*UPDATED with Bosch's comment.

Let's stamp out the flames of suspicion right up front. A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation, while involving a 2013 Nissan Leaf and some smoke, is not about another EV fire. Not directly, anyway.

"Nissan has determined by pictures that the car was not to blame for the incident" – NHTSA complaint

This time, the subject of the NHTSA's lens is the Bosch Power Xpress 240V charging unit. NHTSA wants to know if an overheating charging cord caused smoke (NHTSA says there was no actual fire) in a Leaf owner's garage last fall. NHTSA says it will investigate, "to evaluate the scope, frequency, and consequence of the alleged defect." Up to 50 of the charging units could be involved, and NHTSA decided to act based on a single customer complaint that was filed in August 2013. The investigation opened April 15, so it will likely be a while before we know any more concrete details. For now, you can read the official details of the investigation and the original complaint - which says, "Nissan has determined by pictures that the car was not to blame for the incident. They are blaming the charging station for the failure. They have denied any warranty coverage. The burden of the bill has been placed with the customer" – below.

Nissan's senior manager of corporate communications, Brian Brockman, sent AutoblogGreen a statement that says Nissan will work with NHTSA and Bosch and points out that, "This inquiry is focused on the electric vehicle charger and is directed at the charger supplier, Bosch." Requests for comment from Bosch were not returned, but we will update this post when we hear back.

Bosch spokesperson Cheryl Kilborn told AutoblogGreen that, "Bosch is reviewing the filing and will work cooperatively with NHTSA as we seek to identify the root cause."
Show full PR text
INVESTIGATION Subject : Bosch EV charging cord overheating

Date Investigation Opened: APR 15, 2014
Date Investigation Closed: Open
NHTSA Action Number: PE14011
Component(s): ELECTRICAL SYSTEM
All Products Associated with this Investigation close
Equipment Brand NamePart No. or Model No.Production Dates

BOSCHPOWER XPRESS 240V CHARGER -

Details

Manufacturer: Robert Bosch LLC

SUMMARY:
The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received one report from a consumer alleging a model year 2013 Nissan Leaf electric vehicle began to emit smoke around the vicinity of the vehicle/charger interface when charging at a private residence using a Bosch Power Xpress 240V charging unit. According to the owner, the vehicle had been charging for approximately 1 hour at 30 amps when signs of overheating were first noticed. The overheating condition can cause damage to the vehicle and charger rendering both inoperable. Charging vehicles are typically left unattended and there is a risk of fire that could affect the vehicle and its surrounding environment. The charger is primarily marketed to residential customers and is used to charge a wide variety of electric vehicles. NHTSA is opening this investigation to evaluate the scope, frequency, and consequence of the alleged defect. The ODI report cited above can be reviewed at http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SearchSafetyIssues under the following identification (ODI) number: 10537862

===

Original Complaint:

Date Complaint Filed: 08/29/2013
Component(s): ELECTRICAL SYSTEM , UNKNOWN OR OTHER
Date of Incident: 08/20/2013
NHTSA ID Number: 10537862

Crash:No
Fire:No
Number of Injuries:0
Number of Deaths:0

Manufacturer: Nissan North America, Inc.
Vehicle Identification No. (VIN): 1N4AZ0CP2DC...
SUMMARY:
MY NISSAN LEAF WAS PLUGGED INTO 220V CHARGING STATION AT MY HOME. IT WAS CHARGING FOR OVER AN HOUR. MY SPOUSE WENT TO LEAVE AND WHEN ENTERING THE GARAGE SHE SMELLED A STRONG BURNING SMELL. SMOKE WAS COMING FROM THE CHARGING STATION PLUG WHERE IT PLUGS INTO THE CAR. SHE TURNED OFF THE POWER AT THE BREAKER BOX AND THEN PROCEEDED TO UNPLUG THE CHARGER FROM THE CAR. TWO OF THE TERMINALS ON THE PLUG WERE DAMAGED AND 2 TERMINALS ON THE RECEPTACLE ON THE CAR WERE DAMAGED. THE CONNECTION HAD GOTTEN HOT ENOUGH TO MELT THE PLASTIC AND CREATE SMOKE INDICATING A FIRE. NISSAN HAS DETERMINED BY PICTURES THAT THE CAR WAS NOT TO BLAME FOR THE INCIDENT. THEY ARE BLAMING THE CHARGING STATION FOR THE FAILURE. THEY HAVE DENIED ANY WARRANTY COVERAGE. THE BURDEN OF THE BILL HAS BEEN PLACED WITH THE CUSTOMER. THE CAR IS CURRENTLY ONLY 5 MONTHS OLD AND HAS LESS THAN 10,000 MILES.

===

Statement from Nissan:

Nissan is aware of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration inquiry concerning Bosch Power Xpress 240V chargers. This inquiry is focused on the electric vehicle charger and is directed at the charger supplier, Bosch. Nissan will assist regulators and Bosch with this investigation as needed. Nissan is committed to providing a superior ownership experience to LEAF owners.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 11 Comments
      Josie
      • 8 Months Ago
      Its not even a charger. the charger is in the car. it is basically just a fancy large cord. Thanks, Bosch, for all you have done to help grow the EV market.
      Rotation
      • 8 Months Ago
      These chargers have been notoriously bad since before Bosch even acquired them from SPX.
      Actionable Mango
      • 8 Months Ago
      Electricity has been commercialized for 100 years. I would think that in this amount of time we'd know the specifications to not make power cords catch on fire.
        Joeviocoe
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        The problem is that many people don't respect electricity. Most household appliances run on much lower power levels. And users typically only handle standard 15 amp plugs (1.44 KW constant draw). EVs are now the biggest appliance owners have every owned. And EVSE's are 10x more powerful than any appliance people are typically used to. Engineers need to be very careful not to take any shortcuts such as cheap connectors or thinner cables... just to satisfy customer's demand for convenience and aesthetics. But alas, there will always be a certain percentage of faults.
      TurboFroggy
      • 8 Months Ago
      I don't know why this requires some huge investigation, the problem is obvious. A huge batch of connectors from Rema were sourced by Bosch and EcoTality/Blink. The crimps are no good causing the connector to overheat when drawing more than 16 amps. It is the same problem that happened with the Honda Fit EV. My own Blink L2 had this same problem. When we upgraded from our 2011 to our 2013 Leaf with a 6.6KW onboard charger, we had to do something about the Blink cord. The end was overheating and smelling like melting plastic after an hour of charging. Upon contacting Blink they messed up the replacement so we just replaced it with a Leviton 30AMP L2. The Leviton connector stays ambient when charging where the crappy Rema connector on the Blink was warm even with a 16 amp draw. Bosch needs to go after their supplier Reva and Rema deserves eat all the costs.
        Rotation
        • 8 Months Ago
        @TurboFroggy
        I also recommend the Leviton cordsets. They aren't cheap, but they work well. I have one on my Leviton charger (of course) and it's well made and doesn't heat up at all.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 8 Months Ago
        @TurboFroggy
        That's hilariously awful. Gosh, i have been using these $2 chinese connectors that i soldered up 4 years ago and they transmit 40-60A for hours without raising above ambient temp to any notable figure. How is it that a random hobbyist with some cheap connectors made for RC car motors ( high amp, low volt ) can do a better job?
          Rotation
          • 8 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          They aren't soldering, they are crimping. Crimping is just as good when done right, but you can also do it wrong.
          Joeviocoe
          • 8 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          I was referring to 2WM and his example. That a hand made connection will usually out perform any mass produced connection. And crimping is NOT "just as good" as solder when dealing with certain amps and higher. Crimping may be "good enough" for most cases... and crimping certainly is cheaper and quicker... but it is a compromise.
          Joeviocoe
          • 8 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Hand soldered. Unless you are new to soldering... you are likely to do much better than a machine on a production line set to go as fast as possible, using the least amount of solder and flux.
      Spec
      • 8 Months Ago
      The Bosched the EVSE design.