Last weekend, a group of Arizona Nissan Leaf owners conducted a trial to see how much range their pure electric vehicles had lost in the desert heat. Their conclusion? The battery loss was more rapid than Nissan led them to believe, undercutting earlier claims that the gauge cluster was wrong.
Well Nissan has finally stepped up with a real answer…that the batteries are deteriorating. But don’t worry, it is all a part of the plan!
According to an open letter from Nissan to Leaf owners, engineers found that the lower-than-normal battery levels relate to 1) higher-than-average mileage and 2) “unique” usage that includes high miles in high heat. I have posted the entire message at the bottom of the post for you to read over.
That is hardly reassuring to Arizona Leaf owners, many of whom tried trading in or selling their cars only to be rebuffed by local Nissan dealerships. Some owners were reportedly offered just $14,000 for their used Leaf EVs, less than half the after-rebate cost. Talk about salt in the wound.
For those Leaf owners who have seen their range drop by as much as one-third (from around 90 miles fully charged to less than 60), this is no consolation. Nissan goes on to insist that based on their own internal calculations, the 450 or so Arizona Leaf owners will still have about 76% of their battery capacity on hand after 5 years, even though some drivers are already well past that mark. It is also fair for Nissan to say that ALL battery packs experience loss over time. This is true. That said, when the battery is the sole means of motivation for an automobile, it damn well better last a long, long time. This does not bode well for Nissan’s other attempts at electric vehicles worldwide.
Suffice to say, this is bad news for Nissan and early adopters of the Leaf. Some owners have even gone so far as to say they cannot recommend a Leaf to others until this issue is remedied. The matter isn’t helped by the fact that the Leaf already offers such a limited range, that any loss can have a profound effect on the EV’s usability. Even with the 8-year/100,000 mile battery warranty, it seems like many Leaf owners are already giving up on their car…at least in Arizona. Also, Nissan may have left itself an out, as the warranty can be invalidated if the battery is regularly exposed to ambient temperatures in excess of 120 F.
If I was a Leaf owner, I’d personally be livid. Then again, you kinda had to expect something like this from a first-of-its-kind vehicle. More salt for your flesh wound?
OPEN LETTER TO THE LEAF COMMUNITY
From Carla Bailo
Happy eve of National Plug In Day. We’re excited that Nissan LEAF owners are gathering nationally tomorrow to celebrate zero-emission motoring, and appreciate that so many of you are sharing your enthusiasm with others. You are truly our best ambassadors to the next generation of passionate EV drivers.
We also want to update you, the LEAF community, on our findings regarding battery capacity loss concerns expressed by a number of owners in the Phoenix market. Nissan takes customer concerns seriously, and we know many of you have been interested to hear what we’ve learned in our thorough investigation, and what it all means.
We identified seven LEAF owners in the Phoenix area who had reported concerns with their vehicles. With their agreement we brought the cars to Nissan’s Arizona test facility, where we removed the batteries for evaluation, measured capacity, and conducted voltage testing on individual battery cells. These tests were diagnostic only; no modifications were performed to the battery packs themselves.
After returning cars to their owners, we analyzed the results of our tests, with specific emphasis on the rate of actual capacity loss for each vehicle. Our goals were simple: to determine 1) if there were any defects in materials or workmanship in the individual batteries or vehicle systems; 2) if the batteries were performing to specification; and 3)their performance relative to the global LEAF population.
This week, we will meet with these LEAF owners to share our findings on their individual vehicles. In the mean time, we can report the following overall findings:
• The Nissan LEAFs inspected in Arizona are operating to specification and their battery capacity loss over time is consistent with their usage and operating environment. No battery defects were found.
• A small number of Nissan LEAF owners in Arizona are experiencing a greater than average battery capacity loss due to their unique usage cycle, which includes operating mileages that are higher than average in a high-temperature environment over a short period of time.
While we understand that some LEAF owners are concerned about battery capacity loss, we want all owners to remember that all battery-electric vehicles – and all lithium-ion batteries – demonstrate capacity loss over time. So while your LEAF may have been able to travel a certain distance or more on a charge when new, its range will decrease as the battery ages, miles accumulate and gradual capacity loss occurs. This loss in capacity will occur most rapidly in the early part of your battery’s life, but the rate should decrease over time. Information on gradual battery capacity loss is available in the paperwork that was delivered with your vehicle, in the owner’s manual and on the many vehicle resources available at http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/.
It is also important to put the scope of these concerns in perspective. Globally, there are more than 38,000 Nissan LEAFs on the road that have travelled more than 100 million zero-emission miles, and we expect these vehicles, in normal operating conditions, to retain 80 percent of battery capacity after five years. As each user’s operating characteristics are unique and many factors impact battery capacity, we can expect some vehicles to have greater than 80 percent capacity at five years, and some vehicles to have less. In Arizona, we have approximately 450 LEAFs on the road. Based on actual vehicle data, we project the average vehicle in that market to have battery capacity of 76 percent after five years – or a few percentage points lower than the global estimate. Some vehicles in Arizona will be above this average, and some below. Factors that may account for this differential include extreme heat, high speed, high annual mileage and charging method and frequency of the Nissan LEAFs in the Phoenix market.
We at Nissan stand by our product, and we also stand by our customers. Recently, we’ve asked Chelsea Sexton, a passionate advanced technology advocate, to convene an independent global advisory board. Members would be selected by Chelsea, not Nissan, and they would recommend their own mandate, but our hope is that they would hold up a mirror to us and help us to be more open and approachable in our communication and to advise us on our strategy. We should have more information on the advisory board in a few weeks.
As we work with individual owners to ensure their satisfaction, we are appreciative of your continued support of both the Nissan LEAF and the electric vehicle movement, overall. We look forward to continuing our dialogue here in the MyNissanLEAF forum and within the Nissan LEAF community.
Senior Vice President, Research & Development – Nissan Americas