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Powering the Nissan Leaf, Part 2

A couple of months before the test drive event our house was surveyed by an electrical contractor as part of the Nissan Leaf program. A charging station needs to be installed at your home, but there is a government incentive covering the basic cost for $1,200.

I thought this should not be a problem. There is a 220V electrical outlet for my dryer just behind the wall of the garage in the right spot, and I use a gas dryer. Unfortunately, this line is rated 40 amps whereas the Nissan Leaf needs a 220V line that is rated 50 amps. The electrician checked the fuse box and found the 40 amp line wiring cannot handle a 50 amp circuit breaker. The only 50 amp line is the one for a stove in the kitchen. I cook with gas, so he can tap off of this for the car charger. Keep this in mind for your own home. If you have an electric stove, do not cook and charge at the same time.

So I will need to run a line underground from my fuse box to the garage and then run a conduit along the edge of the ceiling to the spot for the charger. This adds about $300 to the base setup that the government credit will cover. No big deal.

At the test drive event I learned that the Nissan Leaf has several charging options. One is called the “courtesy” charge: You can hook up to a regular 110V line for a trickle charge. This will take about 16 to 20 hours to get the Leaf to a full charge, assuming you start at 20 percent. The standard charge is the 220V line with the charging station. This will take about 8 hours to charge up.

There is also the fast-charge option. This is for commercial installation only and requires a three-phase 440V system. On a fast charge the Leaf can be recharged in just 30 minutes. However, we were warned not to try this more than once a day because it could limit the lifetime of the battery. In fact, there is a built-in safety feature. If you try to do a fast recharge too soon after the previous one, the Leaf will slow down the recharge rate to protect the battery. Of course the occasional time that you do a fast charge after another is not a problem. If you intend to use the Leaf as a taxi or a delivery vehicle that is another story.

The plug on the front of the Leaf is a standard SAE (Society of Automobile Engineers) plug. Therefore, you can use any charger on the market and it will work with other EV cars from other vendors. The fast charge requires a heavy-duty plug. This is a $700 option — yes, we have ordered this.

The battery pack is situated under the floor boards between the front and rear axles. This provides a low center of gravity. The Leaf has a 24kWh lithium-ion battery with manganese chemistry in 48 modules with 4 cells per module. It also has a high-response 90kW AC synchronous motor. The motor and inverter generate 107 horsepower. Cost to recharge the battery? Based on an overall average in the US the cost of the electricity is $2.75. If your electric company has off-peak rates, this can be programmed into the charging.

See the battery display here:

The Leaf is designed to be able to travel about 100 miles on a full charge. Of course, your mileage may vary. We were told that in Phoenix in the summer with the AC running on maximum, the range could be 10 percent to 15 percent lower. Actually, running the heater limits the range even more than air conditioning. Well, lucky me!

The battery has an eight-year warranty. It could last longer, but the maximum charge will deteriorate after that. It is projected that after 10 years it will hold about 70 percent of its original maximum level.

The Leaf looks somewhat similar to the Nissan Versa. It is a small compact hatchback. It seats five, assuming you stick a child or slim adult in the middle of the back seat. The storage area is short but deep. Several families with baby strollers tested it, and the strollers fit nicely. One drawback is there is no spare tire. It is assumed you are using the Leaf as an in-town commuter vehicle. They provide a roadside repair kit to re-inflate a tire temporarily. A free three-year road side service is provided.

The demo continues here:

The electrical plugs are in the front under a panel with the logo. It is released via a latch in the passenger compartment near the driver. Under the hood you will find the compact electric motor. There is also a small standard 12V battery for the on-board electronics.

A backup camera is standard. There is in-vehicle telematics — navigation and “infotainment.” The system will look for charging stations. It will let you know how far you can drive before you need to recharge. Sound is generated for safety when driving under 18 mph. The Leaf has a cellular connection so you can communicate with your cellphone and initiate various functions remotely.

See an additional video clip here:

8 comments on “Powering the Nissan Leaf, Part 2

  1. AnalyzeThis
    December 20, 2010

    Very interesting piece, I'm very optimistic about the future of these type of cars… Ideally, I hope that the next car I purchase will not rely solely on gas.

    As someone who has done some electrical work, I laughed at the, “If you have an electric stove, do not cook and charge at the same time.” But you do raise a good point in that getting the proper outlet installed is going to be at least a minor challenge for many people.

     

  2. elctrnx_lyf
    December 21, 2010

    Tony,

    Everything looks perfect and I hope the mileage of 100miles with full charge can be improved with better motors in future. But one thing is surprising “ Sound is generated for safety when driving under 18 mph”. Why does it need to generate sound under 18mph. Does the motor is going to discharge the battery very fast at lower speeds. In a city when you are in traffic, the car will definitely run lesser than this speed. I appreciate if you can post more details in regard to this.

  3. Tony Massimini
    December 21, 2010

    My original article was rather long and was split up for publication.  There is info in Part 1 as wellas more video.

     

    The reason for the sound generation under 18mph is for safety.  Originally it was intended for blind pedestrians.  However, I can tell you from driving a Prius since 2001, that this is for EVERYONE.  We all get used to hearing a car engine and automatically react.  I quickly discovered that when driving a Prius through a parking lot no one can hear you.  I have to be especially careful to watch out for people walking right into my path.  There is a speaker in the front of the car.  I do not think that the sound generation has much of an impact on the battery life.

     

    Stealth mode may be fun but it is dangerous.  In the video you will not hear this sound because these are pre-production models they had for the tour.  The sound is regulated by government standards.  A common question is can I add my own special sound?  Unfortunately the government regulations do not allow for this.  Otherwise we could have a market for downloading EV simulated engine noise.  Too bad.  You could swithc from Harley Davidson to MAC truck to the Starship Enterprise, but alas no.

  4. itguyphil
    December 21, 2010

    I a m right there with you Dennis. It kills me to see the price of oil & gas skyrocket day-to-day. Everytime I see a hybrid that claims to run at give or take 50mpg, I think about driving straight to the dealer & buying.

  5. Ms. Daisy
    December 21, 2010

    Very informative articles. The safety sound at 18 miles seems okay for parking lots, how about the residential areas or high school zones that allow speeds of 25-35 miles in NJ. Would the sound stop over 18miles?

  6. jbond
    December 29, 2010

    This is a very informative and detailed article for anybody interested in purchasing an electric vehicle or just keeping up to date on the current technology.

    One downside to current electric cars is the mileage per charge and some of the variables that allows maximum distance. These cars are very beneficial to the environment, no matter where you live.   Individuals with a longer daily commute are going to be hard pressed to get through the day on a full charge, especially if they have a few errands to run along with their daily commute to work. In this instance these individuals are still going to be better served by a hybrid.

    As the government continues to help fund the automakers and individuals with tax cuts and incentives, electric cars should be available to more people in the future. During that time, technology will continue to advance to allow longer run times, or at least to come up with ways to allow for faster charges without depleting battery life. Quicker charge times and more communities installing charging stations in specific parking spaces should help to further the movement to all electric vehicles.

     

  7. Tony Massimini
    December 29, 2010

    With all new technology there is a ramp up phase.  I am sure over 100 years ago we would have been debating the horseless carriage.

    “Where do you go to get this here GAS-O-LEEN?  My horse can eat just about anything where ever I go.”

    As more fast charge stations are deployed, you would be able to run your errands and charge up while you are doing something.  I have heard that in Phoenix there may be fast charge stations at major shopping centers such as near a Best Buy.  In my discussion with a representative for a charging station manufacturer, they are in discussions with BP and ARCO.

    We each need to asses what are vehicle requirements are based on our work and lifestyles.  Most cars are not suited for going off road or hauling a heavy trailer, for ex.

    There will be technological advancements in EVs.  I look at the Prius.  The first one we bought in 2001 was a nice little car with excellent gas mileage.  But it did not have much trunk space.  For a family of 4 (our kids were little then) it was fine for a weekend trip, but I would not consider it for a week long family vacation.  The next genertation Prius is bigger and has even better mileage.  Now our kids are college age and there is plenty of storage space that we take this for a wekk long trip.

     

    As for the arguement that EVs still consume fossil fuels because the power station burns oil or coal, well we have to start somewhere.  The next step will be to generate more electrical power from renewable resources such as solar and wind.  One step at a time.

  8. jbond
    December 29, 2010

    All very good points. Ultimately as more manufacturers produce more EVs and more people purchase them, energy concerns will be the next topic. With more alternative energy sources becoming cheaper for consumers, the worry of fossil fuel consumption with these individuals should slow down.

    Technology is allowing for better batteries for the EV's, and more charging stations are being installed to allow these vehicles to become more prevalent. In some areas with plenty of sunshine, like the southwest, the cost of charging these vehicles can be offset by installing solar panels. Granted, there is an initial cost to install these, but they too receive tax write offs from the government.  

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