Want To Upgrade Your Leaf Charger To 6.6-kW? It Might Not Happen

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Enlarge Photo

When the first U.S.-produced 2013 Nissan Leafs roll off Nissan’s production line in Smyrna, Tennessee later this year, they will include a better heater, revised interior and a more powerful 6.6 kilowatt Charger that will halve the time it takes to charge from at a 240-volt, level 2 charging station. 

When Nissan’s Mark Perry announced the Japanese automaker would be doubling the on-board charger’s power back in March 2011, he proudly proclaimed that Nissan’s upgraded charging system would also be available as an upgrade for existing 2011/12 Leafs. 

Now a growing body of evidence suggests that anyone wanting to upgrade the charger in their Leaf to a 6.6-kW unit may be in for a tough time. 

Hardware upgrades are usually complex

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Enlarge Photo

Unlike Nissan’s past and future software upgrades to the Leaf, an upgrade from a 3.3-kW charger to a 6.6-kW charger isn’t a case of plugging in a diagnostic tool and reprogramming the car’s on-board computers. 

Instead, upgrading the charger is a lengthy process involving several hours of work on each car. As a consequence, unless there’s something wrong with the original hardware, offering an upgrade is highly unlikely.

The only exception we can think of? Tesla, which offered owners of its early Roadsters a way of upgrading their cars to Tesla Roadster 2.5 specification...at a price, of course. 

The 2013 Leaf will have lots of little changes

When Nissan starts production of the 2013 Leaf, the on-board charger won’t be the only thing getting upgraded from 2011/12 specifications.

Instead, it’s likely that the 2013 Leaf, essentially a mid-cycle update, will have enough differences to the 2011/12 Leaf that the charger upgrade may not even fit or work in earlier cars. 

Even Leaf technicians doubt the upgrade

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Enlarge Photo

Even if Nissan decides to offer the upgrade, it won’t be cheap.

“The cost to upgrade to a 6.6 is going to be thru the roof,” wrote one Nissan Leaf technician from Seattle on Facebook. “All the [High Voltage] wiring will need to be upgraded as well as the battery controller, the DC/DC inverter and the charger unit itself,” he explained. 

Essentially, although the charger is located in a fairly-accessible hump behind the rear seat, removal and replacement with a higher-power unit is a big undertaking, perhaps as involved as a full engine replacement in a gasoline-powered car. 

“The warranty cost on [a recent 3.3-kW replacement charger] was several thousand dollars,” the technician continued. “I imagine the 6.6 will be more. Not to mention they did not build these cars tech friendly. That charger is buried in there and the wiring will require battery removal.”

Nissan has gone quiet on the issue

If that wasn’t enough to convince you that existing Leaf owners are stuck with the 3.3-kW charger that came with their Leafs, even Nissan’s Mark Perry has become quiet on the issue. 

Those who have broached the issue of charger upgrades with Perry and other Nissan officials recently report that Nissan isn’t promising 6.6-kW upgrades for 2011/12 Leafs.

[EDIT: Later today at an online Nissan town hall meeting with Leaf fans, Perry confirmed that there would be no upgrade path to a 6.6-kilowatt charger for 2011/12 Leafs.]

Just like the tech industry, it appears being an early adopter isn’t always the best position to take. 


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Comments (16)
  1. Back in October, Nissan said that it would have a 30 minute rapid charger out, is this it? That didn't take no five years like everyone was claiming it would. Thanks Nissan. You are looking better and better every day.

  2. No, James, I think the 30 minute charger you mention is the "Chademo" charger that is on the higher end LEAF model. The Chademo port is the larger diameter connector shown in the photo to the left of the 220 volt connector. Chademo uses 480 volts. This article is about the 6.6kw charger is for 220 volts. I applaud Nissan for responding to the competition from Ford Focus Electric that has this feature. This is the reason I leased my first generation LEAF - I expected there will be something noticeably better after 3 years.

  3. Thanks, Mike. It is hard keeping all this crap straight in your mind. That is why I am waiting on the supercharge cellophane liquid salt battery to come out in a couple of years, or less. It will triple the distance of electric cars and that will be perfect for us electric car addicts, and you know how hard it is for an addict to wait on something.

  4. Mike, you are correct. The other distinction is that the 480V charge is direct current (DC) from the charging station, not alternating current (AC) like the 120/240V J1772 port. So it bypasses the car's onboard AC-to-DC rectifier and charges the battery directly. You can use both higher voltage and amperage by bypassing the rectifier, thus the 30-60 minute recharge time.

  5. I took delivery of our 2011 LEAF in March of 2011. There never was any promise that the car would be able to have anything retrofitted. Thus, I leased the car and am totally satisfied with it. This appears to be another effort to denigrate the LEAF for perhaps ulterior motives that aren't readily apparent. Congratulations to Nissan for increasing the appeal of the 2013 model.

  6. Bruce,

    Actually, I own a 2011 Leaf, which I paid for out of my own pocket. Since March 2011, I've covered nearly 15,400 miles and my entire family enjoy its all-electric charms.

    Ulterior motives? I respectfully think not.

  7. I think the motives are clear. Nikki has probably considered upgrading her own car and is a little disappointed that it is not a cheap and easy upgrade. That seems reasonable.

  8. Keep in mind that this is news simply because Mark Perry said, in March 2011, that upgrading the charger in older models WOULD be a possibility. With Nissan now going back on that, it's obviously a disappointment for those who were looking forward to it. Had Mark never made that statement (or said right away it wouldn't be a possibility), I doubt we'd be discussing this today.

  9. It is entirely possible to upgrade it. Nowhere in this article does it say you can't. It just says that it would be difficult and expensive. So, technically, he didn't make a remark that isn't true.

  10. I would think Nissan will hold their powder on a 6.6kW charger upgrade for the 11/12 LEAF until they find out what SAE does with the franken-plug "combo-coupler". Then make one single unpalatable $5k upgrade for both.

  11. Neither the 3.3 or 6.6 kW charger would allow a Leaf driver to make a long trip. For that you need the 30 minute DC fast charger for which there is a separate port. The problem is there aren't any 30 minute DC fast chargers anywhere in Tennessee yet. The EV Project was supposed to put them in. They haven't. Maybe they're waiting for the 10 minute fast charger that Nissan is supposed to be developing. It's supposed to be cheaper too. That would really be a game changer. Every gas station should put in one or more of those.

  12. From another website, Plugin cars, I read a story that states the average daily usage of the Leaf in the US is 27.5 miles with charge to charge interval of 30 miles which means not everybody charges every day. This 30 mile average is about what we are using in our 2011 Leaf SV. For us at 244 volts it takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to replenish our battery. All of the charging we do is done starting at 1:00 in the morning (charge timer). So if all of the 2011 and 2012 Leaf's can recharge from their average daily usage in less than 3 hours in the middle of the night then why are so many people worried about the 6.6 KW charging? Is it to be like the electric Focus that might never come out in any great number?

    I think this is all overblown.

  13. Not a problem, as you point out, if your needs are below average ;) But if you need more range, the faster on-board charger improves the LEAF’s utility, making it useful for more trips, or to more people. The low daily mileage only proves LEAF drivers did their homework and commute distances suitable to being tethered to their garage by the weak on-board charger. Good news as Mark Perry has since confirmed there is no plan to upgrade the chargers for MY11/12 LEAFs.

  14. I count 14 DC fast chargers in Tennessee, they were installed at the end of last year. Their reliability and up time is questionable, but they do exist.

  15. Not having the ability to upgrade to a 6.6Kwh charger doesn't phase me, the DC fast charge port is fine for me.

    What I would like to see as a retrofit sometime in the future is additional or revised battery modules that could extend the vehicle range between charges. No promise has ever been made regarding that as far as I know.

  16. I'm an old EVer and own a 2011 Leaf, personally I don't see much use in a 6.6 vs 3.3. I charge at night 95% of the time and it gets full anyway! If I do charge during the day it's at work and I have plenty of time there as well. I can honestly say in the 5 months I've owned the car it's never been a problem.

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