ChargePoint pulls out of Nissan’s EZ-Charge program, spoiling launch party

If you’ve seen our latest print issue of Charged, on bookshelves now (and available for online here), you may have read the cover story about Nissan’s No Charge to Charge program and the EZ-Charge Card, a single convenient card that would give LEAF drivers access to multiple charging networks. Well, not so fast…

CHARGED EVs Iss13 Cover

One of the four charging partners, California-based ChargePoint, pulled out of the program just hours before the official launch event at this week’s EDTA convention.

The three remaining participants are NRG eVgo, AeroVironment, and the Blink network now owned by Miami Beach-based Car Charging Group.

ChargePoint’s network includes over 17,000 charging locations, including a vast number in the EV-savvy San Francisco Bay Area, so its departure is a major setback for EZ-Charge.

As ChargePoint CEO Pat Romano told Green Car Reports, his company decided to pull out after details of the program became clear. “We thought that this would be primarily a Nissan program,” he said, “not a program owned by [competitor] NRG. The agreement was not something we could sign.”

Romano emphasized two main concerns. First, ChargePoint would have had to release personally identifiable information on its customers to NRG to enable it to validate customer accounts. “We couldn’t guarantee what would happen to that information,” said Romano.

Second, the back of the card has a single toll-free Customer Service number for drivers to call if they have problems charging, which connects them with an NRG-operated call center. ChargePoint wanted each of the four charging partners to have its own toll-free number listed.

NRG Vice President Glen Stancil said that his company was “very disappointed and surprised” at ChargePoint’s sudden change of heart. He said NRG, as a large regulated utility, has strict confidentiality policies in place to keep personally identifiable customer information private, and that EZ-Charge Customer Service operators would have connected callers to any partner’s own call centers in a “warm transfer.”

As Nissan’s Brendan Jones told Charged, EZ-Charge is a win for everybody. “I think the charging partners coming together and realizing their customer satisfaction is huge. It’s as important to them as it is to the OEM. That’s just a win for customers – not only for Nissan customers, but the industry as a whole. The cards can be used for another OEM, as well, if they choose to use its interoperability. That’s great for the EV movement.”

All parties to the current kerfuffle said that they only want “what’s best for consumers,” but it’s consumers who are losing out because back-room negotiations went sour.

These networks are highly competitive, as they scramble for market share in a brand-new industry, and persuading them to work together may not be easy. Green Car Reports’ John Voelcker noted that the situation highlights the same challenges that mobile-phone companies faced in implementing network roaming years ago.

 

Update 7/10/14: ChargePoint (sort of) back in the picture as Nissan launches No Charge to Charge program – ChargePoint is participating in the EZ-Charge program giving Leaf owners the ability to access multiple charging networks with one single card, but not participating in the No Charge to Charge program. Although, the company points out that about 60 percent of stations on the ChargePoint network are already free to use.

 

 

Sources: Nissan, Green Car Reports