Nissan's $9,900 quick charger a game changer?

Electric vehicles typically come with a home charging cord, and additional stations for 120v or 240v connections are relatively inexpensive. However, when you start trying to cram electrons into a battery in a hurry, the cost can rise steeply. In particular, "Level 3" quick charging stations can be a significant investment, with costs starting around $20,000.

Still, there are companies and organizations working on bringing these sorts of EVSE stations to market. After all, having the infrastructure to easily charge an electric car to 80 percent in only 30 minutes can have a profound impact on the practicality of EVs. Imagine doing it for less than $10,000.

This is Nissan's new hope. The automaker's new station halfs the price of the previous quick charge unit for the Nissan Leaf, reduces the size, and makes installation easier on both the bottom line and garage space. The $9,900 unit will be available for pre-order in the United States by January. Delivery of the units is expected in spring of 2012.

Based around the CHAdeMO protocol and operating on 480 volts, Nissan's new station can not only fill an empty battery in a hurry, it could potentially charge a Leaf from half empty to nearly full in the same five minutes it takes most cars to add a few gallons of gas. At a price point of just under $10k and with the requirement for 480V service, it might not find its way into too many residences. However, for public charging stations or companies that have multiple Leafs, this kind of charger could mean the difference between having vehicles hogging a charging spot for hours and being able to juice up the fleet. It also considerably lessens the consequences of having to pull your vehicle in for a charge if you should run low on electrons during a journey. Nissan anticipates selling "thousands" of units.

The CHAdeMO level 3 standard charges batteries quickly by using high voltage DC current (up to 500v and 125 amps). In the U.S., only the Leaf provides the TERPCO connector and associated hardware needed for CHAdeMO charging. Nissan's new station was developed in conjuction with Sumitomo Corporation. The Chevy Volt uses the SAE J1772 standard, with Level 2 charging that tops out at 240V and 80 amps AC current. A full recharge using currently available charging stations recommended by Chevy takes over three hours. The level 3 charging standard from SAE is still in the works.

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