Nissan Leaf Electric Car Reports Own Battery-Cell Failure Via Carwings

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John Duncan takes delivery of one of the first 2011 Nissan LEAF EVs, near Portland OR, 12/15/2010

John Duncan takes delivery of one of the first 2011 Nissan LEAF EVs, near Portland OR, 12/15/2010

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Wouldn't it be nice if your car could tell you not just that something was wrong, but that something might be about to go wrong?

A Nissan Leaf in Washington state did just that, and owner Rob Greenlee only found out when he got a call from his local dealership asking him to bring it in for a battery check.

As Greenlee recounted in a Facebook group for Nissan Leaf owners in Seattle:

I just got my 2011 Nissan Leaf back from a two week stay at the dealer to replace a failing battery cell. I have had my Leaf for almost two years now and 17,000 miles.

Nissan said, they detected from my charging records that they had identified an individual cell that was not performing as they expected.

Greenlee's dealer called to let him know that the Leaf's Carwings system had noticed the cell behavior, even though no error message was displayed in the car's instrument cluster.

He brought the car in and the failing cell was identified, removed, and replaced with a new part.

The entire repair was free under the Leaf's 8-year battery warranty.

Greenlee explains that while the service department initially thought the repair would take only four days, diagnosis by Nissan engineers connected remotely to the battery pack took longer than expected.

While the dealership initially thought it might have to replace the battery controller as well as one of the cells, in the end, the Nissan engineers said only the underperforming cell needed to be replaced.

As Leaf owner George Whiteside commented, "Pushing that 'Yes' button [to accept the Carwings Terms of Service and permit Nissan to monitor the Leaf remotely] suddenly doesn't seem like such an inconvenience!"

It is worth noting, however, that the new base trim level for the U.S.-built 2013 Nissan Leaf--known as the Leaf S, and priced at $28,800 plus delivery--does not include the Carwings remote connectivity system.

Perhaps dealership sales staff will use stories like these to suggest that buyers move up from the Leaf S to a higher trim level, in order to have the remote monitoring?

How comfortable are you with the idea that a carmaker wants to monitor your car's mechanical behavior?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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Comments (13)
  1. I lease a LEAF and I am VERY comfortable with Nissan contacting me if there is something wrong with my vehicle. I want electric cars to improve and monitoring the packs will speed up that process. We're in the begining stages here. If they can do this now, it really makes me look forward to what they will be able to do in a few years. Now put a liquid cooling system in the 2014s.

  2. Thinking… Vehicle manufacture monitoring of vehicle adds an interesting new dynamic re: Dealer Servicing. Today most dealer networks don't exchange maintence info. The monitoring could create a useful vehicle database should a part be installed incorrectly, or if poor replacement parts were installed (including when & where). Wonder how comfortable dealers will be with sharing mechanical service history?

    Access to service history would also help engineers collect real-world data to improve safety & reliability of designs. A complete vehicle mechanical history could also help a vehicles resell value, or educate a future owner.

  3. So, why is it that the owner him or herself is not privy to such information? I would like to know the performance dynamics of the battery array in something that I paid for. I would like for that option to be available.

  4. Great question. I think there's great opportunity for manufactures to differentiate in this area.

    Technology is here, but manufactures don't quite understand the benefits allowing customers to view their data. (Corp. lawyers are likely being overly cautious on risk concerns)

    Automotive has been slow to adapt new IT technology, but if you want to experiment now, check:
    - Monitoring System, or
    for what is possible by plugging into your OBD (OnBoard Data/Diagnostic) port.

  5. I think it's great just as long as they're only monitoring the mechanics.

  6. CDspeed; i fail to understand your paranoia. are you afraid someone is going to send you a speeding ticket or your insurance rates will go up because you rolled a stop sign?

    This data collecting could result in a much more accurate GOM, ranges based on terrain and previous driving history taking the driver's ability into account, etc. sure we always have to worry about "Big Brother" but what most fail to realize is that hiding in this world only leaves you on the outside looking in.

    Personally, I want ads that tell me about a special on the next block. I want to know about coupons for items I am reading about... That is what big brother can do for me. its not a one way street. you still have all the ultimate decision power

  7. David, it doesn't matter what CDspeed is concerned about. He's ok with Nissan collecting diagnostics but not tracking e.g. his whereabouts. So am I. It's not paranoia, it's human.

    This guys explains it better:

  8. John:
    Good information for Leaf owners, thank you.

    I suspect that the repair took more time than estimated because you just don't replace a bad battery module in a battery. I'm sure there is a required balancing and testing period before releasing the repaired battery back to customer usage.

    Please forget what you have learned about Pb Batteries. A Li Battery is completely different and is a much different chemistry.

  9. Absolutely standard for my Better Place car in Israel too. I believe I've had one faulty battery and it was taken out of service for repair at the next switch (which I managed to get to though I did hit 0% 2km from the station which is not something I make a habit of).

    Probably a failing cell: it manifested as a steadily accelerating rate of depletion that confused the range prediction and knocked about 20km off my range.

  10. This is a great story (I blogged it as well!) on so many levels but really (again!) illustrates another one of Nissan's "rookie" mistakes in marketing an amazing new technology.

    If Nissan had mentioned Carwing's ability to diagnose such a problem then they did a poor job of empathizing that fact. So many LEAFers frustrated over Carwings constant "accept" requirement and confusing, misleading or simply wrong stats have chosen to ignore Carwings which only hurts the EV community as a whole.

    This data not available to analyze and less data means less learned and less changed.

    Thanks for helping get the word out on this. Hopefully this will bring more LEAFers back into the fold!

  11. It might also be less of an annoyance if they only asked you to share your charging data when you actually recharged the battery instead of every time you get in the car. I also would like to have access to my battery data as well.

  12. I had a circuit board go bad in the battery pack in my Think, they swapped the whole pack within about a week. They were not sure at first if it was a bad cell, but the problem turned out to be one of the 16 circuit boards that do the monitoring.

    Remote monitoring is almost the norm in heavy trucking, and clearly Tesla does it. It does not matter if it is an electric vehicle or a conventional. On Star has saved many lives, and probably also helps with maintenance. Welcome to the 21st century. I like it here.

  13. I agree that having to say you accept monitoring everytime you start the car is a bit aggravating. You should set it as yes or no in the settings and ifyou change your mind then change the setting. I like the monitoring.

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