More Nissan Leaf Battery Loss, Nissan Doesn’t Blink

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

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Last week, Nissan gave an official response to the handful of Arizona drivers of its 2011 Leaf electric car that had experienced the first signs of battery capacity loss

A week on, with more reports from owners claiming a lost battery capacity bar and in two instances, two capacity bars, Nissan continues to stand by its statement. 

We first became aware of the issue back in May, when owners on the MyNissanLeaf forum started to report that the battery capacity gauge on their cars was showing at least a 15 percent loss in capacity.

In one case, this had happened after just 13,633 miles and one year of ownership. 

In its official response to us last week, a Nissan spokeswoman told us there were “a few isolated cases where a very small number of consumers are reporting a one bar loss,” but that “the battery will have 80 percent of its capacity under normal use after 5 years.”

Since we published the original story, we’ve heard from many Leaf owners frustrated with Nissan’s statement.

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

Enlarge Photo

“I live in Dallas, TX,” wrote one reader in an email to us. “Exactly a year from purchase and 20,206 I lost my first capacity bar. It happened yesterday.”

“It is no longer ‘isolated’ to Arizona or a few cars,” they told us. “I have pictures of the gauge if you want them. And it is a far cry faster than the ’20 percent in five years’ Nissan states.”

Looking deeper, we discovered yet more cases of Leafs with lost capacity bars, including unsubstantiated reports that at least two cars in Arizona have now lost not one, but two capacity bars. 

So, we contacted Nissan again, this time to ask if it had anything to add to its previous statement, and if it would advise owners to visit their local dealer if worried.

“Our original statement still applies to the questions you’re asking,” our contact at Nissan reiterated. “If the car is treated as outlined in the owner’s manual, you can expect 80 percent of the battery capacity after 5 years. Variables including driving conditions and habits could make that number higher or lower.”

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Enlarge Photo

By our math, there are currently no more than 20 Nissan Leafs we’re aware of at the time of writing that have experienced any capacity loss. Most, but not all are in Arizona, with the quickest example of battery capacity loss appearing after just 9 months of ownership.

Admittedly, that’s a small number compared to the total number of Leafs now on the road of the U.S., but is likely to be of little comfort to those Leaf owners who live in warmer climates like Texas, Southern California and Arizona. 

It’s too early to make any rash conclusions about the Leaf's battery pack either, since data has yet to be gathered on all the battery capacity loss cases.

However, with all of the cases we’re aware of taking place in warmer climates, it does underscore the crucial importance of knowing how and when to recharge your electric car, not to mention the effect that charging a Nissan Leaf in hot conditions can have on its battery. 

Should Nissan be doing more to address these (admittedly rare) cases of battery capacity loss so early in a Leaf’s life? Do you have an Leaf that has lost its capacity bar? 

Let us know in the Comments below. 


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Comments (61)
  1. Perhaps, the idea to include a "Battery Capacity" gage was not so brilliant, hugh ?


  2. If it's so "rare" according to Nissan then the cases should be covered by the warranty - right?

  3. I have an odd theory: I suspect the 2013 Leaf will have a longer range battery pack, so perhaps once Nissan has released all the details on that model, they will offer customers with more than normal reduced range the option to have their battery packs replaced with the longer range model under warranty - and for existing Leaf owners the option to upgrade to the longer range pack for a fee.
    It's a very loose win-win, but for the timebeing, they're just keeping quiet to see what happens. Or not, it's just a theory.

  4. The capacity (kWh) is known in advance. It's the loss that is the issue, both in absolute and % terms.

  5. I have just shy of 15k miles and 1 year of ownership and just lost my first bar. I'm in the Dallas TX area. No noticable loss in range as of yet. Absolutely love the car.

  6. So if there is no loss of range, but the bar is gone, could it be a display problem?

  7. Don't think it is a display problem since folks who have 'GID Meters' have confirmed a reduction in the energy stored in the battery at full charge status.

    Given that the meters are reasonably accurate, the only way the bars could be extinguished in error is if the battery sensors and electronics were providing false readings to the meter and the cars battery gauge.

  8. As to the significance of " a small nunber of vehicles," most would be astounded at just how few vehicles need to experience brake failures or engine fires before the Feds order a full scale investigation. A sI recall, the Leafs do NOT have a battery system (unlike the Volt, Model S, etc) that maintains ambient temperature, and we know temperature extremes are not good for battery lifespans. Losing 20 percent in five years works out to
    1) an almost unusable driving range 2) considering what the battery costs, probably close to $3,000 worth of battery. Now what was that about low cost per mile? Considering how few Leafs are on the road, any number above 10 would seem to be quite significant. It's now getting hot everywhere, not just Ariz

  9. As to the significance of " a small nunber of vehicles," most would be astounded at just how few vehicles need to experience brake failures or engine fires before the Feds order a full scale investigation....I don't see the relevance of this statement since its not a safety item.

  10. "an almost unusable driving range" is pretty relative, don't you think? My home-converted EV did a measly 50 km (30 miles) if I drained it flat. It was more than enough for me.

  11. These owners do live in states with warm climates, could the problem be the battery's resistance to high heat is poor?

  12. It souds like this is the case. The big question is will Nissan honor their battery warranty and replace the batteries or simple say tough luck its $18,000 you pay for our mistake.

  13. I still have all my battery bars after 18,000 miles but since my last software upgrade I have lost 30% of my range. I still average 4.5-5.2 miles/Kwh but only get about 50 mile range. Carwings reports having only used 10-11 kw before when zero bars are left. So each bar represents 1 kw now. Now lose a bar after 4.5 miles when it used to be around seven miles per bar.

  14. Going in this Friday to "have bars recalibrated" (as suggested by Nissan online rep.) Hoping that means I get to use more of the 24Kw battery than the 10 I get now.

  15. That's interesting. So, has the capacity dropped, but they're just resetting the bars to suit the (now) slightly smaller pack?

  16. I just got a 2011 leftover and we too get 5 miles/kwh and we also get 1 bar per 5 miles. After ONLY 50 miles I need a recharge and it takes 3 hours not the 7 claimed in the owners manual. Were glad the meter is consertive but this is rediclus.

  17. I don't recall the source, but I seem to recall a statement from Nissan that a larger drop early in the life of the vehicle was expected, followed by much slower degradation. If so having the upper portion of the bell curve lose 1bar after 1 year (15%) would likely be consistent with the average consumer losing 20% in 8 years.

    That's not to say I'm not disappointed in Nissan's response, but the info and reports we have now indicate a concern, not a definite problem (yet...)

  18. It is sad to see Nissan stonewalling about this developing problem for cars in very hot climates. I hope they can figure out what to do quickly to minimize any damage to the Leaf brand. When GM had bad publicity for a non-problem (Volt fire), they got in front of the issue by offering to buy back the Volt of anyone who was concerned. The problem melted away and now the Volt is selling very well. Hiding behind that vague statement isn't going to fool the Leaf supporters (including myself), and they are the ones who have been most bullish about the Leaf. By way of disclosure, I live near the coast in Los Angeles and estimate about 5% capacity loss in my first year based on Gid-meter readings. I love my Leaf and am glad I bought one.

  19. @John, The problem melted away cause there was no problem in the first place and we all know what the average Americans attention span is so just leave it a while and it fades away.
    Again car safety issue's require different solutions to the perceived Leaf problem.

  20. Of course the solution would be different. I am only using GM as an example of a company that got out front of the problem instead of pretending it doesn't exist. That is especially good on GM's part, because in that case the problem was only perception, there really wasn't a problem to begin with.

  21. That's right GM acted immediately because it was a safety threat and we all know where that can lead with libel cases. This knee jerk reaction isn't needed over this issue and Nissan is probably gaining data while assessing the situation.If it is a major problem in real world use it may end in tears. The bottom line is owners do not know the system and can only speculate. When early adopters start questioning the technology without facts they fall into the same category as the nonbelievers who base their verbal diarrhoea on malicious gossip.Everybody wants immediate answers today, research takes time.

  22. It may be that the problem is simply that drivers in warm climates are running the air conditioner more than other drivers. That will shorten the battery life.

  23. Lithium-Polymer battery sets, like in the Leaf, Volt, i-MiEV all need to keep from getting too warm while operating. The best solution is a thermal management system like the Volt and Karma have. Volt has Li-Poly while Karma has LiFEPO4. LiFEPO4 has a better longevity in hot conditions but they still went TMS in the Karma. The new A123 EXT may be the one that works best next year when it comes out - for cars like the Leaf without a TMS. Well, they sort-of have a TMS with the battery warmer for winter conditions. Effectively neither heater or cooler would be needed if EVs can start using similar batteries as the EXT. It can also lower complexity of the pack and allow costs to come down. And, no "battery coolant fires", right?

  24. Nissan should add enviromental regulation to its battery packs. I know it adds cost, but it will significantly reduce the problem.

  25. It's not just in Arizona. I'm a Leaf owner in Northern California. And I don't care what the dashboard gauge (or the "gid" measurers over at MNL) says. The first day I owned the car I drove it 80 miles on a full charge. I ended the trip with 15 miles of range remaining. Ten months later, I attempted the same trip using the same route and speed in nearly identical climatic conditions. Guess what? I had to stop along the route and charge for over two hours at a level two charger and even then I barely made it.

    When asked about this, a Nissan higher-up told me there is an as yet unidentified percentage battery capacity loss that happens almost immediately. And that my battery was "normal" in all respects.

    Uh, thanks.

  26. If the unquestioning green media wants to obtain any credibility, they will quit allowing Nissan to spoon feed them with attention getting spin jobs such as 'LEAF to double sales to 20,000 units' and begin to demand proof and answers to tough, hardhitting questions. Such as, why did you bring to market an obviously flawed car?

    If they don't step up and take responsibility for what appears to be a growing cancer-like problem, it looks like they are going to be playing the heavy in 'Who Killed the Electric Car? Part II.'

  27. The green media don't have to question & criticise - the much larger pro-oil media are doing the job for them.

  28. No Gavin, the green media has always been in awe of Nissan's promises of big sales numbers, while treating GM with a measure of skepticism and mistrust.

    The LEAF should have been a great car, but Nissan chose to put marketing ahead of engineering and raced to push it into the marketplace before GM with the Volt.

    There's always been a competitive relationship between the Volt and LEAF, with the Volt dismissed by many as just another 'hybrid' while the LEAF was pure as snow. The green media has largely mirrored this sentiment.

    It has turned out that GM did their homework, and apparently Nissan did not.

  29. @Stuart...It has turned out that GM did their homework, and apparently Nissan did not.
    Can you back that remark up with facts? or are we to just accept another unsubstantiated statement.

  30. Well, GM added thermal control to its battery packs adn Nissan used a fan...

    GM did years and hundreds of thousands of miles of testing on the battery and back the battery with 10yr/150k miles warranty in California and it is the ONLY company to warranty its capacity at 70% for those 10 years...

  31. Don- the battery degradation currently in process with LEAFs is one unfortunate fact. Nissan's non-reaction to it indicates they were unprepared, they did not do their homework. They sold the car with a substandard temperature management system for the battery, and customer complaints are getting louder and louder. Nissan's dismissal of this as a normal occurrence is a story in itself, as it does no favors for the goal of EV acceptance by mass market buyers.

  32. I predicted this when I wrote the following for Wired Autopia in 2010 - an article which angered the Nissan reps who insisted there would be no issue.

  33. Darryl, that is a totally fantastic precognitive article. It seems the higher ups at Nissan pushed the LEAF out sooner than technical experts in the lower levels wanted. Heads may start to roll, but I'd say it's Ghosn's head which ought to roll first.

    He's the central figure in this, he's always been out front stirring up media attention with grandiose proclamations of big demand for the LEAF.

    I think he's the one responsible for pushing the LEAF out into the market before it was totally tested out, and I think he's the one now who is directing Nissan to pretend there is no problem, that all is normal.

  34. One other comment - I've criticized the green media for fawning over Nissan, not calling them out. That Darryl's article and the points he made pretty much got ignored over the past few years supports my position.

    So, Greencarreports, where are you going to go from here? Are you going to start asking Nissan to offer up supporting information for their forecasts; are you going to demand they justify their reluctance to take responsibility with this degradation mess?

  35. Darryl's article was not ignored, it was reported and commented on, what else should have been done?

  36. There are now 20 Leafs reported to have lost at least one capacity bar. Another one is being reported every day or two on Hope we hear something from Nissan soon.

  37. My LEAF, manufactured March 25, 2011, has a 13% loss in battery capacity. I determine this through somewhat detailed range tests and through the stored energy reported by the car's BMS (that we refer to as "Gids", named after the guy who first produced a device to view this data). What's unique is that my car is in San Diego, and has never been exposed to extreme heat, it never sat at the dealer lot with high charge states (I picked it up within hours of rolling off the delivery truck), and I frequently charge to only 80%. It has only been exposed to DC fast charging on a few rare occasions. One thing, however, is regularly using ALL the battery capacity, and that includes numerous "turtle" events (battery level low enough to auto-shutdown.

  38. At least you seemed to know some of the criteria that would lead to capacity loss. However, I don't understand why you thought draining your battery completely wouldn't hurt capacity. I suspect other drivers experiencing premature capacity loss, failed keep from charging past 80% & others drained their battery packs too quickly with higher acceleration &/or high highway speeds. The first Leaf I ever saw, had 4 people in it & they were behind me accelerating faster than me & past me, with little regard to their immediate range shortening & ultimate battery longevity. But they were having fun!

  39. I wonder if Nissan is now looking into redesigning the Leaf’s battery packs to add a thermal management system. High ambient temperatures are very common in the Sun Belt and Li/ion batteries are housed in cars that sit in the sun all day on hot asphalt while being driving under load with the air conditioner on. I would not be surprised to see EV manufactures spending lots of time in Death Valley during the summer months punishing their EV’s by running them fully loaded with people or the weight equivalent of people with the AC on high in order to solve this problem. Also battery packs are expected to loose range too. Hopefully replacement battery packs will come down in price soon or a clean 7 to 8 year old EV would be worthless for resale

  40. Another Leaf reported to have lost a capacity bar today in Phoenix, AZ. Total reported is 21 Leafs.

  41. Love my Leaf, but very curious to see what happens with the hot weather Leaf issue. I have lost around 15% of my capacity in less than a year, which is unacceptable, especially with promises of 80% capacity left at 5 years. There's absolutely no way my Leaf will still have 80% capacity unless I stop driving it right now. I had worried about the thermal management issue when we bought the car, but was assured that it wouldn't be a problem. Well, it's a problem. I live in Phoenix and I hope the folks at Nissan are listening and respond quick, before they have a class-action suit on their hands, and nobody wants that.

  42. Here in central Texas, my Leaf has 16.5k miles and was delivered just over a year ago. Last summer, we had a record 100+ days over 100 deg. I got a SOC (gid meter) just a couple of months ago and was surprised by the low reading. We now get a reading of 240 (expectation is 280) on a 100% charge. 80% charge gives 201. This has declined since I purchased the gidmeter. All bars appear on the silly dash display.

    I strongly suspect that Nissan intentionally supplies very crappy instrumentation in order to obscure the battery condition. I do love my Leaf, but the instrumentation is just crap.

  43. There is a report of another Leaf that lost 2 capacity bars (in Phoenix). A couple of the owners that lost a capacity bar sold their Leaf... and leased another Leaf! I would recommend not buying if you live in a very hot area like Phoenix.

  44. So we just lost our first bar today, after 10 months and 12,000 miles. I called Nissan and they recommended parking in the shade, which reminded me of George Bush wanting me to duct tape myself in a room in case of a chemical attack. I really think it's unethical of Nissan to continue selling the Leaf here in Phoenix until they implement real thermal management. I regret buying instead of leasing at this point and wish we would have waited on the Volt. Very disappointed that Nissan is not being more proactive.

  45. I was considering buying a Leaf. I think I'm going to postpone that decision or at least check out some of the other models.


  47. John,

    Perhaps you could refrain from using the Cap Lock function of your keyboard in the future as it is considered both rude and difficult to read.

    I wonder if you would be willing to cite the source of the information you have regarding winter deaths of electric car owners who freeze in their cars in extreme weather?

    Certainly, being stranded in the winer in an all-electric car and freezing to death is something I haven't encountered before.

    Presumably the same could be said for running out of gasoline in a gas car in winter?

    Respectfully yours,


  48. He's obviously a troll.

  49. The people that buy these electric cars do not know any thing electronics. People before you buy any automobile gas or electric use some common sense and get as much information as possible about that automobile.People that buy these
    electric automobile thinking that these automobiles does not destroyed the quality of the air, THEY ARE WRONG.THERE ARE NO SEARCH THING AS FREE ENERGY!When you plug your Nissian Leaf
    into your home electrical outlet.The electrical power comes from the electricity company generators.The electricity is produce by a twelve cylinders diesel engine that spins a generator.Nissian does not tell you that batteries are unreliable.Any time you charge ANY BATTERY IT DOESNOT TAKE IN THE SAME AMOUNT CHARGE!

  50. @John: Actually, no electric utility in the U.S. uses a "12-cylinder diesel engine" to generate electricity, except for a few that have them on reserve as backups during the very highest demand peaks.

    Among other problems, diesel fuel is a very pricey fuel to use in producing a kilowatt-hour of electricity compared to natural gas or coal.

  51. I have done my research, and it appears that less than 1% comes from petroleum or a "diesel generator" as you would have it. More comes from either wind and solar than diesel in my area. Also Ford and Tesla have optional solar arrays to offset the energy
    Actually the Nissan batteries and the chemistry are very reliable, just Google their battery chemistry and do 5 minutes of research.
    I don't know much about their judgement in choosing the batteries and the air cooling, but I do know they have a 70% warranty after 8 years/100,000 miles. If the batteries are as unreliable as you would have people believe, I do not think Nissan would have had such a strong warranty if they knew they would have to replace every battery

  52. Most of us have done our research. Nissan advertised a crusing range of 73 to 100 miles based on test results which included using the heat/ A/C. They also advertised a 24 kwh battery but the latest software updates done AFTER we pruchased thier car have reduced the range to about 50 miles while there is nothing wrong with the battery or the cars electronics. Nissan's own battery spec sheets states the operating temp. range ot battey is as high as 149F but mulitple battery failures in climates at or near 110F are causing fast than ADVERTISED battery capacity loss.
    BTW a lot of the Leaf owners are eco minded and charge their car using solar power. its also note worth to mention that it takes more electricity to produce a gallon of gasoline

  53. Has anyone actually measured the battery temperature with a Leaf in sunny places?. Black roads and car parks must get so hot, I am not surprised that when you park, the asphalt underneath the car then cooks the battery. Parking in the shade would have a double benefit, keep the car cool as well as stopping the battery from overheating.

  54. You don't have to just look at the "BATTERY TEMPERATURE" guage if you want to know the temperature.

  55. sorry Forgot the conversion table. check here to get the temp. in F based on the number of bars illuminated.,_Charging_System

  56. So now Phoenix is reporting at least one car which has lost three bars out of twelve. Still no response from Nissan.

  57. 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...

  58. I have a leaf with 16,000 miles that is down three bars. I live in Phoenix metro and all miles have been on city streets. This has been reported to Nissan with no response. A Larry Miller Nissan Leaf service rep told me yesterday that Nissan would be making a statement on Monday Sept 24th.

  59. pjohannesson
    This is a very scary blog for buyers who live in the Sunbelt and want to by a Leaf-which I have driven repeatedly from the local Enterprise Rental Car dealer. As a result of driving the Leaf, I have been looking at buying a couple of them for my home and business, but I am going to look elsewhere because of this problem. You go to a dealer who updates your vehicles software and you get less range? You spend $35K on a new vehicle only to have it's range reduced by 15-20% in the first year? Nissan is playing with fire on this one and class action or not, I'm not risking $70-100,000 on this kind of a product.

  60. I'm not sure that the loss of a bar is as rare as you suggest. I'm guessing it's just not getting reported. I hadn't even been aware of the battery capacity gauge until the one-year service. (It's my wife's car.) The service rep mentioned that we'd lost one bar, and told me that losing one bar is common. It was then that I realized I had noticed a long time before that the battery capacity gauge had lost a bar, I just didn't know that's what that display was. The car doesn't even have 12,000 miles on it, and was probably under 11,000 at the time of the service. The only other Leaf owner I know has lost a bar, too. BTW, we live in Phoenix!

  61. More lying. You people are afraid to even put a named individual with your bogus dibble. This hole your digging is getting bigger!

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