Can You Hear Me Now?
(Click to enlarge)
3G Telematics Upgrade
in my Nissan Leaf

Winter Solstice, 2016

Mark D Larsen

Many months ago I received this letter from Nissan informing me that the 2G telematics device (e.g., the “cell phone”) in my LEAF would no longer work by year’s end. If I wanted to be able to still access my LEAF via the internet using my computer or iPhone after that, I would need to have the local dealer replace it will a 3G unit.

I fully understand that technology inevitably changes over time, so I was not surprised that such an upgrade was needed. Nonetheless, I was disappointed to learn that my car had been using such older technology, because 3G was certainly available at least 8 years before the LEAF came to market. I suppose that Nissan decided to use 2G instead to pinch pennies, similar to the automaker’s regrettable decision to originally use mere 3.3 kW chargers. In point of fact, I had to wonder why Nissan wasn’t leapfrogging 3G and upgrading to 4G telematics, since this is the protocol now used by practically all smart phones. Was this yet another decision to pinch pennies?

I was even more disappointed, however, to learn that, unlike Ford is doing for its plug-in vehicle customers, Nissan actually expected 2011-2014 LEAF owners to share in the cost. The estimated co-payment would be $199, plus tax.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed on social media blogs and forums that the upgrade was now available. Because I depend upon my LEAF’s telematics to maintain these web pages, I decided to just bite-the-bullet and begrudgingly cough up the mandatory co-payment for the new 3G device. I contacted my local dealer, had them order the part, and scheduled an appointment for the morning of Wednesday, December 14. A few days later, I received another letter from Nissan stating what I had already learned from the EV websites.

The installation took a little over an hour, and was fairly straight forward. For those interested, this is what the upgrade entails:

Click to enlarge any image:

The telematics “modem” was behind a metal housing accessible in the glove box cavity on the passenger side of the vehicle.

It was necessary to detach the housing to access the old 2G “modem” that it contained

Here is the replacement 3G unit, ready to be installed in the metal housing and then reattached inside the glove box cavity.

Here is the dealer’s invoice for the service, which shows that, with tax, the co-payment cost me $211.64. The service manager also gave me this instruction sheet to complete the necessary steps to use AT&T’s 3G network. I immediately parked in the dealer’s lot to finalize the upgrade... to no avail. After numerous attempts to reauthorize my LEAF’s vehicle ID and password with NissanConnect, the 3G unit remained incomunicado. I therefore called the Nissan LEAF hotline to request assistance. The agents put me on hold for several minutes while checking with supervisors and telematics experts, and finally informed me that apparently AT&T hadn't yet activated its service for my 3G device. They promised to resolve the issue and call me back within 24 hours.

Three days went by without a word from Nissan, and I still couldn’t sign on. I thus tried to call again, and pushed the typical menu buttons to reach the NissanConnect help line. The call immediately connected, a recording stated that nobody was available to take my call, and then hung up. I wasn’t even put on hold! What...!?! Had Nissan pulled the plug on that hotline because of so many problems and complaints? On a whim, when I pulled into the garage last Saturday evening, I decided to again try to sign on to NissanConnect. Lo and behold... it worked!

Unfortunately, four days had elapsed before I could finally sign on again, and thus my driving data during that time was never recorded, as shown below when I then logged into my NissanConnect account:

The good news is that, so far, I haven’t experienced any more problems, and it does seem like NissanConnect communicates with my LEAF a bit faster than before the upgrade. Let’s hope that pattern continues.

One final note, to be fair: two weeks after the 3G upgrade, Nissan finally called me back —but using my home phone number— to inquire if the telematics unit was now working. I confirmed that it was. The agent apologized for the delay in getting back to me, and promised to let the NissanConnect team know how I had been disconnected when calling its hotline.