Nissan Software Update for 2011/12 LEAFs Yields Promising Results

By · June 18, 2013

Software Update

Ten days ago, Nissan North America announced expanded battery pack capacity warranty coverage for 2011 and 2012 model year LEAF electric cars. At the same time, it announced the same cars would be given various software updates to improve range calculation, battery capacity reporting, and charger compatibility.

Since then, a steady stream of 2011 and 2012 LEAF owners have had their cars updated at their local dealers. So far, the software update—which Nissan is calling a “software enhancement” is yielding positive results. Nissan said the software update gives 2011 and 2012 LEAFs the same battery management algorithms found in 2013 LEAFs by reprogramming the car’s on-board lithium-ion battery controller.

Additional Range, Improved Charging

In addition to improving the accuracy of the car’s on-board range-estimation and battery capacity reporting, the update is reported to give LEAF owners an average of five miles of additional range per charge. “I would say it has added five miles of range,” Washington-based high-mileage LEAF driver Steve Marsh told PluginCars.com in an email. “The update was done over the weekend. I am in much better shape.”

With more than 80,500 miles on the odometer, Marsh’s LEAF is believed to be the highest mileage privately-owned LEAF in the U.S. Driving it between 120 and 130 miles per day, Marsh was starting to worry if his LEAF—which recently lost its first capacity bar—would soon need a replacement battery pack in order to cope with his arduous daily commute.

In addition, the update—known as the P3227 reprogram by LEAF aficionados—also updates the car’s on-board charger software. While this update won’t magically make older LEAFs charge as fast as new 2013 LEAFs, it does address a previous known compatibility issue between the LEAF and certain brands of public charging stations that previously prevented charging from taking place.

Generally Positive Reviews

For high-mileage Marsh, the update was a much-needed improvement to his trusty LEAF. “I won’t be needing the quick chargers at this level of range,” he said. “So some love from Nissan. I feel so much better.”

On the MyNissanLEAF forum, where LEAF owners have been discussing the software update in great detail. Many who had the update said they experienced an improvement—in reported and actual range—to the one experienced by Marsh. Others have not noticed a huge difference in range, primarily because they don’t drive enough on a daily basis to completely drain their car’s battery pack.

While the majority of feedback for the warranty and software upgrade is positive, some—especially those in warmer states whose cars have suffered significant battery capacity loss as a result of premature, heat-induced battery aging—remain suspicious of Nissan’s latest LEAF software update. To many, the update is yet another chapter in the ongoing battle with Nissan to acknowledge that LEAFs are not yet ready for life in extremely hot climates.

Regardless, anyone with a 2011 and 2012 LEAF will likely want to visit their local dealer for the update, since it provides the same battery management found in the 2013 LEAFs for free. Anything missing from the update? Yes, the facility to view battery state of charge as a percentage on the LEAF’s dashboard. That, said Nissan, isn’t possible on older cars.

Comments

· · 43 weeks ago

I'm surprised these updates can't be downloaded to the car via WiFi as Tesla does, rather than having to make a trip to the dealer.

· · 43 weeks ago

The existence of the software update is a positive sign in my mind. It tells me that Nissan is more willing to support their owners than other OEMs. For example, Honda released a software update for their IMA hybrid system, which increased my gas mileage by ~5-10%. BUT, I had to find out about it through InsightCentral.net, AND I had to find a back door to get my dealer to hook up the car. The dealer had never heard of the update. Nissan, by contrast, is mailing out letters to all owners/leasers informing them of it.

As for "increased range", I haven't read the forum yet, but I wonder if it really "increases" the range, or simply reduces the decrease in range seen by those such as Mr. Marsh. Nissan's first response to the degradation fiasco was that it is an "instrumentation problem" which was artificially over-restricting available capacity from the battery.

"Anything missing from the update? Yes, the facility to view battery state of charge as a percentage on the LEAF’s dashboard. That, said Nissan, isn’t possible on older cars."

I am going to go ahead and call their bluff here. A fellow on the MNL forum developed an Android app which works in conjunction with a OBDII-to-Bluetooth reader, which reports the battery's percent state of charge. A friend showed it to me this weekend, and I was so impressed, I immediately bought myself the same OBDII reader.

Others on the forum refer to a "GID Meter" which measures the state of charge on a scale from 0-281. Simply divide this number by 2.81, and you have percent state of charge. It isn't rocket science.

· · 43 weeks ago

"Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity".

I don't think that Nissan is being evil when they say it's impossible to display battery state of charge as a percentage on the old cars. I suspect that showing them how it's done might move things along a little better though.

It's probably more to the effect that they can't use the same software from the 2013 model year to display % SOC. Maybe they don't measure it in "Gids" anymore.

· · 43 weeks ago

Well said Brian. Kudos Nissan, and thank you. Very welcome move indeed.

Btw, for those interested, the battery meter app he mentioned is described here:
http://www.mynissanleaf.com/wiki/index.php?title=Leaf_Battery_Application
True watt-hour data however is on a different CAN bus, which a Gid-meter can access:
http://www.wwwsite.com/puzzles/socmeter/

How accurate SoC really is on the 2011/2012 Leafs has been questioned though; Gids seem dependent on temperature, vary from car to car...
My guess would be that Nissan fitted better sensors on the 2013, and sees this as a prerequisite to reliably display more granular SoC. No stupidity nor malice, quite the opposite actually: a prudent business decision.

@Michael: I work in computer/network security and I've seen my share of scary stuff. I wouldn't touch a car which self-updates over-the-air with a 10-meter pole unless this functionality can be fully disabled; even then I might replace the antenna with a terminator, just to be sure...

· · 43 weeks ago

Several years ago I bought a new TV that required a downloadable firmware update. I'm convinced that this particular set was some sort of beta model, as online/phone tech support kept referring me to downloads with similar model numbers, as there was nothing on their web site with an exact model number match.

Cutting to the chase, the "sorta, kinda the same" model number download ended up bricking the set so badly that the local retailer couldn't untangle it. Fortunately, new and under warranty, I exchanged it for one of the same brand but different model (one that had a dedicated web page on the factory site) that has worked flawlessly ever since.

While the above might be an extreme example of what can go wrong, I would want a way to default to the previous software/firmware on something like an EV if the newest version proved buggy . . . and, yes, there's a certain confidence factor in having a factory trained tech do this sort of thing for you.

· · 43 weeks ago

It would be nice if we had public charger incompatibility information. It would have saved me personally a lot of wasted time and wasted driving. Since there is enough misinformation 'out there' the only way one knows for sure is either to get info from a trusted source, or develop the info yourself.

Standardization dates from who? Eli Whitney? You'd think these Bozos would know better after 200 years... Or maybe the real truth is lazyness , NIH** , in addition to incompetence.

**Not invented here. To give some meanless distinction without a difference, and to allow undeserving engineering groups the honor to snap their suspenders 'Spencer Tracy-esque', we have the situation of non-standard standardized, and incompatible compatible public chargers.

· · 40 weeks ago

I just returned from the dealership after attempting to have them install P3227 (A.K.A NTB13061). The VCM is now fried. The car doesn't work at all. They said a new VCM will be ordered, and it will take a few days. While I was there talking to the Service Manager about the incident, they fried a second VCM on another Leaf. Both were 2012 model years. If you have a 2012, I recommend that you wait a bit before trying this update. There appears to be issues that need to be resolved.

· · 8 weeks ago

Leaf has some great software with car wings. I leased base model 2013 with upgrade for quick charge plug but I could not afford car wings. I have an apple 4s IPhone which synchs up with radio and hands free dialing. I hope Nissan keeps the software updates coming to improve functionality and battery life. Lion battery charging/health/operation is still a bit of a mystery to the dealers and those who wrote the manual. Reminds me of the early PC days when 3rd party software for hard drive maintenance was useful. However I would only trust a Nissan dealer to do any software upgrades so that there are no warranty issues.

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