In the past electric vehicles have had a bit of fear attached to them: What if I run out of juice and can’t recharge? AAA can’t simply dispatch a truck with a gallon of electrons to refill the tank. The fear has enough of a grain of truth behind it to be real. The truth of EV ownership is that with care the range limits aren’t as much of a problem as the stereotype would have you think. Further, Nissan has thought very carefully about this problem and has a very good solution. (part 1: Nissan announces the LEAF, an affordable zero-emissions electric car, part 3: Technical specifications for the Nissan LEAF, part 4: Turning over the Nissan LEAF (to look inside)
The LEAF has a claimed 100 mile range. Statistics say the average driver covers 25 miles per day, or so, meaning a 100 mile range would cover far more than average daily driving needs. Nissan claims the range will satisfy 80% of drivers even if their only charging station is at home. Nissan’s EV isn’t the first one to provide a 100 mile range, the GM’s NiMH EV1 and Toyota’s RAV4-EV both had near or over 100 miles range. If history is any judge there will be news articles describing the 100 mile range as an unbearable limitation. Or maybe Nissan has thought this through well enough to satisfy everybody but those with the most hardcore of long range driving.
First, Nissan describes three charging scenarios. In the home charging scenario, the car owner is relying on their charging station at home and can make trips up to 50 miles distance from their home. In the destination charging scenario, the car owner has a destination (such as their workplace) where they can charge making their total daily range closer to 200 miles. In the pathway charging scenario, the car owner plugs in at charging stations they find as they drive around.
Charging stations are not a new idea, they’ve existed for over 100 years. The prior wave of electric cars in the late 90’s caused a wave of charging stations to be installed. Experience showed a person could plug in their car as they drive around town, stopping at businesses where charging stations have been installed, and have a much longer effective driving range. Todays charging stations are much more advanced than the prior generation, and for example Coulomb Technologies offers an interesting business opportunity for businesses to operate commercial charging stations. But what if you’re driving around an unfamiliar neighborhood and don’t know where the nearest charging stations is?
Nissan is including a navigation system which shows whether the desired destination is within the current range of the battery pack. The navigation system will also know the location of charging stations and can direct the driver to one as required. Further the navigation system may be able to determine the greenest route to take. This sort of assistance should ease the range anxiety.
In short the Nissan LEAF offers an adequate range for 80% of driving needs. As the networks of charging stations are installed a LEAF owner could stop for opportunity charging easily extending driving range. Additionally the LEAF has a quick charging mode offering a full recharge in under 30 minutes, but which requires a very high power three-phase circuit. This well thought-out series of charging options should do a lot to resolve range anxiety.
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