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.

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