You just never know what you'll hear at conferences.

You might, for instance, hear Nissan America's director of product planning, Mark Perry, casually mention that the Nissan Leaf electric car now permits Level II 240-Volt charging at 3.3 kilowatts--"and we'll raise that in a year or so."

In other words, Nissan plans to offer a higher-rate onboard charger for the Leaf, which will significantly shorten the present recharging time of 8 hours for a fully discharged Leaf pack.

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

That's a little piece of news we don't think has been published anywhere before. Perry confirmed after his presentation that the company hadn't yet announced it.

He didn't specify a model year for the change, but did say the upgraded onboard charger might be offered as optional equipment, rather than as standard, due to the higher cost of more robust power electronics components.

What about buyers of 2011 Leaf models who would like to have a faster Level II charge? Perry said any new charger offering would definitely be designed so it could be retrofitted into existing vehicles: "We don't want to orphan our first-year buyers."

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

The upgrade may be rooted in a desire to deny Ford one of its talking points for the upcoming 2012 Ford Focus Electric, which will go on sale late this year.

The Focus Electric offers a 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger, as does the 2011 Coda Sedan that will be offered for sale in California in the second half of this year.

Ford proudly touts that a full recharge of its 23-kilowatt-hour pack takes only 3 to 4 hours, against the Leaf's 8 hours.

2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - Nancy Gioia

2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - Nancy Gioia

Perry was quick to point out that the Focus Electric "doesn't even HAVE quick charging!" A DC fast-charge fitting is optional on the 2011 Leaf.

For the record, the remarks were made this morning during a panel on the "Electrical Vehicle Market" at the IEEE-USA 2011 Annual Meeting, held in Austin, Texas.

The IEEE-USA paid some of this author's expenses for travel, lodging, and meals to enable him to participate in a separate panel discussion at its Annual Meeting.


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