EZ-Charge Not So Easy

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May 27, 2014

Nissan’s EZ-Charge program is intended to give Leaf drivers access to four charging station networks via a single card – making EV driving hassle-free.

Unfortunately, one of the four partners pulled out of the initiative just hours before it was unveiled at the EDTA convention, this weekend.

California-based ChargePoint announced it would not participate in the EZ-Charge network citing concerns over its administration.

ChargePoint CEO Pat Romano stressed that his company will continue support Nissan Leaf drivers.

But, he said, as detailed negotiations continued after EZ-Charge was announced in April at the New York Auto Show, details that hadn’t been clear at the time made ChargePoint increasingly uneasy.

The three non-NRG networks, Romano said, would be required to hand over details on their customers – known as personally identifiable information – to NRG to enable it to validate the customer’s account when the EZ-Charge card was used.

ChargePoint has a “responsibility to protect personal information,” Romano said, and “we couldn’t guarantee what would happen to that information” – or how it would be presented to customers through the EZ-Charge interface.

Additionally, the back of the card carries a single toll-free Customer Service number for drivers to call if they can’t charge at a specific location they’ve just arrived at.

Romano said that call center, to be run only by NRG, “inserts an unnecessary extra step for drivers” who don’t have the luxury of time when they need to charge their cars and be on their way.

ChargePoint pushed hard for each of the four participants to have their own toll-free numbers listed, he said.

But NRG remained adamant that the card would have only a single number, and that it would route the calls appropriately.

ChargePoint would not have had the ability to ensure that NRG’s staffing, service levels, and response time matched those of ChargePoint’s own call centers, Romano said.

“We thought that this would be primarily a Nissan program,” he said, “not a program owned by NRG.” The NRG eVgo network of charging stations is a competitor to the ChargePoint network.

In the end, Romano said, ChargePoint concluded that “the agreement was not something we could sign.”

NRG, for its part, says it was shocked at ChargePoint’s abrupt withdrawal from EZ-Charge.

Glen Stancil, an NRG vice president, told Green Car Reports that the company had believed negotiations were progressing well as late as Saturday, and that NRG was “very disappointed and surprised” at yesterday’s sudden turn of events.

ChargePoint was on board, he said, and NRG had felt the two companies would be able to work through remaining details in time to make the July 1 launch date.

He claimed that it had always been clear that NRG would administer EZ-Charge–and disputed the notion that Nissan was originally going to run it.

Indeed, the joint announcement of the program on April 16 says, “The EZ-Charge access card is managed by NRG eVgo with support from ChargePoint, Car Charging, and AeroVironment.”

As for Nissan, which plans to provide an EZ-Charge card to every buyer of a Leaf electric car starting July 1, it appears the company too was caught off-guard by ChargePoint’s withdrawal.

NRG and ChargePoint were deep in the process of working through “use cases,” or combinations of circumstances to which operators would need to react properly, according to Stancil.

“We only want to do what’s best for the customer,” Stancil concluded–a sentiment echoed in almost identical words by ChargePoint’s Romano.

As for Nissan, they issued a succinct statement: “We are disappointed that ChargePoint has decided to withdraw from EZ-Charge. We remain confident that the three EZ-Charge partners – NRG eVgo, Blink Network and AeroVironment – provide excellent market coverage with Level 2 and quick charging to provide range confidence to Leaf owners.”

Nissan’s “excellent market coverage” will, however, be 17,000 charging stations lighter than planned.

Not so easy after all.

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About The Author - Jeremy Smithson

Started Puget Sound Solar in 2001 with 30 years of construction contracting experience, and a desire to turn Seattle on to solar energy. Achieving NABCEP certification in 2004, Jeremy believes that our customers often follow a path similar to the one he took, starting out with solar daydreaming, then progressing to education on the subject, and eventually leading to action. In addition to leading the company he also does some teaching and speaking engagements about various aspects of solar energy, and experiments relentlessly with various solar, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle projects.

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