GE WattStations and LEAFs: We'll Fix It in Software.

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes
ge wattstations and leafs well fix it in software

As we reported back on July 17th, there were reports of Nissan LEAFs “bricking” themselves while connected to GE’s WattStation home charging stations. Over the last 10 days, I have been on a number of conference calls, spoken with a number of Leaf owners, electrical engineers and battery charging gurus. As it turns out, the problem was exactly as I had surmised: bad utility power damaged the LEAF. The only involvement the GE WattStation had, was that it was merely the connection between the LEAF’s on-board charger and the utility.

Back when I was contemplating getting an electrical engineering degree, I was working for a small computer peripheral design company. The experience has proved useful countless times, but this popular engineering joke is particularly àpropos: how many hardware engineers does it take to change a light bulb? None, we’ll fix it in software. To that end, GE released the following statement this morning:

“Nissan and GE have completed their investigation into the instances of Nissan LEAFs experiencing on-board charging (OBC) issues when using certain EV chargers. Nissan has traced the root cause of the issue to the LEAFs OBC software that can allow damage to occur to its OBC components while using certain chargers and in certain instances, such as when a brief under voltage or blackout condition occurs. Nissan is working to address this issue as quickly as possible, and in the meantime is advising customers to avoid charging during times when brownouts or momentary power dips may be likely, such as during electrical storms or high power usage on the grid.”

Until Nissan releases this fix, Nissan and GE are both telling us that LEAF owners should continue charging as normal, and on the off-chance you fry your LEAF during an electrical storm before Nissan has this fix, your warranty should cover the problem.

What about the problem with LEAF batteries permanently loosing their charge in the Arizona heat? Check back for an in-depth look next week.

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  • Jpolicke Jpolicke on Jul 29, 2012

    So the list of rules for successful living with an electric car now includes: Don't charge it too quickly or you'll shorten the battery life; Don't drive in a hot climate for the same reason; If you hear thunder in the middle of the night you must get out of bed and unplug the charger; Don't charge it on summer days when usage on the grid (which was never designed for transportation needs in the first place) is high. I guess I don't have the green goggles one has to wear to see these cars as anything other than an expensive joke.

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Jul 29, 2012

    Blaming the public utility is a bit of a copout. This is an engineering flaw with the power management system of the car. The car should be designed to deal with low voltage situations. Nissan should take full ownership of this problem, if it hasn't already.

    • See 1 previous
    • BrianL BrianL on Jul 30, 2012

      I was thinking the exact thing Pch101. You can't expect the power to be perfect 100% of the time. In the US, the power is better than many other countries. Since the Leaf is supposed to be a global car, what are they expecting to see in other countries? This is a striking failure of design and testing. I think TTAC took the softball approach here on laying the blame.

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