Dieselgate, Main Dealer Servicing and Winter Ahead



Okay so this morning I watched Robert Llewellyn’s Fully Charged YouTube channel where he has a little rant about Dieselgate. No one reading this will have missed the events but a one sentence summary is that since 2009 VAG group diesel engined vehicles (VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat) have had computer code in their engine management software that can detect when the car is being tested for emissions based on its engine revs, speed, steering wheel position etcetera and reduce the engine output power to lower emissions.

Manufacturers claiming things in their marketing and then delivering something slightly less in reality is nothing new, and whilst its wrong on almost every level, we have all but normalised this behaviour. What seems to make this so shocking is really the level of corporate dishonesty it demonstrates and on the emotional side, customers buying a vehicle that they believed to be more fuel efficient and less CO2 producing, have actually been, if you believe the exaggerated media slant we now hear, poisoning our children with carcinogenic fumes.

This will have a massive impact on VAG group, their sales will plummet and the public will forever be much more wary of their future claims. But isn’t this inevitable? Any company as large as VAG group will by the nature of the size of their operation make mistakes, big mistakes from time to time and as it should be, they will pay for it. But so will their employees, their suppliers and many others. Perhaps this is an argument for limiting the size and power of large companies. But that’s another story.

When viewed from the point of view of electric/hybrid petrol vehicles it is nothing short of the spring board from which they are hopefully going to start to eat into sales of diesel vehicles and maybe one day overtake diesel as the car you buy when you want to get more miles to the gallon (or kWh)! Lets hope that no similar revelations appear about our beloved electric cars.  Nissan, Tesla and the rest are hopefully not cheating,  but no one would have thought VW were until a few weeks ago, this is partly why it is such big news.

Main Dealer Servicing

I only mention this as I took my Leaf for its first main dealer service since I took ownership of it a year ago. Incidentally its actually my first main dealer service, having never owned a car new enough to be worth bothering with one before.

I attended Wessex Nissan in Bristol and I cannot speak highly enough of them. They were polite, courteous and friendly. They did not accede to my demands for a GTR as the loan car, but I did get a 2015 Micra petrol which was quite nippy, well spec’d and all the buttons were in the same places as on my Leaf. It was interesting to note that this car felt a lot like my leaf but you can feel the difference in the handling as it is a lot lighter. I went to Gloucester and back and around town a little bit and had to put £15 of petrol in it. That’s all!  I hear the fossil fuel drivers cry, yes but that’s about 2 weeks worth of electricity for the Leaf.   My service involved them replacing the coolant (for the charge system) which is scheduled at that service interval. My battery health was 5 out of 5, which I knew anyway as I have been monitoring it with Leafspy which shows the battery health on my 4 year old EV to be at 85% (still 12 bars showing on the dash… just), it was 86% when I bought the car!  This is expected as the battery loses more capacity in its first few months of use than later, and I have been particularly kind to it since (I only use slow/fast chargers not rapid’s and I only charge to 80% most of the time). The total cost was £190, it would have been £149 if not for the coolant change. They also washed and polished it, cleaned the inside, inflated the tyres back to the optimal pressure, topped up the screen wash, and charged it to 80% for the journey home.

The only thing which was a bit of a surprise was to learn that my 3 pin 10 amp EVSE cable which I use to charge at work is subject to a recall, apparently according to Wessex Nissan, via British Gas. I was not given a number or any other details regarding what to do next.

So I sent an email in to UK Nissan EV support and asked what to do, and was given an auto reply with a support ticket number. Then nothing more for 4 days. So today I called Nissan EV support and explained the situation, they said the dealership had to deal with the charging cable and offered to give me a number for a local dealership. A number I already have, having just been in for the service a few days ago! I asked the call handler if he could contact the dealership and explain the situation and ask them to call me to arrange to sort it out, at which point he said he could offer me the number of a local dealership! A clear case of not really listening, and not knowing what to do, then falling back on a procedure which isn’t really going to solve the problem.

Oh well. Spoke to the dealer and they eventually confirmed that the information was about British Gas supplied Pod point chargers and not 3 pin EVSE cables. Quite a few emails and phone calls, to determine that something I own which works perfectly, is in fact in perfect working order and does not need to be recalled!

Winter Ahead

Okay so although the sun is shining an unseasonably welcome amount for late September-early October in the UK, anyone who leaves the house at 7am knows it is not warm at this time of day, in fact this morning it was 9 deg C.

This is where being an EV driver becomes a little bit more challenging. The heater in the original mk1 Nissan Leaf, my car, is quite power hungry as it is a resistive heater i.e. a fan heater and we all know how efficient these are.

The solution is to use the Carwings system to remotely activate the heater while the car is still at home, sat in the garage plugged-in to the fast charger. This means the initial heating of the car’s interior which uses the most power is done by the time you unplug and drive off. After which the heater just maintains the temperature, using far less power. However Carwings is not totally reliable, far from it. So this morning I left in a cold car, an inconvenience EV drivers usually do not have to put up with and arrived with 30 miles range remaining instead of 40. So I am back to charging at work most days, not because I have to, but because I like to have a little in reserve in case I have to make a detour on the way home. I have not had to charge at work much over the warmer months, having had at least 40 miles range left when I got to work to get me the 20 miles home with some headroom.

The newer Nissan Leaf and other newer EV’s have since adopted reverse heat pumps. These work using the air conditioning system. When its hot the air-con uses expansion of gas to transfer heat out of the car. When its cold the system goes into reverse and effectively (though this is not scientifically accurate) pushes cold out of the car, leaving the heat behind. As such it uses much less power to keep you warm. I have an air-conditioning system at work which does the same thing, effectively giving the output of a 2.5kw heater using just 800w of electricity, by pumping cold air out of the room. This is the only reason I might switch to a newer Leaf one day, apart from if they eventually have a larger battery capacity and in all fairness I am more inclined to attempt to replace my battery pack with one with larger capacity when it fails anyway.