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Drone maker will supply home chargers for Nissan EV

Automotive news reports on AeroVironment's deal to produce chargers for Nissan electric vehicles.

Automotive News

The Pentagon's supplier of special operations forces unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, will take on the mission of getting Nissan Leaf buyers hooked up to recharge the electric car.

AeroVironment Inc. of Monrovia, Calif., will supply 220-volt home-recharging systems to Leaf buyers when the car goes on sale in the fourth quarter of this year.

The systems, sold through Nissan dealerships, will be critical to Nissan North America's goal of selling 150,000 all-electric Leafs annually. Nissan project planners expect most recharging to be done at buyers' homes at night rather than at public charging stations.

"The common element between the drones and the Leaf is easy recharging," says Steven Gitlin, AeroVironment director of marketing strategy. "We've supplied 12,000 drones to the military, and they have to be easy enough to use that a 19-year-old soldier can take one of out his backpack in the dark and make it work. We expect customers to be able to charge the Leaf just as easily."

But acquiring the recharging system will be something of a mission.

When purchasing a Leaf, a customer will be expected to install the home charging device. But before obtaining the charger, the customer will be provided with a list of licensed local electrical contractors and instructed to schedule a home visit with one. The electrical contractor will inspect the consumer's home and give an estimate for the installation. The customer will get the new system once he accepts the contractor's estimate. Customers will be advised to have the work done prior to taking delivery of the Leaf.

With a 100-mile range on a full charge of its lithium ion battery, the Leaf will take about 8 hours to recharge from a fully discharged state. Nissan officials have said that they want to make sure buyers are prepared for recharging before they buy the car. As it prepares to launch the Leaf this year in selected markets, Nissan also is working with cities, states and utility companies to install thousands of public charging stations around the country.

AeroVironment, which also markets industrial-vehicle charging systems, helped develop the GM Impact, the prototype for General Motors' EV1 electric vehicle in the late 1980s. The supplier reported a loss of $1.4 million on revenues of $89.3 million for the six months ending Oct. 31, 2009.

(Source: Automotive News)