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You Got a Fast Charge

by Rob Eshman

April 25, 2013 | 2:36 pm

Downtown Nissan's Fast Charger at work in my Leaf

Downtown Nissan is having a big celebration this Saturday April 27 to mark the installation of their Fast Charger.  There will be  test drives, discounts, demonstrations and a free "delicious lunch, brunch or dinner made from 100-percent organic plant-based ingredients."  If you're an EV owner or EV-curious, by all means go.

As for me, I couldn't be more thrilled. Here's why:

Part of Foodaism is putting your mouth where your morals are.  Hence Mark Bittman's thoughtful new Flexitarian column, which challenges eaters to eat as close to their ethical understanding of food allows-- but no closer.

And hence too my Nissan Leaf, the all electric car I leased two years ago next month.  The Leaf was my attempt to live according to my strong belief that our reliance on fossil fuels is  killing our planet and saving foreign despots-- when those two verbs should be reversed.

What I found-- and documented here, and here-- is that putting one's morals where one's mouth is can get messy.  Because of a bureaucratic snafu, I was not able to install a home charger, so keeping my Leaf fully charged is a challenge (at our offices in Koreatown the landlord likes to turn off the electricity whenever I've tried to charge here).  And the funny thing is, as the Leaf has gotten more popular, the challenge has only gotten greater.

That is because of something I'll call, because I can't think of a better term, the Leaf Paradox.  Here is what happened.  In the beginning, we Leaf owners were few and far between.  So while there are few public charging stations, the ones that existed were generally open.  I'd drive up, charge, be on my way.  Meanwhile, us EV enthusiasts promoted the use of electric cars, and championed our righteousness. The result: more people bought Leafs, and Teslas, and hyprib plug ins.   But the number of charging stations hasn't kept up with the number of cars.  And because it takes hours to charge a Leaf, and there is zero incentive for a driver to return to his or her car and unplug, finding a charging station is becoming more of a hassle.  The number of charging stations and the time people stay pluigged into them can't keep up with the number of EVs.  The more successful EV sales are, the bigger the inconvenience.  Somewhere there's a TED talk in this-- just not sure where.

One solution is fo there to be more Fast Chargers, like the one now at Nissan Downtown, which is at Washington Blvd near the Grand Street exit.  It takes 16 hours to charge an EV from 0-100 percent when plugged into a regular wall socket.  The 220v charger can do it in 8 hours.  The Fast Charger does it in 30 minutes.  And it will give you enough to get on your ay in much less than that.

This morning I drove to Downtown Nissan with my range estimator telling me I had no miles to go-- Zero charge.  I met Paul Scott there, the nicest and least-salesman-like car salesman you will ever meet, a true EV  believer.  He hooked me up to the Fast Charger, and in 25 minutes I was at 80 percent-- enough to drive 70 miles.  

I asked Paul if the Fast Charger is generally available, and he said that even when it's being used, "It's not being used for long."

They aren't cheap: $15,000 for the unit, and up to thousands more to install.  But iof builders can incoprrate them into new coinstruction, the cost is not consequential, and it will go a long way to creating an EV highway, and resolving the Leaf Paradox. 

Here's the info on Saturday's event:

What: Free public test drives of the all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF & unveiling of new EV fast charger
When: Saturday, April 27, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Nissan of Downtown L.A., 635 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90015
Information: Nissan of Downtown L.A. (310) 403-1303
 

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