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Good Move/Bad Move? Nissan Launches Mobile EV Charging Station

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On: Fri, Jun 10, 2011 at 4:28PM | By: Chris Weiss

Good Move/Bad Move? Nissan Launches Mobile EV Charging Station

In building the market's first real, mass-produced electric vehicle, Nissan bravely went where no other automakers were ready to go. And now it's going somewhere else where no other automaker has gone. But the question is: should it? 

One of the primary reasons that other automakers are focusing more on hybrids and range-extenders is range issues. Batteries can get you only a fraction of the distance of gas engines and hybrid powertrains. Now, if there was a robust electrical charging infrastructure on highways and byways, this wouldn't be as much of an issue. But since there isn't, people are basically limited to home and work charging, something that's given way to the rightful fear of getting stranded. It's called range anxiety and it's a major obstacle that electric-vehicle manufacturers face.

Nissan's taken what I'd consider to be a risky, possibly detrimental step in working to alleviate range anxiety. It's launched an EV rescue vehicle in Japan that can come to the aid of stranded Leaf owners. The truck has a mobile charging station that will get drivers back on their way. It's designed to ease fears of being stranded and provide a "safety net" for drivers that become stranded. According toAutomotive News, the rescue truck provides enough juice for about 25 miles of range in about 20 minutes.

On the surface, that sounds like a good way of addressing the fear of running out of power. But it may just make that fear worse. By advertising this as a "safety net" designed to help stranded drivers, Nissan is basically saying "Yeah, you're right. You can and will get stranded. We'll be there to help you out, but it's likely to happen." Nissan is essentially admitting to the biggest image problem that EVs have—a dangerous PR move.

Instead of selling it as a device for stranded drivers, Nissan should have sell it as an interim charging infrastructure aimed at filling in while more permanent charging stations are built. This wouldn't even be a difficult case to make—as a mobile system, it would be able to drive the streets and fill in for the lack of a diffuse, brick-and-mortar charging network. That would have avoided the issue of advertising a resource for stranded drivers, while essentially providing the same service.

Compounding this image problem is the fact that Nissan is offering this service only in Japan. So, now you have Leaf owners and potential Leaf buyers in other markets, like the United States, watching Nissan admit to range problems and offer a solution overseas, without offering a similar safety net here. So, yeah, the Leaf will probably leave you stranded somewhere, and you won't have a friendly charging truck to come juice you up. To me, that says, "Time to shop for a Chevy Volt."

Nissan claims a range of around 100 miles for a fully charged Leaf, but the EPA certified it to only 73 miles.



RoadKill | 4:39PM (Fri, Jun 10, 2011)

Please can automakers stop wasting energy (No Pun Intended) on EVs, when the FCX is a fully functional Honda that is just like the cars we drive today. With 134 hp, the FCX performs as well as any family sedan on the road today, except the only emission that come out of this car is water. The FCX is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell that can be refueled just as fast and easy as your car today...The US needs to embrace Hydrogen technology...

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