Nissan spills some future LEAF info

by Ernie Hernandez on April 14, 2012

Red San Diego LEAFFrom a webchat with a Nissan exec

Mark Perry, Nissan’s Product Planning guy, participated in a webchat last week on Facebook to answer questions directly from participants. If you missed it (as we did) you can review the entire contents of that webchat here. We read through the hour long chat and pulled out some info that could be helpful, whether you currently own a LEAF or a still considering acquiring one.

80 percent of participants either owned a LEAF or were awaiting delivery, while most of the remainder were considering getting a LEAF. The first question regarded Nissan’s own DC fast charger, which we wrote about back in September 2011. The question regarded whether they will be available at Nissan dealerships near major highways. The answer was vague at best. Mr. Perry offered no direct answer on whether they would be available at any Nissan dealerships saying only that they “hope to” be available for sale this spring. He gave no indication of where one might find one of these units installed. Additionally, later in the chat Mr. Perry deviated from the original Nissan position regarding fast charging. The 2011 Nissan LEAF Owner’s Manual states that “NISSAN recommends that quick charging not be performed more than once a day.” On the chat, Mr. Perry stated that quick charging could be performed “multiple times per day” as the battery management system will take care of battery life considerations as well as charging parameters. He also stated that battery life would be longest when operated between 20 percent and 80 percent – but that has been widely reported before. He stayed with previous declarations of expected capacity in ten years of 70 to 80 percent of original capacity.

While Mr. Perry confirmed the start of production of the LEAF in Smryna, Tennessee in December of this year, he also provided a surprising nugget – the 6.6 kilowatt on-board charger that we expected as part of that production will be an option and not standard equipment. For us and many like us that don’t travel a significant amount about town, we would not derive a great benefit from the faster charge capacity. But for many, the ability to go to the mall and gain an additional 40 or 50 miles of range in two hours, that could prove quite helpful. It might make the vehicle much more palatable to a greater range of households. If there is anything we’ve learned about the car business in the past 20 years it is this – marketing drives the availability of features as much as the bean counters do. If we had to guess, we would guess that the 3.3 kilowatt charger will be continued on the entry level SV trim with the 6.6 kilowatt charger fitted to the upscale SL model based on his comment. Nissan currently offers no option packages on the LEAF, other than the two trim levels. From 2011 to 2012 they moved the DC fast charge connection from being optionally available only on the SL to standard on the SL and not available on the SV. This sounds like the most likely way for them to make the 6.6 kilowatt unit optionally available. In comments previous to this chat he stated that the 2011 LEAF could be retrofitted with the new 6.6 kilowatt unit. He moved away from that statement on the chat by stating that the new charger will go in a different location than the previous unit making it impractical to retrofit.

All that said, we do see one potentially significant advantage to the 6.6 kilowatt charger. For those employers that would offer 240 volt charge stations to their employees (and there are more out there than you might think, at least here in California), this would effectively double the range of the vehicle, as charging while working would be more than enough to fully charge the battery pack, perhaps making the LEAF a viable alternative where perhaps it is not currently.

Finally, a couple quick hits. The paint facility currently paints various vehicles a total of 13 different colors. To add a green LEAF to the mix would mean dropping another color. As Blue Ocean is unique to the LEAF, dropping any other color would make that color unavailable to several other vehicles as well. Not likely to happen, nor is dropping Blue Ocean. Green is not a generally popular color, so we don’t see this happening until Smyrna production, if ever. Someone asked about long term testing of LEAFs in Arizona. Mr. Perry confirmed this. The facility is pretty amazing (we have had the good fortune of seeing it from an insider’s perspective), offering a 5.5 mile oval (no… that is not a typo), with a multitude of other facilities within the oval. Here’s a look from Google:

Nissan Arizona Tech CenterThe webchat provided some new info, but most topics had been previously addressed in one form or another. Still, good to see Nissan open themselves up to a public forum with a high level exec. That is a risk that we see few manufacturers willing to take. Perhaps we’ll need to keep a closer eye on the Nissan Facebook page and start coming up with our list of questions now.

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