Fast Times at Nissan HQ

Today, my daugh­ter and I had the entire day to hang out. We went to out for break­fast, played com­put­er games, went swim­ming, went to the Lego store, and of course, vis­it­ed Nis­san North Amer­i­can Head­quar­ters to check out the Lev­el 3 DC Quick Charg­er for our LEAF. You know, like all 5yo girls enjoy doing.

L3 Fast Charger at Nissan NA

DC Quick Charg­er at Nis­san NA

Seri­ous­ly, though, she did seem to enjoy her­self while pranc­ing around on the side­walk and around the high-volt­age fast charg­ing tow­er. It was both cute and dis­con­cert­ing.

Ainsley at the ChargerSafety First

Ains­ley hang­ing out with the DC mon­ster & tak­ing pho­tos of it record­ing videos of safe­ty instruc­tions with her iPad

But I real­ly want­ed to write about the fast charg­er, as this thing is real­ly some­thing to behold. It’s rel­a­tive­ly large for an ev charg­ing sta­tion, though not real­ly that daunt­ing when com­pared the mas­sive Nis­san build­ing just behind it, of course. The cord & charg­ing plug attached to this thing are just mas­sive, though. We’re talk­ing Doc Brown send­ing 1.21 jig­gawatts big!

Monster Plug

Mon­ster plug capa­ble of trans­fer­ring 1.21 Gigawatts in 15 min­utes

Charger + Cable

Not sure how clear this is, but that’s about a 2″ dia. cable

Charging LEAF

Not a Snuf­fal­ufa­gus, our ev

The fast charg­er is actu­al­ly a Nis­san design and this is a show­case for how an ev can be quick­ly charged up (to about 80% capac­i­ty) in 15–30 min­utes. Our expe­ri­ence today was pret­ty typ­i­cal. We rolled in with <24% of our bat­tery pack remain­ing after our dri­ve up to Nashville’s Opry Mills and back 1. With­in exact­ly 15 min­utes, we had charged up to 74%, or one-half the bat­tery pack capac­i­ty. That would be remark­ably slow for pump­ing gas, of course. How­ev­er, com­pared to L1 (120v) and L2 (240v) charg­ing, it is remark­ably fast.

Quick Charging

Charged 50% of the bat­tery in exact­ly 15 min.

Nis­san’s DC Quick Charg­er is 480v (!) and, to be hon­est, isn’t like­ly some­thing you’d want at your home. Even if you could get the elec­tric ser­vice hooked up for it and did­n’t mind the $15,500 price tag, the noise this thing puts off is dis­turb­ing2. You know that high-pitch whine that some flash pho­to capac­i­tors put off? Imag­ine that much loud­er and even high­er pitch. Some­thing like the world’s largest den­tal drill.


First step: put it into the charg­er…

But this is a show­case of what is pos­si­ble for elec­tric vehi­cles at fuel­ing sta­tions or ser­vice cen­ters, not res­i­den­tial3. And it is quite cool to have one near­by.

Me with Fast Charger

Bonus shot of yours tru­ly stand­ing by the quick charg­er tow­er. Ains­ley insist­ed on tak­ing my pho­to since I’d tak­en hers.

Here’s a bonus video from over three years ago when the LEAF was first intro­duced to Nis­san NA employ­ees (many of whom are my neigh­bors).


  1. We only live about 2 miles away from Nis­san, so mak­ing it home was­n’t real­ly any issue. This was done sole­ly for the pur­pose of just hav­ing done it… and to write this blog post. []
  2. This video shows some guys check­ing out the (old­er ver­sion) of the L3 fast charg­er (skip to the 3:45 mark to quick­ly hear the high-pitch sound this thing emits). []
  3. The 240v res­i­den­tial L2 charg­er is about $800 and the elec­tric work to add a new cir­cuit for it in your garage is typ­i­cal­ly around $1,200; like­ly much less if you’re plan­ning ahead in new con­struc­tion. []

What’s the Opposite of Cutting the Cord?

…chuck­ing the gas can, I sup­pose.

When we bought a gas/electric hybrid, it was the per­fect vehi­cle for my needs at the time. A 4x4 for vis­it­ing con­struc­tion sites, enough room to car­ry us and the dogs, and good fuel econ­o­my. How­ev­er, in near­ly sev­en years since then, my sit­u­a­tion has changed con­sid­er­ably. I now telecom­mute to work from home, I no longer go to job sites, and Angela has a swanky mini­van for our long fam­i­ly trips with kids and dogs.

So, we sold the hybrid Escape and got a ful­ly elec­tric vehi­cle: a Nis­san LEAF.

Visiting the Mothership

Inside and Out

As Angela put it, this is the per­fect nerd car. 1The per­for­mance of the car is sur­pris­ing­ly good, but I’m not real­ly a fast dri­ver, any­way. The fun stuff is all the gad­getry in and out of the car. The nav­i­ga­tion and user inter­face are about the best I’ve ever used in a car. The touch screen is real­ly nice.

Driving

Also, Nis­san has a mobile app for the iPhone2 (and Android?) that can be used to check up on the charg­ing as well as start the cli­mate con­trol in the car. So between installing Nest units in our house and this car, I can con­trol my A/C from any­where!

I do have to con­fess a cer­tain amount of pride that this car was built just down I‑840, in Smyr­na, TN. That cut­ting edge elec­tric vehi­cles and their bat­ter­ies are built here and that Nis­san has its cor­po­rate head­quar­ters for North Amer­i­ca here in Franklin cer­tain­ly makes me feel like I’m buy­ing Amer­i­can, regard­less of the Japan­ese her­itage of the com­pa­ny (and most of the parts in the engine). A num­ber of my neigh­bors and friends work at Nis­san, many of whom dri­ve LEAFs. I even met one of the fac­to­ry guys —who also dri­ves a LEAF!— on the show­room floor. And my par­tic­u­lar car had real­ly just arrived from the plant, with all the ship­ping pro­tec­tion still in place and six miles on the odome­ter.

I also rec­om­mend check­ing out the doc­u­men­tary, Revenge of the Elec­tric Car [on Net­flix WI] to get a pic­ture of how the LEAF came to be, as well as the cur­rent state of ev’s in the US. Though, in order to make much sense of that film title, you need to watch Who Killed the Elec­tric Car?, first (or at least read my review).

Range and Power

In the past week, we’ve man­aged to take a 70 mile round trip dri­ve up to Opry Mills and anoth­er 50 mile round trip to down­town Nashville, both with no issues of range. I’ve also dri­ven around town every­day; tak­ing kids to school, going to the gym, trips to the movies, and of course the gro­cery store. I can say this car is about the per­fect city car and is works well enough on the inter­state or high­way (though at above 70 mph, you can pret­ty much watch the bat­tery lev­el drain down like there was a hole in the thing). Franklin prob­a­bly has the high­est num­ber of elec­tric charg­ing sta­tions per capi­ta in the coun­try, so we live in a good place to have an ev.

So far, I’ve been just using the 110v trick­le (Lev­el 1) charg­er that is includ­ed with the vehi­cle trim we got. It works fine, as it gets eas­i­ly topped-off overnight. In fact, it’s just plugged into my work­bench’s pow­er strip, between the drill press and miter saw. How­ev­er, if I had an actu­al dai­ly com­mute, I’d def­i­nite­ly spring for a 220v (Lev­el 2) charg­er in our garage. I could see a dri­ve like that cou­pled with a evening dri­ve around town leav­ing you with less-than-enough to make it home the fol­low­ing day.

I’ll have to com­pare month­ly ener­gy usage from here on with pre­vi­ous years to get a sense for what the actu­al cost is for us, but I’m con­fi­dent it’ll be under 1/3 of what we paid pre­vi­ous­ly in gas (or what we’d pay for sim­i­lar trips around town in our van).

Summary

I’ll con­tin­ue to post updates as we use the car3. I’m sure I’ll have some sto­ry about the first time I run out of pow­er some­where out on the road.

As much as I’d like to think we’re on the cut­ting edge here, you can­not dri­ve any­where around Franklin, TN (the home of Nis­san North Amer­i­ca) with­out pass­ing a half-dozen LEAF’s. There aren’t too many oth­er kinds of elec­tric cars here, but they’ve also been on the road (else­where) for a cou­ple of years now. The charg­ing infra­struc­ture is quick­ly grow­ing around us. So, this move felt a lot less like blaz­ing a trail than jump­ing on a trend that is right for us.

But, as for now, the most I can say is this car seems like a great car. Of course, that’s large­ly in part because I’m almost exact­ly the demo­graph­ic for this car.

  1. Arguably, that would be a Tes­la, but I can’t jus­ti­fy that kind of car. []
  2. Though, the app is almost laugh­ably bad. I’ve seen fart apps with bet­ter UI and it’s not updat­ed for the iPhone 5. I’m sure this is com­plain­ing about too much oil on my caviar, but we’re not talk­ing about some small out­fit here… it’s a major auto­mo­tive com­pa­ny! []
  3. Says the guy who posts less than every oth­er month these days. []