be a refreshing convenience for LEAF owners.

This means that buyers of new LEAFs will have free and unlimited access to over 20,900 charging stations across the United States for two years. The sprawling ChargePoint network offers 16,766 stations spread all over the map; the Blink network that CarCharging Group rescued boasts more than 4,000 public stations spread across nine major markets; NRG eVgo currently offers 88 public stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Southern California, Bay Area, and Washington DC markets and has plans for significant expansion in California; and AeroVironment operates 54 stations, mostly of the DC fast charge variety, on the “West Coast Electric Highway” in Washington and Oregon.

The caveat that comes with Nissan’s offer is that it initially is only available in the top 10 LEAF markets: Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Nashville, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC. However, within the next year Nissan plans to expand the program to include a total of at least 25 major markets representing 80% of all current LEAF sales.

Nissan has taken the lead in supporting public charging infrastructure, which is good for all players in the EV industry. Often described as a “chicken and egg” dilemma, public charging infrastructure is crucial for supporting widespread sales of electric vehicles to hesitant potential buyers that need a security blanket of public chargers to ease their range anxiety.

In the words of Fred Diaz, Nissan’s senior vice president for U.S. sales: “Public charging is an important way to provide added range confidence to EV buyers and persuade more shoppers to join the more than 110,000 LEAF drivers around the world.” With the most range-limited mass market electric vehicle on the road, Nissan knows they need to develop charging infrastructure if the LEAF is to succeed and they have done so admirably.

The move to consolidate charging networks and simplify charging station access is wise in itself, and Nissan will likely enjoy a sales boost with the added incentive of free charging within those networks if previous experience with the “No Charge to Charge” program is any indication. It’s unclear how much this initiative will cost Nissan, but we suspect it will be worth the investment.

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This EZ Charge card seems like a really good idea and very convenient. you don't have to join 4 separate networks. So why isn't Nissan making this card available to ALL it LEAF customers? Guess another way to attack the "Range limited" problem would be to build a EV with a bigger battery/longer range.