Published August 21, 2012
By Jeff Cobb
Nissan Leaf sales in the U.S. may be down, and a small but vocal group of Leaf drivers in hot states may now be on the verge of seeing red, but Nissan is pressing on with its electrification plans, including wireless charging for the pending LE.
The Leaf-based, Infiniti-badged luxury EV was shown recently in Pebble Beach in “80 percent to 85 percent” true-to-production form, and for anticipated upscale buyers, charging without messy cords is being seen as a must-have.
We’ve seen plenty of other OE and private company efforts in progress to introduce wireless charging, and the usual rationale is buyers demanding convenience will want their cars to go the way of their handheld wirelessly charged electronic devices.
In Infiniti’s case, the sticky problem of precisely parking over an inductive charging mat would be solved by a self-parking system activated by a user friendly press of a button. Assuming the mat is left in place on a garage floor – and is not moved for some reason – the car will program its memory for carefree parking/charging.
Of course the electric Infiniti will still have a conventional plug port for remote charging. Infiniti has said the car would be based on the Leaf’s powertrain, but talk has been of upgrades that might involve a more powerful battery which would also help meet higher customer expectations.
Specifications and price are otherwise not being disclosed at this point. The Infiniti LE is due to be built in 2014 – not long after Nissan’s Smyrna, Tenn. plant begins domestic Leaf manufacturing later this year.
As Nissan follows a global plan to overcome obstacles to EV proliferation, its increasingly independent Infiniti division is keen on carving out the upper echelon market, said U.S. brand chief Ben Poore.
Research shows America's well-to-do are all about plug-in cars, and even if they have money to buy something much more ostentatious, vehicles like Toyota’s Prius are among the 10 most popular models for the 10 most popular zip codes.
So what better time to introduce an even greener Infiniti?
“I want that second half of the garage,” said Poore of Infiniti’s intention for its first EV.
And perhaps if Infiniti can assure there will be fewer teething issues than there have been with Nissan's more pedestrian Leafs, it might get it – if Tesla does not first.