Nissan Gets Into the Electric Vehicle Charging Business

EV advocates downplay the challenge in transitioning electric vehicles into a mainstream technology, not least the demand for home charging stations. Nissan, however, isn't taking any chances.

2 min read
Nissan Gets Into the Electric Vehicle Charging Business

AeroVironment's Nissan-branded 220-volt home charger

Nissan doesn't plan to leave buyers of its battery-powered LEAF sedan, which goes on sale in December, to their own devices when it comes to vehicle charging. Nissan will offer a home-charging program to LEAF buyers which will start with an electrician visiting the buyer's home to, among other things, check the quality of their electrical service, according to an announcement this week at the Detroit Auto Show.

Electric vehicle enthusiasts tend to poo-poo the practical and technical challenges posed by home-vehicle charging -- witness the hostile comments to our coverage of concerns voiced by California such as PG&E and Southern California Edison that clusters of EVs could burn out block-level power circuits (see "Speed Bumps Ahead for Electric Vehicle Charging"). But Nissan, like the utilities, is leaving nothing to chance.

The idea is to make sure that infrastructure-induced challenges don't detract from the on-street excitement of driving an EV, according to a Nissan spokesperson quoted in a BNET post from the Detroit show today by New York Times clean-car blogger Jim Motavalli:

“We didn’t want to say, ‘Here’s your car, now you’re on your own."
                -- Mark Perry, a Nissan spokesman handling the Leaf introduction

Motavalli adds that Nissan selected Monrovia, CA-based electric vehicle innovator AeroVironment to handle the program because they offered a rare combination of strong technology and customer service experience. AeroVironment's Nissan-branded 220-volt home chargers will charge a fully-depleted LEAF in 8 hours.

While there is considerable media focus on rapid-charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) such as those offered by Project Better Place, most EV charging is likely to occur at home. That's a necessity in the short term given the present dearth of rapid charging stations available to the public, but it may also carry into the future.

Demonstrations by Tokyo Electric Power, for one, show that drivers actually run their EV batteries down further and then retank them more at home if rapid public charging stations are available. Why? Because they are more confident that they can pop in for a recharge in a pinch if they push their batteries too far. Getting home is assured.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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