AeroVironment Inc. has received a lot of press for its unmanned aircraft systems such as the Raven, which is launched by hand, and changed the rules of the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But for more than 20 years, the Monrovia company has toiled away developing fast-charging electric vehicle equipment – and now all that R&D is poised to pay off in a big way.
Nissan North America plans to market AeroVironment’s electric vehicle home-charging stations and installation services for its all-electric Leaf passenger car, hitting the road late this year.
With every other domestic and foreign automaker planning to launch an electric vehicle within the next few years, AeroVironment could score additional business as it is well ahead of the pack developing charging stations. Its Posicharge line is already used by electric-vehicle fleets.
“This is our first deal of its kind for the home charging stations,” said Steven Gitlin, a spokesman for AeroVironment. “We’ve been working this for years but are now ready to start seeing our technology used widely in homes.”
The stations, which will be sold independently by AeroVironment, plug into a standard home outlet and are capable of fully charging a car in eight hours. Pricing has not yet been established but the company said last year that it expects the units – not much bigger than a backpack – to sell for $500 to $1,000. The car is expected to have a list price of $25,000 to $30,000 and a range of 100 miles.
AeroVironment got its head start when in the late 1980s it teamed up with General Motors to supply charging technology that increased the range of the automaker’s vehicle battery packs for its first all-electric vehicle, known as the EV1.
GM halted EV1 production in the late 1990s, but AeroVironment kept developing fast chargers for industrial electric vehicles using lithium ion batteries, which Nissan will use in the Leaf.
Gitlin declined to specify how much the Nissan deal was worth, but Nissan plans to roll out as many as 50,000 vehicles over 12 months and has named AeroVironment its exclusive provider of charging stations.
In addition to manufacturing the stations, AeroVironment’s nationwide network of contracted licensed electricians will evaluate whether car buyers’ homes can handle the electricity demand. They also will install the charging stations.
Michael S. Lewis, an equity analyst with BB&T Capital Markets, expressed cautious optimism over the Nissan deal.
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