Nissan Testing New Battery Pack to Address Problems with LEAF in Hot Weather

By · August 26, 2013

Nissan LEAF modules />

Nissan executives told a gathering of LEAF drivers in Phoenix on Saturday night that company engineers are currently testing a revised lithium-ion battery chemistry that appears to withstand extremes of heat far better than the cells found in existing LEAF battery packs.

As GreenCarReports explained, Nissan executives said the new packs are performing well at an internal sustained temperature of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) without showing any signs of heat-induced loss of capacity. Instead, the new cell chemistry demonstrates characteristics in line with existing LEAF battery packs found in cooler climates like Seattle.

Without an active liquid-cooled battery management system—as found in cars like the Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Volt, and BMW ActiveE—the lithium-ion battery pack in Nissan’s LEAF electric hatchback is vulnerable to heat. In places like Phoenix, that can lead to premature degradation of the battery pack, resulting in a loss of range completely unacceptable to owners. The issue has been a headache for Nissan customer-service headache and a public relations mess.

A revised battery chemistry being tested by Nissan could put an end to heat-induced premature battery aging—although the company is not talking about a liquid-cooled system that has essentially become standard in the industry.

As Soon As April

Nissan plans to start manufacturing battery packs with the modified cell chemistry by April next year, and will use the newly-built packs to replace existing LEAF battery packs replaced under its battery capacity loss warranty.

At Saturday’s meeting, executives from Nissan—including Nissan’s chief global marketing officer Andy Palmer, along with Billy Hayes, Nissan’s vice president for global electric car sales, as well as two communications executives—said that less than one tenth of a percent of LEAFs sold in the U.S. through July this year have suffered premature battery aging, and only 22 battery packs have been replaced under warranty for battery issues.

In a gesture of goodwill, executives said that should the new battery pack chemistry pass validation and enter production, the owners of those 22 cars will be sent a coupon, keyed to the car’s VIN and transferable between current and future owners of the car. If those 22 cars require a second battery pack within five years, Nissan says the coupon will entitle the owner to a further replacement battery pack, built using the more robust cells.

At the meeting, discussion also turned to Nissan’s replacement battery program. Frustrated that Nissan’s current plan to lease, rather than sell, replacement battery packs, owners peppered the executives with questions about its battery program.

Admitting that the program was “still evolving,” Hayes told the assembled crowd that at some point in the future, Nissan may end up selling replacement battery packs to customers after a pre-determined period, essentially allowing them to end the lease and buy the replacement battery pack outright after a set period of time or miles.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

Further details will flesh out the offer, but this at first blush seems like a good deal for Tucson Leaf owners. Supposedly the limit for plain batteries is a temperature of 87 degrees, so 113 degrees is definitely a technology advance, and the chance Nissan is taking about successfully designing a higher temperature battery apparently is paying off.

If larger battery packs are ever to become standard or optional equipment in future evs, (say 110 kwh or better), the price can remain reasonable if a huge amount of $$$ is not necessary to condition the battery. Now if the same battery will also work when it is very cold, or, at least not be damaged by the cold but may be enlivened with a heater, then that would be even better.

The danger here is Nissan's policy being too parsimonious with current loyal Tucson owners. No question they should be given the new battery pack gratis, or at least for a small fee commensurate with the number of miles driven on the older battery. They got a raw deal in the past, and Nissan's prior Stingyness should change.

· · 1 year ago

The big problem is that the LEAF's original batteries should never have been air-cooled. In hot weather in the UK, (hot for the UK = 85-90 degrees ambient) the LEAF's battery pack reached 120 degrees F for several days after rapid charging,

My LEAF seems fine now after a short period of time -- but I can imagine it wouldn't have been had it been exposed to that kind of heat for any longer.

· · 1 year ago

Nissan seems to see the future as EVs sans TMS. If they can make this work, it could give them a leg up on the competition. If not, their current market lead could be all for naught.

· · 1 year ago

As Nikki notes, it can get hotter than that at the pack level even in the UK.

They kludged the battery, with a low cycle chemistry and no proper temperature management, and now they are kludging the fix.

They don't even give details of the chemistry they are turning to.

The Leaf has the worst engineered battery pack of any of the cars out there.

· · 1 year ago

As Nikki notes, it can get hotter than that at the pack level even in the UK.

They kludged the battery, with a low cycle chemistry and no proper temperature management, and now they are kludging the fix.

They don't even give details of the chemistry they are turning to.

The Leaf has the worst engineered battery pack of any of the cars out there.

· · 1 year ago

So does this mean that people thinking of getting a LEAF should hold on and wait until at least April of next year? Would one be able to tell if a particular car has the new cells? Does it mean that Nissan has now officially admitted that there is an issue with the batteries?

Did EVchels made them do it? ;)

· · 1 year ago

There has to be some other specs that change? Different chemistry must mean different capacity and/or different DOD and/or different weight, etc.

Neil

· · 1 year ago

@Neil:
I suspect it is not very different.
They have likely doped the chemistry, as GM did when they moved a little from manganese spinel, adding a bit of cobalt, I think it was.

· · 1 year ago

vdiv:
If you are getting a Leaf, IMO leasing makes more sense anyway, if you are in a temperate climate.
Why take on the risk yourself, when at a very reasonable rate you can leave the risk with Nissan?
Then in 3 years time you can move on to whatever is hot in late 2016.

If you live in an Arizona like climate, I would not touch the Leaf with a bargepole, even leased.
I would only take on any other electric car in that sort of climate even with an actively cooled battery on a lease basis after carefully scrutinising the terms and conditions of the lease.

Consistent high temperatures murder batteries, even lead acid starter batteries.
It is just that they are cheaper to replace.

· · 1 year ago

Is it really that "costly" to add a liquid cooling system to the car?

I think Nissan is just stucking to it b/c anything else would prove that its "design" is "inferior" to others...

· · 1 year ago

You know, this goes back to the old argument about the "greenness" of EVs. There are some caveats. Your mileage may vary. Local conditions may apply.

The *only* places that the Leaf has had any trouble with permanent battery degradation are in some of the hottest places on earth. Does this affect you if you live in New York, France, the UK, or Canada? No. Not a single owner from any of these places have had this issue. Should *you* hold off on getting a Leaf until they start manufacturing and selling cars with the new battery? I don't know. Do you live in Arizona, southern Spain, or Saudi Arabia? If not, you're just being paranoid about nothing, like worrying about whether or not you should slather on the SPF 80 in Northern Finland in wintertime.

· · 1 year ago

I couldn't live in such hot areas anyway, I'd die of heat stroke before the batteries. I hate the heat.

· · 1 year ago

I'm with you, Spec.

· · 1 year ago

We don't live in a super hot climate, but our 2011 LEAF's battery pack has certainly degraded faster than desired because of heat. At 39K miles, about 15% of the battery's capacity has been lost. That's pretty good compared to other LEAF owners in Southern California, down the mountain from us, but far from impressive.

It's too bad we won't have enough capacity loss to trigger the warranty - one of those 2014 packs would be nice! But I'm definitely not okay with the idea of intentionally abusing the battery to get a new pack under warranty. And I'm also not willing to lease a car or any component thereof.

· · 1 year ago

It's only unbearable, Spec and Brian, in the summer months. The so-called winter down here is like an 8 month transition from early fall to late spring . . . almost paradise. Having spent my first 24 years in Pennsylvania, I don't miss the winter snow and frigid cold one bit.

Regarding the battery news: it appears to be a good development. I talked to local Leaf owner who attended this seminar and he was impressed with what he heard. Nissan took a while to acknowledge hot climate battery problems but are now on their way to addressing them. Whether every last affected customer is going to be satisfied by the outcome remains to be seen.

· · 14 weeks ago

The new desert heat tolerant battery will be in all 2015 LEAF vehicles. It should also be the replacement battery for any claims. I can't wait to see how it holds up.

No liquid cooling saves energy and money with less equipment and weight. It will be very impressive and may be a key to better Electrics.

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