Taking an extended trip in an EV such as the LEAF depends on rapid charge stations, which are capable of topping off the LEAF’s battery in 20 minutes or less. Unlike gas stations rapid charging stations are few and far between, and more importantly there is often just a single device to charge the car with; a device failure can leave one without the means to continue the journey. By comparison gas stations are plentiful with most cities having more than one location and each gas station has multiple pumps providing redundancy against equipment failure or long lines.
So how is the reliability of the rapid charge network? Is it wise to plan a trip and ‘depend upon’ a rapid charging station being available? To find out I examined the ratings and reasons for failure which can be found on plugshare.com and the results were sobering. The network cannot be depended upon for an extended trip, there simply is not enough redundancy built into the network. The only exception is south of Nashville where there are over a dozen units within easy reach.
Here is a ranking of Fast Charge Units in Tennessee.
|10.0||Nissan LEAF Factory||Smyrna|
|10.0||Nissan North America||Franklin|
|10.0||Nissan of Rivergate||Madison|
|9.0||Nissan of Cool Springs||Franklin|
|8.6||Nissan of Mufreesboro||Murfreesboro|
|7.8||Downtown Nashville Nissan||Nashville|
|6.8||Cracker Barrel||East Ridge|
|6.8||Mountain View Nissan||Chattanooga|
The Plugshare rating is calculated by the Plugshare website based upon the success of charging events reported by their users. Other factors that go into the rating are how many and how recent the reports are.
The two main reasons people report problems are Equipment Failure (51) and ‘Icing’ (14), where a gas car blocks the parking space. Blink Units are more prone to failure, however many of these units have been in place for over 2 years and there have been more charging events on their network.
|Brand||Device Failure||ICE’d||Business Closed|
Nissan units are more reliable as they are relatively new, however placement for many of these units at dealerships has resulted in units being blocked by a gas car, sometimes overnight.
|Brand||Average of Rating|
If you are interested in a copy of the spreadsheet with the data I collated in it, you can download it HERE.
Tesla are building a nationwide Supercharger network for their vehicle the Model S. Several owners have made coast to coast trips in the Tesla’s without issue, while in Tennessee a trip from Nashville to Knoxville is a risky proposition.
How come Tesla have a more reliable network?
Redundancy is the simple answer. They build at least 4 stations per location and have planned the locations strategically to allow for long trips. By contrast the Chademo (LEAF compatible) rapid charge network hasn’t been centrally planned and the investment has been smaller. There are more Chademo locations nationwide than Tesla, but almost all have only one unit providing no redundancy. Tesla have a plan and are executing it.