Nissan Leaf: Does A Battery Inspection Give Peace Of Mind?

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Steve Marsh's 2011 Nissan Leaf: 11 Months, 36,000 Miles

Steve Marsh's 2011 Nissan Leaf: 11 Months, 36,000 Miles

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When a Nissan dealer services an all-electric Nissan Leaf, the garage’s diagnostic computer produces a Battery Information Sheet that can give the owner a an at-a-glance assessment of how healthy the battery is in his or her Leaf. 

But with several dozen Leaf owners, mainly in warmer states, reporting a loss in battery capacity--many within their first year of ownership--is it worth asking your dealer for a Battery Information Sheet when the battery capacity drops?

Does a formal Battery Information Sheet give you more information to explain why your Leaf has lost its first capacity bar? Or can it help you prevent premature loss of capacity?

It appears that the current BIS printout is missing some key historic information on battery conditions.

What it is

Produced automatically by the computer hardware used to service the Nissan Leaf, the BIS formally records the current state of health of a Leaf battery pack. 

As well as listing current battery capacity, it also uses your Leaf’s charging and use logs to construct an advice section which analyses past use and offers suggestions to maximize future battery life.

What it tells you

Nissan Leaf Battery Health Report

Nissan Leaf Battery Health Report

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Alongside the current battery capacity, the BIS rates your historical Leaf use and care under four key categories:

  • Frequent use of quick charging
  • Frequent charging
  • Too much electric consumption while driving
  • Long term parking with a high state of charge

In each case, the system gives you a score, from one (poor) to five (excellent) stars, as well as a recommendation to help you improve on your score. 

What it doesn’t tell you

While the BIS tells you that its advice “can help to minimize the ongoing impact on your Leaf Li-ion battery, which can affect your battery’s total capacity over its lifetime,” it doesn’t display any analysis related to battery or ambient temperature.

So far, since most cases of battery capacity loss are occurring in warmer states, we think it may omit what appears to be the biggest factor in battery aging. 

Perfect score, but...

In fact, one of our readers sent us a BIS recorded on his Leaf by the local dealer after it lost its first battery capacity light. 

Based in Phoenix, Arizona, the owner’s BIS rated his historical use as being excellent in all four categories, and gave no advice on how to improve his battery care. 

Nevertheless, his battery capacity had dropped to 85 percent or less of its original capacity when new. 

“I took my car to Nissan Service today and got a perfect score on their battery ratings and was told that the loss is ‘normal’”, he told us in a recent communication.

“I spoke to the tech and showed him the service manual that the loss of one bar is a 15-percent loss and then showed him the disclosure statement indicating 80-percent battery capacity is expected after five years.”

The response he received wasn’t very helpful. 

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

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“He said according to his information, this rate of loss was again normal, and that he had been seeing a lot of Leafs coming in like that,” we were told. 

Useful or not?

If customers who get perfect scores on their BIS are still suffering battery capacity loss less than a year after buying a brand new Leaf, you’d be forgiven for thinking that obtaining a BIS isn’t worth it.

However, unless you know that you’ll get a perfect score in all categories, we think it’s still worth asking for one from your dealer, especially if you’re worried that you’re not looking after your Leaf properly. 

Bear in mind however, that the current BIS does not monitor or report on battery temperature, something that seems to be one of the biggest contributors to battery aging. 


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Comments (16)
  1. Of course loosing 15% capacity in one year is not normal. in fact it's quite disastrous since the Leaf's relatively small battery doesn't have that much capacity to spare to begin with. Clearly an EV without active battery cooling isn't an ideal choice if you live a hot climate.

  2. I don't see how active cooling would be relevant unless it's running all the time; If air temperature is the critical differentiating factor, then heat generated when driving it is not - meaning the damage would be done, for example, when the leaf is sitting parked over a baking parking lot.
    Active cooling on existing EV's doesn't operate under those circumstances (and for good reason; if it did it would run your battery down and strand you at work).

  3. I'm not sure how fast a cooling system would run down the battery when parked. I think an energy efficient fridge uses less than 100KW/year these days so maybe it's not so bad, in which case I would be surprised if automatic cooling in extreme conditions isn't standard on actively cooled EVs like Tesla's, but I just don't know.

    Anyway, if parking in hot conditions turns out to be a major factor limiting the life span of the battery the owner of an actively cooled EV should at least be given the choice between cooling and range.

  4. @Chris: Not entirely sure that a fridge is the right comparison. Your food doesn't suddenly start generating substantial heat inside the fridge as the cells in a pack do when charging and (at a lesser rate) discharging. At least, MY food doesn't ... :)

  5. John, excellent point, and I really like the direction of Nikki's articles on this topic. Fact-based and to the point. For what it's worth, I spent fair amount of time researching this, building models and running the numbers. Bottom line, the pack produces about 100W of heat on average during either vehicle operation or level 2 charging. It wouldn't take inordinate amount of effort to dissipate this heat. The superior thermal characteristics of their cells is the primary reason why Nissan can get away with passive cooling. The final word has not been spoken in this drama, but if storage conditions and ambient temperature is a problem, two cars can serve as a point of reference: the Volt and the Roadster. Have a look:

  6. I agree that this is concerning, but from the beginning -before anyone had ever lost any capacity - nissan was already stating that battery loss would start off rapid and then taper off. Your article references the dealer calling this loss normal, but doesn't clarify the details of their position, and it comes across as ludicrous... Admittedly, even knowing Nissan's position on the matter this amount of loss still seems surprising and concerning, but not as ludicrous as it sounds without this context.

  7. Long time follower - first time poster: 2011 Leaf Lover with over 15K miles in first year alone. Live in Dallas (Dang it's hot here!) and have thus far NOT had a drop in battery capacity. I charge to 100% every night at home (via 220V), and nearly 100% every day at work (via 110V). I commute mostly on freeways 28 miles each way to work. I park in a non-shaded asphalt spot that reaches temps over 120 degrees during summertime that must "cook" the bottom of my car. Just my personal experience so far. Looking forward to my next generation car in 27 more months.

  8. We are all here very much aware of the extent to which both Tesla and GM make sure that their battery ambient temp is right around 72 degrees. It's neither a difficult nor expensive proposition - a small radiator, a small electric water pump and some coolant lines and a temp sensor. I may be mistaken, but I thought I read where Nissan will start providing such a system for their batteries. I'm still puzzled by the contradictory claims of scientists at MIT and the people at Nissan who are claiming that fast recharging has an effect. MIT people say : "no effect on lifespan," based on their extensive testing. Well, since I believe current batteries are nearly obsolete, all these issues will disappear shortly. Hopefully shortly.

  9. Fast Charging will generate a large amount of heat. If the Heat is properly handled, then it should NOT have any effect on lifespan. However, if the heat is NOT handled properly, then it will create problems on the lifespan of the battery. Volt has cooling plate between each cell plate of the battery. That will control the temperature at each battery plate. Nissan's cooling is fan based which can cause an uneven cooling across the battery pack. Volt's design is relatevely more expensive and complicated to run and has the risk of "leaking" over its lifetime (or in severe accidents). Nissan choose to NOT use the system. That is why GM is the ONLY company that actually warranties the battery capacity of 70% after 10 yrs.

  10. There is no fan in the Nissan LEAF's battery pack. The battery pack is completely passively cooled.

    If the LEAF's pack were air-cooled, that would be an improvement over the current situation, but even then, it seems that it would only primarily benefit when multiple quick charges are performed in a day.

    To truly improve battery life in warm temps the pack must cooled with the HVAC system.

  11. A small drop in capacity would be acceptable if Nissan required all their dealers to leave their EVSE stations on at night so you could top off that slightly weak battery. Glenn Nissan in Lexington KY turns off the power to their L2 charging stations at night. I think Nissan North America, as well as all Nissan owners and potential customers should request that any dealer that turns off their charging stations at night end this absurd policy. Please leave the lights on!

  12. If the statistically insignificant owner loses 12-15% in one year then I'd say he might just get a new battery pack for free if the warranty garantees 80% remaining after five years.

    Not to journalists: if there's no good news to be had then go do something else. Pecking the eyes out of the same story to the detriment of the genre that you are reporting about makes no sense.

  13. Nissan does not warranty battery capacity at all. They are quite clear about this. They only warrant sharp decreases in battery capacity and defects which prevent the battery from generating full power.

  14. having driven EVs for 3+ years before getting my Leaf, i was pretty familiar with how batteries degrade, at least with lead acid. i fully expected a 5-10% decrease in storage in the first year with the rate of degradation then slowing down a 1-2% a year.

    well, that did not happen. after 18 months, i have literally seen no degradation at all. like Steve above, i am also in WA and our weather has been cooler than normal in summer since getting my Leaf nearly 18,000 miles ago.

    i did get Gary Giddings SOC meter to monitor the rate of degradation and highly recommend any Leaf owner get one. it brings a huge sense of well being to me that i can track the decline as it happens

  15. David,

    Like you, I live in a fairly temperate climate (Bristol, UK), and our main car, a 2011 Nissan Leaf, has now completed 18000 miles with little or no degradation in range or capacity.

    We haven't measured it, but successfully completed a 75 mile trip at the weekend without worry, which is about as far as we would normally feel safe taking the car...

  16. Remember the burn in and other problems with the first plasma televisions? I raise my glass to those of you who followed and are following the technology curve outwards.

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