Nissan is readying a new lithium-ion chemistry for its Leaf electric car, aimed at better range performance in hot-weather climates. And it's likely bound for all Leaf models in the first half of next year.
Last week at the Tokyo Motor Show, Andy Palmer, Nissan's executive vice president and global marketing chief, confirmed that the new chemistry will probably be implemented soon.
While the new chemistry won't provide any official improvement over the EPA-rated 84-mile range, it will produce real-world range improvement—and less degradation of capacity—for those in extremely hot climates, such as Arizona and Texas.
Although Palmer couldn't yet give an exact 'job one' on the new packs, he did say that things are looking good for the changeover, and this month the company will be making some key decisions regarding how to implement the new chemistry. A final testing period is about to conclude, he explained.
Will be a running improvement, not a model-year change
Billy Hayes, Nissan's vice president for global electric-car sales, said that provided it's approved, factories would simply stop building one chemistry one day and start another. All Leaf models globally would make the changeover—much like an engineering improvement to an engine design in a gasoline vehicle.
But that does mean if you're in the market at that time and in the South, you might want to pay attention to build date. The revised version of the battery chemistry performs better in prolonged high-heat situations. The Leaf's pack is air-cooled and thus could be somewhat more susceptible to extreme temperatures.
These packs could also become the replacement for current Leaf batteries that are replaced under warranty due to loss of capacity.
2013 Nissan Leaf
Following up on an Arizona issue
The move is a remedy to an issue first noted nearly a year and a half ago, when a particularly vocal group of Leaf owners in Arizona noted that their cars had begun to lose capacity bars as displayed on the dash—and some of their useful driving range as well.
Nissan then met with the Arizona owner group this past August, announcing the work in progress.
“Assuming that the testing worked out well, and we're optimistic that we would use that chemistry for replacements, moving forward,” said Palmer.
Nissan provided airfare, lodging, and meals to allow High Gear Media to bring you this first-person report.