Nissan's Mark Perry on the Arrival of the Leaf (Podcast)

TH: Tell people what they can expect as far as charging up at home, how long it takes, and what that would cost. And also, what their options are when they're away from home, out on the road.

Perry: The Leaf comes standard with two levels of charging. Standard equipment is a cord set that you can plug in to any 120-volt wall outlet. We call that trickle charging, and you're going to get about five miles of range per hour of charging. We're limited by the amount of electricity that comes out of that plug. It's not a car challenge, it's more of how much electricity comes out of that plug.

And for many people, that's fine. If you drive 20, 30, 40 miles a day and that's all you go, a level-one charger is probably enough, because you're going to be doing most of your charging overnight in your garage. And in 10 or 12 hours of overnight charging, you get more than enough range to go about your daily business.

For those folks who want more convenience and a bit faster charging, there's something called level two. Level two is a 240-volt circuit. Think of your electric dryer circuit or the plug that might be in your garage for a central vacuum cleaner, or your plug for a refrigerator or a deep freeze. At 240-volts, you pick up about 12 to 15 miles per hour of charging. So in seven, seven and a half hours, you can go from zero to 100 percent.

Now, the fastest is something called DC fast charging. It's 480 volts of power. So it's not something you're typically going to see in a garage unless you're an arc welder as a hobbyist or something.

But you're going to see it out on the interstates and in malls and parking garages. That allows you to charge the LEAF from zero to 80 percent in 30 minutes.

So those are the three levels of charging that are out there.

TH: And what's Nissan's strategy for getting that network of charging stations out there so that people have the ability to go longer distances?

Perry: That's one of the things that Nissan started. We started this about three years ago and we took a real holistic approach to the market development. We knew we couldn't just bring the car to market. We also had to work on infrastructure, charging stations, planning with the various cities and states and regions, to actually think about where these charging stations should go, how many, how they should roll out.

Right now, we see about 14,000 public charging stations going in the ground between now and the end of 2011, across about 19 states. Those are just the ones that we're just aware of today. There's an announcement almost every other day about another charging station supplier, or a grant, or monies that have been expended for charging stations.

So places like San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, South Carolina, Chicago-they're putting in a large number of public charging stations, both in anticipation of vehicles coming to those markets, or in markets where we're launching today. One of the reasons we picked those markets was because they had that level of commitment to supplying charging stations.

We're going to learn a lot in the next two years. Our hypothesis going into all of this is that almost 80 percent of the charging events are going to happen overnight in your garage. But we also know that people need a sense of peace of mind, that they see public charging stations out there and know they you can use them if they need to top off. Or, if you're an apartment dweller or a condo dweller and you really don't have a garage where you park your car, well, you're going to live and rely on that public infrastructure.

TH: I can vouch for the fact that driving style has quite a bit to do with how many miles you get out of a full battery. How much does driving style impact range overall?

Perry: It is really an impact of your style. But really, the biggest drag on range, just like it is on an internal combustion car, is vehicle speed. The aerodynamic load of actually pushing a car through the air, it's a curve that accelerates in its steepness as vehicle speed increases. And that's why you get fewer miles per gallon at 70 than you do at 55.

And it's no different from with an EV. You have lower range if you travel at 70-75 mph than if you traveled at 55. So the single biggest impact on range is speed. If your commute is a lot of interstate travel, your range will probably be around 75 to 80 miles.. If you're using the Leaf around town and your speeds are 35-40 mph, you could see 110-120 miles of range. If you really drive conservatively, you could get over 130 miles of range. So again, it truly does depend on the type of driving you do.

And then you have the impact of the heater on range. Because there is no source of heat on the car, we actually had to put one in. It was really similar in design and concept to a space heater. You run electricity through a coil. That's how you warm the air to keep you warm as a passenger, and that takes energy. And the only place you can get energy in a Leaf is out of the battery.

TH: How's the roll-out been so far? I understand there have been some delays with delivery?

Perry: You used the term "delay," as far as our deliveries. I wouldn't go with "delay." What we're dealing with right is a huge demand for the car. We have folks that have been waiting patiently for their deliveries and we're not delivering cars as fast as they want, so in their minds it is a delay.

If you look at our production plans, we've built almost 4,000 Leafs globally already. So our production plans are right on track, it's just we have not met consumer expectations here in the U.S. We've made a commitment to everyone who has ordered a car so far that you'll have your Leaf by the end of summer, so we've made that commitment to folks.

Tags: Electric Cars | Electricity | Electric Vehicles | Life Cycle Analysis | TreeHugger Radio

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK