Since the Nissan Leaf first launched a year ago, we’ve seen leaf enthusiasts produce a whole range of unofficial modifications for the all-electric hatchback, ranging from the extremely useful to the downright bizarre.
We’re not sure which category a propane-powered gas-turbine range extender and direct current portable rapid charger comes into, but we don’t think it really matters: it’s that clever.
It’s the brainchild of Californian electrical engineer and plug-in car owner Phil Sadow, otherwise known as Ingineer on the MyNissanLeaf forums.
The man responsible for designing the highly-popular unofficial aftermarket modification to enable a stock Level 1, 110-Volt Leaf charging cable to also charge a Leaf twice as quickly from a suitable 240-Volt outlet, Sadow’s latest creation effectively turns his 2012 Nissan Leaf into a range-extended electric car.
Consisting of a propane-powered Capstone micro-turbine and some custom microelectronics courtesy of Sadow’s clever engineering skills, the proof-of-concept system can provide up to 30 kilowatts to supplement the power provided by the Leaf’s on-board battery pack while the car is driving.
When stationary, it can also be used to charge a Nissan Leaf to 80 percent full in around 30 minutes, using the Chademo direct current rapid charging port offered as standard on the 2012 Nissan Leaf SL.
Better still, Sadow says the system requires no permanent modifications to the Leaf’s on-board high-voltage electrical system in order to make use of the range-extending turbine.
In order to tow the trailer however, Sadow had to custom-build a trailer hitch for his car.
But while a gas micro-turbine which sounds like it has been removed from Lady Penelope’s six-wheeled FAB1 jet-car might not be to everyone’s tastes, Sadow’s latest creation has even attracted the attention of Nissan’s official engineers.
In fact, at a recent San Francisco Bay Leaf owners’ meet-up, Sadow got to demonstrate his system to Hidetoshi Kadota, Nissan’s Chief Vehicle Engineer for the Leaf.
2011 Nissan Leaf SL
“He was asking me a lot of questions,” Sadow wrote on the MyNissanLeaf forum. “His English is so-so, but of course my Japanese is horrible!”
Before you rush for your credit card however, Sadow’s creation probably won’t make it into production just yet. With a new Capstone 30 kilowatt micro-turbine costing nearly $30,000 brand new, the chances of seeing a commercialized version of the prototype unit are pretty slim. It's also unofficially supported by Nissan, despite its engineers examining it.
However, we don’t think this will be the last modification from the committed electric car advocate engineer, whose collegues at EVSEupgrade.com are reportedly already working on upgrades to the unit.
“If it isn’t obvious by now our mission is to see the Electric Vehicle succeed,” wrote Sadow. “We will do anything we can that furthers this cause!”
Of course, if you want a plug-in car that can regularly go longer distances between charging stations, you’re probably going to find a better solution buying a car like the 2012 Chevrolet Volt or 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
But if you’re a die-hard Leaf fan, Sadow’s solution has to beat tow-charging your car, right?