How To Keep Your Nissan Leaf’s Battery Pack Happy In Hot Weather

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Taken in Lisbon, Portugal. Pre-Production Test.

Taken in Lisbon, Portugal. Pre-Production Test.

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Just like humans, lithium-ion battery packs don’t like extremes of temperature, which is why automakers often build plug-in cars with liquid-cooled battery packs. 

Unlike the 2012 Chevrolet Volt and 2012 Tesla Model S however, the Nissan Leaf doesn't have any liquid cooling for its battery pack, meaning it can overheat when the weather gets too hot.

As owners in the hottest parts of America have discovered this summer, prolonged exposure to heat over 100 degrees Fahrenheit can prematurely age the Leaf’s battery, reducing its capacity and useable range.

There is, however hope. 

By reducing your car’s exposure to extreme heat, as well as limiting the amount of heat generated within the battery pack, you can reduce the effect hot summer days have on your Leaf’s battery pack.

Avoid ‘100 percent’ charges

Just like many other Lithium-ion battery packs, the battery pack in the 2011/12 Nissan Leaf does not like to be fully charged, or fully discharged. 

As a battery is charged up, its internal resistance increases, making it harder to put more energy into the battery.

2011 Nissan LEAF iPhone App

2011 Nissan LEAF iPhone App

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The harder it is to charge, the more heat is generated in the process, raising the temperature of the battery. 

Although a 100 percent charge on the Nissan Leaf doesn’t really charge its battery pack to 100 percent -- more like 95 percent -- it still puts the battery pack under more strain than an 80 percent charge. 

In hot weather, using an 80 percent charge can significantly improve battery health.

Don’t run your car until empty

Running a battery to almost flat also impacts on battery life and health.

Because power is a function of current times voltage, and a discharged battery has a lower voltage than a fully charged one, an almost-empty battery has to provide a higher current for a given power level than it did when fully charged. 

Top Gear Stage Another Electric Car Stunt

Top Gear Stage Another Electric Car Stunt

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Increasing the current drain on the almost-empty battery generates more heat, raising the temperature of the battery. 

Reduce power consumption

The more instantaneous energy you pull from your Leaf’s battery pack, the harder it has to work and the hotter it will get. 

On hot days, resist the temptation to drive hard and fast. Instead, make sure you accelerate smoothly and calmly, draining as little energy from the battery pack as possible. 

In really hot weather, you’ll of course want to use the air conditioning, but wherever possible, pre-cool your car when it is plugged into the charging station before you set off. Not only will it pre-cool the cabin, but it will dramatically reduce the strain on the battery pack. 

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Comments (15)
  1. The problem a lot of us have in Phoenix are garages that will simply not cool down unless the door remained open all night, and that's not an option unless you want your car stolen here, as well as the contents of the garage. A garage here can easily remain over 100 degrees all night, which means the battery pack remains at 7 bars all day, every day. While it would be lovely to give my cars an air-conditioned home, it makes absolutely no financial sense.

    We now know that this situaion is not sustainable for a Leaf, but Nissan continues to stonewall its owners on some sort of solution, buy-back plan (like the Volt after the over-hyped fire), or even acknowlegement.

  2. I'd suggest adding a ventilation fan to the garage. Switch it on when you get home and set the car to charge during the middle of the night.

  3. As a Phoenix Leaf owner, I am asking ALL Leaf owners to hit the DECLINE button every time you power up your Leaf until Nissan resolves this issue. It is an easy way you can tell Nissan to back their product, which you have purchased. Send Nissan a message that you are unhappy with their lack of support for the Leaf, it's early adopters and the EV market.

  4. I wonder how "swamp cooler" would impact the Leaf. Installing a water mister will significantly reduce temperature in hot climate such as AZ...

  5. Some of these ideas are silly. "Don't charge your battery all the way" is a great idea unless, of course, you need all of the already slight range of the car, for example.

    All of this points out (a) the Leaf's design is flawed and the car should have a battery cooling system -- sorry Nissan (b) more range is better, because a lot of things can compromise range. It sounds like, really, the BHAG for electric vehicles is a 500-mile range.

  6. Whilst I agree that any 'proper' EV that uses a Lithium Ion-based battery should have a 'climate controlled' battery pack i.e. capable of being cooled as well as heated, I totally disagree that any 'normal' EV needs as much or indeed, anywhere near as much range as 500 miles. This is a leftover of the internal combustion engine way of thinking and is a total anachronism.

    Why would any normal person on a long trip balk at the idea of driving for 2 hours and then having a 30 minute break to take some refreshment and charge their car up? 200 miles is more than enough, particularly so when you consider the average daily car mileage in the US is just 38 miles.

    Just plug it in when you get home and you're ready for the next day.

  7. I am really curious on the next Revision of the Leaf. I wonder if Nissan is going to address all the issues. Typically an automakers update the car every 4-5 years. Nissan will be due for a update in 2014 or 2015. But the way it is going, can Nissan wait that long for it?

  8. So were being asked to make even more compromises for a poorly deigned car. No wonder its not selling.

  9. So Nissan once promised a 100 miles of range. EPA reduced that to 73 miles of range. Now we learn that if you live in a hot climate another ~40%(?) of the battery's capacity shouldn't be used reducing range further to ~45 miles.

    My tip would be: if you live in a hot climate: lease the car and let Nissan pay the price for offering a battery that's just too small to begin with and shouldn't be offered in hot climates at all without a decent cooling system.

  10. Ambient temp appears to be the biggest factor in how fast LEAF owners are losing capacity.

    If you live in an area which spends it's days over 100F, you're very likely to lose the top capacity bar after approximately 1 year. So far, the vast majority of owners are in Arizona, Texas, and one person in the California desert.

    On the other hand, LEAF owners in Seattle appear to have very little if any measurable capacity loss despite high mileage and use.

    So there's very little that can be done to slow the decline in hot climates except to park your car in a garage w/AC.

    Nissan has totally screwed up - launching the LEAF in AZ lead customers to believe that the LEAFs battery could handle the heat - but it can't.

  11. I agree with this article's recommendations, even if it is difficult to actually do some of these things.

    One complicating factor is the need for cell balancing. No mention was made of this. What I try to do is to charge to 80% and then top off to 100% just before departure. It is the time spent at whatever charge state that determines the rate of deterioration. Therefore I try to limit the time spent sitting at over 100%.

  12. i am going to have to dispute a few points here. i dont believe it wise to charge when cool, then take that fully charged pack into a hotter day. heat acts as a catalyst and i believe part of the issue is a pack fully charged at night when its cool and the pack being allowed to heat up before the user takes off in the morning.

    the other thing that i think needs to be looked at is SOC. it would appear that maybe 80% is simply too high. what we really need is someone who can to run the pack in the middle say 20-60% SOC if possible. granted that is a lot of range lost but in my personal experience, its very doable. i do it on a regular basis. all my charging is done manually and i only charge to 100% maybe 3-7 times a month. no charge at al

  13. Whew! High maintenance on a mental level, is the LEAF. If I recall, the 2013 LEAF will have a 6.6kwh charging capability which could worsen the overheating problem given what Nikki recommends in her article.

    I doubt Nissan will be advising LEAF prospects of these recommendations. Caveat emptor.....

  14. I imagine if Nissan is truly going to upgrade the charger to 6.6KW, then it is almost impossible to get away from liquid cooling.. But that will be a major "redesign" for the battery pack. I think that is why Nissan has been keeping quiet on what 2013 vesion of the Leaf will have...

  15. get one of these

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