Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Love letter to Nissan Leaf DCFC users

This love letter is for those who care how Leaf is charging using DCFC. I hope to save money for those who pay to DCFC, and have non-paying Leaf drivers be aware how expensive it can be and hopefully become better members of the EV community. This is as romantic as I get, right to the point!

Previously, I've harped on Leaf's "No charge to have other people wait while Leaf is slow charging" program as well Leaf's slow DCFC speed. I call waiting for Leaf DCFC when L2 would be cheaper as getting "Leafed" and waiting for Leaf DCFC slower than L2 speed as getting "Leafracked". I also call Leaf drivers pulling into and using dual head DCFC when perfectly working Chademo is sitting empty as "Leafrackers".

There's not much I can do about Leafrackers. They are truly mouse frackers, and I don't have much love for them. Don't be a Leafracker!

I don't have much love for getting Leafracked, either. If they're willing to take up a DCFC spot and have others wait while charging slower than L2, they are frackers. Especially bad are those who plug in after their first DCFC when they already have 90% SoC. But there could be some that don't really understand that they're charging so slowly.

While I don't like getting Leafed, those who let others get Leafed may not have much choice. If Leaf battery has deteriorated so much that they cannot get much further than 50 or 60 miles, they may need all the help they can get. Leaf at 60% may only charge at 36kW (instead of 45kW). Even if they pay for charging, they may have to stick around and pay at higher rate until there's enough charge, though switching to L2 at 10kW (80%) instead of 6.6kW (86%) would be nice.

Below are two tables of MPG equivalent to gas car if Leaf has to pay to charge using eVgo OTG plan. It's similar to my MPGe table in that rows are $/gal of gas at local gas station. It uses Leaf's 114 MPGe EPA (3.38 mi/kWh EPA). Reds represent worse than 50 MPG, though many are masked by light yellow row markers.

First table is useful for Nissan Chademo only charger. It is more informative charger, because it shows the current in amps. The voltage is roughly constant at 400 volts, so the second column header (second row) is corresponding power in kW (multiply current by 400 divide by 1000), just for FYI. To find equivalent MPG to gas car, simply look up the closest gas price and current.

For example, if it's 25 amps (about 80%), local gas prices are $2.60/gal (Oct. 2015), you'd be paying equivalent to 14.6 MPG gas car.

Second table is useful for dual head ABB charger. It's not as good, because it does not show power nor current. As such, we have to "eye-ball" and infer the data we need. One can deduce power from energy (kWh) and elapsed time. 0.01kWh in 1 second would correspond to 36kW, 2 second would be 18kW, 3 seconds 12kW, 4 seconds 9kW, and so on. In general, if it takes more than 2 seconds for 0.01kWh (18kW), it's better to disconnect and use L2 instead. That's only with regard to time if others are waiting. If money is your objective, it's better to move to L2 when it takes more than 1 second per 0.01kWh (about 60%)

One can deduce more accurate kW from ABB by doing time averaging. For example, one can count how many seconds it took to get 0.1 kWh, and divide  the time by 10 to get more accurate time for 0.01kWh. Because Leaf slows down so quickly, much longer averaging many not be beneficial, although if you're trying to charge at 95% (hopefully, no one's waiting for you), you may have to wait for about 4 minutes to get 0.1 kWh.

For example, if it's taking 3.5 seconds for 0.01kWh and local gas prices are $2.60/gal (Oct. 2015), you'd be paying equivalent to gas car between 13.2 MPG and 17.6 MPG.

Edit Oct 29, 2015

A commenter by the name of Todd was gracious enough to make measurements of Leaf DCFC, and made a plot of Power vs elapsed time. Following is a quote of his comment.

"The battery was at 24% at start and ended at 88% in 30 minutes. The temperature here in Mira Mesa was 70 degrees @ 10PM. The battery started at 70 degrees and ended at 87 degrees. The rate was 41Kw, increasing to 44Kw until around 58% charge and then it was a somewhat linear drop to about 9Kw over the last 21 minutes. That works out to 34% in the first 9 minutes and another 30% in the last 21 minutes. The last image is showing the voltage of each cell and SOH%."

From what little research I did, GIDS (named after a guy who made Leaf tool?) is actual battery capacity that is used whereas SOC (state of charge) is absolute battery capacity. Like all EV, the battery does not discharge to 0 and does not charge to 100%. When 0% is indicated by the car, there's still lots of energy in the battery. GIDS is what's indicated by the car. As such, SOC is pretty meaningless with regard to driving; only GIDS will be discussed. In fact, when I use SOC in my blog, what I really mean is GIDS.

The plot was made at ambient temperature of 70F, so it's hard to know how it'll translate at different temperatures. It may not be absolutely accurate for all conditions, but it's a guide to make some rule-of-thumb observations to help Leaf drivers.

Left axis is power in kW for Green plot. Right axis is % for GIDS in magenta, battery state of charge in % in red, not sure what black is; maybe temperature?

1. If you're paying eVgo OTG plan to charge, and you have 6.6kW L2, it's best to switch to L2 at 40kW (100A current) to minimize cost. That occurs at about 60%. If you have 3.3kW L2 (2012 and earlier), it's best to switch to L2 at 20kW (50A current), which occurs at about 75%.

2. If you want to optimize for time, the best place to disconnect is when it starts to dip below 40kW, which is about 60%.

3. If you want to optimize for time, and you need more than 60%, it's up to the individual when to stop, but it seems the "knee" occurs around 70%.

4. If you need more than 70%, time taken will be less than optimal, but it will be quicker than L2 up to about 88 85%, taking 15 minutes to gain 15% (averaging about 1% per minute, VERY SLOW!). This would be the maximum charge Leaf should get from DCFC. It's easy to remember: back to the future! Get it? Time optimized, back to the future 88? Yeah, go see the movie! (based on Tom Saxton's data, 88% might not be best; stop at 85%. See below)

5. Based on his charging from 24% to 88% in 30 minutes, you should prorate your charging accordingly. Best would be to plug in at 10% or less to get to 70% in 30 minutes (roughly). But if you're already at 50%, you should only take about 10 minutes to 70%, not full 30 minutes. No-charge-to-charge or not, waiting around to charge wastes time, and I'm sure your life is worth more than $1/hr.

Edit Oct. 30, 2015

As I was researching "GID", I came across another blog (by Tom Saxton?) that deal with Leaf DCFC.

As a test, he charged from 21% to 80%, then plugged in again to get 95%. Hopefully, others weren't waiting while he was doing this! I think he got clever with axis labels. He states he charged to 80%, yet the light blue is "pack kWh" in legend. I suspect he cleverly chose the axis so that %GID and pack kWh line up. As such, pack kWh plot will be used as %GID.

For 21% to 80%, he found it to take 13.2kWh in 26:40 min (0.44 hours). That's 30kW on average, which is roughly similar to eye-balling from Todd's plot. That's also 44MPGe$ from first table above when gas prices are $2.60/gal.

For 80% to 95%, he found it to take 3.2kWh in 36:35 min (0.61 hours). That's 5.25kW on average, far less than Leaf's L2. That's about 7.5MPGe$ from second table 5.1kW column when gas prices are $2.60/gal.

Far more troubling is what happens at 88%. Basically, it stops charging for 8 minutes while you're paying by time; $0.80 gone to dollar heaven! In addition, first 3 minutes of charging adds more energy than 33:35 min after. This is probably what I saw some Leaf at >90% charging less than 2kW with DCFC. Talk about wasting time!

Based on this data, maximum recommended DCFC level would be 85% (3% margin from 88%). Otherwise, you risk being in charging limbo at 88% for 8 minutes. But you should still disconnect at 60% (40kW) or 70% (~20kW "knee" region of slowing) if you can live with it. After all, why waste time and money needlessly?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jerks all around us: ICED, Leafed, Leafrackers

NOTE: It came to attention that "Leaf**k" is not safe for work (NSFW). Taking cues from Battlestar Galactica, all instances of "Leaf**k" has been replaced with Leafrack.

We sometimes think that we're a small community of EV drivers. If you ride a motorcycle, you know the feeling; we wave to each other, knowing that death may fall on us the very next minute by an errant douche, and genuinely glad to see a fellow motorcyclist. For EV, some Dicks (Richards?) may decide to cut all EV programs. When EV drivers meet at fast charger, where we sometimes stick around since it often only takes 10 or 15 minutes (except Leaf), we make a friendly chat as kindred spirits. But the world is not as such. There are plenty of jerks around.

Leafed and Leafracked

If you are unable to charge, because there's Leaf charging at rate slower than 6 times L2 rate (6*6.6kW = 40kW), then you're getting Leafed. Why 6 times? Because DCFC is 6 times more expensive than L2, and people who have to pay for charging would disconnect if DCFC gets slower than 6 time L2 rate. But hold on. You might ask, "why do you call it getting Leafed when all EV slow down charging as the battery fill up?"

First reason to calling it Leafed is that Leaf's fast charging is not very fast compared to SparkEV (and probably all other EV since only Leaf lacks thermal management). It starts out fast enough, but it slows down very quickly. Since Leaf gets below 40kW even when they have 60% state of charge, you're probably getting Leafed any time there's a Leaf in fast charge spot. Some Leaf slow down to as low as 2kW from 50kW charger!

Let me pause here and tell Leaf drivers how DCFC pricing works, because I've heard comment that "it's the same thing at 1kW or 100kW, because electricity is charged per kWh." eVgo charges electricity by time, not energy: $0.10/minute ($0.20/min for non-OTG plan). The longer you're plugged into the charger, regardless of kWh of energy used, the more money you pay. Therefore, the slower you charge, the more expensive it gets for energy. Meanwhile, L2 is $1/hr, 1/6 as expensive per time as DCFC.

How expensive can DCFC get? At 6kW (Leaf DCFC at 88%, which almost all Leaf I've seen go beyond), you'd be paying about $1/kWh (or $2/kWh for non-OTG plan). With $2.60/gal gas prices these days, you'd be paying more than 10.5MPG gas car (or 5.25MPG gas car for non-OTG plan). At 2kW (some Leaf at 95%), you'd be paying more than 3.5MPG gas car (or 1.75MPG gas car for non-OTG plan). Those are using SparkEV efficiency figures; Leaf could pay even more due to lower efficiency.

Which brings to second reason to calling it Leafed. Leaf drivers use fast charger to charge slower than their 6.6kW L2, because Nissan gives out free charge for 2 years. They call it "no charge to charge" program. I call it "no charge to take up fast charge spot and have everyone wait while slow charging" program, because Leaf charges so slowly. Since it's free, Leaf drivers don't care that they're charging slower than L2 or plug in when they already have 90% charge in battery to take up full 30 minutes and charge at 2kW (worse than 1.75MPG gas car). After all, why bother spending the time to move the car to L2 when it slows down when fast charge is free for them?

We have various degrees that we can distinguish for getting Leafed as follows. The percentage numbers are from few observations I made of Leaf battery state of charge and corresponding charging speed. Percentages will vary depending on ambient temperature and how hard Leaf was driven before plugging into fast charger and other factors.

Greater than 40kW (0% to 60%) = A OK, Normal charging.
40kW to 6.6kW (60% to 88%) = Getting Leafed.
6.6kW to 1kW (88% to 100%) = Getting Leafracked (Leafed and fracked)

Almost all Leaf I've encountered at DCFC Leafracked others to some degree, including other Leaf.

SparkEVed not likely, i3ed but never fracked

Since all EV slow down as the battery is filled, the problem is not unique to Leaf. But Leaf is most abundant source of the problem due to its slow charge and free charge. For example, getting SparkEVed would entail the following. SparkEV has 3.3kW L2, so the thresholds would be 20kW and 3.3kW.

Greater than 20kW (0% to 92%) = A OK. Normal charging.
20kW to 3.3kW (92% to 100%) = Getting SparkEVed.
SparkEV charges at 9kW at 99%, so there's no way to get SparkEVed and fracked.

Since it gets more expensive as it gets slower than 40kW, SparkEV driver would disconnect as close to that as possible (about 85%), so one isn't likely to ever get SparkEVed. However, BMW gives free charge, so one may encounter "i3ed", although not likely to get fracked at the same time since they charge fast enough. Getting regularly Leafracked can only come from Leaf. 

Getting Leafracked is bad for all EV, including Leafs. If a Leaf driver is waiting to charge, and there's a Leaf already there, chances are he's getting Leafed, and probably getting Leafracked half the time. Basically, getting Leafed sucks the life out of all of EV community, including Leaf.


I mentioned in previous posts about Leaf taking a dual head CCS-Chademo charger while perfectly good Chademo charger is next to it. I call them Leafrackers. You can read about my first encounter with a Leafracker. Scroll down in the link below.

It is not the same as finding a Leaf charging from dual head while Chademo charger is empty; it could be that when the Leaf first pulled up, Chademo was being used. Since the driver wouldn't be around, there would be no way to move it after Chademo freed up, so that would be a legitimate use of the charger. Even if the driver is around after Chademo subsequently became empty, not moving the car is acceptable; I mean, if the driver had gone to eat while charging, you wouldn't expect to drag him out of the restaurant to move the car. It would be nice for him to move the car (LeafSaint?), but not bad if he doesn't.

The specific incident when you find a Leafracker is when you observe someone pulling into dual head charger when the working Chademo charger is empty. As such, finding Leafracker is rare, since you must witness it.

Or is it? Was that really the first time I encounter a Leafracker in my post? I've seen many Leaf charging from dual charger while Chademo was empty, but I always assumed that there was another using Chademo when they pulled up. After all, why would they purposely use dual head and block CCS when perfectly good Chademo is available? I mean, EV people are nicer than that, right? Don't we meet the nicest people in EV?

Just today (Oct 24, 2015) as I was charging, a Leaf pulled up and tried to use the dual head charger when Chademo was empty. Now I'm not so sure if Leaf people are as nice as rest of EV people. Based on this, I suspect there are many more Leafrackers than we realize. Maybe even most of those incidents when I saw Leaf using dual head chargers were Leafrackers, not merely having Chademo already taken when they pulled up. Of course, there is no way to know; I'm just getting paranoid.

Leafrackers are most damaging to CCS cars such as SparkEV and eGolf. But the wait caused by CCS can lead to waits for subsequent EV, including other Leaf. That actually happened in the case I mention in my first encounter with Leafracker. My 30 minutes of getting Leafracked by Leafracker resulted in 16 minutes of wait for another Leaf. Besides, when you have EVs needlessly waiting around to charge, it's bad for entire EV community reputation. Gas bags would say, "EVs will never work. Just look at them waiting to charge even when EV is tiny percentage of gas cars."

Not only Leafracker

You might say that Leaf isn't the only Chademo charging car. That is true. One can theoretically encounter iMievfrackers or SoulEVfrackers. But in reality, Leaf is the only Chademo car that gives free charging, and they are far more likely to plug into the fast charger at high state of charge and keep it plugged in due to Leaf's slow charging.

When iMiev or SoulEV plug in, they are likely to do so only when absolutely necessary since they must pay. They are also likely to reduce their time at the charger since slowing charging as battery accumulates more energy means far more money out of pocket. It's like the sound falling tree makes in the forest when no one's around; there may be iMievfrackers and SoulEVfrackers, but if you don't encounter them, their impact is irrelevant. Meanwhile, I've encountered real life Leafrackers, maybe many, many of them.


If a car is parked in EV charging spot while it's not charging, and you are unable to charge, then you have been "ICED". ICE stands for Internal Combustion Engine. In the early days of EV (circa 2011), there were very few EV public charging, and most of those blocking EV charging spots were (are) gas cars (ICE cars). That's where the term comes from. Obviously, if a gas car parks in EV charging spot, you cannot charge, so you would be ICED.

But today, there are many EV (in SoCal). Some who drive EV treat EV charging spots as privileged EV parking spots instead of charging spots. I have been ICED by TeslaS parked in CCS charger spot. I waited about 30 minutes until he came out, and I told him not to park at charging spot since he cannot use CCS charger. His response? He just went in the mall to get something quick, and there was no other parking. Bull! There were plenty of parking, but CCS spot happened to be closest to the shop he wanted to visit. Yes, you can get ICED by Tesla. Those with expensive cars shouldn't piss off those who drive cheap cars.

I was told by a BMW i3 driver that a Volt was parked in fast charger spot. I presume Volt was not charging, because she said she was ICED by Volt. If Volt was not plugged in, it would be ICED. But if Volt was plugged in, but full and taking spot to prevent others from charging, would that be ICED? I think it would be. But if Volt is charging at L2, but taking fast charge spot making others unable to fast charge, would that be ICED? No, because he is charging. But I'd call him a Voltfracker.

In another incident, there was Fiat500e using L2 charger at fast charger spot with the L2 cord stretched out far. It's impossible to know why she did that, but I suspect she just got the car, and didn't know what parking stall to use. She had dealer temporary tag made on the previous day. I think she'll learn to use proper spot in the future; I mean, there's no point in charging farther away from the charger than necessary when all she can use is L2. Still, if one cannot use the fast charger, because someone is using L2 at fast charger spot, would that be ICED? That would be similar as Volt case above: Fiatfracker (Sergio is a special kind of Fiatfracker).

L2 EV purposely preventing fast chargers while themselves are charging at L2 is rare. I've never encountered it. However, I have seen them ICE the spot (ie, they're not charging).

State of the jerks address

New York Times had an article on just this topic: EV jerks. They did not explain what chargers were having issues, but it sounded like all of them were L2 at workplace or other form of free charging. Getting Leafracked and Leafrackers are rare since there are fewer DCFC relative to L2, although I seem to be getting Leafracked every time I have to wait for a charger.

Frankly, I'm surprised that there aren't fist fights or even gun fights breaking out over public L2 and free charging. If someone unplugs public L2, that could mean hours of lost time; may even have to spend the night at the office, call a cab, or, heaven forbid, ride the bus! In a world where people drive half way across town to save $0.01/gal of gas, they'll go to even more extremes when it's free.

The problem with public L2 will only get worse. There is no way to meet the demand no matter how many are put in, especially when it's free, because not everyone uses assigned charging spots. As such, some locations will have more EV than public L2 during certain times, and others will be left empty. If they can get off the charger quickly, problem is less. But L2 takes hours.

Combined this with more jerks adopting EV, and the problem will be severe. Gun fight will break out. And no, banning guns won't work. By the way, definition of assault weapon is "scary looking gun, typically used in movies", and not much to do with its function.

The solution? DCFC, but with penalty for using it for longer time. But for now, we have to deal with jerks. Maybe there's few, maybe there's many, but what is certain is that more will be adopting EV. Hopefully, this post illuminates the problems facing us, and solutions will be implemented in the future to prevent jerks from EV getting ICED, Leafed, Leafracked, and Leafrackers.

Edit Oct. 26, 2015

As I was perusing comments section in Plugshare for a place I charged, I came across comments from a 2014 Leaf owner. Apparently, he is aware of the problem, though i don't know if he links it to free charging or if he'd appreciate those bad behaviors being called "getting Leafed / Leafracked". He also had to use dual head charger few times when his card did not work in Chademo only unit; that doesn't make him Leafracker; he at least tried to use Chademo but failed.

Knowing that there's at least one like him, I have some hope. I wish there are more like him. I also wish he's a she, not a he. :-)  Following are some of his comments out of several dozen of them.

"Oh my god! Same guy from before who plugs and charge for 30mins on the Chademo,comes back to his car and replugs his car again even if he is already above 95%. White SL leaf with no license plate yr 2012."

"Have to wait for this guy for 20 mins before his 2nd session on the chademo terminal is over. He should have just plugged in to the lvl 2 port instead if he wanted to top off."

"Lvl 2 charger can deliver 3.95kWh in 30 minutes. For a 2014 SL LEAF that's 16%. Please use it as a guide especially if you're close to 80% charge already and wanted to get close to fully charge. Instead of using the DC fast charge."

Edit Nov. 9, 2015

After getting heavily Leafracked (waiting 20 minutes for a Leaf at > 90% charging slower than cold molasses in Arctic winter), I wasn't in any chipper mood for another Leaf. After about 5 minutes into my charging, another Leaf pulled up and said in chipper voice, "it's a busy night" to which all I grunted out was "it sure is". Well heck, if it weren't for getting Leafracked by the first Leaf, it wouldn't be that busy!

Another few minutes later, a BMW i3 pulls up. Since there were only 2 fast chargers, he had to wait. Few minutes later, the Leaf driver comes out and unplugs his car and tells the i3 driver "I'm at 70%, and I can come back later. Why don't you charge your car now?" WOW! This guy is LeafSaint placing the need of others above his!

Or is he? Maybe he knows that Leaf charges slower after 70%, so he decided to unplug to save his time. Or maybe he read / heard that some guy writing SparkEV UNOFFICIAL Blog has been nagging about getting Leafed and Leafracked.

Actually, it doesn't matter why he did that, but that he did give up his charging as it's slowing down. He is LeafSaint whichever way you look at it. A huge thank you, and the very first LeafSaint award of the month goes to you!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Money MPGe$ for various EV

NOTE: For our metric friends, L/100km$ tables follow the MPGe$ tables in bottom half of this post.

I established true out of pocket cost MPGe using actual measured data early in my blog. After all, the amount of money I pay compared to gas car is what matters to me, and probably to most people as well.

I used to think that everyone knew this, but apparently, most people were (are?) oblivious to it; they believe they're getting 100+ MPGe, because EPA tells them so. While that's true with regard to energy consumption, that's not what most people are expecting. When they hear MPG, they think of the money they'll spend / save. Telling people that EV gets 124 MPGe is committing fraud without telling them that MPGe doesn't have much to do with money.

In this post, I present various tables that show out of cost MPGe (MPGe$) for various cars. For SparkEV, I was able to measure the actual mi/kWh, and have an accurate table in link above. But for other cars, I have to infer mi/kWh from EPA's MPGe figure.

First, these are EPA MPGe converted to mi/kWh using 

mi/kWh = MPGe / 33.7kWh/gal

Note that mi/kWh inferred from EPA is about 20% lower for SparkEV compared to actual measured mi/kWh. Therefore, it could be that other cars also have higher mi/kWh when actually measured. In any case, the table should give you an idea of MPGe$, which you can boast (or feel shamed) when speaking with gas car drivers for apples-to-apples comparison.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Radio interference by Leaf or Chademo or ?

I sometimes listen to AM radio. While most of it's junk, there's a show called "Tim Conway Jr. Show" on KFI 640AM. One of their programs is called "What the hell did Jesse Jackson say?" where callers hear a snippet of some speech by Jesse Jackson and try to guess what he said. It is HILARIOUS! No, I don't think it's racist, although I wish he'd have other hard to understand figures, such as "George Bush" specials; I mean, it's NU-CLEAR, not NU-QULAR.

I was listening to this show one night while fast charging, and the radio went bonkers all of a sudden. It was not static, but some sort of buzzing (PWM?) that completely wiped out the reception. I didn't know what it was at the time. Oh well, back to audiobook.

In another time, as I was pulling into charge with the AM radio playing with Leaf already charging, I noticed that buzzing got worse as I got closer. Then it dawned on me; it's Leaf charging. Over the next few weeks, I observed that interference was not only from Chademo only charger (Nissan made?), but dualhead ABB charger as well when Leaf was plugged in.

So the culprits for the interference could be any combination of the following: Chademo standard; Chademo chargers (Nissan and ABB); Leaf

Unfortunately, this will come across as Leaf bashing, but that's not the case. If I encounter other EV and I remember to test the AM radio, I would. But these days, it seems only EV using fast chargers are Leaf. If you happen to see EV charging, please try to test the AM radio.

More unfortunately, BMW i3 in US does not come with AM radio (supposedly, EU version does), so they can't test it. I3 drivers are missing out on a very entertaining show!

By the way, please don't go complaining to some government agency if you find interference. If you'd like to complain, you can put comments below or contact the companies. I'm hoping the industry will fix itself if there's a problem rather than involving the big brother.

Edit Nov. 9 2015

As I was waiting to charge next to a Leaf (getting Leafracked; >90%, slower than molasses in Arctic winter) and a SoulEV, both using ABB chargers, I was able to listen to the AM radio. This was in LA where the station is based, and there was no interference! It seems the interference problem is not universal, and strong AM signal could result in no discernible interference from Leaf.

But in San Diego, the radio is clear as in LA. The signal may be weaker, but the AGC (automatic gain control) of the radio would compensate. If there is much stronger interfering source, such as charger and/or Leaf, it would wipe out the signal. Unless there is a way to determine RSSI (received signal strength indicator), it would be difficult to know when the interference would be so bad as to wipe out the radio. I suppose I could get some Ferrite loop and make crude spectrum analyzer and ...

NO NO NO. I am not getting involved, despite how tempting the dark side may be!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Free charging SUCKS!

If something is free or low cost while the supply is limited, it gets sold out and shortages result. Unintended consequences result, often at terrible outcome. For example, during storms, people buy stuff they may not necessarily need to have, but just in case they need it. Because the stores cannot raise prices to discourage "just in case" buying, they inevitably run out. Then the people who desperately need those items cannot buy them at any price, even if that item could save lives.

This is the (HUGE) problem with free fast charging programs offered for BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf. They offer 30 minutes of free fast charging for a year or two. Since fast charging is free, the drivers use up all the time they can, whether they need it or not. This results in waiting in line, sometimes for hours, for everyone. Since Nissan Leaf is most widely available EV, they cause the most problem. Compounding the problem is Leaf's slow DCFC rate.

They have 79% state of charge (SoC)? Plug it into DCFC and wait 30 minutes to get 95% SoC. Then plug it in again for 30 minutes to get to 99% SoC. Then plug it in again and go shopping for yet another 30 minutes to get 100% SoC, never mind that 100% was reached after 5 minutes. Hey, they are entitled to 30 minutes, and it's free. Why not?

Above is an extreme example, of course. But the problem is that every charging session becomes 30 minutes instead of 5 or 10 minutes of pick me up. Now multiply this 30 minutes by every Leaf and i3 owner, and you can see the problem. Why charge with L2 when 30 min DCFC is free? Who cares if DCFC is only charging at 1kW when 30 min DCFC is free? Why charge at home or at work when 30 min DCFC is free? Why wait until I'm below 80% when 30 min DCFC is free?


The problem is made worse by Leaf's slow charging. If it would charge like SparkEV (45kW to 80%, taper to 9kW at 99%), guys who plug in with 80% SoC may be done after 10 minutes. But with charging slowing down so quickly, I've never seen a Leaf reach 100% SoC on DCFC. This means every DCFC by "no charge to charge" result in 30 minutes of waiting.

Meanwhile, guys who have to pay (SparkEV, eGolf, etc) pay attention to how we're charging. DCFC is 6 times more expensive than L2, so it's better to disconnect and use L2 when it gets slower than 40kW (6.6kW * 6) or 20kW for 3.3kW L2 chargers like SparkEV. Also, MPGe could cost more than 1 MPG gas car if we let it sit. Basically, EV that pay to charge do not hog the charger, because there's penalty for doing so. That penalty can be very steep if we let it sit.

If there are enough chargers to go around, this is not a problem. But at key places like intercity areas such as "Shops" in Mission Viejo or Carlsbad Mall to get to LA/OC/SD, they are almost always occupied, even at late night. This makes for waiting for 2 or 3 Leafs before being able to charge, sometimes 2 hours of waiting.

Following are some personal experiences. One Leaf was charging at less than 2 kW with 10 minutes left to go at Carlsbad mall with 3 other cars waiting. Another Leaf at "Shops" was charging at 3 kW with 2 other cars waiting. Another Leaf at San Diego was charging at 4 kW at 95% with 1 other car waiting. You can read about how I determine the rate by reading my previous post.

Here's a quote from plugshare comment.

"Great selection of charge plugs. The 50W CHAEDMO stooped charging at 85%. We needed more and charged second time. Starbucks in walking distance."

Obviously, she charged for 30 min to 85%, then another 30 min (to 95%?) while away at Starbucks! I have to wonder if she knew she's charging slower than L2, and whether there were others waiting, or they saw that it's occupied and left in frustration. She could've saved others' time by switching to L2. I don't know if Leaf would charge as high as 6.6kW using L2 at 85%SoC, but it certainly wouldn't take any more time than DCFC. But hey, DCFC is free, why not hog the spot?

If you're coming fresh into EV, you hear "30 minutes fast charge!" and think that it'll be 30 minutes. But when 30 minutes typically turn into 1.5 hours (wait for 2 other cars ahead with "no charge to charge"), it makes for sour EV experience, especially when you really need it for those rare intercity travel. It gets very frustrating. Am I going to get another EV, even the upcoming 200 miles range one, and put up with this crap or just get a gas car?

If I'm a conspiracy theory kind of a guy, I'd say Nissan and BMW are deliberately trying to kill EV adoption by giving "no charge to charge".

As much as I hate free stuff causing shortages, they could've implemented as "free to 80% SoC". That way, only the fast charging portion of fast charging would be free. It would also discourage abuse by those charging at 90% SoC to  try to get to 100%. But of course, there may be other issues, such as regulatory hurdle in only allowing pricing by time, and pricing by energy to be illegal. So maybe there is bigger conspiracy by the government along with Nissan and BMW to kill EV adoption with "no charge to charge" program.

Edit 2015 Oct. 17

As I was pulling in to charge, there was a Leaf that just plugged into dual charger and the driver ready to leave to go shop. Meanwhile, the dedicated Chademo was left empty. I politely explained how there's dual head and asked her if she can move the car so I don't have to wait 30 minutes for her car to finish. She said she just plugged in, and didn't feel like moving the car! I was going to dish it, but I didn't want to make a scene.

After she left, I saw her Leaf's state of charge in the beginning: 76%! It started out quick enough, but soon it was charging at 16kW. At 90%, it was charging less than 6 kW (taking over 6 seconds for 0.01kWh as shown in the video) with 11 minutes left to go. This is slower than L2 charging speed while she's taking dual-head fast charge spot.

"I'm entitled to free 30 minutes. Whether I'm charging slower than L2 using dual head fast charger when I could've used Chademo doesn't matter. I'll take this spot even if I don't charge!"

Meanwhile, a Kia SoulEV pulled into Chademo only slot after about 20 minutes into her charging. Few minutes after I started my charge, another Leaf pulled up. Then the offending Leaf driver came back to move her car some 40 minutes later. Because she wasted 30 minutes of my time, second Leaf now has to wait for me to charge. I go to 80% (it gets expensive beyond that), so it only took 16 minutes. Had the offending Leaf moved her car to Chademo charger in the beginning by spending 2 minutes, I would've saved 30 minutes, the next Leaf would've saved 16 minutes. Senseless waiting all around.


Free charging is not only bad, but it fosters non-caring and entitlement attitude. This can only go bad to worse for EV adoption.