Nissan Responds to LEAF Battery Capacity Loss in Hot Weather
In May, reports surfaced related to potential battery capacity loss in a handful of Nissan LEAFs. All of the affected vehicles were driven in warm climates, in locations such as Arizona. Several owners of 2011 Nissan LEAFs said that one of the twelve lights on the battery capacity gauge had forever disappeared, indicating a possible 15-percent drop in battery capacity, according to the Nissan LEAF's workshop manual.
All of the affected vehicles had less than 17,000 miles on the odometer prior to the indicated loss of battery capacity and most were on the road for less than one year. Nissan's stance at the time the reports first surfaced was to brush it off as too minor to matter. "We’re aware of a few isolated cases where a very small number of consumers are reporting a one bar loss," said a company spokesperson. "Battery life is contingent upon many variables related to driving habits and conditions. We are confident that if owners care for their vehicles properly, they will experience many years of enjoyable driving."
But Nissan is apparently now taking the issue more seriously. A recent post to Nissan's Facebook page announced that Carla Bailo, senior vice president of research and development for Nissan Americas, wrote an open letter to LEAF Owners on MyNissanLEAF.com, the forum whose community helped bring concerns to our attention.
"We are committed to working closely with our owners who have reported battery capacity loss to get answers that the LEAF community deserve in a timely and transparent manner," wrote Bailo. "Nissan engineers from our Arizona Testing Center and around the world will study each customer case, work to understanding the root cause and will determine next steps to satisfy our customers."
For an in-depth read of the LEAF's potential battery capacity lost issues, check out the 180-plus pages of posts on MyNissanLEAF.com. It now seems this issue is not as isolated as Nissan suggested. Some LEAF owners now report losing a second and even a third battery capacity bar. Nearly all of those reporting capacity loss reside in either Arizona or Texas.
Nissan's decision to use a so-called passive air-cooled system—rather than a more complex and expensive active air- or liquid-cooled system—has come under criticism for more than a year. One of its harshest critics has been Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who predicted that the LEAF's battery temperature will be “all over the place,” and result in “huge degradation.” In the past, Nissan has said they are extremely confident that the LEAF batteries will perform reasonably well in both hot and cold environments, but that it will likely see a performance reduction to some degree when operating at extremes.
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