2011 Nissan Leafs Start Losing Capacity Bars: Should You Worry?

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Nissan Leaf: Lost Battery Capacity

Nissan Leaf: Lost Battery Capacity

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It had to happen some time, just not perhaps as quickly as this. 

Since Nissan’s all-electric Leaf hatchback launched in late 2010, many have been watching with interest to see how long it would be before the car’s 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack showed the gradual reduction in range and battery capacity brought about by battery aging.

Now, within a week of one another, two Nissan Leaf owners in Phoenix, Arizona have reported their cars have officially lost one of twelve high-voltage battery status bars, indicating a substantial loss in original battery capacity. 

Thus far, we suggest Leaf owners not worry--and that they rigorously follow Nissan's charging instructions, which it's not clear the two owners who lost that first bar did.

Battery capacity

But what does losing that first capacity bar mean? And should you worry?

Just like any other lithium-ion battery, the battery pack in the Nissan Leaf exhibits a drop in battery capacity over time. 

In other words, the amount of energy it can store gradually reduces over time.

In gadgets like cellphones and laptop computers, that equates to a shorter operational time before recharging is required. In an electric car, battery capacity loss equates to a shorter range. 

2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL Instrument Cluster

2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL Instrument Cluster

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Twelve lights

To enable owners to keep track of their Leaf’s battery health, Nissan designed the Leaf with two different bar graphs clustered in the same state-of-charge display. 

The longer bars on the left of the state-of-charge display indicate current battery charge -- or how full the car is. The smaller, set of bars on the right indicate the battery’s overall capacity over time. 

As its battery ages, the right-side gauge slowly falls, with the first light extinguishing when 15 percent of the battery’s original capacity has been lost.

Two cars, both in AZ

So far, the only two Nissan Leaf’s we’ve heard of that have lost their first capacity light are in Phoenix Arizona. One lost its first capacity bar after 17,000 miles and 14 months, while another owner reported losing their first capacity bar at 13,633 miles and one year. 

A Day In The Life Of A Nissan Leaf

A Day In The Life Of A Nissan Leaf

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In both cases, the owners report charging their Leafs to 100 percent full every night, using a level 2 charging station. 

High temperature, poor charging practice?

With daytime temperatures reaching in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and nighttime temperatures rarely going below 70 degrees, some Leaf fans are speculating that the extreme heat of Arizona is prematurely aging the battery packs.

But we suspect the charging practice has more effect than the heat.

The first owner to report a problem, with a 15 percent loss in battery capacity after 17,000 miles and 14 months, admitted that her car sat for nearly a month during May 2011 with a full battery pack. 

This is considered bad practice, since leaving a battery fully charged for an extended length of time is known to prematurely age the battery. 

Secondly, the owner reports that the Leaf in question is regularly recharged to 100 percent, even when its battery pack is more than 98 percent full "topped off", recharging the battery back to full when it is more than half full.  This is also known to prematurely age lithium ion battery packs.

As a point of note, Nissan advises against both of the above, which could invalidate the car’s battery warranty if frequently carried out. 

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