Nissan Clarifies: 10,000 LEAFs Built by End of March, Faster Charging Upgrade Being "Studied"

By · March 10, 2011

A couple of news items popped up in the last week about the Nissan LEAF that seemed to be promising, but lacked the complete information to make them fully digestible. PluginCars.com thought it would be helpful to delve into these items further, so we reached out to Nissan for clarification.

1Nissan LEAF Production Output in Japan to Double to 4,000+ Units Per Month

Although Nissan took an extra long amount of time to ramp up production of the LEAF from November until now, Mark Perry, Nissan's North American Director of Product Planning, told PluginCars.com the company is adding "weekend and overtime" shifts at the Oppama, Japan, plant where every LEAF is currently assembled.

As reported by Ward's, the Oppama plant builds more than 200,000 cars a year and right now one out of six of them is a LEAF. In order to get up to the level needed to meet initial demand for the LEAF, Nissan will add the shifts as above and start popping one LEAF off the line for every three cars built. As Perry tells us, Nissan "should be able to reach 4,000 units per month and possibly squeeze out a few more."

From December through the end of February Nissan had only sold 173 LEAFs in the U.S. leading to reports that nobody wanted electric cars. This is simply untrue. As Perry said, "Our sales number are not a reflection of demand, rather the length of our production pipeline." In fact, by the end of March, Perry told us that Nissan will have built 10,000 LEAFs for customers in Japan and the United States. Clearly that indicates Japanese customers have gotten preference until now, likely due to the fact their tax incentives for electric cars expire at the end of March.

The good news is that for people waiting to get their LEAFs the amount of vehicles reaching U.S. shores looks set to significantly increase soon.

2Nissan "Studying" Whether or Not it Can Offer a 6.6 kW Double Speed Charger as an Upgrade to Gen 1 LEAF Owners

The other bit of LEAF news to recently break in the "seems promising but should be taken with a grain of salt" category was a post from Green Car Reports indicating that Nissan would be offering an upgrade kit for first generation LEAF owners to double the speed at which they could charge from their home charging stations.

As many PluginCars.com readers know, the LEAF shipped with 3.3 kW on-board charging equipment—meaning it can add about 15 miles of driving range for every hour of charging. This was decried by many in the electric car community as far too slow because almost every charging station is capable of putting out at least enough juice to charge it at twice that speed. After the Ford Focus Electric was unveiled earlier this year with 6.6 kW charging speeds the narrative switched to LEAF vs. Focus Electric.

Nissan has pretty much admitted the 3.3 kW charging speed is a mistake that needs to be corrected as soon as possible, but most industry observers have expected that to come with the next generation LEAF in the 2013 model year (expected to be released at the end of 2012). At a conference last week, Mark Perry was quoted as saying that the option to upgrade existing LEAFs to 6.6 kW will happen in a year or so. If true, that would mean availability prior to the next generation LEAF hitting the market.

But apparently—as is often the case—things are not exactly as they seem. In an email to PluginCars.com, Perry said that Green Car Reports was "speculating" and that he said Nissan was "studying" the possibility of offering an upgrade in a year or so.

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