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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Home-charging to replace the petrol station

Nissan believes many electric car owners will mostly recharge in the garage, and not at rapid recharge stations.

Owners of Nissan's Leaf electric car will be more likely to trickle-charge their car at home than visit a rapid recharging station for a top up, the car maker says.

Nissan Australia chief executive Dan Thompson says he believes a 15-amp power point plug will be the most important accessory for owners of the fully electric car, which can travel up to 160km on a single charge of its battery pack depending on conditions.

The Leaf is due to launch in Australia in 2012, about the same time as the commercial introduction of Mitsubishi's i-MiEV electric car and the Holden Volt range-extended electric vehicle, which uses a small petrol engine linked to a generator to supply on-demand electricity.

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Thompson says the development of recharging infrastructure is likely to be a two-stage process, starting with the home before working its way into commercially operated recharging points.

“You will be able to plug the Leaf directly into your (electrical) outlet at home or in the office … and that's where we see most of the charging taking place in the beginning,” he says. “That will be about eight hours for a full top-up or a full charge.”

However, he says there will eventually be a need for commercial recharging point operators to move into the market, anticipating that many Leaf owners will use those to gain only a brief, 10-minute charge to, say, lift battery capacity from 50 to 80 per cent – much like dashing into a petrol station and taking on only a splash of fuel – rather than idling for a 30-minute stay to take on a full load of electricity.

Nissan says Leaf owners will be able to recharge their car using a normal 10 amp household power point, but it takes about twice the eight-hour recharging time over a 15 amp plug, which uses a larger earth pin than a normal household plug. A new plug can be fitted by a qualified electrician for very little cost.

Thompson says Nissan is leaving it up to other providers to install rapid recharging stations where electric car owners can get a top-up.

“[Rapid recharging stations] require a considerable hardware investment, so we'll leave it up to other entrepreneurs to do,” Thompson says.

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