Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nissan LEAF charging and price concerns

As many of you have already heard, the new Nissan EV is called the "Leaf". Nice green name and the car itself is attractive in a Prius sort of way. I don't have any pictures myself, but Wired's Autopia site has a few good ones and a lot of good info on the car as well. A couple of items not discussed, but important to know have to do with the final price and how fast the cars will be allowed to charge.

First, the price. Some speculation centered around whether Nissan would sell the car and lease the battery in order to keep the cost down. When we were first told of the price range being between $25K and $34K, leasing the battery was not mentioned. Some mention of battery leasing has been made, however, mostly centered around the deal Renault/Nissan has with Shai Agassi's Better Place. When I posed this question to my Nissan contacts, the answer was "... at this point, we can't offer the level of precision on that topic that many people would like...it just is too early."

I wish they could be more specific, but I do understand the need to be circumspect this far in advance of delivery. The people I know who drive EVs are mostly in favor of owning the batteries as long as we can get a good 7-10 years out of them. We see the downward trend in costs and fully expect a replacement pack 7 years from now will be quite affordable.

My biggest worry is the speed at which Nissan will allow charging. The car will come with a cord allowing charge from a regular 120 volt outlet, but this will be painfully slow. Households that buy the car will have a charge station installed on their 240 Volt circuit, but the charge will be limited to 3.3 kW. This is marginally faster than charging from a 120V circuit, but half the speed of our RAVs that charge at 6.6 kW. We've gotten used charging at this speed, but even 6.6 kW is slow compared to Teslas which can charge as high as 16 kW.

Now, to Nissan's credit, they are going to be deploying lots of very fast level three chargers in the communities that receive the initial several thousand cars. These are 480V systems that charge at 50 kW, very fast indeed! So, to the extent customers have access to these chargers, they may find home charging at 3.3 kW to be acceptable, but I think that's a big risk.

The reason given for starting the first year with the slow charging had to do with cost and availability of cord sets. This may be something we have to accept, but I'm afraid it'll give the wrong message. With a range of 100 miles, the speed of charging becomes more important.

This link will take you to a story on Renault's Frankfurt Auto show all-electric line up. The first time a major automaker is showing nothing but EVs. This is great news from this EV powerhouse, Renault/Nissan.


Paul

19 comments:

  1. Another valuable article, Paul, and as always, thanks! Many thanks for you tireless efforts to bring back the electric dream to us all. For those of you who have never travelled on electrons, welcome! May you have a joyous ride!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Congratulations on the new blog, Paul! I've always learned a great deal from your emails and now I'm very glad that you'll be speaking to an even wider audience with some of the best insights and inside, first-hand knowledge of anyone on the EV scene. Your blog is now on my must read list.

    This is very interesting news about the Leaf charging and something worth asking Nissan about next week at the Plug-In show. But the question I have for you on this issue is what is the hackability of the Leaf's charging capabilities? How difficult would it for someone with electrical knowledge and skills to get around the built-in charging restrictions of the Leaf, or other new EVs?

    I know that some folks leasing the new Mini-E have been clever and DIY enough to circumvent the charging restrictions of their new EVs to allow them to charge at off site locations.

    Do you envision aftermarket kits/solutions to the Leaf's charging restrictions? Realizing of course that these aftermarket moves might void the warranty.

    Thanks in advance for your time and insight. And thanks for keeping the EV community so fully charged at all times.

    ReplyDelete
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