An independent test of Nissan LEAF battery capacity and range loss organized by Inside EV writer and LEAF owner Tony Williams has found significant battery capacity loss—and therefore range loss—in the EVs. In a post on the Inside EV site, Williams has compiled the data and published a report on the test.
The Nissan LEAF electric car was introduced to the world as a mass production vehicle during December 2010. Almost 40,000 have been sold around the world in the short time since then, with well over 10,000 sold in the USA. Unfortunately, a percentage of those USA cars that are operated in hot climates, such as Phoenix, Arizona, and the state of Texas, have experienced accelerated losses of the vehicle’s range autonomy, when compared to its performance when new. The phenomenon is not relegated solely to areas of extreme heat; many LEAFs now in moderate temperature areas of California have also experienced significant range autonomy reduction, however not yet to the extent of those cars exposed to Arizona and Texas heat.
When customers have complained, thus far Nissan has claimed that any reduction in range is “normal”, regardless of how much that capacity loss is. Battery issues that are covered under the warranty include “power” to accelerate, or a specific battery failure or abrupt change in the battery performance. Nissan specifically claims that they do not warranty capacity.
...Earlier this month, an Australian news agency reported that a Nissan Executive Vice President with specific experience with the LEAF, Mr. Andy Palmer, said that there is “no problem” with the LEAF battery, and that the any customer complaints were merely the result of instrument problems.
In response to this revelation, a group of twelve Nissan LEAFs were independently gathered on Saturday, September 15, 2012 in Phoenix to put this statement to an actual range test; driving a fully charged LEAF in controlled conditions to measure how far they could actually go. Any battery test (or allegation of good batteries) is meaningless if the car can’t actually do the job it was designed to do. In the USA, that job is advertised as traveling “100 miles” (161km), and even further, 200 kilometers (124 miles) in Japan. Clearly, if Nissan truly felt that the batteries were performing as designed for the customer cars they tested at Casa Grande in July, they could have simply verified that at the private, purpose built test track at their disposal there. The actual driving portion of the test would have taken about 90 minutes per car, but they chose not to. Four of the twelve cars in Saturday’s Phoenix area test were previously at the Casa Grande test facility in July.
...My car, Black782 and the BC2BC car, tested at about 89% of available battery capacity, and drove to 91% of available capacity. That’s within 2% between the two figures and a reasonable error. Other cars had HUGE differences between the instruments and the actual range performance. So, Andy Palmer was right…they have poor instruments. But, he was wrong about the batteries. It was sheer stupidity to tell this group of owners that the batteries are ok. A California study showed that about half the owners have post-graduate degrees, and many of those are in technical fields. A significant percentage have owned electric vehicles prior to the LEAF, and many, if not most of those who have traded their faulty LEAF have gotten another electric powered car, like the GM Volt, and like me, another LEAF.
Nissan – Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn announced Friday that 2013 LEAFs would have a new battery design. One has to wonder if this is merely public relations move to deflect from the current battery woes, or if a real new battery will emerge. Then, we have to wonder if they employed the same testing that the current batteries were exposed to. Nissan really needed to get the LEAF right the first time, and they did an absolutely incredible job overall. I tell everybody know that it’s a fantastic car with one fatal flaw.