Nissan Wants to Help Japan Earthquake-struck Owners of Leaf to Power Homes Using Cars

Nissan is reportedly working on a solution that will allow Leaf owners to utilize its electric battery for powering homes in power outages. This move comes at a time when the company seeks to resume full production, following the natural crises which struck its home nation in March. The rolling blackouts in Japan post the earthquake have increased interest for this feature offered with their Leaf model.

The global head of Nissan’s zero emission vehicles, Hideaki Watanabe, said that the battery of this car can store up to 24 kilowatt hours of power that is sufficient enough for a single US household per day. Some people have said that they would buy a Nissan Leaf, instead of getting a generator.

According to the Energy Information Administration of US, an average US home utilized around 30 kilowatt hours per day of electricity in 2009. Nissan has managed to sell around 7,600 Leaf cars globally, of which 2,000 were sold in the US alone. The earthquake and the subsequent tsunami disrupted the production of Leaf this year in Japan. It may also delay the company’s plans of producing the Leaf at Smyrna in Tennessee.

He said that the earthquake has put them in a problematic situation, but they won’t give up just yet. The production launch in the US could get delayed as Nissan had to first concentrate its resources to get production in Japan ramped up, following the earthquake. The production of Leaf in Japan is estimated to reach around 50,000 units per annum, according to Watanabe, with Nissan hoping to have its plants running at the projected rate by 2012.

He also said that he hopes the engineers will create a prototype for the Leaf being able to provide power for a home by the year end, adding that he would be unhappy if the project took two years for bringing the technology in the market. He also said that they are hoping that the solution does not involve adding more hardware to Leaf.

One of their options would be connecting the vehicle to a home via quick-charge units from the company that are available in Japan and that help to restore 80% charge of the vehicle in 30 minutes. A charging station of 240 volts will replenish the battery of the Leaf in just 7 hours, which a regular outlet takes 20 hours to do.

The quick-charge outlet from Nissan is priced at $15,000, while the company hopes to bring out a less costly version of under $10,000, according to Watanabe. The Leaf that began sales last December is an electric car model that is powered only by a battery. The Volt from Chevrolet also utilizes battery power till 35 miles, after which it runs of a generator powered by gasoline indefinitely.

According to information assembled from cars in US and Japan, nine of ten users of Leaf, drive around 60 or less miles per day. This comes under the estimates of the EPA that an average driver can travel up to 73 miles with a Leaf that has been fully charged. A spokeswoman for Nissan, Katherine Zachary said that till May, there were just two Americans who were stranded as their Leaf battery had run out.

For this year, Nissan aims to sell 10,000 Leaf models to Americans that is the same as the number of Chevrolet Volts that GM intends to sell.

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