Leaf Owners Send Science In To Tackle Wilting Nissan Leafs

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Instrument Cluster - 2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL

Instrument Cluster - 2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL

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There’s nothing better than a scientific test to prove or disprove a theory.

So when Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer described the recent reports of battery capacity loss in its Leaf electric car as nothing more than a ‘faulty battery level display’ earlier this month, a group of Leaf owners in Phoenix, Arizona decided to put his claims to the test. 

Organized by electric car advocate and Leaf owner Tony Williams, a mass range test of a dozen Nissan Leafs will be carried out this coming weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, to find out if a loss of capacity bars on the dash equals a loss in range.

Following a set route, Williams and his team of volunteer Leaf owners will test real-world ranges of 12 Nissan Leafs with two or more missing capacity bars, to see if those with fewer capacity bars lit travel as far as those without any indicated capacity loss. 

Using GPS data logging, and the popular third-party ‘Gidmeter’, Williams and his team will compare how each of the 12 Leafs taking part perform, logging essential battery information to figure out if Palmer’s insistance that “We don’t have a battery problem” is true or not. 

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

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“I truly hope that the results of this range demonstration will result in Nissan addressing the core battery degradation issue, but I fear that it will only be used by attorneys defending affected owners,” Williams told us earlier today. “Publicly, Nissan appears to be in complete denial at the highest levels.”

Despite Nissan investigating the issue itself, taking several Leafs with apparent premature battery capacity loss for extensive testing in Casa Grande, Arizona, Williams and his fellow Leaf owners remain unimpressed.

“At least one of the affected Leafs that was sent by Nissan to their Case Grande, Arizona testing facility in July was returned with a reset battery capacity gauge, as if to indicate that they had replaced the battery with a new one,” Williams said. “However, it appears on the surface that an outright fraud may have been committed, since it doesn’t appear that the vehicle’s range has improved; only the gauge's now improper reading.”

In order to make the range test as scientific as possible, Williams has devised a set of rules that each driver must follow in order to keep test conditions as consistent as possible. 

These include ensuring the front windows remain less than 2 inches open, with rear windows closed, climate control off, uniform tire pressure and no additional weight. 

In keeping with good scientific practice, Williams has even come up with some predictions about how each Leaf will perform, based on his past observations and Nissan’s own range charts.

Fast Charging 2011 Nissan Leaf

Fast Charging 2011 Nissan Leaf

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At an average speed of 62 mph, Williams predicts cars with no lost bars will be able to travel 84 miles. With two bars lost, he predicts 66 miles of range per charge. 

For the one car with four missing bars, Williams predicts a range of 56 miles before it runs out of charge. 

With Nissan remaining tight-lipped on the subject of battery capacity loss, Williams and his team of volunteers hope Saturday’s range test gives them better insight into what is really happening. 

“We will know very early Saturday morning, one way or the other,” Williams told us. 

Just like the many hundred Leaf owners watching this test, we await the results with interest. 


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Comments (24)
  1. That is awesome. Very well done, can't wait to hear the results.

  2. Fascinating experiment. Hard to imagine after all Nissan invested in its EV project that it wouldn't take complaints like this serious like some owners seem to suggest. This experiment, if done properly, preferably with a brand new Leaf participating as reference point should at least establish to some extend what loosing a capacity bar really means.

  3. Four bars missing and Nissan is not doing anything about it???

  4. Sure, they're doing something about it. They're letting him turn it back in Sept.15th.

  5. I really appreciate Green Car Report's coverage of this issue. As the driver of the "4 BAR" car, I have been very unhappy with Nissan's response,or lack of, in this matter. I was talked into Leasing my Leaf, instead of buying like I had planned, by the sales manager at the dealership. As a lessee, you can terminate your Lease anytime, if you pay the penalties, which I did, and Nissan refused to waive. So, NO Nissan did not do anything for me, even though I have lost 4 bars in just over 15 months. I really loved my Leaf, but now that it barely gets me to work (42 miles) without having to charge during my commute, Not so much anymore.

  6. But if you didn't turn the car in, would have they covered the pack under the warranty or claimed that everything was normal?

  7. Jan, per their warranty booklet Nissan does not cover battery capacity, only power output. Scott's car was still capable of traveling on the freeway, and motor power was not diminished. Unfortunately, the range of the vehicle and by extension its battery capacity has been significantly reduced, which makes Scott's commute difficult, as he stated above.

  8. I wont be buying another Nissan. My LEAF so far has maintained its full battery capacity due to the fact i live in a cooler climate but seeing Nissan's unethical treatment of other LEAF owners I see know reason to remain loyal to the brand.

  9. For those of us that have not yet purchased a LEAF, the battery issue and response does give us pause.

  10. "At least one of the affected Leafs that was sent by Nissan to their Case Grande, Arizona testing facility in July was returned with a reset battery capacity gauge, as if to indicate that they had replaced the battery with a new one"

    That is the MOST SHOCKING PART!!!!!!!!!! So Nissan just "recalibrate" the gauges and send the "defect" car back? Now if you complain the ranges, then Nissan can just use the excuse that "your range may vary" to get away with it!

    Shocking! Well, I guess I won't be buying a "potentially" new and improved 2013 Nissan Leaf then... I will wait for the $35k Tesla. I guess this is one case where I am glad that I bought American Engineering. (Volt).

    I haven't heard any Volt owners with loss in EV range.

  11. I'm very close to suing Nissan if they don't break the silence. We waited and watched while the cars went to Casa Grande, and they've had ample time to study the results. Now it's time for some kind of action, even if it's only acknowledging the problem (and it is most definitely a problem), and saying they will buy back the affected cars like Chevy did after the Volt fire non-story. Chevy had class, and because of that I will be replacing our Leaf with a Volt. I WILL NOT buy another Nissan after this.

  12. Coming late to the party, but... Hearing these horror stories in the comments... Ouch! Makes me glad I didn't buy a Leaf (and I live in NYC!) but get the Ford Focus Electric instead! (And so far, 76 miles per full LIQUID-COOLED charge--EVEN during the HOT summers!)

    And, I didn't buy, but leased! In three years time, who KNOWS what kind of battery electric vehicles we'll have?

  13. My Leaf has performed flawlessly for 12,000+ miles in the past year, however I am not discounting the experiences of others who live in other climates (I'm in the mild Pacific Northwest). Something that concerns me about this article is the expectation that cars with no lost bars will drive 84 miles at an average of 62 mph. Before I purchased my Leaf, what I read was "highway speed" users could expect about 70 miles. Nearly all my miles are on a 22-mile commute on a secondary highway. Sure enough, the first time I drove that, my range was 70 miles. It was again today. Tomorrow is its annual check-up, complete with battery check. We'll see then how much degradation there has been. Interesting problem, apparently temperature-dependent.

  14. Just picked my 2011 up from its annual service with battery check. I had been hoping for a percentage of battery capacity, but the test result is just the 12-bar scale, and mine has all twelve still. I learned that my practice of keeping the Leaf "topped off" with a full charge is not a good idea. I'll be letting it drain more before recharging at like 80% or so, as I do during the summer when I don't make my daily commute.

    I also checked my original window sticker and it states: "on a fully charged battery, vehicle can travel about ... 73 miles", so while I wish the Arizona testers well and am interested in and grateful for their research, I'm thinkin' their expectation of 84 miles at 62 mph is excessive.

  15. Dale, thank you for your comments and the data. As a new LEAF owner I thought that the freeway range was about 50 miles, which seemed low. I called Nissan and posted on an owner's forum, and it wasn't until November of 2011 that I came to the conclusion that I was wrong. I drove the car for 107 (mostly freeway) miles before running out of charge. The energy economy for that trip was 5.1 miles/kWh and the calculated usable energy from the battery was 21 kWh. I drove the car from a state of full charge until it crawled in turtle mode. The freeway speed and your willingness to drive well beyond the low battery warning determine the true range of the vehicle, not the guess-o-meter on the dash: http://bit.ly/leafrangechart

  16. Apparently the word "freeway" means different things to different people. Here in Texas, freeway largely means 70mph, not 55 or 60mph. And although Texas is relatively flat, it is also over 90F degrees most of the year. My experience here in Texas is 4.4Miles/KWH and a trustworthy range of about 55 miles- trustworthy meaning I don't want to end up turtling outside of the reach of an L3 charger.

  17. Steve, of course. I should have be more specific: I drove 50 mph on cruise control and without heater on my 100-mile run. This is borderline dangerous in California. Although it can be done, I would not advise anyone to drive like that with any regularity.

  18. Dale, with an energy usage rate of 4 miles (6.437 km) per kWh, based on Nissan’s published official range data from Technical Bulletin NTB11-076a, it specifies that a new car would travel 84 miles (135 km). That data has been proven many, many times with my compilation of data during the development of the LEAF range chart. My chart actually predated Nissan's bulletin.

  19. "Early Saturday morning" has come and gone. What are the results? Who needs to apologize: Andy Palmer or Tony Williams?

  20. Mark, the test has been pretty hard on everyone. Tony had to tow his LEAF to Phoenix and back, didn't sleep for 48 hours. Please have patience. You can monitor recent developments here: http://bit.ly/phxrangetest

  21. @Mark,

    We're keeping close communications with Tony open, and we'll let you know of the results just as soon as he, and everyone else, has recovered from the weekend testing!

  22. Tony,

    I sure hope you're right! I'm just sayin' that, based on the window sticker I looked at before I bought my Leaf and on my personal experience of over 13,000 miles of secondary highway use, 84 miles seems excessive. It may well make it, but it enters a level of range anxiety that I am not comfortable with, nor do I believe that Nissan promoted to the general public. Plus, I have found it wise to ALWAYS discount ANY manufacturer's claims.

    These precautions have allowed trouble-free Leaf performance, have not inconvenienced me, nor have they left me on the side of the road. I recognize the limits of the Leaf and stay within them.

    I wish you all luck with your investigation and look forward to your results.


  23. How did this ever turn out?

  24. We owners shouldn't have to do anything beyond advising this ARROGANT auto manufacturer of the problem. They should fix their own junk!

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