InsideEVs Posts Results from LEAF Range Tests

By · September 20, 2012

Nissan LEAF

The Nissan LEAF, which launched in the US back in December 2010, was touted as a breakthrough electric vehicle, but many automotive enthusiasts immediately expressed concerns over Nissan's decision to deploy a lithium-ion powered vehicle without liquid cooling. Several experts believed that air cooling would be insufficient in areas of the country affected by wide swings in temperature. In fact, most thought that only those who resided in regions where temps remained relatively stable would see air cooling as sufficient, while the rest of the US would soon come to understand why liquid cooling is the preferred method.

Liquid cooling controls the temps of the battery pack more precisely than air cooling and, by doing so, limits battery degradation. Is air cooling not up to the task?

LEAF test chart

Results from InsideEVs Nissan LEAF battery capacity loss versus range tests.

An exhaustive test, recently conducted by InsideEVs Tony Williams, seems to prove that either air cooling or Nissan's battery chemistry is inadequate. Williams is a two-time Nissan LEAF owner, but not entirely by choice. Williams traded in his first faulty LEAF for another LEAF, which is also losing capacity at a rapid rate.

InsideEVs provides full details, but we'll sum up the tests results by quoting Williams:

“My car, Black782, 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...I tell everybody now that it’s a fantastic car with one fatal flaw.”

Comments

· · 2 years ago

This looks more and more like a debacle akin to the Chevy Vega engines in the 70's. The only thing Nissan has going for them, is there aren't many out there to retrofit if they chose to go that route. If they don't, I predict the Leaf is history in two to three years.

This should be a wakeup call for consumers to demand battery range minimums in their warranties.

· · 2 years ago

@ MichaeI: don't think battery range is a good benchmark, since range is highly linked to driving style and conditions. Battery capacity however, can be objectively and independently measured.

· EVlvr (not verified) · 2 years ago

This is a blow for all pure electrics, a third strike, perhaps? Limited range.... long recharging times..... and now the spotlight is on battery life and diminishing range.

Extended range electrics are going to have to rescue the momentum and lead the way for EVs, it appears.

· imiev user (not verified) · 2 years ago

I've read that and thread on mynissanleaf forums... I drive peugeot iOn which have same chemistry like Leaf - the batteries are LiMn2O4 in both cars. Anybody out there with Mitsubishi iMIEV capacity loss?

I've read about different types of lithium batteries and LiMn2O4 are known for their capacity loss when overheating. Then LiFePO4 seems to be much better for higher temperatures also has more life-cycles. Why they didn't use them?

· · 2 years ago

it's a blow to 2011/12 Leaf. But, there's always 2013.

· · 2 years ago

My 2011 Tucson-based LEAF has 7700 miles on it; it now also has a solid 11 bars of battery capacity. This appears to be lower than the cars in the test with equivalent mileage. I've been charging it to 100% capacity at most once a week and parking it in a carport when not driving. My initial trips to the top of Mt. Lemmon 30 miles and 6500 feet of elevation gain away were made without triggering the "Low Battery" warning. For the last several months however, the warnings have become routine. I have yet to get the "Very Low" warning but recently experienced a completely blank remaining capacity gauge.

Nissan, we have a problem.

· · 2 years ago

@Smidge204, Agreed, range in miles would be difficult to accurately quantify. However, a resistive load could be put on the battery pack to determine its condition, once a customer raises a red flag.

There is no doubt this has to be addressed, or it will be another huge financial risk of owning an EV.

· · 2 years ago

Two things -- I'm pretty sure that the Nissan Leaf's battery pack is passively cooled, and does not have any fans in it.

Secondly, the range is a very inaccurate way to measure battery capacity. People drive differently, the conditions are different, the tires may be low, it may be colder or hotter, the speed may be very high -- I mean really...

Neil

· Iletric (not verified) · 2 years ago

I am compelled to say that in temperate climates, such as Bay Area, things are just peacock feathers wonderful. So...while it is very unfair to own a AZ-TX Leaf that loses bars before it hits its first year and 10,000 miles, and forced to go through the hassle of pushing Nissan to do something about it, I consider myself lucky to live in a place where none of that has taken place so far.

I charge 100% every night, and the car holds its 73 freeway mile radius like a champ. One very happy owner here.

On the other hand, I do look forward to 2013 and what innvation that I don't know about yet is coming (i.e. different battery tech with more range Nissan is so tight-lipped about). I have this feeling I'll be selling and buying a Leaf next year depending on what's in the hopper. And if the battery tech is improved, I may even spurge on leather. Darker dashboard? Sold.

· · 2 years ago

"I've read about different types of lithium batteries and LiMn2O4 are known for their capacity loss when overheating. Then LiFePO4 seems to be much better for higher temperatures also has more life-cycles. Why they didn't use them?"

Good question, imiev user. A couple of years ago, people were basically ho-hum about LiFePO4, because the power density is slightly lower than other lithium formulas. A fraction of a volt or amp per individual cell doesn't sound like much, but it adds up when you've got hundreds of cells in a car-sized pack.

I'm pulling numbers out of the air here and someone might want to do the real math, but a Leafs 24 kWh pack built with LiFePO4s (ie: to the same physical size) might only yield, say, 20 kWh. Again . . . my numbers are very much rule of thumb. But I think I'm in the general ballpark.

Regardless . . . that difference is going to affect range. Before the battery depletion issue became such a hot topic (pun intended,) I think range was the only thing both manufacturer and customer was really concerned about. Now, of course, people are clamoring for more range AND some assurance of greater long term reliability in a high heat environment.

Nissan's current pack is made via a joint venture between Nissan and NEC. I think I read somewhere that Hitachi is the vendor Nissan will go with for the 2013 Tennessee-assembled Leafs. Whoever is going to make the pack, it's already claimed to have more range than the old one. If it is Hitachi, it's probably going to be a variation of the current Leaf's LiMn2O4. According to Hitachi's site, they use more manganese than competitive brands . . .

http://phys.org/news190018064.html

If Hitachi's ad hype is true, this is supposed to yield a longer-lasting battery with greater power density.

I was also surprised to read from one of Tony William's posts (tis true, Neil) that the current production Nissan pack doesn't have ANY cooling fans and relies on a semi vacuum packing of sort sort, basically to protect it from excessive moisture. The prototype Leafs packs had cooling fans, though.

Could Nissan's new battery be a unit with Hitachi cells and cooling fans similar to what was found in the prototype Leaf packs? Possibly. But we'll probably just have to wait and see . . . as we will have to wait and see if Nissan is prepared to swap these into some or all earlier generation Leafs.

Getting back to LiFePO4s, the ones that seem to be the most robust in high heat situations are the new (not generally available until early 2013) A123 EXT units . . .

http://insideevs.com/a123-updates-next-gen-nanophosphate-ext-batteries-s...

I think that these are what's going into the Chevy Spark EV.

iMievs now seem to moving away from packs made by GS Yuasa and to Hitachi-made units that are a Lithium Titanate Oxide formula . . .

http://www.autoobserver.com/2011/06/mitsubishi-chooses-toshiba-scib-batt...

The generally favorable asset to these is the ability to charge more quickly than other lithium formulas.

I know a lot of folks here are very excited to see what will become of the Envia units, which are promised to be only a few years off. Far greater energy density is promised than anything shown above, as well as lower price. We'll see . . .

http://enviasystems.com/

World2Steven: so sorry to hear that you are now in the "eleven bar club." Are you going try to make it down to the Arizona Inn this Sunday? Call the station tomorrow (Friday,) if you can. I'll be there from 10AM to 3PM.

· iletric (not verified) · 2 years ago

I tell you this. If I lost a bar or 2 I'd be taking matters into my own hands and call A123 or Envia asking for assistance, begging them to put their hardware in my semi-disabled Leaf and embarass Nissan.

· · 2 years ago

@Benjamin - Keep up the good work! Your posts are like reading a Reader's Digest for EV news. I probably won't make it down to your end of town today. The contractors are putting the finishing touches on new roof space for the patio so I can get back to paying only the grid connection charge for my electricity and more carport space so my wife will have someplace to park her car for the remaining 22 months of my LEAF lease - a far better use for volatile Wall Street IRA and 401K 'wealth' (sic) than watching it evaporate in the inevitable next financial crisis.

I WILL be at the Arizona Inn sometime between 9 and 1 pm Sunday. If I don't catch you there, it should be easier after next week when the dust settles.

Needless to say, after the above SOMETHING electric is going to be around for the (my) duration.

· · 2 years ago

This would all be much less of a worry with a range extender on board.

· · 2 years ago

Thanks, world2steven. Local media coverage has been abysmal for our local NPID effort so far. I'm almost feeling now that personal invites might be the only way get the word out. I'll be there all day, mostly around the TEVA2 table.

ilectric: I think you've hit it on the head. Let's hypothetically say that Nissan will only honor factory battery pack replacements on just some of the current generation Leafs. The vehicles with older, stock batteries will always be suspect in the eyes of consumers (possibly to be picked up at pennies on the dollar used) and would be a prime candidate for an aftermarket upgrade. A123's EXT looks to be a perfect fit for super heat requirements . . . and it's almost here.

If I had a Leaf and lived in a hot climate (the latter already true,) and the car was losing battery capacity fast, would I consider a replacement battery with slight less energy density (translate to slight less range) but almost guaranteed never to deplete further? You bet I would.

· CT (not verified) · 2 years ago

Sorry to hear about the AZ Leaf problems. Mine is working great here in Northern CA. Juat made the hilly drive to the beach. Sixty mile round trip at 50+ mph. The car averaged a little over 6 miles per bar. Great surf car. Never going back to gas.

· · 2 years ago

@Priusmaniac,
"This would all be much less of a worry with a range extender on board."

True, but you would still have a battery that is shot. It's best to engineer it properly from the beginning.

· · 2 years ago

@Benjamin Nead,
"If I had a Leaf and lived in a hot climate (the latter already true,) and the car was losing battery capacity fast, would I consider a replacement battery with slight less energy density (translate to slight less range) but almost guaranteed never to deplete further? You bet I would."

And you are going to pay for this out of your own pocket?

Not me.

Also there is no battery on the planet that won't deplete further, at least with age.

· · 2 years ago

Micheal: You'd answer your own question if you'd read the previous paragraph to the one you quoted.

Yes, there are no batteries that are going to last forever. There are also no internal combustion engines, tires, computers, toaster ovens or track shoes that won't wear out eventually.

So . . . what are you proposing? We give up everything?

· Tony Williams (not verified) · 1 year ago

"Secondly, the range is a very inaccurate way to measure battery capacity. People drive differently, the conditions are different, the tires may be low, it may be colder or hotter, the speed may be very high -- I mean really..."

Neil,

Apparently, you didn't actually read the parameters of the test. All 48 tires were set to 36 psi (by me personally), the weather reports with temperature were published, and the speed was set to 100 km/h by GPS and held at that speed with the cruise control.

I mean, really?

Tony

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