Nissan's new electric car, the 2011 Leaf, is rolling out slowly.

Recently, it came to light that early-delivery vehicles are failing to start after the air conditioning has been used under certain circumstances.  

Nissan has developed a software update to fix the problem, and will install it in all affected Leafs for owners who bring in their cars.

The update is supposed to take only about 60 minutes at Leaf-authorized Nissan service centers. But when I took in my Leaf (VIN #320) yesterday for a 9 am appointment, after 90 minutes the service manager came to the waiting area to tell me that "the VI software is loading very slowly."  

After another 40 minutes, he returned and offered me a free loaner car for the rest of the day. The service technician continued to oversee the new software installation.

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with charging station visible; photo by George Parrott

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with charging station visible; photo by George Parrott

Clearly, the update process is not quite as quick as Nissan corporate had suggested.

Leaf drivers should be sure to check carefully with their dealer about courtesy drop-off and pickup, even a free loaner car, if the service takes longer than the "one hour to complete" designated by the company.

This reprogramming is designed to eliminate the "diagnostic programming error" that has led to some 2011 Leaf cars refusing to start after the air conditioning is used and they are then shut down. It's also said to "improve the accuracy of the driving range display," which has been a consistent frustration to many early Leaf drivers.

When I started my drive to the dealership yesterday, I had a displayed range of 111 miles. It was 11.6 miles to the dealership, but I arrived with a range calculated at 80 miles!

After the service upgrade, which finally took a bit over 4 hours,  driving the exact reverse of my morning transit, I started with a range display of 88 miles. I arrived at the end of an 11.2-mile route with a remaining range of 75 miles.

It look likes the range estimate display is now significantly better after the software update. If this improvement carries through under all circumstances, Leaf owners will rejoice.