Nissan Prepares Cold Weather Package for All-Electric LEAF

By · April 21, 2011

The Chevy Volt charging up under a pile of snow

The Chevy Volt charging up under a pile of snow. Nissan is preparing the LEAF for next winter.

Nissan is planning to finally introduce its cold weather package for the electric LEAF, presenting a solution—similar to that taken by the Chevy Volt—to the vexing problem of reduced range when the heater is running.

After his keynote address at the New York Auto Show, Nissan’s chairman of the Americas, Carlos Tavares, denied that the package—which includes heated seats, a duct to direct warmth to the back seat, temperature management for the battery pack, a heated steering wheel and heated mirror—was a response to LEAF customers reporting reduced range of 20 percent or more with the heater running. Indeed, Nissan initially described the system last year, but did not put a price on it or make it available on the early cars.

Tavares didn’t announce a price for the cold weather package, but he did say it will be standard on cars headed for chillier states, and optional elsewhere.
Tavares said that Nissan had gotten “no specific complaints so far” about the loss of range in cold weather, which seems odd because a lot of people have complained about it to me. Presumably, the system will be able to reduce the output of the power-robbing electric heater and compensate by heating the seats, wheel and mirror. The Volt has an “eco” mode that works similarly, but some reviewers have complained that it leaves them with warm hands and hindquarters—and cold everywhere else.

The cold weather performance issue has been trumpeted as a sleeping giant for automakers. Now that spring is upon us, they have a bit of a breather to get some quick fixes in place. Because next winter will be here before you know it.


· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 7 years ago

Insulation may be part of the answer. The Panasonic U-Vacua could be integrated in car. A reversable airco used as a heat pump can also reduce the heating electrical consumption in comparison with resistor based systems. Perhaps car preheating from the grid connection can avoid the need for on the road seat heating.

· · 7 years ago

At last years NY Auto Show. I had a LEAF rep all to myself for about a half hour one of the things we talked about was this cold weather package. I was told that they probably wouldn't have it until sometime in 2012 though and that it probably could be retrofitted onto an existing customers car if they bought an early LEAF and were then unhappy with the cold weather performance. I would imagine it would be quite an expensive upgrade if someone wanted to do it though.

· kevin (not verified) · 7 years ago

Good to hear they are talking about this finally. I would guess the 2012's will be the first to get this option package, and that those will be produced starting late 2011 or early 2012 in line with the tier 2 states orders and sales.

Nissan would do well by themselves to communcate this detail and others about timing of orders directly to their customers instead of making us guess.....

· kevin (not verified) · 7 years ago

BTW, there is video on youtube of what appear to be cold pack equipped Leaf cars being used at a Leaf tour in Japan (this was January 2011)

the cars clearly had heated seats and steering wheels that were operational according to the comments of the test drivers. I know thats not the whole package (battery heater is a whole seperate device) but it does show Nissan has been testing these items for a bit now

· Jim McL (not verified) · 7 years ago

I recall the Mini E would stop charging if the battery temp approached the single digits in F. Ener Del claims their battery in the Think will charge down to -13 degrees F, although more slowly. They also claim normal performance between -4 and +104 F. I suspect that is a bit of a stretch. But the molten salt battery they use in Norway is apparently not bothered at all by the cold, unless you leave it unplugged long enough to cool down. That takes days.

New Think EV US web site just went up this week:
Big improvement, all the manuals, all the state incentives, pricing, inventory. Shipping included to the lower 48 apparently. 20+ cars available today.

But nothing much on the molten salt battery.

· · 7 years ago

Our cars get buried in snow like that Volt from time to time. However, yesterday we took delivery on a 2011 LEAF without a cold weather package, and I think we'll be just fine. During the winter months, we normally keep our jackets on while driving and don't feel the need for a huge amount of heat from the car. (BTW, this works out well in the Prius for maximizing cold weather gas mileage.) As for the range hit, my understanding is that the Volt even with its battery thermal management still loses some electric range in the cold.

· · 7 years ago

"Presumably, the system will be able to reduce the output of the power-robbing electric heater and compensate by heating the seats, wheel and mirror. "

First of all adding heat to a mirror will consume more energy, not less, and seems pointless. Second, I doubt the heater is hurting range that much, it's more likely a cold battery pack, which will accept less charge and also have reduced output when cold. Active heating of the pack when plugged in will be the most effective part of the package.

· · 7 years ago

Abasile: Congratulations on getting your LEAF! I wish you gook luck and much fun with the car.

You know what this means, don't you? Now you can start reporting here on your experiences with the car, and instead of asking questions, you can start answering them! ex-Ev1, Darell and I can start to relax a bit now that you and others are going to be experienced EV owners and start to help out the newbies here like we did for you the past year or so!

· Brian (not verified) · 7 years ago

All of the discussion here refers to driver comfort and range performance. Has Nissan released anything in regards to battery degradation due to cold temperatures? I can deal with a shortened range because of the heater, this is normal - my gas-guzzler gets worse mileage in the winter than the summer. What I worry about is the battery suffering a premature death due to sub-zero temperatures every winter.

· · 7 years ago

Brian, no need to worry about that. Extreme high temperatures are harmful to the battery pack, not cold temperatures (unless you just leave it outside for weeks at a time without charging/driving it at all in sub zero temps) Haven't you ever heard of storing your unused household batteries in the refrigerator to make them last longer? The only thing I think you need to worry about in the cold weather is a reduced range.

· Brian (not verified) · 7 years ago

Tom, yes, I have heard of storing single-use alkaline batteries in the fridge. However, from personal experience, I can tell you with absolute certainty that rechargeable lithium batteries are a different story. I have lost several cell phone batteries from leaving my phone in the car when it is below freezing. I know not all battery chemistries are the same, but I presume that the Leaf's battery is closer to my cell phone than the alkaline AA batteries in your fridge.

· Brian (not verified) · 7 years ago

On re-reading my second post, I want to clarify my point. "Absolute certainty" is strong, and misleading wording. What I know is that 1) different battery chemistries have different needs and behaviors, 2) I have had trouble with lithium cell phone batteries at low temperatures, more than once. What I don't know is how the Leaf's battery - or any other car's for that matter - behaves when exposed to low temperatures. I have not read anything conclusive either way about what the lack of thermal management means for the Leaf's battery. I do know that my buddy's Volt will start the engine when it is below 26F to protect the battery (not just to extend the range). My original question is, has Nissan formally released any information either way on this topic?

· · 7 years ago

Battery capacity will be reduced at lower temperatures. Some lithium chemistries used in auto's are not harmed by lower temperatures, (LiMn, LiFePO4), though LiCo, as used in the Roadster, and probably your cell phone, may be, which is why Tesla uses more active temperature management. LiCo is also more problematic at higher temps, which is another reason for aggressive temp control by Tesla. LiMn as used in the LEAF has fewer temp issues.

· · 7 years ago

I should mention that I kept an 18650 LiCo cell in the fridge for a year or more and it's now working fine in my GPS.

· Brian (not verified) · 7 years ago

JRP3 - thanks for the info. If that's true, then the rest of the "cold weather issues" are just noise. The real "cold weather issue" facing the Leaf is availability- when can I get mine? If it's not available, the range degradation doesn't matter. And we all know Nissan has been less than transparent on their rollout plans, yet I see Leaf commercials right next to local "Used Car King" commercials. What a tease!

· JJ - from Canada (not verified) · 7 years ago

The heater isn't just for driver comfort.
We need it to defrost the windshield.
When you have freezing rain coming down on the windshield or during a snow storm or ice pellets, wipers don't work too good if you have ice forming on the windshield.
Windshield washer fluid helps but not enough and you can't keep spraying the windshield every 2 minutes.

And then there's the inside of the windshield that freezes up from breathing. I can't stop breathing while I'm driving.

The stupid thing with ICE cars is how we have to wait for the motor to warm up for 10 minutes of idling to be able to get the windshield warm enough to drive safely.

I had a car with electric seats and that's a good idea. Our body insulates the seats and the heat transfers directly to the body.

· · 7 years ago

Thank you for the kind words, Tom. Yes, I am certainly looking forward to becoming an experienced EV owner.

With respect to cold, my only real concern with the LEAF would be stressing the battery by charging it to 100% while it's warm and then cooling it dramatically while still at 100% SOC. This seems potentially stressful because the battery capacity drops in the cold, so it could effectively end up having a charge level above what we call 100% SOC. Note that, at this point, this concern is pure speculation on the part of some of us. My only experience thus far is that I charged our LEAF to 80%, and then it reflected 83% SOC later in the day (temp in the low 50s). Also, the above concern completely goes away if you either charge to only 80% or if you charge to 100% and then start driving (or pre-heating) shortly after the end of charging.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

Perhaps the cold weather package explains the price difference between the US and Canada for the LEAF ($32,800 vs $38,395, respectively). Since the Canadian dollar is more or less at par, I would guess that some of the difference (about $5,500) is the cost of the cold weather package. I assume the cold weather package would be standard equipment in Canada (it should be).

· · 7 years ago

That's not quite why battery capacity is reduced in the cold. It's not as if the size shrinks and then you have excess charge. If you charge the pack when it's warm and then it cools down that's not a problem. The reason that capacity decreases in the cold is because internal resistance increases as the temperature drops. This means that as you charge the voltage rises higher than normal. For example, if the pack is normally set to stop charging at say 300 volts at 70 F when it's 30 F it will hit 300 volts before the pack actually has it's full amount of amp hours. Potentially the charger can be temperature compensated to allow higher voltage in lower temps but it would also require a longer charge time and reduced current, it gets complicated. It's easier to just heat the pack when charging. Basically voltage is an indirect indicator of state of charge, it's influenced by temperature and charge current. The gauge may indicate a higher SOC at lower temps but it is not actually a higher SOC. Remember also that Nissan, and all companies, do not actually allow the user to charge to the actual 100% mark so there is always some room.

· · 7 years ago

It takes a lot less energy just to defrost or defog a windshield than it does to heat the whole vehicle. Clearing the windshield should not impact range in any meaningful way. Trying to keep the whole car at 75F might if you're driving for an hour or more. I don't know how many watts the heater is in the LEAF, but if it's 2 kw, (home space heaters are 1.5 kw max), you'd lose 2 kwhs in an hour of driving, which is probably between 6-10 miles of range, depending on how you are driving.

· · 7 years ago

Great photo above!

I am a bit skeptical that the cold weather package is going to improve winter fuel economy dramatically. While pre-heating will improve performance of the battery, the package is directed towards cabin heating savings but cannot pre-heat or conserve heat in the mechanicals, or improve road conditions. How much heat does it take to warm up the air space in a car and keep it that way with the windows up and the doors closed ?

It will help to be sure, but purchasers should not expect balmy climate numbers in the winter, even with a cold weather package.

· cyclone (not verified) · 7 years ago

my concern living near in ontario canada would be this: car parked in garage over night, you unplug car from off peak charging over night, Then drive car to work 18mi/29km one way to work and in the employee parking lot it sits for 8hrs in -15C weather. Then after work you drive another 29km home and park in the garage to plug in over night again.

If the battery goes through this cycle for 10yrs can I still get the range of 100 miles or at least 75 out of it? The heater was always my issue with these electric cars - as a side note the indoor temperature of the garage is usually 0 to -3 when it is -15 outside.

· · 7 years ago

Not sure I understand your concerns. With a preheated pack you can get a full charge into it. With a preheated cabin you can drive quite a ways without using the car heater at all. The motor and inverter which usually need cooling in warmer weather wont need it and will quickly warm up on their own during driving.

· · 7 years ago

@JRP3: Thanks for the explanation. Based on that, there should be no problem at all charging to the user-allowed "100%" SOC if one expects significant cooling of the pack, i.e., leaving the car outside for hours. (Of course, it's still best to charge to only 80% if range is not a concern.)

· · 7 years ago

Abasile: I understand your thoughts on not charging to 100%, but remember, the car won't let you charge it to 100% anyway. I'm not sure what % of the battery Nissan uses, but I doubt it's more than 80 or 85% so even if you charge to 100% (allowable) you are still only charging the battery to about 90%. The MINI-E uses 80% of the battery and actually even less because when you hot 0 on the range meter you still have 10% of the battery for a "reserve" so the 0-100% charge is only about 70% of the batteries total 35kWh. When I charge it to 100% SOC, it's really only about 85% charged.

· JJ- from Canada (not verified) · 7 years ago

JRP3 with electric heat, it's instant.
No need to wait for the engine to warm up. (yeahhh)
Electric seats are great too. I don't think they'd take much electricity.
I'd turn them off in my previous car one I was warm.
It just gets the damp-cold out of the seat.

Anonymous... it better be standard :-)
Do you remember last time we were above par about 2 years ago and people were importing cars from the US.
But I haven't heard of that this year now that we are above par.

· · 7 years ago

Yes I realize you don't need to wait for the engine to warm up, there is no engine. I'm not sure what your point is. I was just pointing out that you can defrost your windshield without heating the whole car and without using much energy.

· JJ- from Canada (not verified) · 7 years ago

JRP3 - ok... good point.

· · 7 years ago

All true in your post. I am saying that I suspect that cabin savings heating from electric seats etc will still leave a prominent winter hit in winter consumption. My WAG how much is --- uncertain ;)

· JJ- Can (not verified) · 7 years ago

Sage Brush once the seats are warm which takes about 5 to 10 minutes you can turn it off.
The body sitting on the seat is like a big insulating blob.
The electric seats really help to get the damp cold feeling out of them.

· · 7 years ago

@JRP3 "I don't know how many watts the heater is in the LEAF.."

It can go upto 5KW. Usually my Leaf uses about 3.5KW.

"Potentially the charger can be temperature compensated to allow higher voltage in lower temps but it would also require a longer charge time and reduced current, it gets complicated."

For a car with a sophesticated IT system, this shouldn't be a problem. They probably have a temperature dependant map of the battery SOC vs Voltage. Leaf also does cell balancing once the charging is complete (and adds a bit of charge).

My feeling is all the Leaf pack warmer will be to heat the pack only under extreme cold conditions. Seat warmers are very useful ofcourse.

One other thing to note is Volt even with thermally managed pack suffers as much in the cold in terms of range as Leaf. Most of that is because of the energy spent in heating the cabin.

· · 7 years ago

5 kw during an hour long trip can eat up 5 kwh of pack capacity, a significant portion of the 24 kwh pack. Even 3 kwh is a good chunk, maybe 12 miles or so of range at 250 wh/mi. I'm surprised it takes that much to keep the car warm, what sort of outside temps are you seeing at 3.5 kw, and how warm is the vehicle?

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.