Being in Yokohama for the unveiling of Nissan's new all-electric Leaf was a thrill, but the days leading up to the big event were actually more exciting. We were given a chance to take a test car for a whirl around the track, a car that is almost exactly like the final version, save for the fact that the body is a modified Tino. In the advanced technology briefing we examined a cutaway of the Leaf, showing its battery pack, alternator, motor, and charging ports, and we saw as a working demo of contact-free charging.
But one of the most intriguing demonstrations was the internet technology Nissan is developing to interface with its electric vehicles. Check out our exclusive video after the jump.
As you can see in this quick demo, the car sends info to an Apple iPhone via a dedicated global data center. The software tells the user about the car's state of charge, the cost to charge at a given hour of the day, and sends alerts when it's fully juiced up.
Nissan also expects this is how drivers may program what times of day they want to charge up. Since tiered electricity billing is becoming more common (especially with the spread of smart meters), customers will want to charge their cars when it's cheapest.
This smartphone interface also lets the user activate or pre-program the car's climate control. This is important because heating and air conditioning draw a considerable amount of power, so it's better to draw from the grid when plugged in, rather than once the car is on the road and running on its battery.
Although this interface isn't likely to appear on the first-generation Leaf when it comes out in late 2010, Nissan has assured us that this is not just eye candy, and that smartphone connectivity is a feature that will make it to market.
For you open source software fans, I'll have you know that I pressed several Nissan technologists about the issue of using an open API in the Leaf and its coming siblings. Using an open source API could give third-party developers a chance to produce an endless list of nifty software products like integration with home energy monitoring, navigation, etc. While no one at Nissan would give me a confident "yes" on the subject of an open API, it was clear that it's an issue Nissan has put on the table and is considering.