Tesla's Elon Musk Sneers at 'Primitive' 2011 Nissan Leaf Battery

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Elon Musk Speaks

Elon Musk Speaks

Automakers often do comparison ads showing how their features or specs are better than their competitors', but they don't generally trash other makers' designs in public.

Like so many conventions, this one doesn't seem to apply to Elon Musk, CEO of venture-funded startup Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA]. He savaged the "primitive" design of the battery pack in the 2011 Nissan Leaf, the all-electric hatchback that will go on sale in December.

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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The comments came at during a conference call with investors discussing Tesla's second-quarter loss. following its June initial public offering.

They expanded, more bluntly, on concerns expressed by former Tesla marketing honcho Darryl Siry and others over the Leaf's air-cooled battery pack.

Unlike the water-cooled packs of the Tesla Roadster and the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, which use radiators to dissipate heat, the Leaf must use ambient air and fans to cool its lithium-ion battery. Temperature extremes--whether -25 or 120 degrees F--can make air cooling is a challenge.

Tesla Roadster final assembly, Menlo Park, California, April 2009

Tesla Roadster final assembly, Menlo Park, California, April 2009

Enlarge Photo

Musk said the production Leaf used a "much more primitive level of technology" than anything Tesla had considered putting into production, and predicted that the Leaf's pack would experience "huge degradation" in cold weather and essentially "shut off" in hot temperatures.

Nissan has warrantied its battery pack for 8 years/100,000 miles (as has Chevrolet for the 2011 Volt), which should reassure consumers anxious over the prospect of a five-figure replacement battery pack several years into their ownership.

Every carmaker simulates harsh duty cycles on its battery pack designs before they're approved for production. General Motors has done several tours of its battery laboratory during Volt development, and Nissan surely has a similar lab.

Buyers will have to wait a few years to find out if Musk's words prove prophetic, or if he's just sowing what computer industry analysts used to attribute to IBM and Microsoft: fear, uncertainty, and doubt (aka FUD).

[Earth2Tech via Autoblog]

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Comments (9)
  1. OK, if his Tesla is so wonderful, what warranty does Musk offer with his battery?

  2. musk is a proven liar, who seems to get publicity from the media. the best thing to do is to simply ignore him.

  3. Pathetic attempt to get some publicity. Why doesn’t he put Tesla’s warranty where his mouth is? 8 years / 100,000 miles. =)

  4. FUD? Elon Musk? You think? Naaaahh....
    Seriously, #1,2 & 3: - Amen.

  5. Wait a few years? The cold weather test will be in Tennessee this January-February and the hot weather test in Arizona within a year.

  6. Nissan has already tested the LEAF at their Proving grounds in Yuma Arizona.
    You are not going to get an environment in the US that has more extreme temps then in Yuma.

  7. Yes, it is a simple design. Nissan has traded off a lower-performance battery chemistry for robustness. It does not need the coddling of the higher performance batteries in the Tesla and the Volt. They wouldn't warranty it for 8yr/100k if they were not confident.

  8. I agree, the Nissan Leaf's battery will hold up. More child's games from Elon is all.

  9. I'd say exactly the opposite. It's hugely primitive to link 6831 small batteries together as a Tesla roadster does. Better get big ones, and automotive ones, please! Consumer cells like the Tesla use, require a much trickier temperature control system because they're conceived to work in normal operating temperatures. Like a laptop computer.
    Nissan did it better, it made automotive-grade cells which can withstand any temperature an automobile can, no matter you drive in Alaska or Arizona. The Nissan's battery pack is in no way more primitive, it's more tolerant, I mean stronger, and That's why Nissan can back it up with an 8-year warranty.

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