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Electric company will help launch Nissan Leaf

Power giant sees charging time sold like cellular plans

Nissan Leaf
Utility company NRG wants to sell charging plans for the Nissan Leaf. Josh Miller/CNET

Automotive News

The CEO of one of America's biggest electric utility companies is putting his shoulder behind Nissan North America Inc.'s campaign to sell electric vehicles.

Among his ideas: sending marketing materials for the upcoming electric Nissan Leaf with customers' monthly electric bills.

"I think we can play a role in what Nissan is doing," said David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy Inc. of Princeton, N.J., which provides electricity in cities around the country.

"We send monthly statements out to 1.5 million customers in the Houston area," he told Automotive News. "That's a lot of marketing potential."

Houston is one of Nissan's biggest markets. NRG owns the Houston power company, Reliant Energy.

This month Reliant signed on to join a growing list of third-party partners helping Nissan launch Leaf sales in selected markets late next year. Nissan has been recruiting utilities, state governments, municipalities and others to help install highway recharging stations and address residential zoning rules to make home recharging easier.

Crane envisions doing more than that. He proposes that Reliant act as a Nissan retail service supplier in Houston. When customers buy an electric vehicle, they could buy a Reliant charger installation package from the Nissan dealer. The package, financed along with the car, would deploy Reliant staffers to do the necessary work on the customer's home.

Crane also wants to market recharging plans through Nissan dealerships, similar to cell phone plans. "We could have different plans available, depending on the customer's needs," he said. "It might guarantee you so many recharges a month at public stations or give you so many charges a month on a rapid-charge system."

Electric-vehicle chargers come primarily as a traditional 220-volt plug-in that takes up to six hours to recharge a vehicle's battery completely. A more expensive high-voltage charging system that takes less than an hour also will be installed around cities.

(Source: Automotive News)