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: