2011 Nissan LEAF: Batteries

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 With the newly unveiled Nissan LEAF,  the company seems confident that the traditional nemesis of electric vehicles,  lack of a battery with enough energy density to compete with liquid fuels, has finally been overcome.  Or if not overcome, at least wrestled to the ground with sufficient authority that the tide is now turning in favor of electric cars.  Like Toyota and GM with their next generation of hybrids and Tesla with it's up-market EVs, Nissan is betting that  Lithium Ion battery chemistry is now ready for prime-time.

The Leaf will be powered by an array of thin, laminated Lithium Ion cells housed in a flat assembly beneath the floor.  The forty-eight separate modules, each consisting of four magazine-sized sub-units, will be able to deliver a maximum of 90 KW to the electric motors, with a total storage capacity of 24 KWH.   No mention has been made of any accommodation for "swapping out" batteries (as in the system being pioneered by Better Place, which actually uses a Nissan vehicle in their promotional video).  Instead, the LEAF's battery is intended to accept several rapid charging scenarios including a 50KW "fast charge" which gives 80% charge in thirty minutes, or a five minute fast-charge which delivers an additional 31 miles of range.  These rapid recharge modes will require a special three-phase charger, which at $45,000.00 per unit,  is most likely to be owned by commercial or governmental entities in distributed charging stations.  In cities which do have rapid charging stations available, the LEAF's Nav/sat GPS screen will be able to direct drivers to the nearest recharge locations, as well as generally indicating "reachable area" based on the battery's level of charge.  Homeowners who don't have a spare fifty-thousand kicking around may prefer to have a common, single-phase 220v hook-up wired into their garages, allowing full recharge in just under eight hours.   Alternatively, a standard American 110v wall outlet will also do the job, but will require almost twice as much time.

At 440 pounds, the battery pack isn't light, but thanks to weight savings created by the car's full EV architecture  the battery will provide enough power for the LEAF to achieve a top speed of 87 mph and a range estimated by Nissan at 100 miles (in US LA4 mode). Chief executive Carlos Ghosn has suggested that the battery may be leased by customers rather than purchased outright, as a way of keeping the price of the car on par with the gas-powered competition.

Nissan battery-plant ventures are going forward in  Sunderland, England, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, and Smyrna Tennessee , with the first two alone expected to produce 125,000 units a year by 2011, so it's clear that Nissan is serious about both being in the battery business and about the future of the electric car.

[SOURCE: Autoblog, NYT]

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Comments (9)
  1. Thanks for the post Lyle..I am shocked there is nto more posts on this site. :)

  2. Way to go Nissan! This car has the potential to be the real game changer. If Nissan can work out a battery lease program to get the operating costs on par with current gas prices and get the retail price of the car (less battery) below other cars in its class, and a decent amount of fast charging stations are installed in the launch areas, look out ICE and look out Chevy Volt.

  3. Question
    Will the owner have the option of buying.leasing fewer batteries. I believe a 50 mile range would be ok for me.

  4. If the electrical energy used to charge the leaf's batteries, comes from hydro-carbon fuels, technically it is not a zero emissions vehicle. According to the Energy Information Administration of the United States Government, 70% of the nations electrical energy is produced from hydro-carbon fuels to include coal, petroleum, natural gas and bio-mass. It would be interesting to know the amount of carbon dioxide produced per kilowatt of energy produced vs. the amount per mile for the internal combustion engine.

  5. 100 miles per charge? I doubt that very much. Maybe @30-40 mph. @70 mph motorway journeys I bet 50 miles range will be more like it! Gen 2 batteries I have no doubt will give the range, (if using silicone nanowire technology). In the lab it has shown the potential for 10 times the capacity of normal lithium. We are not that far from 300 miles + range, 5 years maybe less! The more people that buy electric, the more costs down greatly. Here in Diesel dominated Europe with 650+ miles per tank, Electric may be a hard sell! Then again auto and fuel tax here is considerably higher than in any other continent in the world!!! rip off Europe!

  6. you say the battery weighs 440lbs. I thought I read that it would be more like 600-650 lbs. Can you confirm that?

  7. to Gene Markel: what a great question! I am curious also to know how much polution it will cause as far as creating the electricity to charge the car. Also I am wondering what is the dollar amount the electric company is going to charge me to charge the car? I get 20mpg in my jeep cherokee (city) and it costs $45 to fill up if I had the electric car I wouldn't have to pay that but than it reverts to my question of how much does it cost to charge and how many miles per charge? I think the cost is going to average about the same all the way around. The only good thing are the tax credits you will get from buying one

  8. What are the dimensions of each module??

  9. My concern with the Leaf battery is the lack of a cooling system other than a fan. Even Nissan admits that battery life will be significantly compromised in hot climates. Even worse, the battery is not warrantied against loss of charge capacity as a result of hot weather.
    By not providing an active cooling system, Nissan has done a disservice to its customers. I predict that the issue of over-heated batteries will come back to haunt Nissan:

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