2011 Nissan Leaf Battery Capacity Loss: Nissan Responds

Follow Nikki

Nissan Leaf: Lost Battery Capacity

Nissan Leaf: Lost Battery Capacity

Enlarge Photo

Just under a month ago, we reported a few cases in which owners of 2011 Nissan Leafs had noticed the first of twelve lights on their car’s battery capacity gauge had switched off, indicating a marked deterioration in battery capacity after just one year. 

Now Nissan has released an official statement about cases in which it affirms its belief that the Leaf’s 24-kilowatt hour battery pack will have a long and useful life. 

In short it says, there is nothing to worry about. 

Lost capacity

A twelve-bar gauge to the right of the battery charge indicator, the battery capacity gauge is designed to give an at-a-glance indication of battery capacity and health. 

As time passes and the battery ages, its ability to hold charge diminishes, meaning each full charge results in a slightly reduced range compared to when the car was new. 

With time, the capacity gauge slowly drops, representing that drop in capacity.

When we originally reported the story, the affected cars -- all in Arizona -- experienced the loss of the first battery capacity gauge between 13,633 miles and 17,000 miles. 

“A few cases”

Since then, other owners have stepped forward reporting the same issue, but Nissan says it is still only a few owners. 

“We’re aware of a few isolated cases where a very small number of consumers are reporting a one bar loss. (We’re talking less than 5 units versus the 12,000 on the road in the U.S.),” a Nissan representative told us.  


Non linear loss.

In our original article, we told you that the Nissan Leaf workshop manual indicates the extinguishing of the first capacity light represents a 15 percent drop in battery capacity.

Losing that much capacity in the first year seemed drastic in the light of Nissan’s previous statements on battery life, but Nissan says battery capacity loss isn’t linear. 

“In general, all batteries exhibit a higher loss of capacity early in life, but then the curve flattens over time,” we were told. “Our internal results indicate that the battery will have 80 precent of its capacity under normal use after 5 years, and 70 percent after 10 years.”

It’s complicated

Lithium-ion battery pack of 2011 Nissan Leaf, showing cells assembled into modules

Lithium-ion battery pack of 2011 Nissan Leaf, showing cells assembled into modules

While we’re glad to see Nissan remains confident in the battery technology found in its Leaf electric car, we’re sure that those customers who have already experienced a loss are anxious to see what happens next. 

What will happen? We’re not sure, but for now, Nissan’s official line is non-committal. 

“We can confirm that the state of charge[sic] is depicted as a non-linear scale but are not able to confirm the specific totals that each ‘bar’ represents,” Nissan’s official statement says. “Battery life is contingent upon many variables related to driving habits and conditions. We are confident that if owners care for their vehicles properly, they will experience many years of enjoyable driving!”

Your thoughts?

For now, Nissan is not concerned about the battery capacity losses that have occurred so far in a small proportion of Leaf cars in the U.S. They are, it says, still within normal expectations. 

But what do you think? Is Nissan’s explanation enough, or have the examples in Arizona made you wary of buying its electric car? 

Let us know in the Comments below. 


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Us

Comments (39)
  1. This is why I bought a Volt instead. Even with a battery degradation, Volt can still function as a hybrid but Leaf will just become more "limited"...

    I wonder if the battery was "liquid cooled", would it degrade slower?

  2. I would also point out the fact that gasoline cars also degrade in mileage over time as engine/tranmsission wears out. But Not as rapidly as the battery in Leaf though.

  3. As a Leaf owner, I must say I am underwhelmed by Nissan's response. While very few problems have been reported by those who live in cooler climates, we already have 10 reports of owners in hot climates (mostly in Phoenix, AZ) who have lost a capacity bar. Doesn't sound like Nissan is trying very hard to find out how many people are affected. Several other people expect to lose the first capacity bar shortly based on the state of charge shown by the "Gid-o-meter" designed by Gary Giddings.

    Just repeating the results of their "internal testing" (? accelerated life testing) without further details is not reassuring in the least. All of those who lost a capacity bar who went for testing at the dealer were told this is "normal".

  4. There's a huge thread on mynissanleaf.com discussing this. There's at least 10 people who have reported that they've lost a capacity bar, a ~15% loss in capacity in a year or less. All of them so far are in Arizona. http://goo.gl/4N5NZ

    Many others have reported a loss of capacity of around 10% - typically in warmer areas such as Texas or southern California.

    The highest mileage LEAF (TaylorSFGuy) charges to 100% twice a day and has probably 40k miles on his LEAF so far but doesn't report any significant capacity loss. He is in Seattle. Others in Seattle also report that their battery appears to be like new.

    All those AZ owners must be kicking themselves for not leasing instead of buying right about now...

  5. Interesting. Like Brian Kees mentions in a post below "The 2011 Nissan LEAF manual states “Do not expose a vehicle to ambient temperatures above 1208F (498C) for over 24 hours.” Possibly may be related to excessively high temperatures. Summer time temperature routinely hit 105+ degrees in AZ and cars sit on hot asphalt roads so the battery pack may be suffering thermal degradation,. Nissan chose a simple air-cooled design in the Leaf's battery pack while Tesla uses a liquid cooled system to control temperatures in the battery pack. Also a 15% loss of battery capacity in a Nissan Leaf means only 63 miles instead of 75 miles of range after just 1 year. How can it get to 1208F or 498C? that is wicked hot wouldn't parts melt or burn?

  6. Minor nitpick, but it's been pointed out that your picture shows a car with 1528 miles on the odometer with the caption "Nissan Leaf: Lost Battery Capacity". Surely this is just a picture of a normally depleted battery, not one that has actually lost two bars of capacity.

  7. Lee, you're right. Sadly however, no-one has offered us a picture of one of the Leafs in question, so we're using one of our own library pictures.

  8. I have had the LEAF for a year now. I charge to 100% daily for my 75 mile commute (which i do comfortably with range to spare), and have 23,000 miles on the odo. I still have all my high voltage bars, but I am in the Seattle area.

    If Nissan is right, 0.04% of cars are showing signs of battery degradation in what appears to be a harsh environment. I am sorry for these 5 people, but seriously...0.04%? Talk about putting the car under a microscope. There are some gas vehicles with some pretty horrible failure rates out there..they might even have 0.04% rate of catching on fire.

  9. Yes, but note the following problems:

    --Nissan says this is "normal"; that's what the dealers tell these folks when they go in for a battery check
    --Nissan has no warranty on battery capacity, and hasn't done anything for these folks
    --This is most likely the tip of the iceberg in Arizona
    --Nissan apparently knew that the loss of battery capacity is non-linear, but didn't bother to disclose this fact to prospective buyers

    Don't get me wrong, I love my Leaf... but I live in Southern California near the coast and my Leaf spends less than 10% of its life in a hotter climate.

  10. Capacity loss is a real problem for a car that has precious little range to spare to begin with. Nissan should have provided the car with some redundant space in the pack or somewhere else in the vehicle to fit a few extra of those battery modules to compensate for the effect of pack degradation. And offer those modules for a reasonable price of course. That would have gone a long way in soothing my battery anxiety!

  11. At least Nissan have acknowledged the loss of capacity bars. They have done little however to allay fears that Arizona heat has detrimental effects on their batteries or how how that will translate to other warm climates. Had they at least said they were investigating why those few owners had experienced the capacity loss. If the problem is truly a small number of vehicles, why have they not offered to assist those customers restore their vehicles as good PR?

  12. How does one "restore" the Leaf? U want Nissan to replace the whole freaking battery pack? They would be opening up a huge can of liability in the future if they did. View my response below for more....

  13. Yeah, replacing the battery pack would do it. It's going to cost them a little now or a lot later. No need to admit liability, just say they found something awry in the annual battery check numbers and they will replace battery packs under warranty. Failure to address the problem early will only cause greater cost later when sales of their entire EV lineup is threatened. Manufacturers that have thermal management could use this suspected problem to their advantage in marketing their vehicles.

    It's all about managing the perception of future buyers Nissan need to worry about. Like most companies they don't give a rats *ss about customers who have already bought.

  14. Typical corporate pattern of dealing with problems:
    Deny - "It's only a few"
    Rationalize - "It's not linear"
    Blame - Somehow the customers fault
    Finally, accept responsibility but not fault.
    Let's see how this plays out....

  15. I know Phoenix in the summer. On the average 100+ degree summer day, the asphalt is between 150-170 degrees. The 2011 Nissan LEAF manual states “Do not expose a vehicle to ambient temperatures above 1208F (498C) for over 24 hours.” The battery is right on top of that.
    (http://m.prnewswire.com/news-releases/asphalt-going-green-with-cool-pavement-in-phoenix-122850164.html) – where I got the 150-170 degree info.
    Not to be a jerk, but it is well known that temperature affects the life of a Li-ion battery. The upside to this is that, now, we all know what to expect to see after a Phoenix summer in a LEAF.
    I'm waiting to see how my frequent DC fast charges will impact my LEAF's battery and I’ll make sure to let everyone know when I find out.

  16. We consider the USA both a hot and cold country. Which means we will do a little extra on top of the battery cooling every smart will have. Still, 0,04% do not mean there is a chronical design problem.

  17. Although Nissan is claiming only .04%, where has that been verified? I'm not aware of any official statistics either way, but if you look at the LEAF forums, there are many people, not " Less (fewer) than five," complaining about this.

    Not every consumer with this problem, especially with new technology and a new car, will immediately file a formal complaint with Nissan, so let's not overreact in either direction. I'm not convinced it's a design issue yet, nor is it a non-problem because an OEM claims something.

    Let's see what the long-term data suggests and go from there. I hope it's just a minor blip since EVs don't need any more bad PR right now.

  18. It's a shame for those who have invested so much in new tech, but heck, I'd still taken one with only 50% original capacity!
    On a side note, can anyone guess in around 7 to 10 years how much a replacement battery might cost?

  19. My battery will also suffer from spending most of its life in high temperatures. That seems to be the common factor here rather than use patterns. Just makes me all the more pleased to have leased my battery (but not the car).

    On another note, when Better Place charge batteries that have been removed from cars, they cool them and the whole operation is done inside their air conditioned robot stations which are kept nice and chilly. I also notice that when charging my Fluence ZE on its standard level 2 charger the battery makes all sorts of cooling fan noises and liquid sloshing noise that is never made in driving use.

  20. Also: why did Nissan put this gauge on the dashboard? If it moves so glacially as to drop a bar every year or two I'm surprised it's not a hidden diagnostic in the car's computer. Putting it in the face of the user is just asking for trouble. No computer gives you this stat (though you can find it on all of them by digging).

  21. Can anyone tell me if the Batteries are top or Bottom Balanced before leaving the factory?? this could be the reason, if they are top balanced and the car is driven until the car says empty, you run the risk of over discharging cells. Could there also be a chance that people are creating a memory in the cells? much like a mobile phone.

  22. The batteries are top-balanced.

    The BMS montiors each cell in the pack.

    It prevents the charge level of any single cell from going too high when charging and any single cell from going too low when discharging.

    The lowest capacity cell limits the usability of all cells to that capacity - there is no risk of over-discharge due to top-balancing here.

  23. Thank you for the picture of Arizona.

  24. OK a few thoughts after reading the article n the good posts below. Me thinks this is indeed a problem for those Leaf(perhaps other evs too) owners in the hotter sun belt states of Arizona, Nevada, CA, n TX where there are areas of extreme heat(100+) during the day n near it at night for most months of the year. Nearly all of AZ fits this description. If a Leaf owner lives in one of these areas n does not park their Leaf in a garage at home nor at work u have the conditions for the battery pack to reduce capacity faster than other places in the US. Heat kills batteries we all know that, right? Brian Keez pointed this out below in another post.

  25. Potential solutions to extreme heat area Leaf battery problems:

    1) Leaf owners should park in cooler, shaded places when possible and/or use a good car cover.

    2) Nissan will likely come up with a solution for extreme heat ares for 2013 or 2014 Leafs. They did this for cold weather states for the 2012. All 2012 leafs n younger include a battery heater as standard equipment. Perhaps Nissan will do the same w/ a battery cooler next year.

    I don't think most folks, let alone the folks on this forum, realize how important the Leaf n EV tech is for Nissan. Nissan is committing billions more this year to new n better EV vehciles. Nissan wants the Leaf to be the new green car of this decade like the Prius was last decade.

  26. 3) How bout new, double the range replacement battery packs for those older leafs w/o battery coolers starting in 2016? For half the regular price of course...

  27. There is now a report on mynissanleaf.com of a Leaf losing a second capacity bar in Phoenix (possibly 2 reports, not confirmed yet). Reportedly the owner has been told this is "normal". This would be a loss of over 21%. Looks like capacity loss is anything but "gradual" in a hot environment. Living by the coast in California, I have about a 5% loss (perhaps less, since it appears my battery may not have been quite at full capacity when I first started measuring).

  28. Comment disabled by moderators.

  29. You need to care for your battery or it will have detrimental effects. At least one of these owners was "topping off" the battery after only three miles of driving - a no-no. It not only hurts the battery, it is ignorant of how a battery should be maintained. Just like some people overfill the oil in an ICE and blow gaskets, some people are to blame for faster degradation of a battery. Those people still drive the car and have a good experience - if they can charge it after just three miles of use, they will still get where they are going with a degradation of 85% - 95%. This is a non-issue - people should not be afraid of buying this car - they should learn how and what this car is and use it correctly. Blaming Nissan is ridiculous.

  30. Nissan is to blame for putting a product out in the marketplace without reasonably sufficient instructions to consumers as to its care requirements. Perhaps this omission is the result of insufficient and/or substandard testing during the product development stage. It could be that Nissan simply did not fully do their homework in advance, and now its customers are paying the price of their lack of knowledge.

    It's rather ironic that the green media darling LEAF may be on its way to be giving the EV market segment a black eye, while at the same time the unpure black sheep Volt appears to be paving the way toward EV sales success.

  31. It is an issue for those who live in very hot climates. There is no correlation between charging pattern and loss of the first capacity bar by those reporting on mynissanleaf.com. By the way, the first report of loss of a capacity bar in Texas was just posted.

    Nissan should be giving a lot more detailed advice about how to care for the battery and the results of not doing so. I am sure they didn't want to do that because it makes the Leaf look like more of a hassle. Unfortunately, the result of withholding those details is now coming home to roost.

    My recommendation: buy the Leaf if you live in a moderate or cool climate. Otherwise, lease the Leaf or wait for a version with a thermal management system for the battery.

  32. The battery management syetem on the car should compensate for topping off. The charger would use cell balancing, or should use cell balancing. I top off my volt all the time, and have had no degradaton whatsoever. I get exactly the same range today as the day my car was new, and it is now over a year old with 20,000 miles on the car. Some days I run the battery down more than once in a day, other times I might only use 10% and then charge. But then GM did things right, liquid cooling, and heating. There is a reason they put in active thermal control, and everyone else that is not using it is going to find out the expensive way. Fisker also uses liquid cooling. Tesla does not, and guess what, they are having battery issues too.

  33. There are now reports on mynissanleaf.com of 12 Leafs that lost one capacity bar and 2 Leafs that lost two capacity bars. One Leaf is in Texas, the other 13 are in Arizona. One has to assume this is the tip of the iceberg, since most owners probably don't post on the mynissanleaf.

  34. Two more reports of Leafs losing the first capacity bar in the last 24 hours. There are now a total of 16 cars that have lost one bar (two of those 16 lost a second bar).

  35. Another report of a Leaf in Phoenix losing the first capacity bar today on mynissanleaf.com. That brings the total to 17. I expect these reports to continue regularly over the next several months (but hope I am wrong).

  36. The first TV news story on this broke in Phoenix Tuesday night. Nissan still has its head in the sand, denying that there is a true, across the board issue in hot climates. Anyway, here's the link to the article, with the video of the story at the top... http://tinyurl.com/c8g9fzj

  37. I would say this is the primary reason that I bought a volt too. Everyone knows that batteries do degrade over time, but at least with the volt, once the battery degrades all that will be affected is the all electric range, and I will still have a car that gets 40+MPG once it transitions over. Even once my range drops to half of what it is today, I still will use very little gas. Now saying that my other car is a Prius, which is 10 years old, and I have had no battery issues with that. Coupled with the fact that GM uses active battery cooling and heating the battery is always kept at optimum temperature. GM did learn a few things from their aerospace division, Hughes, which builds satellites. I don't anticipate any battery issues with volt.

  38. Wow! This hole of falsehoods your digging must be enormous. You'll probably will fall in soon, and it may cave in on you. Oh well.

  39. On and on and on goes the arrogance!!!

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.