Aug 21

Nissan Leaf owners fear the worst, hope for the best

 

Be it a tempest in a teapot as Nissan has loosely suggested, or further damage to the EV movement brewing, eyes are on the maker of the all-electric Leaf following its analysis of customer cars suffering premature battery failure.

A few weeks ago – Nissan will not divulge exactly when – the company borrowed and tested seven of the worst Leafs out of dozens believed to be experiencing substantial range loss.

The common denominator for the alleged battery degradation for these Arizona Leafs has been ambient heat, as is true also of cars reported in Texas and California thus far.

Drozd Family's Nissan Leaf first day - side

 

The brewing discontent among early adopters in the MyNissanLeaf.com forum is being monitored by Nissan – as noted by tracking of Tennessee and Japanese IP addresses – and the company in July issued an open letter saying it had only just been made aware of problems, valued its customers and would follow through.

Meanwhile the forum members are sifting the tealeaves for portents of how Nissan will respond, how they will in turn respond, and some note with dismay the Leafmaker’s actual lack of an attitude perceived as sufficiently forthcoming.

According to one of a few wiki pages compiled by the intrepid and tech-savvy early adopters, 33 Leafs currently have one bar loss out of 12 total bars on their digital battery gauges. An additional 19 cars currently have two bars missing – putting them deep into the zone where Nissan said would not happen for many years, and five cars have reported three bars lost.

The Leaf service manual says the first capacity bar loss represents a 15-percent loss, while each subsequent bar stands for a 6.25-percent additional loss.

There is evidence to suggest further that once these allegedly heat-degraded batteries begin to fade, they go down hill rather fast.

When we last looked at these issues late in July, we were following the case of Nathan Drozd in Texas who describes he and his wife as quintessential early adopters. Drozd’s Leaf lost its first battery capacity bar on the car’s one-year anniversary, and grimly said if he fits the trend, he expected to lose his second bar by August.

Sad to say, Drozd was right on the money.

“Just wanted to let you know, I lost my second bar today,” said Drozd via e-mail last week. “It was 23,652 miles on the odometer (3,446 from 1st bar to second bar loss). Time was almost exactly two months from the first bar (14 months total from ownership), it will be two months tomorrow.”

Nissan has said it should take five years or longer for a battery to be degraded to 80-percent charge-holding capacity, and being a technical endpoint for its specified service life – while the degraded battery could keep going as-is – it could also be said to be due for replacement. If Drozd’s battery gauge in his 14-month-old Leaf is accurate, it is telling him he is at 78.75 percent.

 

100percentSOC

With the battery 100-percent charged, this is what Drozd sees on his battery meter.

Among the possibilities being explored is that the on-board battery meter could be inaccurate, along with other potential software issues, but a number of engineers and technically knowledgeable folks besides have been monitoring their state of charge independently with their own CAN Bus-connected meters.

As for Drozd, he has simply noted significantly less traveling range compared to when his car was newer which roughly corresponds to what his battery gauge says.

Similarly, other Leaf owners report marked loss of range with the worst case we’ve heard so far being one Leaf owner with three bars missing. He can reportedly go 28 miles before he’s down to two bars total remaining, and maybe five miles up to 10 miles range remaining before he would have to call for a tow truck.

What’s more troubling are anecdotal reports that upon bench testing some of the worst customer cars’ batteries, Nissan suggested they were in better shape than their owners believed they knew to be the case.

This trend was also alleged first at the dealer level, where missing bars have been portrayed as “normal.”

But Nissan has also already replaced at least one Leaf battery in the Phoenix area. That was reportedly in November 2011, and another was replaced in April 2012. Since then – and to keep mixing metaphors – the overheated Leaf battery problems have snowballed ever since.

So where are things now?

Officially Nissan’s jury is still out. We contacted the company and spokesperson Katherine Zachary said yesterday she could share very little, although she did say a total of seven cars were tested.

The MyNissanLeaf forum members – sifting the tealeaves – have heard from at least six owners who had their cars thoroughly tested, and rumor had it this could be as many as 11 Leafs tested. Yesterday Nissan specified the count, but that’s all it has to say.

“We are studying the results of the seven cars tested and will let you know when we have something to share,” Zachary said.

Another aspect of this mystery already known is Nissan covered itself when it launched the car by not offering a battery warranty that would address issues like those now being experienced. The Chevy Volt battery is by contrast warranted, as is the similar battery in a Nissan alliance partner Renault Fluence Z.E..

It’s been observed the Volt’s battery affects emissions controls, as a degraded battery would make the engine run more often, but a Leaf with a degraded battery still emits nothing. Beyond this, Nissan has taken the warranty posture it has, which contrasts to General Motors which already suffered through the EV1 debacle, and in any case has learned some public relations lessons.

The Volt’s battery – as is true for Tesla’s – is furthermore more thoroughly engineered with a liquid cooling/heating thermal management system.

In February this year, Nissan wrote an article touting its EV prowess that said liquid heating/cooling thermal management was not necessary for U.S. climates, as follows:

When Leaf was released, possibly one aspect of its technology surprised other carmakers’ engineers the most: Nissan Leaf’s battery has no cooling system. To achieve this, the temperature is controlled by adjustment of the battery’s internal resistance, keeping the increase in battery temperature down. Based on findings from past EV technology, engineers performed simulations examining temperature increase alongside the Leaf concept, the amount of electricity used, and the frequency of charging.

When a battery has a cooling system, then more space and cost are also needed to install the system, and that can also mean a vehicle that costs more and a battery that deteriorates faster. In a nutshell, a battery without a cooling system has more merits for the customer.

A battery that can control its heating temperature without a cooling mechanism is also longer lasting, since the biggest cause of a battery’s lifespan being shortened is overheating. In other words, having a cooling system to lower the temperature of a battery in case of overheating has adverse effects on the battery’s durability – it’s better to engineer a battery system that works to avoid overheating to begin with.

 
The above line of thinking however was not how things were seen in a January 2010 Wired report suggesting the battery was under-engineered. That article was turned into an Autoblog post which has since proven potentially prophetic.

The Autoblog write-up well prior to the December 2010 Leaf launch commented on a quote by Nissan’s director of product planning for the U.S., Mark Perry.

“We don’t need thermal management for the U.S., but we are looking at the technology for Dubai and other locations like that,” said Perry. ” … We’ve gone on the record saying that the pack has a 70 to 80 percent capacity after 10 years.”

But this upbeat response didn’t quite check with Wired or Autoblog.

“While that sounds somewhat reassuring, an earlier conversation with a product planner lower down the totem pole left [Wired writer Darryl] Siry with the impression that the company had gone with the passive design because of packaging concerns rather than sound engineering determination,” wrote Autoblog. “He contrasts the approach taken in the Leaf to the active liquid temperature control design in the Chevrolet Volt and suggests that Leaf buyers opt for battery leasing to avoid potential longer-term short comings.”

Now as potential shortcomings that began showing up just 11 months into the Leaf experiment are being reported by a growing contingency of good faith Leaf buyers, patience is being urged while owners’ forum comments run the gamut, and all options are being explored.

One occupational hazard Nissan essentially took in creating an advanced battery electric vehicle is it attracted some forward-thinking people as its first customers. Many of these folks tend to be well educated, informed, proactive, assertive, and they are watching Nissan for potential improprieties, some of which have already been noted.

 

Leaf_chasing_attny_adLeaf owners have also reported being solicited by attorneys. Here’s a partial screen shot from a Web page for one firm fishing for business.

 

Said one poster:

[Forum member] Tony has been one of the strongest supporters of the LEAF and it is troubling to see the transformation in recent months. I should say that this is troubling for Nissan and its fledgling EV enterprise because clearly, unlike GM (maybe it’s really learned from the EV1 fallout), Nissan has not shown appropriate support for it’s early adopters!

Said another:

First, somebody must ask themselves what their end game is. For me, I want to see EVs succeed, and soon. Nissan could quite conceivably put a really big dent in that movement, or just make it a speed bump. This issue really is that pivotal, in my opinion.

Said another regarding possibly taking Nissan to court:

This idea of not pressuring or punishing Nissan “for the good of the EV movement” is ridiculous. You do not help a person or a cause by coddling their weaknesses. … Is it lawsuit time? Of course not yet. But one should not be afraid of that remedy and we should not be critical of anyone who goes that route. The complaint is legitimate and some kind of restitution is most definitely in order. Hopefully Nissan will recognize this and do the right thing.

And another:

The worrisome aspect at this juncture is that the reported degradations are SO much worse than Nissan predicted, it makes one wonder just how bad it might get — even in more temperate locales. And at this point I’m not inclined to give Nissan the benefit of the doubt in regards to degradation “flattening out.”

Unfortunately Nissan is quickly losing the ambassadorship of the enthusiastic early-adopters.

I think they really need to step out in front of this in a big way, even if they don’t yet have all the answers. And not a memo full of disclaimers and spin, but forthright statements and a major unwavering show of commitment, such as a retro-active warranty.

The clock is ticking.

A variety of opinions are of course being put forth, but a consensus is something is defective with the car and it is heat related.

Further, several have said Nissan has not been handling it nearly as proactively as GM handled Volt battery issues last year following a federal side-impact crash test – although truth be told, GM did not report a post-crash-test fire for months until the media got hold of the news.

Afterwards, GM did bend over backwards offering loaner cars and even no-hassle Volt buybacks to minimize a public relations setback for its nascent technology.

 

The Drozd Family's Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt
“After driving both the Leaf and the Volt, overlooking the differences,” Drozd says, “Lori and I have been completely impressed with the Volt’s batteries. Not only does its mileage estimator soundly beats the Leaf’s, the battery gets more predictable range.”

 
As it is, the greatest consolation Leaf owners seem to be getting now is from one another, and their forum is serving as sort of a support group, as well as a place to air views, while Nissan seemingly plays its cards close to its chest.

Depending on how things go, Leaf owners are preparing.

Options include potential class action law suits, registering an appropriate complaint with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports, state Attorney General, or state lemon law.

Since there is no warranty on the battery however, it’s unknown how some of these suggestions would play out.

Leaf owners have also said such things as Nissan should have known better than to not employ active thermal management, and some suggested the company would have done better only selling the car on the coasts, and avoiding the hottest climates.

Phoenix, Arizona has had record heat this summer, and while Nissan has said it has considered liquid cooling in places like Dubai, after testing pre-production Leafs in Arizona, it chose to make it one of the first launch states.

It’s anyone’s guess whether owners in other hot regions will add their names to the withered Leaf list after sufficient cars have been rolled out.

Nissan has repeatedly said cars with battery degradation issues have been but “a handful” out of the total fleet, and this is true, thus far.

Some are giving Nissan benefit of the doubt, and those wanting to see EVs succeed especially hope their more charitable attitudes will prove well founded.

We look forward to receiving more information from Nissan when it is able to provide it, and if any Leaf drivers have relevant news or insights to share, feel free to email jcobb@verticalscope.com.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 68


  1. 1
    smithjim1961

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (6:35 am)

    Carlos Ghosn may go down in history as the man who saved Nissan from bankruptcy then drove them over a cliff by doing too much cost-cutting.


  2. 2
    Mark Z

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (6:56 am)

    I suffered noticeable battery loss in 2008 with the iPhone due to leaving the phone in the car during the summer. Security requirements prevented us from carrying the phone into work. I used frozen gel packs in the car to keep my second iPhone cool during the day, and suffered no battery degradation.

    Perhaps Nissan could install air conditioning equipment in the garages of desert homeowners who leave their cars home for the day. Employers should be required to provide cool covered parking for their workers with non-thermal managed EV’s. We now have a new reason for politicians to create government grants to help the employers shift the cost to the taxpayer!


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    Aug 21st, 2012 (7:29 am)

    If this had been GM, by now the whole world would know about this. The media ravish writing negatives about GM. But, somehow these Japanese companies are Teflon coated for these kinds of things.


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    James

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (7:36 am)

    The LEAF story resembles a slow-motion train wreck. Certainly, Nissan is reviewing several responses to this major issue – let’s hope no action is not in their options list.

    I predicted the non-thermally managed battery problem before LEAF was introduced. Now that they’ve put the vehicles out there, they surely need to offer a battery swap option for folks who bought one in hotter regions. This may defer the media nightmare and lawsuits for a couple years – until LEAF gen II can be rolled out with a properly cooled battery.

    Interesting the legal sharks are already circling the prey – soon will we see LEAF ambulance chaser ads on TV alongside the mesothelioma ones? I agree with the LEAF owner who said this could be a speed bump for EVs altogether – and it may be a brick wall.

    For Volt, it’s an opportunity for GM and Tesla to laud it’s thermally controlled battery as superior. Unfortunately for the mainstream – this just translates to: “EVs are not ready for primetime”. There are so many special interests with deep pockets afoot who would love to sink their teeth into the electric car – it will be painful if Nissan does not nip this in the proverbial bud – FAST! .

    RECHARGE!,

    James


  5. 5
    James McQuaid

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (7:38 am)

    Egads. Thank God I chose the Volt! Nissan needs to make Leaf owners whole or it will suffer reputational damage across the brand.


  6. 6
    xiaowei1

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (7:45 am)

    “Nissan has repeatedly said cars with battery degradation issues have been but “a handful” out of the total fleet, and this is true, thus far.”
    It only take a few bad apples to scare a large part of the market off and feed the parts of our community who are dead set against EV’s. Not doing anything to help just makes it worse.

    Americans seem to respond well to “yep, we know there is a problem, help us work it out so we can fix it and make the product better for you.” if Nissan accepts there is a problem immediately, and were transparent in their dealing with the problem, I’m sure the EV community would be more than happy to continue to stand by the leaf.


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    James

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (7:47 am)

    My 2nd gen Prius was parked out in the driveway in 80 degree heat. Even though it was in partial shade – the battery cooling fan was noisily trying to cool the NIMH pack for half of my 5 mile drive to pick up my kids from an event. This hadn’t happened before, as I live in Seattle and park the car in the garage. As I rolled the windows down ( intake vent for battery is next to the back seat inside the car ) to assist the cooling process, I considered opting for the AC and this whole LEAF battery situation came to mind.

    I think this speaks volumes for GM’s engineering team and is proof they made the right choices in their design. Volt’s testing was rigorous and comprehensive in all climates. Add the fact they’re still tweaking Volt’s software to gain AER, using the data streaming in from all the Volts on the road. Other manufacturers seem to take another approach – using their EV early adopters as lab rats at the owner’s expense.

    RECHARGE,

    James


  8. 8
    Jim I

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (8:12 am)

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    Ziv

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (8:26 am)

    Ghosn was Superman just a couple months ago, and now he is Lex Luthor to some. But it is incredible to look at the Nissan person saying ” A battery that can control its heating temperature without a cooling mechanism is also longer lasting, since the biggest cause of a battery’s lifespan being shortened is overheating. In other words, having a cooling system to lower the temperature of a battery in case of overheating has adverse effects on the battery’s durability – it’s better to engineer a battery system that works to avoid overheating to begin with. ”
    That is incredible. The hubris…
    The bad news is that any negative regarding a BEV will tarnish any other BEV out there, and to some extent, it will even tarnish an EREV with a robust thermal management system like the Volt in some peoples minds. The worst months in Arizona are coming to a close and hopefully Nissan will do the right thing for the owners in the hotter climes that have lost so much of their AER already.


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    Roy_H

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (8:41 am)

    As I said before. There were plenty of clues, most importantly Nissan’s refusal to provide a warranty and their statement that all LEAFs returned from lease would be outfitted with new batteries before being sold. So part of me says “buyer beware”, but still these people bought their LEAFs in good faith and for the extreme cases (3 bars) Nissan should replace the batteries without fuss.

    When a battery has a cooling system, then more space and cost are also needed to install the system, and that can also mean a vehicle that costs more and a battery that deteriorates faster. In a nutshell, a battery without a cooling system has more merits for the customer.

    A battery that can control its heating temperature without a cooling mechanism is also longer lasting,

    How much sense does this make to you? In this statement by Nissan, they are implying that the ONLY source of heat is from the battery. This does not take into account external heat from the elements. I cannot believe an Engineer wrote this, must have been marketing.

    Also in the statement from Nissan, they said this decision was based on SIMULATIONS done by engineers. Simulations are fine for initial decisions, but then you build prototypes and test to verify the accuracy of the simulation.

    For Nissan to issue such a statement that has proven to be wrong is embarassing in the extreem. If taken at face value, their engineers are incredibly inept. However as I said above, I would be willing to bet that their engineers were overruled by the marketing department.

    I recall Nissan stating a long time ago that their battery chemistry allowed it to run hot without degradation. This statement at least makes sense, but has proven to be false.


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    Aug 21st, 2012 (8:50 am)

    Jim I,

    Not about battery degradation.


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    Aug 21st, 2012 (8:56 am)

    Funny how there is no mention of the Nissan battery manufacturer. What is their take on how Nissan is utilizing their cells? When Fisker had their battery issue the fault was quickly identified as an A123 manufacturing defect.

    NPNS!
    Volt#671


  13. 13
    Roy_H

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (9:00 am)

    xiaowei1: Nissan has repeatedly said cars with battery degradation issues have been but “a handful” out of the total fleet, and this is true, thus far.

    Since it is a small number, this should be a good reason to give these people new (hopefully upgraded and heat resistant) batteries.


  14. 14
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    Aug 21st, 2012 (9:08 am)

    Nelson:
    Funny how there is no mention of the Nissan battery manufacturer.What is their take on how Nissan is utilizing their cells?When Fisker had their battery issue the fault was quickly identified as an A123 manufacturing defect.

    NPNS!
    Volt#671

    Nissan makes their own batteries.


  15. 15
    Bonaire

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (9:12 am)

    I think I saw a Leaf today. in SE PA, near Kennette Square.

    I’m on my way to a 50-mile day in the Volt, Leaf wouldn’t interest me. I did 140 total miles on Monday and 160 this past Saturday. Both days each used two full charges via a parking garage’s solar PV array.

    The Volt delivers well-above the EPA rating for the battery pack and it does a good job with heat dissipation. That will be good for pack longevity and brand loyalty. How many Leaf buyers are going to buy a 2nd or subsequent Leaf? Will they trust “engineering fixes” by the same engineers who designed it in the first place?

    Fool me once, shame on me… Won’t get fooled again.


  16. 16
    EZ Volt

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (9:38 am)

    I see a Harvard Business School Case Study in the future for this one. GM’s outstanding response to a complete non-issue (crash-testing fire), vs. Nissan’s mishandling of what is beginning to look like a true issue.

    The active TMS was one of the very important factors leading to my selection of the Volt. Again, credit to GM for the engineering selections in development of this vehicle.

    I strongly want to see EVs gain traction quickly. I hope Nissan is able to step up to the plate like Dan Akerson and GM did.


  17. 17
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    Aug 21st, 2012 (9:44 am)

    joe:
    If this had been GM, by now the whole world would know about this. The media ravish writing negatives about GM.But, somehow these Japanese companies are Teflon coated for these kinds of things.

    LOL, don’t worry. Somehow the Volt will get wrapped up in this mess too, even though it has battery temperature management. Logic be damned, GM will always have a bulls-eye painted on it.


  18. 18
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    Aug 21st, 2012 (9:49 am)

    James: Other manufacturers seem to take another approach – using their EV early adopters as lab rats at the owner’s expense.

    Maybe the current Leaf owners *are* the Beta testers, but don’t know it. I heard lots of stories of GM testing their designs (remember the Mali-volts?). GM was very open about most of it. I didn’t hear anything from Nissan.


  19. 19
    kdawg

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (10:00 am)

    I know this article is about the battery degradation due to heat, but what about all the upset Leaf owners who were only getting 40miles or less in the winter due to a cold battery. It’s another reason to use a battery temperature management system.

    It appears they are fixing this one (somewhat by copying what the Volt engineers already determined about heated seats). But what about the battery?
    http://www.autoblog.com/2012/03/20/nissan-leaf-update-will-add-new-heater-25-miles-of-range/

    So the response to the heat issue maybe an update to the 2014 model year.


  20. 20
    Dan Petit

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (10:09 am)

    Given the total number of Leafs sold, and, also given that you will recall that GM “arched” the roll out of the marketing from the cooler West Coast, up over the top of America, over to the cooler East Coast, which primarily and wisely avoided to a great extent, the central hotter portion of last Summer’s hellish heat of 2011, these accumulated failures ought to have been expected by everyone.

    Just replace the batteries. What is so hard about that? Given 90 days above one hundred degrees here in Austin last year (only 23 so far this year), even the few Volt batteries that had these exceptional exposures out here which may have degraded slightly had certainly performed well. This is exactly what warranties are for.

    The worst thing to do is to just “jump the gun” without getting a sufficient sample set with which to come to valid statistical conclusions. Then replace the batteries if needed, or even wait until better chemistries are ready from the OEM.


  21. 21
    DonC

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (10:14 am)

    So far after about 18 months and 20K miles I have all my bars left. I think that’s typical for San Diego. Sooner or later we’ll lose a bar, that’s pretty much the way it goes for a lithium-ion battery. 20k miles is about 275 cycles, and you have to expect at 5%-10% loss of capacity after 300 cycles. Obviously Leaf owners in places like Phoenix are experiencing a much higher rate of degradation. Nissan took a risk by not having a TMS. GM paid a price for having one, the battery fires were caused by the TMS, but in the long run it’s proving a better bet. But overall GM engineered the Volt to be a more solid car in many ways, everything from using a smaller percentage of the pack to the more solid parts.

    I don’t see Nissan using the lack of a battery warranty as a way to get out of the problem. First they said that the packs would last eight years. Once you have the point of sale representations it doesn’t matter that much what the warranty says. Second is that it would kill their EV program and I doubt not having to replace a few hundred battery packs would be worth it.

    I’ll just point out that this should serve as a big warning to people looking at the Tesla. The large format cells used in the Leaf should have a life several times that of the Panasonic cells being used in the Model S. Even with a TMS you’re looking at at least one (very expensive) battery replacement over the life of the car.

    The big problem here is consumer confidence. I used to think CARB should relax the battery warranty for EREVs. Now I’m thinking that forcing GM to meet the 10yr/150K warranty requirement was a good thing. It should give people a lot of confidence that their Volt battery packs don’t fail prematurely.


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    kdawg

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (10:30 am)

    Dan Petit: Just replace the batteries. What is so hard about that? Given 90 days above one hundred degrees here in Austin last year (only 23 so far this year),

    But how many times are they going to have to replace these batteries? You say it was hot in Austin last year. July of 2012 was the hottest month in recorded history. There’s nothing to say next year wont be hotter. I think Nissan needs a design change, not to just keep replacing batteries. Having to constantly repair vehicles due to warranty is not good for the image of EV’s, even if the customer is not paying for the fix.


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    kdawg

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (10:34 am)

    DonC: GM paid a price for having one, the battery fires were caused by the TMS,

    Coincidentally (ironically?), the Fisker fire was also caused by a cooling mechanism.. a small cooling fan.


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    Jim I

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (10:54 am)

    Roy_H:
    Jim I,

    Not about battery degradation.

    =============================================

    True, but still relevant, don’t you think?

    Any black eye on any electric car affects the image of all.

    That is sad, but it is true.

    I wonder if there will be any Congressional hearings about Nissan and Fiskar??? <–<< Sarcasm

    C-5277


  25. 25
    Steve

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (10:59 am)

    Mark Z:
    I suffered noticeable battery loss in 2008 with the iPhone due to leaving the phone in the car during the summer. Security requirements prevented us from carrying the phone into work. I used frozen gel packs in the car to keep my second iPhone cool during the day, and suffered no battery degradation.

    Perhaps Nissan could install air conditioning equipment in the garages of desert homeowners who leave their cars home for the day. Employers should be required to provide cool covered parking for their workers with non-thermal managed EV’s. We now have a new reason for politicians to create government grants to help the employers shift the cost to the taxpayer!

    Sarcasm, right? A car that needs AC more urgently than people is pretty much not a solution to anything.


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    stuart22

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (11:16 am)

    Thank you Jeff for this honest update on the LEAF battery problem.

    As one who has long ruthlessly criticized Nissan for spouting insincere, ridiculous promises and proclamations of great numbers of EV sales – all designed to steal the spotlight so its narcissistic CEO Carlos Ghosn could bask in the glory of being the Savior of the electric car – rather than feeling like crowing out “I TOLD YOU SO!”, instead I have to say I feel at this moment saddened for the problems and worries of the affected LEAFers.

    Sure, they went down a different path, some while harboring a disdain for the ‘less pure’ path GM was taking with the Volt. But in a general sense we all shared the similar dreams of driving electrically and all the great things that go with it. And I guess this common bond is what drives my compassion forward for them now.

    I hope Nissan gets hung out to dry for their lazy, sloppy engineering of the LEAF and especially for their pitiful treatment of the issue and those affected by it. They are acting as if nobody is in charge, nobody wants to step up and take responsibility — but this is how narcissists deal with situations of their own doing – deny it’s their problem, change the subject, blame others, etc. How much longer until the media gets off their duff and call out Ghosn for his absence of leadership? If he chooses to hinder rather than help the cause, he should be brought down to size.


  27. 27
    Texas

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (11:29 am)

    On a positive note, most people will be migrating from hot locations like Nevada and Arizona as fossil fuel prices make it impractical to live there. It is, after all, a desert. Only cheap fossil fuels with huge EROEI ratios can support that business model.

    Of course, most people are not even aware of what is happening on the energy and resource fronts.


  28. 28
    Noel Park

     

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (11:47 am)

    Texas:
    On a positive note, most people will be migrating from hot locations like Nevada and Arizona asfossil fuel prices make it impractical to live there. It is, after all, a desert. Only cheap fossil fuels with huge EROEI ratios can support that business model.

    Of course, most people are not even aware of what is happening on the energy and resource fronts.

    #27

    I don’t doubt it for a minute. +1


  29. 29
    nasaman

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (11:48 am)

    Here’s my take on the problems with the Leaf (batteries, overall design, etc):

    After nearly a lifetime of involvement in developing technology/hardware/software that had never been done before, I believe the two Space Shuttle disasters were the consequence of NASA’s top decision makers at the time (i.e., at NASA Headquarters in Washington) having NO or very limited personal involvement in Shuttle design & testing. By contrast, the Apollo moon shot program was so successful because the top decision maker was Werner von Braun, who had extensive hands-on experience and direct involvement with every aspect of the Apollo program.

    Similarly, the Volt has been so successful because a hands-on car guy, Bob Lutz, had the final authority for all Volt design and testing. By contrast, billionaire Carlos Ghosn has had virtually NO personal experience in design & testing cars —yet he retained an essentially dictatorial decision-making role over the Leaf development program— a recipe for disaster!*

    *I’ve aggressively test driven a Leaf —IMHO it’s a poor example of Nissan’s automotive design skill!

    /von Braun quote: “Crash programs fail because they are based on a theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month.” (Nissan should have aborted the Leaf due to birth defects!)


  30. 30
    kdawg

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (11:49 am)

    stuart22: Sure, they went down a different path, some while harboring a disdain for the ‘less pure’ path GM was taking with the Volt. But in a general sense we all shared the similar dreams of driving electrically and all the great things that go with it. And I guess this common bond is what drives my compassion forward for them now.

    Let’s wait a bit to see what GM shows us on the Spark EV (2013). They are testing them in California, so I hope/assume they are doing some hi-temp testing as well.

    This is a bit dated, but it appears to have coolant lines going to the batteries.

    Chevrolet-Spark-EV-19-fotoshowImageNew-8686fd47-556417.jpg


  31. 31
    Noel Park

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (11:53 am)

    Well good luck to Nissan. They have been EV pioneers after all, even if they seem to have made a disastrous engineering error here. I wonder what will happen to the $1 BILLION+ investment in the Tennessee plant if the Leaf goes south? And the USG loan guarantees supporting same?

    On a related topic there was an interesting report on NPR this morning about the roll-out of PBP in Israel. Substantially delayed and with a TRIPLING of the price over what was originally announced. Sales are not going so well so far, LOL. PBP reportedly lost $250 million last year. They had a short interview with Shai Agassi and he exuded confidence however


  32. 32
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    Aug 21st, 2012 (11:57 am)

    kdawg: They are testing them in California, so I hope/assume they are doing some hi-temp testing as well.

    #30

    They had them in CA some months ago after having been in AZ. The weather might not have been as hot then though. If they haven’t done the hi-temp testing before (which I’m certain they must have), I bet they’re going after it full bore now, LOL.


  33. 33
    Bonaire

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (12:19 pm)

    A123 will not use their new heat-tolerant EXT cells in the Spark EV. A123 CEO said that the first year of Spark EV production will use non-EXT 20Ah cells.

    BTW – looking at Fisker’s Karma, the first recall was for a hose clamp ($1) on the A123 TMS of their battery pack. TMS costs money. A TMS-less battery design like the Leaf is really what will eventually occur down the road. Leaf was early and using a heat-reactive Li-Poly design. If the Leaf does a heat-tolerant LiFEPO4 design down the road, this is less of an issue.

    The A123 EXT cells are supposed to support things like AC-less battery systems for cell towers in the middle of the desert (India, Saudi countries, Nevada). AC accounts for 1/3+ of the costs to run the equipment in a cell tower house. Oh – and they’d run EVs just fine too with air-cooling channels. If A123 is to be believed, that is. LiFEPO4 cells, even the Chinese made ones for e-Bikes, don’t heat as much during use compared to Li-Poly cells. You can dead-short an A123 cell and it won’t get very hot – can’t do that with a Li-Poly cell. If A123 survives, their EXT cell will be quite awesome in what it can do. And then someone else will leap frog them, and so on…


  34. 34
    pjkPA

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (12:27 pm)

    “The Volt’s battery – as is true for Tesla’s – is furthermore more thoroughly engineered with a liquid cooling/heating thermal management system.”

    There is a reason 128,000 automotive engineers around the world voted the Chevy Volt as the best engineered car on the road.


  35. 35
    lousloot

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (12:36 pm)

    This made me laugh: “but a Leaf with a degraded battery still emits nothing.”

    Because you forgot to factor in:

    The tow truck.
    Usage of a second car that has the range…

    Poor L.E.A.F. My view; 30 cars with problems due to excessive heat — in 1 year is not bad but it will not sit well with many, its gonna hurt resale value and new sales.

    Hmm, may be looking into a used Southern L.E.A.F.


  36. 36
    Jackson

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (12:38 pm)

    When Ghosn was first making his loud, grandiose claims for LEAF adoption numbers, GM was rolling out the Volt with what seemed to us to be low-key, frustrating slowness. I recall observing at the time that the situation was like that famous race between the Tortoise and the Hare. Looks like the Tortoise is now in sight of the finish line, while the Hare is found cowering behind a bush near the start.*

    It’s not just about the engineering, but the leadership. With 20/20 hindsight, GM turns out to have taken the wise path, though perhaps not for the reasons we anticipated.

    *What would you do if all you had was a shrinking fig LEAF? :-P


  37. 37
    Jackson

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (1:08 pm)

    stuart22: They are acting as if nobody is in charge, nobody wants to step up and take responsibility — but this is how narcissists deal with situations of their own doing – deny it’s their problem, change the subject, blame others, etc. How much longer until the media gets off their duff and call out Ghosn for his absence of leadership? If he chooses to hinder rather than help the cause, he should be brought down to size.

    I can think of another infamous narcissist for which this is true, and the solution of being “brought down to size” is the same. Fortunately, we will soon have the opportunity to participate in this process ourselves.

    … let the reader understand, and click [-1] as necessary …


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    kdawg

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (1:10 pm)

    lousloot: Hmm, may be looking into a used Southern L.E.A.F.

    I know people have converted Prius’s to plug in Prius’s and installed a bigger battery. And there are companies out there that convert ICE cars to electric cars. But I wonder if there is someone (or a company) that will take an old Leaf and stick a range extender in it somehow?


  39. 39
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    Aug 21st, 2012 (1:14 pm)

    There is a part of me that smirks about the Leaf having these problems but then I realize it is kinda like laughing and saying to those on the other side of the Titanic, “ha, ha, your side of the ship hit an iceberg”…


  40. 40
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    Aug 21st, 2012 (1:15 pm)

    kdawg,

    Simple. Small aluminum trailer and a honda generator…


  41. 41
    Larry4pyro

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (2:12 pm)

    I don’t know if there’s a problem or not, but I do know that this matter is getting more and more attention in the media and is increasingly being viewed as a problem by loyal Leaf owners. I believe Nissan has to do something to quell these rising concerns soon or risk loosing credibility in their billion dollar venture into the electric vehicle segment.

    My advise is if there is a problem, and they should know it by now, then address the problem head on, and suffer the financial hit because the numbers of Leafs are comparatively low, waiting will only get more difficult and expensive. If there isn’t a problem, then Nissan needs to stop telling people everything’s normal and begin explaining why this is not an issue and back up this explanation with a real warranty.


  42. 42
    DonC

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (2:13 pm)

    Some people are knocking the engineering on the Leaf. I think this isn’t accurate. The Leaf is well engineered. Very solid. When asked about not having a TMS, the Nissan engineering guy said they understood the need but they didn’t have the time to design it and marketing nixed the extra expense and the loss of the fifth seat it would have entailed. In a sense, something like nasaman is talking about.

    The other big problem is that Nissan greatly oversold the product. First there were the claims about 100 miles a charge, then the claim the battery would only degrade 10% or 20% over ten years, then the convenient omission of the fact that Nissan was only recommending charging to 80%, and then the claims that their superior battery chemistry obviated any need for a TMS. Nissan just overhyped what it had. This is not only bad for Nissan in particular but for EVs in general. Love Ron64′s comment about the iceberg! He’s right on.

    What’s dismaying is that Tesla and Musk are going down the same road and will probably end up at the same spot. Way too much hype for what they can deliver. At the end of the day you can laugh at the people who drank the kool-aid but you’re going to get at least a bad case of indigestion as well.


  43. 43
    Jackson

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (2:20 pm)

    DonC: Nissan greatly oversold the product.

    In spades. [+1].


  44. 44
    George S. Bower

     

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (2:31 pm)

    Bonaire:
    A123 will not use their new heat-tolerant EXT cells in the Spark EV.A123 CEO said that the first year of Spark EV production will use non-EXT 20Ah cells.

    BTW – looking at Fisker’s Karma, the first recall was for a hose clamp ($1) on the A123 TMS of their battery pack.TMS costs money.A TMS-less battery design like the Leaf is really what will eventually occur down the road.Leaf was early and using a heat-reactive Li-Poly design.If the Leaf does a heat-tolerant LiFEPO4 design down the road, this is less of an issue.

    The A123 EXT cells are supposed to support things like AC-less battery systems for cell towers in the middle of the desert (India, Saudi countries, Nevada).AC accounts for 1/3+ of the costs to run the equipment in a cell tower house.Oh – and they’d run EVs just fine too with air-cooling channels.If A123 is to be believed, that is.LiFEPO4 cells, even the Chinese made ones for e-Bikes, don’t heat as much during use compared to Li-Poly cells.You can dead-short an A123 cell and it won’t get very hot – can’t do that with a Li-Poly cell.If A123 survives, their EXT cell will be quite awesome in what it can do.And then someone else will leap frog them, and so on…

    Great input , thanks


  45. 45
    Noel Park

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (2:45 pm)

    Jackson: I can think of another infamous narcissist for which this is true, and the solution of being “brought down to size” is the same. Fortunately, we will soon have the opportunity to participate in this process ourselves.

    #37

    So can I, but it’s probably not the same person.

    Jackson: … let the reader understand, and click [-1] as necessary …

    Done.

    And BTW, I gave you a +1 for #36, with which I completely agree.


  46. 46
    Zod

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (2:50 pm)

    I’m certainly not surprised, as all the clues were there for severe battery degradation:

    - No Thermal Management
    - Using too large a range of the battery capacity (charges too high, depletes too low). That’s commonly the worst thing to do to a battery
    - No warranty.

    When I heard all that, there was NO SITUATION I would buy a Leaf. Maybe, just maybe, lease, if i really wanted one. But the range is too short and it’s ugly as sin, so I wouldn’t want one period.

    But for the sake of EV’s, I hope they clear this up and it’s not as bad as it looks.


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    Aug 21st, 2012 (3:34 pm)

    Steve: Sarcasm, right? A car that needs AC more urgently than people is pretty much not a solution to anything.

    Of course there is a touch of sarcasm. However, if Nissan does not put thermal battery management into the Leaf, then you can expect the customer to bear the cost of the A/C and covered parking “solution” in extremely hot climates for those who will do anything to maximize battery life.

    The fast track solution is for Nissan to stop selling the Leaf in extremely hot climates until the Leaf is redesigned. Give current Leaf owners a refund or ICE car replacement.

    There is a increased cost in design and operation to keep the EV battery cooler in hot temperatures. When battery cooling is occurring, there will be increased kilowatts used to keep the battery healthy. The only other solution is to invent a heat proof battery.


  48. 48
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    Aug 21st, 2012 (4:11 pm)

    Mark Z: put thermal battery management into the Leaf

    With a thin layer of batteries under the floor, a thermal management system will be extremely difficult, if not completely impractical, to retrofit. Installing the cells together into a lower-surface-area container (as the Volt and apparently the Spark do) will require a total redesign of the car. Whether it resembles the current LEAF enough to keep it’s name will likely depend on how bad a taste today’s model leaves in consumers’ mouths.

    Mark Z: The only other solution is to invent a heat proof battery.

    (Taking “heat proof” as the capability to survive all likely climatic conditions on the continent), I wouldn’t necessarily rule this out. I don’t think we’re close enough to that to save the LEAF, however. Just my impression …

    If Nissan makes their own batteries, this is now shown to be a weakness. A dedicated battery manufacturer has much more leeway to pursue options for reliable / economic variables than an end user with much more on it’s plate. By organizing in such a way as to purchase, test and buy cells from dedicated manufacturers, GM may have avoided some of this. This could be another case where GM got it right, when we didn’t agree.

    Mark Z: The fast track solution is for Nissan to stop selling the Leaf in extremely hot climates until the Leaf is redesigned.

    I think restriction of sales by climate is the only solution to the LEAF’s woes. With a practical range under 70 miles, driving from one zone to the next isn’t an issue, after all (trailering the car to certain areas should void any warranty). The longer term solution will be a completely different EV designed using lessons hard-learned from the LEAF, IMO.


  49. 49
    Jeff Cobb

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (4:34 pm)

    stuart22: Thank you Jeff for this honest update on the LEAF battery problem.

    As one who has long ruthlessly criticized Nissan for spouting insincere, ridiculous promises and proclamations of great numbers of EV sales – all designed to steal the spotlight so its narcissistic CEO Carlos Ghosn could bask in the glory of being the Savior of the electric car – rather than feeling like crowing out “I TOLD YOU SO!”, instead I have to say I feel at this moment saddened for the problems and worries of the affected LEAFers.

    Thanks Stuart. It gave me no pleasure to write this report, but I went with what info was made available. I covered GM’s battery (non)issues last year into this, and noted the contrast in attitude.

    My queries to Nissan were either given non answers, or went unanswered for days, at which point I was given minimal info even to questions like, “Can you share findings, or tell me when you may be able to?”

    If they do that to the press, how are they treating their individual customers? Unfortunately, we can see answers to that question in the forum quotes above.

    But as others have said, I hope Nissan will get out in front of this, and it all actually turns out to be something to laugh about as problems are effectively tackled.

    I’ll note also practically no other media is giving this issue any coverage that I see. I recall how GM was put under a microscope for arguable issues.

    But again, this industry is too small for those wanting to see EVs succeed to do anything but hope for better news from Nissan.

    RE:

    ronr64:

    I think Ron has it right when he said:

    “There is a part of me that smirks about the Leaf having these problems but then I realize it is kinda like laughing and saying to those on the other side of the Titanic, ‘ha, ha, your side of the ship hit an iceberg’”…

    ###

    I will be happy to report good news about Nissan and its Leaf as soon as it is available.


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    Aug 21st, 2012 (4:44 pm)

    Seems like a good marketing opportunity for Chevy, don’t you think? A specially targeted campaign to trade in Leafs for a premium if applied towards a new Volt…

    Combine this with the satisfaction guaranteed buyback pledge, and I’d bet we’d win over a few die-hard Leaf fans.


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    Pat

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (5:45 pm)

    My hope is that with leaf problems (Nissan should replace the batteries for owners) VOLT should get a boost in sales and rightfully so as GM did a heck of a job on its design. Shame on Fox news for perpetuating the lies on Volt fire and then later singing a different tune …This is very typ of Fix news Jump on the story and truth be damned .. Once their lies are caught by other sources they move on to the next Lie …


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    Aug 21st, 2012 (6:34 pm)

    When it comes to the well-engineered thermal management of the Volt battery this video says it all.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9VvHsIlVj8


  53. 53
    George S. Bower

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (6:40 pm)

    DonC:
    Some people are knocking the engineering on the Leaf. I think this isn’t accurate. The Leaf is well engineered.

    The leaf will get thru this. I like the car. I think with some of A123′s heat tolerant batteries that Bonaire was talking about the uncooled configuration could be a winner in time.

    However I also think that Nissan better get on the stick and start replacing packs. If I remember correctly, Nissan’s justification for going uncooled was that it was cheaper to replace a few packs than go with the higher dollar cooled configuration.

    Well then start replacing them Nissan. Time to put your money where your mouth is.


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    CaptJackSparrow

     

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (6:54 pm)

    ……..peering into crystal ball…….

    I see a required manufacturers on board system ROM Flash upgrade to change SOC thresholds and then they call it ‘FIXED!’.

    :-P


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    Roy_H

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (7:00 pm)

    kdawg: I know this article is about the battery degradation due to heat, but what about all the upset Leaf owners who were only getting 40miles or less in the winter due to a cold battery.

    I don’t think this is about degradation. In the winter time power is used to heat the car, just like a/c in the summer but depending on how low the temperatures get, the load can be quite high. Also if there is snow on the road, the rolling resistance goes up. Batteries don’t loose energy when cold, but some can have reduced power, so this can affect acceleration but not range.


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    Aug 21st, 2012 (7:08 pm)

    Jim I: True, but still relevant, don’t you think?

    True. I need to explain my cryptic remark, I felt that you should have explained that the link was either OT or better still that is was about the latest Karma fire. Just so the reader wouldn’t have to follow the link, like I did, to see if there was any mention about ongoing problems with the Karma’s battery. The response I gave ironically was not really the right one, and I became guilty of the same thing I am accusing you of, that is I should have explained why I posted.

    Take care.


  57. 57
    Eco_Turbo

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (7:50 pm)

    Cool video about a Nuclear-Electric hybrid: (Yes, it’s already been produced)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KnTpm9Y77E


  58. 58
    George S. Bower

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (8:18 pm)

    Eco_Turbo:
    Cool video about a Nuclear-Electric hybrid: (Yes, it’s already been produced)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KnTpm9Y77E

    Great Video Eco thx for posting it.!!!

    We are lucky to witness this Curiosity. It is totally amazing and it’s a pitty that the news channels are so lame about it. It’s like they are bored with it.


  59. 59
    George S. Bower

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (8:20 pm)

    CaptJackSparrow:
    ……..peering into crystal ball…….

    I see a required manufacturers on board system ROM Flash upgrade to change SOC thresholds and then they call it ‘FIXED!’.

    That will only lower the range even more so that ain’t going to work.


  60. 60
    Jackson

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (8:56 pm)

    Eco_Turbo,

    Coming to a planet near you?

    How much for the bikini version, or has Cap’n Jack already snapped it up? ;-)


  61. 61
    Tom McMillan

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (9:05 pm)

    As of today Nissan does not admit there is any problem ? To do so would would be to admit there was an error in design or decision making .
    In Japan this is a major problem many times leading to loss of life.
    Not something any one wants.

    This may be one reason so much time is passing before a fix is put into place.

    Tom


  62. 62
    James

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (10:10 pm)

    kdawg: But how many times are they going to have to replace these batteries?You say it was hot in Austin last year.July of 2012 was the hottest month in recorded history.There’s nothing to say next year wont be hotter.I think Nissan needs a design change, not to just keep replacing batteries.Having to constantly repair vehicles due to warranty is not good for the image of EV’s, even if the customer is not paying for the fix.

    Hmmm….An all-electric car that was billed as a revolutionary step to end global warming, and it’s nemesis in practical usage is HEAT – WHODATHUNKIT!

    WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? –> THE SUN and those polluters decaying our atmosphere!

    Oh the ironies….

    DonC:
    Nissan took a risk by not having a TMS. GM paid a price for having one, the battery fires were caused by the TMS, but in the long run it’s proving a better bet.

    I’ll just point out that this should serve as a big warning to people looking at the Tesla. The large format cells used in the Leaf should have a life several times that of the Panasonic cells being used in the Model S. Even with a TMS you’re looking at at least one (very expensive) battery replacement over the life of the car.

    The big problem here is consumer confidence. I used to think CARB should relax the battery warranty for EREVs. Now I’m thinking that forcing GM to meet the 10yr/150K warranty requirement was a good thing.

    Some very excellent observations – as usual. +1

    RECHARGE! ,

    James


  63. 63
    Rooster

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (11:01 pm)

    General Motor’s asymmetric advantage is its battery design and the associated thermal management system. Were I running GM, I would advertise the heck out of that fact!


  64. 64
    electroman

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    Aug 21st, 2012 (11:33 pm)

    Well, I can’t say this is a real shocker. The key here is that the battery back on the Leaf has next to no engineering to speak of compared to the Volt. Folks believed the marketing Nissan threw out there and though the Leaf is a nice car, some of the marketing was similar to that of snake oil. Anyone that knows anything about batteries knows that extreme temps effect lithium ion batteries, let alone batteries in general.

    I hope Nissan takes care of their customers. I for one would love to get my hands on a Volt. :)


  65. 65
    Fernando M

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    Fernando M
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    Aug 22nd, 2012 (5:26 am)

    Renault prefer LG batteries, not AESC of Nissan. Why??…..


  66. 66
    Dan Petit

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    Aug 22nd, 2012 (10:30 am)

    kdawg,

    Everything requires a set of learning curves, for Nissan, for GM, for you, for me, for everyone.
    That is the best thing about this site. If it were not for the candid discussions here, people would not know anything about these technologies.


  67. 67
    DebraRedhead

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    Aug 26th, 2012 (7:05 pm)

    Jim I,

    Yes, but Fisker within a couple of weeks took action to correct the problems. No “and(s), if(s) or buts” and the problem has already died down.

    Nissan does not seem to want to learn from their competitor’s successful handling of difficulties.


  68. 68
    davevolt

     

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    Aug 26th, 2012 (10:49 pm)

    joe,
    For some reason the media wants to jump all over GM. It goes right back to the EV1 days. GM took a beating over that one, but the Japanese EV makers that also crushed their cars were basically left alone.
    GM does know what hey are doing when it comes to battery packs, as they have a division, Hughes that makes rockets, and satellites. So thermal management is well known and when they deigned the volt battery, full heating and cooling were provided. This heating and cooling is done on the grid when plugged in, but if the car is sitting in a parking lot all day, the onboard generator can start up to provide heat to warm the battery pack, and air conditioning compressor can start to cool the pack if it is sitting in the hot sun.
    Another thing I hear repeatly is how the government bailout funded the volt. This is totally untrue. The volt was designed long before GM went into banruptsy. Production started after restructuring, but the car was done, longe before that time, before government money was used to bail them out.

    Now I read that Fisker has another problem, first their own battery coolant problem last year, and now a cooling fan causing fires. Fisker was given government money to devolop their 100,000 copy of the volt. OK, so it operates a little differently but the concept is the same. The battery problems that have been seen on Tesla, and now Nissan reinforces the decision I made last year to buy a volt. It is the best car I have ever driven.