By on September 28, 2012

Nissan bought back two Leafs from Arizona customers who complained about deteriorating batteries. Automotive News [sub] thinks “this could mollify a small group of Leaf owners and green-car enthusiasts.” However, it does not look like it.

At MyNissanLeaf.com, the discussion meanwhile fills 400 pages and more than 4,000 posts. Hybridcars reports that a small group of vocal Nissan Leaf owners and erstwhile enthusiasts feel they were “not being treated with forthrightness in their attempts to have Nissan concede their batteries were prematurely degraded due to heat.”

Originally willing to help Nissan improve the car, the spurned Leaf-lovers turn into enemies and Volt buyers. Said one forum poster:

“[Forum member] Tony has been one of the strongest supporters of the LEAF and it is troubling to see the transformation in recent months. I should say that this is troubling for Nissan and its fledgling EV enterprise because clearly, unlike GM (maybe it’s really learned from the EV1 fallout), Nissan has not shown appropriate support for it’s early adopters!

While Leaf owners in Arizona are appalled by Nissan not admitting defects, car executives show more sympathy: “This is early stage technology, and problems arising in a concatenation of circumstances are common,” said an executive of a German car company with extensive American experience. “But if you have ever been the target of a NHTSA probe, or, worse, of a class action suit, and were hounded by a pack of rabid lawyers, you learned to shut up until you know exactly what the problem is, and probably even longer .”

Not surprisingly, a class action suit has been filed on September 24 “on behalf of a proposed Class of all California and Arizona consumers who purchased or leased any 2011 through 2012 Nissan Leaf vehicle.”

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48 Comments on “The Case Of The Missing Bars: Nissan Buys Back Leafs, Lawyers Sue...”


  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    Dirty hippies with unrealistic expectations of brand new tech and their lawyers killed the electric car… Well I guess that answers that…

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I’d feel bad for Nissan, but tough luck to any company that positions themselves to take advantage of forced market distortions. They’re profiteers in the war on the middle class.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      “any company that positions themselves to take advantage of forced market distortions”

      So all auto makers, then?

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      What? Would you be equally feeling bad for companies like GM and Ford who have built EV’s and then getting sued? No you wouldn’t.
      Of course GM and Ford are not getting sued because they seem to have engineered the battery cooling correctly – which seems to be a contributory cause of this specific issue.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        GM sells hybrids with token electrical ranges. Ford may sell BEV Focuses, but I’ve yet to see one. Living in San Diego, I see Nissan Leafs every day. The jury is out at best on the others.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        The Volt has an electric range of around 30-35 miles and the Leaf is around 75 miles (when new and not in a hot climate). So the Volt has about 50% of the Leaf’s range. I wouldn’t call it token (what would you call the Prius 15 mile range?). Maybe you haven’t seen a Focus EV (nor have I but they haven’t been out as long), but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If Ford has screwed up the cooling system too, then I know you will feel bad for them! I would just call it like it is – i.e. they screwed up. We will see if that is the case.

        I am not in the market for an EV or PHV but if GM had screwed up like this then they would, rightly, be criticized vehemently by you and others on TTAC.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        You’ll find bias in anything. There wasn’t even a reference to Detroit in that comment, implied or otherwise. Is your personal vendetta against CJ so blinding that it’s affected your reading comprehension?

        Who freakin’ cares if he’s biased, anyway? At least he doesn’t try to mask his true agenda under some bogus veil of “consistency.”

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        FAB6 – Hardly a vendetta, just a discussion which is what I thought the comment section was for. Everyone has preferences, that is normal but to have some credibility you need to be reasonable (not perfectly) fair.
        Is it really too much to ask that if a person who would criticize company A for an engineering flaw, which other companies at the same stage of development foresaw and fixed, leading to repurchasing cars, then goes ahead and says the same when company B does it? Rather than actually feeling sorry for them?

        As for including Detroit, you may have noticed that that doesn`t stop some commentators or BS from including Detroit when it suits them in articles not directly related. And I thought the Volt was a key competitor to the Leaf.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        FromaBuick6 has a point, considering that you jumped in to complain about bias when I said that I don’t feel bad for Nissan and I consider them to be engaged in unacceptable behavior. Your prism prevented you from understanding what I wrote and your obsession with me caused you to respond without any actual slight to your lobby. It is a fact that Leafs are the electric cars that have wracked up the most miles. Volts are hybrids. If their ranges fall a few percent a year, it isn’t as dramatic. Their range is about 40% as much to start and then they transition seamlessly to being indifferently efficient, miserably cramped, 3,800 lb econoboxes. If GM was a little more devious in their display logic, no Volt driver will figure out their range is dwindling for a couple more years. All they have to do is set up the display to show a full charge when the battery stops accepting current. Nissan got in trouble by showing actual storage rather than percentage of capacity. The lost capacity is as likely to be a symptom of deep cycling as it is of cooling issues. Time will tell and I will laugh.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        I have just re-read the whole comment chain and I did misread your first sentence. That was my mistake and I apologise.

        As for “Nissan got in trouble by showing actual storage rather than percentage of capacity.” Wouldn’t the owner still realise that instead of 75 miles on a full charge they would be down to 45 miles (worst case so far)? So how it is displayed doesn`t, in the end, stop people noticing (eventually maybe).

        Also don’t falter yourself that I have an “obsession” or that I see bias everywhere (pot, kettle, black). Just look back at your comments on TTAC and you will see that not even 1% of the time have I posted any response. A lot of your comments that I have seen are reasonable and factually based (if snarkily written), but some of your comments in the past have been “out there” when you have wished people to die horribly (Bob Lutz last year), or called somebodies girlfriend a “moron” for buying something you wouldn`t. I think comments like those deserve pushback. You have though in the past month or two been more temperate, probably following the warnings and bannings BS issued back then.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Seems to me the “token electrical range” is more than adequate for my needs, if the ~90% electric mileage on my Volt is any indication:

        http://www.voltstats.net/Stats/Details/792

        Though in the week or two transitioning into my new house, I have been hitting the ICE a bit harder than usual. Still, at 1 year of ownership I had used 40gal of fuel. How long does 40gal of fuel last for you?

        And with the new house and its juicy 200A service, I can justify putting a 32A dedicated charger in the garage instead of plugging in the 120V in my rental house’s. Even if the Volt can’t use 32A worth of charging now, perhaps a GM Performance Part upgrade, newer Volt or a second EV will at some point.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …..but some of your comments in the past have been “out there” when you have wished people to die horribly (Bob Lutz last year), or called somebodies girlfriend a “moron” for buying something you wouldn`t. I think comments like those deserve pushback…..

        Let us not forget that timeless classic when he referred to call center workers “tumors” and was delighted when the fired workers had to get rehired at a fraction of their previous wage in a different location….all this from someone who has the audacity to lament on the struggle of the middle class. Considering his job (as per his post) was firing these “tumors” I find his concern for the middle class to be questionable to say the least.

      • 0 avatar
        BrianL

        CJinSD,
        Didn’t you earlier post how it was more difficult to engineer passive cooling? And that Nissan spent more to engineer it to do passive cooling? Looks to me that the passive cooling isn’t working and that the engineering in this design has failed. I wouldn’t want a Leaf that after a few thousand miles is going to lose significant range.

        Nissan made a mistake here. They are trying to cover their ass as much as they can because the lawsuits are coming. They are likely to lose. I can’t image the resale value of the Leaf now. It has to be very very low.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    An EV not living up to the hype? You don’t say…

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    This is Nissan’s fault. They took an engineering gamble and lost.

    They are the only EV/series-hybrid maker that did not provide a cooling system for the batteries. Everyone else has done that. The airflow based system they put in they insisted was a good enough solution. Additionally, a battery warmer for cold climates was optional in the first model year, in further attempts to reduce costs and weight.

    By building to reach a price point, instead of facing engineering facts, battery life is going to be negatively impacted. If you live in San Diego or Seattle, it won’t be a big deal. If you live in Phoenix or Minneapolis the batteries are going to get cooked or frozen respectively. Live in a place like Chicago and they may get cooked and frozen year after year. Nissan did not adequately provision for this.

    It isn’t hating on Nissan, they were called out for this by battery experts when the Leaf specs hit the internet. You can’t change the laws of physics. Battery life is impacted by ambient temperature. Lithium-Ion batteries are not as impacted an Nickel-Cadmium which isn’t as impacted as Lead-Acid, but they are still impacted.

    Nissan has a significant problem here with no easy fix for models already sold. At least the install base is small but early adopter damage, because they are so vocal, can be very hard to overcome.

    The biggest fallout will likely be to the Leaf buyer, who is now facing the real stigma of having severely degraded range, right or wrong, in the used market.

    They marketed that they would have a serious commitment to their customers, they have not followed through.

    If there is a next generation Leaf, it better have a liquid circulating heating and cooling system for the battery.

    • 0 avatar
      galaxygreymx5

      Not only is there no liquid cooling system in the Leaf battery pack, there’s no cooling system whatsoever! No airflow setup, no re-routing of cabin air through the pack (like the Prius has done since day one), bupkis.

      I was under the impression that the Leaf’s forced ambient air system was inadequate when this whole mess erupted and learned that there’s nothing in there at all. Just a sealed box of batteries being cooked from surrounding ambient air, pavement radiation (in PHX!), and charging heat. Worse, Nissan equipped most Leafs with 50kW fast chargers, so who knows how toasty those suckers are getting on a hot summer day while on fast charge.

      Nissan has been very quiet about this PR disaster AND about the upcoming 2013 model, supposedly with extensive changes. Hopefully one of those changes is at least some method of keeping the pack cooler than they do now in high temperature areas.

      GM, in a bizarre twist, looks positively brilliant with their liquid thermal management system in the Volt.

      • 0 avatar

        I wouldn’t be surprised if engineering the battery conditioning system was the most expensive part of developing the Volt. When they first released the Volt I was taken by how sophisticated the battery management system is. Before the battery starts to charge, the system first gets the battery to an appropriate temperature, heating or cooling it as needed. That comes with an energy cost – either from the charging source or by running the ICE, but probably saves money in the long run by prolonging battery life.

        The Volt’s battery is the Goldilocks of EVs, it never gets too hot or too cold.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        This is all truth.

        However, also remember that Nissan’s a bit less conservative with managing state of charge. The Volt dedicates something like 1/3 of the battery as ‘overage’, only using 2/3 day-to-day. Li-ion batteries don’t like being fully charged or fully discharged, and survive a lot longer with more charge cycles if their state of charge is kept in a ‘just right’ zone between like 15% and 80% charged or thereabouts. Nissan doesn’t have much overage in their batteries, and only warrant them outside of California for 5 years IIRC.

        My prediction for the Volt’s battery is that it will prove to last longer than most critics think, given how highly babied it is with TMS and its charge management. Of course, only time will tell.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      When I first saw the Volt’s powertrain, I was miffed, and called it “The worst possible compromise, because you’re hauling around a lump of an engine, where you could have more batteries.”

      But now (given the present stage of battery technology) GM’s engineers appear to have been brilliant. Now I can see why the Volt is so expensive – they succeeded in “solving” the two major shortcomings of existing battery tech, and made a pleasant vehicle that will work in all climates, yet still provide a useable electric range for many commuters.

      I just hope that the lessons learned by the Volt can make it into more affordable cars (are you listening GM?).

  • avatar
    GS650G

    The entire battery powered car concept is really being questioned again. We keep hearing about breakthroughs and improvements only to see new problems time and again. While the cost of the vehicles remains high.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    So, after years of litigation, Nissan Leaf owners will end up getting a $1500 credit towards the purchase of a new Nissan, plus ten free car washes.

    And the lawyers on both sides will walk away with a pile of cash. This story always has the same ending, it seems.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Can we now finally put to rest that the reason we’re not all driving electric cars has nothing to do with Big Oil? My whole life I’ve heard that nonsense from lazy, self-anointed “intellectuals” that don’t know the first thing about engineering or manufacturing.

    Making an affordable, 100% electric car that meets all the needs of consumers is a difficult proposition, and it’s certainly not because of oil executives in a smoke-filled room. All sorts of other big billion dollar corporations have EVERY incentive to build electric cars that replace the internal combustion engine.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Mitsubishi is, in a way, even more daring than Nissan. The i electric car has a fan to cool the batteries on charge, and an optional heater for the battery in cool climes. Good so far.

    But, according to Car and Driver March 2012: “Mitsubishi says the i completely depletes and charges its battery.”

    Mitsubishi gives an 8 year 100,000 warranty, and says capacity drops to 80% in 5 years, 70% in 10 years. Perhaps they should let laptop makers into their secret for extending lithium-ion battery life so far, while allowing deep discharge. I bet the batteries won’t last well.

    The Volt and Prius only charge to 80% capacity, and discharge to 30%. The Volt is properly engineered. So far as Mitsubishi goes, lawyers, the line forms on the right.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      I have to wonder what they were expecting. OEMs and owners. My laptop had a ‘range’ of 5 1/2 hrs ‘off the wall’ when new, and now 18 months later, it’s lucky to see 20 minute. But that’s what I was expecting. If only there was a lemon law for laptops.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      The secrets for extending lithium-ion battery life:

      1. Select cells designed for thousands of cycles, not a couple hundred. Laptop cells (and cellphone cells) aren’t designed for thousands of cycles because typically the device is completely outdated within 3-4 years. Maybe the device manufacturers can save a little bit of money, or squeeze a little more energy into the shorter-life cells. Either way, it’s an engineering constraint that is relaxed for laptops and cellphones.

      2. Manage cell heat, especially while charging. Laptop cells sit inside a package whose exterior temperature can often approach 100-120 degrees F under load. Most lithium cells like be charged/discharged well below 100 degrees F.

      3. Regularly charge and discharge the cells, but not to either extreme. If you store the battery, do so at room temperature and at a median charge level (~50%). Laptops often sit docked into power for days or weeks at a time at full charge. Cellphones tend to be used every day, so this is less of a concern.

  • avatar
    Mikemannn

    “early stage technology..” LOL really??

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Anyway you look at it, electric cars have their downside. There is nothing like using a coal fire electrical grid to go green.

    According to Nissan the lithium batteries will only charge up to 80% of their original capacity after 5 years of use. After 10 years of use that figure drops to 70%.

    Customers in Arizona were down to 85% by 18 months. The 117*F heat may have been a factor.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Coal-fired electricity is still American made. How many pissed-off coal miners flew airplanes into buildings on 9/11 again?

      Me, I’d prefer the electricity in my Volt to come from thorium LFTRs, but it’ll take years to get the stupid greens and self-interested corps to be ignored or die out first.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Let the ‘ev’ folks buy what the want…
    It`s a useless discussion.
    You have to pay to play and if a ‘ev’ is your bag,go for it.
    I just think the tax credit is a joke since most of the buyers have more than enough money to buy one!

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Battery degradation, heat/cold limits, and not being able to drive at highway speeds are Several “#1″ reasons I won’t consider anything battery only for the foreseeable future.

    I need a 60/60 or 60/70 car.

    60 miles @ 60-70mph with AC or heat full blast. I need this range at least 10 years out (as I keep my cars at least that long). This has to work at -25F – 100F. This should be the manufacturers test for a commuter car.

    Heck, how about 30 miles at -25F to 100F. How does the battery/range look after 3000 charge cycles?

    Unless there is some revolutionary discovery I don’t think I’ll see this in my lifetime (and I’ll soon be 37)

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Volt goes 100mph on the highway in Texas at 105F with AC on full blast. Guess how I know.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        great, does it do it for 60+ miles as well?

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Yup, though the gas motor will kick in after about 30 miles.

        And yes, that’s roughly similar to a trip I took from Austin to San Antonio last year, though I was only able to hit 100 for short periods between San Marcos and New Braunfels due to the traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        Not on electric it doesn’t. My post was about electric cars (as is the article) not hybrids.

        If your car has an ICE engine it isn’t really an electric car — it just uses the battery/ice combo differently than the “traditional” hybrid cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Yes, it’s an electric car with a genset backup. Here’s the difference between a hybrid and an enhanced range EV (EREV):

        * Hybrids have engines that put out more power than their electric motors, and are the primary motivators of the vehicle. Electric motors are smaller (though they may have comparable torque) and assist the primary engine or drive fully electric at lower speeds.
        * EREVs have electric motors that put out more power than their engines, and are the primary motivators of the vehicle. Electric motors are used 100% of the time to drive the vehicle, with the gas motor running to maintain battery charge or assist the primary motor at higher speeds when it’s more efficient to do so.

        Volt is an EREV, with a fully electric drivetrain, that has a genset available to extend range. GM engineers were clever enough to figure out how to clutch in the genset IFF doing so resulted in increased fuel economy while running in charge-sustain mode. However, given adequate charge, the Volt runs fully electric, and in fact at higher speeds will spool up the genset generator and use it as a motor to spin the planetary drive ring gear and make the drive ratio taller in order to run the primary motor at a lower, more efficient RPM.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        Sorry, but if it’s got batteries & an ICE, it’s a hybrid — and if you don’t agree with that you have to admit it’s not an EV.

        In any case, most post is/was referring to EV’s, in which I still haven’t found one that satisfies my requirements for speed+range+longevity.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “Volt is an EREV,”

        According to the last draft of SAE J1715 that I saw, EREV is a subtype of a PHEV. So, the Volt can be correctly called a plug-in hybrid. I don’t like to use the term e-rev – it just adds confusion. In addition to erev, Fisker has EVer and I’ve seen re-ev (range extended electric vehicle) as well. I’m tempted to submit Serial Hybrid Integrated Transport. I wonder if I could trademark it?

  • avatar
    cavalmi

    Any specific statement about maximum allowable capacity loss in the warranty would help. If the consumer had this information, they would be able to decide whether or not they could live with the terms. As it is, most manufacturers make non-binding statements such as estimate or say nothing at all. I would like to see this issue being brought up by more people covering automotive news. I have an admittedly incomplete blog on the subject here:
    http://evbww.wordpress.com/

  • avatar
    alan996

    Magical thinking meets reality

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    What will make EV’s work:

    -Low temp/safe molten salt batteries (they’re working on it)
    -standard swappable cells
    -service stations that heat/charge the batteries and exchange/swap them into a car in a few minutes

    One downside is that the car would probably need to be plugged in most of the time when it isn’t running, especially in colder climates.

    Anything less than the above is just begging for disappointment. It’s entirely possible to do but requires a massive investment up front and until petrol is 3 dollars a litre no private company will bother. If we want to reduce our dependence on oil it’s going to take a MASSIVE government investment/intervention.

    I think it’s a bit late and we are past the point of no return.. The time to do something about climate change was way back when Carter was in office. Everyone could commute to work in a screaming jimmy nowadays and the end result would be the same.

    I’m a bit of a pessimist though.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Personally, I lean towards thorium LFTRs generating power, desalinized water and synthetic motor fuels from distilled atmospheric CO2, as well as valuable medically-useful isotopes and other stable byproducts such as xenon. Given the inherent superiority of electric powertrains (except of course for the battery) having an efficient hydrocarbon genset of some kind on board that can get 50-80% efficiency running at a constant rate coupled with a buffer battery is what I think the best bet for improving efficiency is. The Volt genset is an off-the-shelf hack, but a Volt 3.0 with an efficient turbine or SOFC that can extract more electricity out of a gallon of gas/CNG/diesel would likely get mileage on gas to the 60s and above for a mid-size car with all mod cons and 0-60 in the 6-7s range.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Dr. Ken….

        As you may know, I had earlier posted 16 reasons why pure EV’s are ….well, just wrong, at the present time. And I personally really prefer that as we deplete petroleum, we migrate to CNG usage, on the way to the hydrogen economy**, after which we can forget all about the EV thing.

        But considering your comments, I always wondered about why electricity can’t simply be stored in thousands (millions?) of micro-capacitors, housed in various locations around a vehicle. A capacitor can be “indefinitely” charged and discharged, from 0% to 100 %, without damage. And high or low temperatures don’t seem to bother regular capacitors as much as they bother batteries. And, of course, capacitors can charge up virtually “instantaneously” by comparison. Further, historically, capacitors have been made from relatively cheap materials. But is there a capacitor problem with charge leakage, or moisture, or voltage, or degradation, — that I don’t know about?

        What do you think?

        ** allowing both H2 fuel-cell cars for shopping; and H2/ICE cars for fun at the racetrack — best of all worlds.

        ————–

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        @NMGOM

        It isn’t currently practical to store anywhere near enough energy in capacitors to move an EV any useful distance.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        PenguinBoy…

        Thank you for the response.
        You are, of course, referring to “energy density” (ED) of conventional capacitors vs batteries. Currently, even the best “super-capacitors” seem to have only about 1/25th the ED of batteries.

        But modern nano-technology “ultra-capacitors” seem to be game-changers, and now have ED’s approaching those of batteries (not quite there yet).

        The link below describes a capacitor-run, race-car from Toyota, the Supra HV-R:
        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-dark-horse-in-race-to

        Honda has recently patented new capacitor packs that rival batteries, at least as an augmentation to fuel cells, but nothing apparent now prevents their use in ICE-hybrids as well:
        http://world.honda.com/FuelCell/FCX/ultracapacitor/

        Business weeks reports progress at MIT that suggests a no-battery future for EV’s eventually:
        http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006-06-27/for-cars-of-the-future-will-batteries-be-required

        And Fox News shows that Mazda is developing a capacitor-powered EV, using its “i-ELOOP” system:
        http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2011/11/28/mazda-introducing-capacitor-powered-cars/

        So, it appears that some progress is being made with capacitors as power-units for vehicles. But my question was if there were non-ED related issues that are simply not obvious at this stage, or are we “home free” using capacitors for EV’s in ways that batteries never could handle?

        —————-

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      -standard swappable cells
      -service stations that heat/charge the batteries and exchange/swap them into a car in a few minutes

      The industry cant even come up with a common charge connector. Battery technology will continue to advance and differentiate one EV from another. This has been mentioned before as a solution to slow charge times and it just wont work.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Heaven help me; I just bought a Leaf this past Saturday (lease, actually). The Nissan discount plus PA state and US subsidies make it very attractively prices.

    My excellent xB1 is history – traded for the Leaf. And I’m not even a tree-hugger.

    I’m not a fan of subsidies, but if the money’s on the table, I’m taking it.


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