Independent Tests Show Nissan Leaf Electric Cars Lost Range In Hot Climates

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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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Have Nissan Leafs in hot states suffered premature battery aging, or is the apparent loss in capacity down to a malfunction in the Leaf’s dashboard display? 

That’s been the question on the lips of Nissan Leaf owners worldwide after some owners in Phoenix, Arizona, began reporting that their cars had lost capacity bars

Earlier this month, Andy Palmer, executive vice president of Nissan reportedly dismissed reports of early battery capacity loss as a faulty battery level display, but now an independent investigation, led by Leaf enthusiasts, has concluded that Leafs with lost dashboard capacity bars do indeed have a smaller range than when they were new. 

The test, organized by Leaf owner and electric car advocate Tony Williams, took place over the past weekend in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Using twelve different Nissan Leafs with varying amounts of battery capacity bar loss, Williams and his team of volunteers meticulously recorded each car’s state of charge versus distance travelled on a pre-planned route, using the popular third-party GID state of charge meter for added accuracy. 

In order to eliminate as much noise from the data as possible, each driver was given a set of strict test conditions to follow, including no use of air conditioning, and traveling at a pre-set speed where possible. 

Since the test ended on Saturday, Williams has been carefully collating the data from the test. 

2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL Headlight

2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL Headlight

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The results show a clear loss of range in line with indicated battery capacity loss.

Moreover, some of the Leafs used in the test exhibited battery capacity loss after two years far greater than Nissan's own five and ten year battery capacity estimates predicted. 

For Leafs with 11 capacity bars showing instead of the full 12 capacity bars, indicating approximately 15 percent loss in battery capacity since new, ranges of between 73 and 80 miles were recorded, in keeping with the EPA’s official range estimate for the car.

For the six Leafs with 10 capacity bars showing, an average range  from full to empty was recorded of just under 72 miles per charge.

The worst affected Leaf, with four capacity bars missing, or around 60-65 percent of its original battery capacity remaining, was only capable of driving 59 miles before running out of charge.

Those Leafs examined with lost capacity weren’t all older, 2011 models either. 

“One woman, who just bought the car a month ago, couldn’t come close to 100 percent capacity,” Williams said. “When fully charged, her car was in reality only holding 91 percent of its original ‘new’ capacity.”

Speaking to Williams earlier on, we were told that despite some extensive searching, the team could not find a single Nissan Leaf in Phoenix which had its original battery capacity intact. 

And that included brand new 2012 Leafs sitting on dealer lots. 

The test results certainly vindicate those with lost capacity bars who had insisted their cars were suffering from premature battery aging, but without intervention from Nissan, it will do nothing to calm the fears of Leaf owners in hot climates who have yet to experience any battery capacity loss. 

At the time of writing, Nissan has not formally commented on this test.

A faulty battery gauge or premature battery aging caused by extreme heat? 

Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (31)
  1. There is no question in my mind that battery heat and internal resistance combined in extremely hot weather areas can help kill battery life. Nissan should have planned to have a thermo control system installed to help maintain battery temperature ranges such as what the Tesla has in it. Even a gas engine needs to be cooled.....

  2. Douglas, good to see you here. First, there is the problem of inadequate or perhaps even faulty instrumentation. And then the obvious one, battery degradation. We dissected battery performance on the owners forum in all possible ways, and I can assure you that it stays amazingly cool during operation. I measured the surface of the battery pack and the lower body panels with a infrared heat gun and it appears that the battery is only couple of degrees above ambient during normal operation. To see a Leaf return close to 95% of ideal range after a year in hot Phoenix climate borders on amazing. Unfortunately, many cars are apparently seeing significant range decrease. Perhaps some cells are not robust enough or a different chemistry is needed.

  3. Interesting. Of course various electronic components and wiring are subject to the effects of excess heat, not to mention lubricated nad non-lubricated mechanical parts, and so are electric motors. Perhaps the issue does not lie with the battery pack overheating as so many have jumped to conclude, but rather with either an electical or mechanical component or components? Chris (MSCEE, JD)

  4. E.g., resistance of copper wire increases with heat, so more energy is lost to resistance in a hot environment, during operation. Additionally, depending on how the charging circuitry is configured, it could be some over-charging occurs under these conditions, damaging battery cells and reducing capacity. There aare many possible reasons for the observed issue. As a patent attorney and electrical engineer, I recommend everybody consider not jumping to conclusions about the problem and instead wait for Nissan to determine what it is and come up with a solution. Presumably, they have the engineering experts on the Leaf. In the meantime, I think Nissan should compensate owners who have had significant range loss under these circumstances.

  5. "Earlier this month, Andy Palmer, executive vice president of Nissan reportedly dismissed reports of early battery capacity loss as a faulty battery level display"

    This is what I don't understand. How can Nissan even blame this on "faulty battery level display"? So, the faulty display only happens in hot climate and Faulty display only happens to certain cars?

    That is the biggest reason that people will seriously doubting Nissan' committment to EVs.

    My question is with the current Nissan attitude, will anyone believe in Nissan with their 2013 models improvments?

  6. Whether it is a battery problem or instrument problem or something else, Nissan need to address the problem and help their customers.

    If it is a "faulty battery level display" then Nissan should recall the car and fix it under warranty. Fixing faulty instrument displays is a difficult and expensive exercise.

    If it is a battery ageing issue, Nissan should fix it.

    If the problem is due to the customer (which I highly doubt), then Nissan need to educate their customers.

    I have driven the Nissan Leaf and it is a very nice car, but with a $48k price tag in Australia, you'd expect a high quality car with no dramas.

    Failure to address the issue will hurt sales.

  7. Nissan should offer battery replacement to concerned owners to prevent future PR issues...


  8. So they should replace the packs every 18 months in Phoenix... But for how long?

  9. Check this link:

    "Tony Williams, took place over the past weekend in Phoenix, Arizona."

  10. Somebody should just add a fan to the battery pack somehow and run it off the 12V system--which is lead acid, by the way. (What WERE the thinking?)

  11. No a bad idea except that there is no air flow designed in the battery pack.

    12V is NOT a bad design. 12V has been standard for a long time. It is cheaper and easier to have "off-shelf" parts for the Leaf. Most of those "shared" parts are already running on 12V.

  12. A fan is not going to help much; in a hot climate that's just going to blow hot air onto the hot battery...

    If those batteries don't like the heat, you'd need active cooling (continuous - and for that, the car needs to be plugged in continuously, or drain its battery)

    What I'd like to know is from what temp does this happen...

  13. What Nissan needs to do is discontinue the old generation Leaf and design a new Leaf. What they need to do is to design a better battery pack and test it in the heart of the summer in Death Valley. Tesla has a liquid cooled battery pack why would a highly experienced manufacture such as Nissan Cut costs and not put in an active thermal control? Nissan's oversight and design flaws with the Leaf’s battery pack could mean that Nissan's market share of Ev's will be dwindling soon.

  14. Serious question: my Renault Fluence ZE makes all kinds of noises when it starts charging. These come from the back of the car, obviously from the battery. I've never heard this in motion. They are certainly loud enough to notice if you sit in the car and even audible outside the car too.

    There must be some fans in the battery moving air at least and the noise is so strange I'd be inclined to say it sounds like there's pumping going on.

    Does the Leaf make any kind of noise when it's charging, especially from the battery?

  15. The LEAF has a water cooled inverter which has water pumps that run when charging/driving.

  16. Same with my Renault, that's at the front and clearly plumbed into the obviously massively over engineered normal petrol car cooling system. I can drive at max speed for an hour, stop and put my hand flat on the "hood" (I'm translating to American).

    I'm still curious if a Leaf makes any noise from the battery pack when charging.

  17. Peltier system Brian.

    Read this:

  18. It is important to note something that was left out of the article. They did, in fact, determine there is some faulty instrumentation. One or more cars that showed 2 capacity bars missing actually had one of the longest ranges, even over vehicles that showed no capacity loss. So yes, they do have an instrumentation problem. But they also have a battery problem.

  19. This is not a car able to cope with climate change. Please follow the meteo and build and commercialize a car adapted to the actual and future meteo.

  20. Did you check the political affiliation of the testers?

    Karl Rove might have been in one of those 12 Leaf.

    Karl would have cranked up the heater during the test and lied about it.

    I've owned and driven a Leaf for about a year.

    My range is going up not down.

    It's better now than it was new.

  21. Harry, we needed some of what you're drinking during our testing! If your range keeps going up too much, you might have a perpetual motion machine. I'd love to chit chat some more, but I've got to get over to the Fox News studio for an interview; Mitt and I have some catching up to do. Mega EV dittos to everybody.

  22. Tony

    I plug in my Nissan Leaf every day when I get home from work.

    The charging process shuts off on its own when the battery is full.

    That said, every charge is slightly different.

    In other words, some days I get more of a charge than others, for whatever reasons.

    It probably has something to do with the temperature?

    I bought my car in January (winter).

    I'm getting a better charge now than I did in the winter.

    Does that make any sense to you?

  23. Harry,

    How are you judging the charge? If you're judging by the estimated range, understand that number is your battery capacity multiplied by your very recent driving efficiency. In a moderate climate, driving uses less energy in the summer than the winter, so your estimated range can go up even if your battery capacity has declined.

  24. Alas after 14 months and 18,000 miles I have lost a bar of capacity. My range has noticeably decreased at the same time - it seemed to happen suddenly rather than gradually too. It's been a very hot summer here in southern cal.

  25. I think it is ironic that Arizona was one of the initial markets for the EV1. GM was afraid to put the EV1 in cold climates. Now we have the oppose problem with the LEAF in Arizona. (ya, I know different battery chemistry, but still ironic.)

  26. Well, it is NOT a problem if the battery is properly cooled. Volt, Tesla, Focus EV are all liquid cooled and none of them are suffering like Leaf in those heat...

    BTW, all batteries have temperature issues with both cold AND hot.

    Lead Acid batteries were in the original EV1. Lead Acid batteries don't like extreme heat either. NiMH is slightly better than Li-ion in heat, but not by much...

  27. Another good reason to have replaceable batteries in electric cars. It will be interesting to see how the Renault Fluence ZE's hold up in the Israeli heat with the battery switch stations provided by Better Place.

  28. I have not seen the raw data collected, so it is hard to say for sure. But playing devil's (Nissan's) advocate, it seems that if brand new cars off the lot don't show full capacity, then the total capacity lost is not as much as everyone is claiming. If you only start with 91% and end up after a couple of years with 85%, your battery has only lost 3% per year in the Phoenix heat. Nissan didn't emphasize education of new owners enough on Li-ion battery care (usually charging only to 80%, and trying not to go below 20%), but it seems that only a few people (maybe 5?) out of 30,000 worldwide owners have seen excessive capacity loss, and we don't know how they took care of their cars, so this test is less scientific than advertised.

  29. Mmmm... I have to disagree here. I have a very different interpretation of these data than most:

  30. Not only do we have to swill overpriced coffee at Star Bucks for hours to charge the car, we also have to religiously watch The Weather Channel's podcast, "Drive it, Push It, or Rake It" for driving "out of season" in our Leaf. Tis a small price to pay for saving the world, I guess.

  31. Of course arrogant Nissan ignored its neglected customers again!

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