The Truth About Cars » Nissan Leaf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 19 Apr 2014 20:13:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Nissan Leaf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Is The Nissan LEAF Worth The Green? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/is-the-nissan-leaf-worth-the-green/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/is-the-nissan-leaf-worth-the-green/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754225 Click here to view the embedded video.

What happens when the subsidy is over?

This is a question that I tried to study in depth about a month ago when one of my friends had a 10 year old Toyota Prius that had seemingly lost it’s battery.

It turned out that he didn’t need a new car, or a new battery. A stray rodent had inflicted minimal harm to the wiring and his temporary search for a new ride quickly came and went.

However, I did some deep drilling for him one evening since his question was one with more unknowns than the typical car purchase. He wanted a LEAF, new our used, as his next car.

What shocked the hell out of me is that the numbers may indeed work… new or used.

The word may is a key operative term here…

Before I delve into the deep ocean blue of numbers crunching, let me offer each of you three (four!) simple questions.

1. Do you live in one of those wonderful states that offers a $5000 state subsidy for buying a LEAF?

2. Does your income enable you to make use of all the federal and state tax credits? And do you have excellent credit?

3. Are you willing to deal with an electric car that will be losing about 20% to 25% of it’s range by the time it reaches 100,000 miles.

Click here to view the embedded video.

If you answered no to any one of these (four!) three questions,  then do not buy the LEAF under any circumstances unless you are willing to “invest” in the electric technology that powers it.

So as for those 10% of you who are left (no it’s 5% you cheating used car selling bastard!), let’s go a bit deeper.

If you are only looking for a short-term deal and pure numbers are guiding your decision, then lease. The numbers between a two year lease and a three year lease change based on whatever special packages and bogus fees are ordained by the local dealership. These will likely include a $595 acquisition fee, a $395 disposition fee, a $250 documentation fee (this is an estimate based on TrueCar data for all 50 states), and about $2000 worth in states taxes, title transaction costs, registration costs, and the two lukewarm sodas you get to drink while the general manager of the dealership gets to plan for a weekend run to Vegas thanks to all the fake expenses he gets to collect.

Not to worry though, because the deal also enables you to screw take advantage of every subsidy known to these electric car programs. Federal Tax Credits. State Tax Credits. Possible Charging System Subsidies. Lower Rates For Your Electric Usage. HOV Lane Stickers. Truth be told, buying a Nissan LEAF is the closest most individuals will ever get to enjoying the benefits of becoming their very own large corporation. All these credits amount to over $13,000 in real world cost and to top it all off, you get to thumb your nose at the oil companies.

Once you throw auto insurance to the mix,  your real world costs on an annual basis will likely run around $360 a month, or just $12.00 a day, and that includes everything. Fuel, Insurance, Maintenance Costs, Tax Credit Reductions… it’s a steal of a deal in every sense of the term if you can pass through all the hoops and ignore the monetary flesh wounds of your fellow Americans who now pay $25 a day according to the American Automobile Association.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Typical car owner losing vital limbs thanks to the lobbying efforts of the Nissan Motor Company

The spreadsheet doesn’t publish well at a site like TTAC. But long story short, I was a financial analyst my first two years out of college and I’m happy to share it with anyone who has a remote interest in all the numbers. Feel free to email at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com.

Now as for the buying side, there were four (three!) unusual findings.

1. The running costs of a LEAF, if you opt for the $100 a month battery guarantee, is roughly equivalent to a 10 year old Nissan Sentra.

2. Insurance costs between a LEAF and that Sentra worked out to only about a 13% difference. $1132 for the LEAF vs $1010 for the Sentra according to my insurer, USAA.

3. If you avoid the dealership’s service department like the plague and buy a $5 turkey baster for your brake fluid servicing, the LEAF will likely be cheaper to operate than a 10 year old beater Sentra.

Click here to view the embedded video.

There is one area of variance that came into play in my calculations. Battery life and the climate’s impact on it.

If you live in an area with searing heat and unusually cold winters, say, like Atlanta these last few months, your battery pack will likely wear out a bit faster than the owner who enjoys a constant mild temperature year round.  Once you or Nissan decide to discontinue the battery program, you may be living on borrowed time. So you have to figure out at what point you are willing to make that trade.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Then again, you may find in the near future that replacement parts are cheap enough elsewhere, and that this battery lease program will not be needed going forward. As a long-time owner of a 1st gen Insight and the first two generations of the Prius, I can attest to that outcome coming true more often than not.

So if it were my money, or the money subsidized to me by my fellow Americans, I would recommend the following.

1. If you buy the LEAF new, opt for the battery replacement program right before the vehicle hits the 5 year / 60,000 mark.

2. Replace the pack after the first go round, which will likely offer increased range and longevity, and then stop paying for the battery lease program.

3. Start prospecting for replacement parts if you absolutely do plan on keeping the LEAF past the 12 to 15 year mark.

A one to two year old Nissan LEAF is right now running the gamut of between $16,000 for a non-CPO LEAF with about 35,000 miles, to $22,000 for one that has less than 10,000 miles and is eligible for Nissan’s Certified Pre-Owned program.

That’s quite a range. However, it comes down to this.

A LEAF costs about as much to operate as a 10 year old Sentra that has 120,000 miles. I spent an insane amount of time trying to figure this out, and now that I finally have done so, I’m going to let my fellow enthusiasts buy a 1st gen Miata and forget they ever read this tome to automotive androgyny.

Click here to view the embedded video.

THE END…

 

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Cops Nab Electric Leaf Owner Before He Can Ride Free On Your Nickel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/cops-nab-electric-leaf-owner-before-he-can-ride-free-on-your-nickel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/cops-nab-electric-leaf-owner-before-he-can-ride-free-on-your-nickel/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 15:56:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=671122 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The owner of a Nissan Leaf was arrested in Georgia last week for stealing 5 cents worth of electricity after he plugged his car into the exterior outlet at a local middle school while his son was playing tennis.

 

According to Atlanta’s NBC affiliate, 11 Alive, the car had only been plugged in for a few minutes when a police officer arrived and informed the man that he was committing theft and directed him to unplug the car. Later, after verifying the school had not given the man permission to use the outlet, the officer pursued an arrest warrant. The man was arrested by two deputies who appeared at his home 11 days later and spent more than 15 hours in the DeKalb County Jail before making bail.

Advocates of electric vehicles will decry this as police over reach and argue that amount of energy involved was negligible. The police, on the other hand, have taken a tough, no nonsense approach and, in their opinion, theft is theft no matter how little was stolen. I’m left asking is this what our society has come to? What kind of dumbass figures that he can charge his car for free wherever he stops? On the other hand, what kind of cop is petty enough to chase a guy down for a nickel? I wonder, would the cops have rolled in on this guy if he had “stolen” water from the drinking fountain at the side of the school to fill a leaky radiator? Clearly, the only ones who are going to win this battle will be the lawyers.

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Following Tesla Success in Sept. Nissan Leaf Tops Norway Oct. Car Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/following-tesla-success-in-sept-nissan-leaf-tops-norway-oct-car-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/following-tesla-success-in-sept-nissan-leaf-tops-norway-oct-car-sales/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=641049 Tesla_Model_S_Nissan_LEAF_Peugeot_iOn_Buddy_Th!nk_in_Oslo_2013_cropped

Spurred by tax breaks, free recharging stations, free parking and other benefits for EV drivers worth up to $8,100 (about 6,000 euros) a year per car, electric cars are doing very well in Norway. Reuters reports that Tesla’s Model S was the best selling car in Norway in September and Nissan’s Leaf was the market leader in October. Last month 716 Leafs were sold, a 6% market share, beating out the Toyota Auris and the VW Golf. For the year, the Leaf is the fourth best selling car in Norway with 3.2% of the total market.

The small country is an ideal place for EVs, and those of its 5 million residents who chose to drive electrically enjoy generous subsidies, free parking and recharging locations, free tolls and access to bus lanes to avoid heavy traffic.

In September, 616 Model S EVs were sold by Tesla, but that was a onetime blip due to a shipment of backlogged orders. In October Tesla sold 98 cars.

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Still Not Ready For The Rental Counter: EV Rentals Fail To Thrive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/still-not-ready-for-the-rental-counter-ev-rentals-fail-to-thrive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/still-not-ready-for-the-rental-counter-ev-rentals-fail-to-thrive/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 19:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=624593 Tesla_Supercharging_in_Gilroy

Tis better to own a Leaf or an S than to rent one, it seems. According to Enterprise Holdings Inc., known for driving around in cars wrapped in branded brown paper for some reason, customers who rent electric-only vehicles from their lot soon return their sustainable rides for a one with a sustainable range based on the number of (gasoline and diesel) fuel stops along the way.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Enterprise Head of Sustainability Lee Broughton note that while customers were “keen” to give electric power a go, range anxiety led many a renter to return the car for one where they know the infrastructure is there to meet. On average, a renter will spend almost two days with an electric-only car versus a week with a conventional road warrior. Currently, the St. Louis-based rental car business has 300 electric cars in their overall fleet, all Nissan Leafs. The figure is down 40 percent from the target of 500 of the cars set by Enterprise back in 2010.

Despite the overall lack of demand in this emerging rental market due to lack of infrastructure and larger-capacity batteries for extended range, competitor Hertz added the Tesla S to its Dream Cars lineup in September for their customer base in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The daily rate to feel like Elon Musk is $500; Enterprise offers the S in their Exotic Car Collection for $300 to $500 in the same locations, with three currently in the lineup available. The Leaf offered by Enterprise goes for $55 to $140 a day depending on location.

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Nissan to Start Selling California ZEV Credits, Joining Tesla http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nissan-to-start-selling-california-zev-credits-joining-tesla/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nissan-to-start-selling-california-zev-credits-joining-tesla/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 19:13:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=503305 Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 9.43.17 AM

Tesla recently released financial figures that the company says demonstrate profitability. According to Automotive News, analysts have pointed out that some of Tesla’s revenue comes not from selling cars but rather by selling zero-emission credits to other car companies that want to do business under California’s clean-air regulations. If they want to sell cars in California, companies have to comply by either producing ZEVs or by obtaining credits from companies that make those vehicles. Now Nissan Motor Co, whose Leaf is the best selling electric car of all time, has joined Tesla in selling those credits. Tesla was able to sell those credits because they only make electric vehicles. Makers of conventional cars and trucks buy the credits to theoretically offset the pollution caused by those cars. Since Tesla has no such conventionally polluting cars to offset, they can sell their credits. Nissan executive VP Andy Palmer told reporters earlier this week that at this point Nissan has sold enough Leafs to cover its own needs to comply with the California Air Resources Board‘s rules and will now start selling surplus credits to other automakers. “We’ve got carbon credits to sell, and we’re selling them — California ZEV credits.” No details were forthcoming on time, price or to whom Nissan will sell their credits.

In the first half of 2013, Tesla brought in $119 million, or 12 percent of its revenue, from ZEV credit sales. Each Tesla Model S accrues as many as seven ZEV credits for the EV startup. Each Leaf sold in California and the other states that participate in CARB’s program, earns 3 credits. CARB has no say in how much a company can charge for the credits and their customers do not have to be disclosed.

“While Nissan has been approached by other automakers regarding emission-credit transactions, these discussions and the outcome of any transactions is held in strict confidence by all involved parties,” David Reuter, a spokesman Nissan, said.

Since the end of 2010 when it went on sale, Nissan has sold about 75,000 leafs around the world, with California being one of its biggest markets, and it expects to sell at least 20,000 in the U.S. this year, about double what it sold in 2012.

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EV Trade Group Touts PEV Early Market Penetration Success, Tesla Model S Has 8.4% Share of Entire U.S. Luxury Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/ev-trade-group-touts-pev-early-market-penetration-success-tesla-model-s-has-8-4-share-of-entire-u-s-luxury-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/ev-trade-group-touts-pev-early-market-penetration-success-tesla-model-s-has-8-4-share-of-entire-u-s-luxury-segment/#comments Mon, 05 Aug 2013 16:35:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498286 tesla-model-sa_r

The Electrification Coalition (EC), a trade association of companies involved in the business of electric vehicle,s released a report last week prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers touting strong sales of plug in electric vehicles for the first 2 1/2 years that they’be been on the market in the U.S.. Reportedly consumers are embracing PEVs much faster than they started buying hybrids when those first went on sale more than a decade ago. The report particularly noted the success of the Tesla Model S, saying that single model had an 8.4% share of the entire U.S. luxury market for the first six months of 2013.

sales

Key findings of the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report were:

  • More than 110,000 PEVs have been sold in the U.S. since January of 2011.
  • Twice as many PEVs were sold in that 20 month period than the hybrids sold in a corresponding period after their first introduction.
  • Uptake rate of PEVs is 3X what it was for hybrids during their first three years on the market.
  • The Nissan Leaf has 3.3% of the subcompact market segment.
  • PEVs have a higher customer satisfaction rate on nearly all measured items.
  • Battery costs are expected to drop by 50% by 2020, with an expected price of $300-325 per kilowatt hour.
  • The Tesla Model S took 8.4% of the U.S. luxury car market for the first half of 2013 and sold more units than “several in-class competitors including the Audi A8, BMW 7-series, and Mercedes S class”

Those last two bullet points are somewhat in contention. Last month, Bill Alpert of Barron’s wrote, “Industries and governments around the world have spent billions on battery research, but few expect to trim electric-car battery costs by more than 20%-30% by the planned 2016 launch of Tesla’s car for the Everyman.” Tesla is planning on selling a $30,000 EV for the mass market. As for the Model S, it’s been pointed out that while it can cost as much as a flagship German luxury sedan, it more directly competes with the segment just below the flagships (depending on your point of view, this could mean anything from a BMW 5-Series to a Mercedes-Benz CLS to an Audi A7).

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Honda Cuts Fit EV Lease Costs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/honda-cuts-fit-ev-lease-costs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/honda-cuts-fit-ev-lease-costs/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 16:37:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490072 2011-Honda-Fit-EV-007-550x358

New and current Honda Fit EV customers can look forward to a reduction in their lease costs.

 

The old lease cost of $389/month for 36 months with 12,000 miles allowed annually has now become $259/month for 36 months with unlimited mileage. Also included are scheduled maintenance, collision coverage and a free 240V charger (the unit is free but you have to pay for installation). Customers who already leased a Fit EV will be able to take advantage of the new rates going forward.

The EV market is experiencing a bit of a price war lately, with aggressive deals from Fiat, Nissan and Chevrolet. For commuters in California, this presents an opportunity for a cheap runabout for short distances. TTAC contributor Jeff Jablansky is slated to give us his impressions of what it’s like to live with the Fit EV in the next couple weeks. In the mean time, Alex Dykes has driven a pre-production version, and currently has a Fiat 500e in his garage. The rest of us will have to watch from afar.

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Tesla Wants To Build A Leaf Competitor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tesla-wants-to-build-a-leaf-competitor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tesla-wants-to-build-a-leaf-competitor/#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 18:34:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489777 2013-nissan-leaf-01-628-1357743465

Elon Musk is turning his sights towards the Nissan Leaf. The Tesla Motors founder says his ultimate goal is for a sub-$40,000 car that’s better than Nissan’s EV, and he’s hoping to make that happen within 4 years.

The Detroit News quotes Musk during a Bloomberg interview

“With the Model S, you have a compelling car that’s too expensive for most people,” he said. “And you have the Leaf, which is cheap, but it’s not great. What the world really needs is a great, affordable electric car. I’m not going to let anything go, no matter what people offer, until I complete that mission.”

The long-rumored mainstream Tesla product is being targeted for a 200-mile range.

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Media Reporting Tesla Model S As Plug-In Sales Champion: O RLY? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/media-reporting-tesla-model-s-as-plug-in-sales-champion-o-rly/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/media-reporting-tesla-model-s-as-plug-in-sales-champion-o-rly/#comments Mon, 29 Apr 2013 21:10:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486592

It’s a headline you might have seen in the past couple days: “Tesla Model S outsells Nissan Leaf (or Chevrolet Volt, you pick)”. To the layman, the story is that this amazing car from an amazing American upstart company is outselling lowly Chevys and Nissans to become America’s favorite EV. The angrier among us may wonder how a car that costs twice that of a Leaf or a Volt can outsell them both. TTAC just wants to know how any media outlet can make this comparison in the first place.

Like every other auto maker, Nissan and GM reports sales on a monthly basis, broken down by nameplate. Tesla, on the other hand, only reports on Model S “deliveries” each quarter (when they report their quarterly earnings). Nobody is really sure what that means, and everybody wants to know why Tesla doesn’t just report sales like everybody else. They haven’t given a good answer either.

Of course that hasn’t stopped outlets from the New York Post prematurely crowning the Model S as the winner of 2013′s Q1 plug-in car sales race. The Post says that

Tesla, worth less than $6 billion, is expected to deliver at least 4,750 of its Model S vehicles in the quarter, a spokeswoman told Bloomberg.

While we’ll know whether the Volt outsold the Leaf (and vice versa) on April 1, we won’t know until May 8th to find out how the Model S did. And even then, Tesla will only announce how many “deliveries” it made, and may not even say whether those are in the United States or globally. Either way, none of the big three EVs look to be coming close to the overly rosy predictions that were once imagined.

 

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Nissan Europe Ramping Up Local Leaf Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/nissan-europe-ramping-up-local-leaf-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/nissan-europe-ramping-up-local-leaf-production/#comments Wed, 27 Feb 2013 15:46:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479287

With Nissan bringing Leaf production to Japan and the United States, the next stop on their localization train is Europe. The Sunderland, UK plant will begin in the spring, and along with European production will be a series of tweaks for that market.

Most significant for the Leaf is a bump in range, allowing the car to travel 124 miles instead of the previous 109 miles. A revised heat pump is partly responsible for the boost in range, while a new fast charger option can cut charging times in half (fast charging stations across the continent are said to have tripled, according to Just-Auto).

Luggage space and overall packaging is also improved, thanks to a redesigned powertrain that incorporates the motor, inverter and charger assembly under the hood as a single unit. Luggage space is said to be improved by as much as 40 liters. The battery itself will be produced locally as well.

While a mid-cycle refresh is standard practice for most car companies, Nissan has been tailoring some of its changes to the local markets in North America, Japan and Europe, based on owner feedback and telematics data. Notably, the chassis, steering system and brakes were all revised for European tastes, with the dampers and steering firmed up and the brakes made to feel more progressive – changes that would be welcome on the North American spec car.

 

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The Truth About Battery Life http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/the-truth-about-battery-life/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/the-truth-about-battery-life/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 21:07:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478387

The drama circling around the New York Times test of the Tesla Model S doesn’t surprise me one bit. Why? Because I understand, perhaps at a deeper level than most of the motoring press, how batteries work. Perhaps that has to do with growing up in a family of engineers and scientists, but battery technology has always interested me. So when people from Phoenix came to me crying in their soup about their LEAFs in the heat and friends started wagging fingers at Tesla and the New York Times, I figured it was time for a battery reality check.

What’s the problem (this time)?

Consumer Reports says their Tesla’s power gauge dropped to “zero” at the 173-mile mark on a 176-mile trip. At the beginning of the trip the range indicator said 240 miles while the “projected range” indicator which takes driving style into account said 188 miles. On first glance this sounds like some horrific range issue. “OMG, the Model S missed its 240 mile range by 64 miles.” But did it?

 

What was the problem last time?

If you didn’t know about the Tesla / New York Times punch up, then click here for the article that started it all. (And a picture of a Tesla on a flatbed.) Basically John Broder took a Tesla out on the road for a long road trip and ran out of juice. Of course he also didn’t charge the battery fully at every opportunity he had, but that’s beside the point for the moment.

About those journalists

Our readers are no doubt familiar with Jack Baruth’s assertion that the vast majority of auto journalists are less than professional drivers. The same applies in this case, the majority of journalists know rather little about EVs, how they work, what’s going on in the battery pack and why it matters. Much like a novice on the track, a novice in an EV can result in unpredictable results.

How batteries work

Batteries are a means of storing electricity chemically. The fact that we’re talking about a chemical reaction is absolutely vital to keep in mind when anyone starts talking about range, battery degradation, heat, cold, charging, etc.

All batteries have three basic components: a cathode, an anode and an electrolyte between the two. Depending on what materials are used for each of these three components battery life, cost and power density will vary. At the low-end of the scale we have the zinc-potato-copper battery from school and at the high-end of consumer electronics we have the lithium iron phosphate-dimethyl carbonate-graphite battery known as the Lithium-ion battery, or the battery that powers modern cell phones, laptops, electric cars and is even used in the new Boeing 787. (Yea, the one getting the bad press.)

Every battery chemistry has its advantages and disadvantages. Lead-acid batteries (the one that starts your car) are heavy, cheap and can handle the high current draw of starter motors. Ni-Cad batteries that were popular in my child hood were relatively easy to manufacture and lower cost than other alternatives. Nickel-metal hydride batteries have been around for some time and thanks to their stability and energy density have been used in hybrid vehicles since the Prius and Insight. Lithium based batteries are the current star in the consumer electronics world because their power density and ability to charge rapidly are excellent for smartphones, tablets and laptops. The problem is Lithium batteries can be more “temperamental” than some of the older chemistries. If you want to know all there is to know about Lithium-ion batteries, click on over to Batteryuniversity.com.

What does this have to do with the cold?

Because batteries store energy chemically, a chemical reaction has to occur when charging and when discharging. When batteries get cold, the internal resistance of the battery increases which decreases the amount of energy that you can get out of the pack. You can test this at home yourself if you have a camera flash at home. Drop the batteries into the freezer, put them in the flash and see how long it takes to recharge the flash. What does this mean in a car? Well, you are charging outside and it’s near freezing, then (A) you won’t be able to completely charge a battery and (B) after charging if the battery cools off to ambient you won’t be able to use a portion of those electrons you just stuffed in the battery. Think about your 12V car battery, remember that cranking amps vs cold cranking amps rating? Same thing.

To fix these problems many EVs (like the Model S) heat the battery to try to keep it at an optimum temperature. Doing so ensures that you can use the entire capacity for charging and discharging, but it of course consumes power, and the colder it is, the more power it takes to heat the battery. In hot weather the system cools the battery to preserve the lifetime of the battery chemistry.

What are the factors that decrease battery life?

There are many factors involved, but put simply, having your battery at a very low state of charge or a very high state of charge has a negative impact on battery life. The rate at which you take the battery from charged to discharged or discharged to charged also has an impact. While cold temperatures may keep you from getting the most out of your battery, it usually doesn’t impact longevity. Heat on the other hand has a severe impact on battery life and it gets worse the higher the state of charge.

Back to Consumer Reports

Without access to Elon’s creepy data logs of the CR test vehicle, I have two suggestions to what was going on. First off, the car was fairly close to reality with the projected range of 188 miles, but this needs explanation and education. The car was saying that if you drive gently the maximum range is 240.  Drive it like you’ve been driving it,  expect 188. Now we insert the cold weather into the mix. I assume he was heating the cabin on a chilly day and driving like normal. What wasn’t obvious is that the Model S may very well have also had the battery heater turned on, if so, there’s your 12 miles. Even if that wasn’t the case, any gasoline car that gets the range estimate within 7% scores in my book.

What about those LEAFs in Phoenix?

A while back I got a frantic call from a friend in the Phoenix area. “My LEAF’s batteries are dead!” So for the next 15 minutes he poured his heart out about the problem. Towards the end the usual comments from a person dealing with “automotive loss” came out “Nissan needs to give me a new battery.” After all his woes had been aired he asked me what I thought. I paused for a moment and said (as nicely as possible) “I’m not sure what your problem is. What you are describing to me is normal battery wear and tear.”

You see, unlike the Model S, the LEAF does not have an active cooling system for the battery pack. (This was done to save money and with the LEAF now dropping to $28,800 (less than half the Model S), you get what you pay for.) The lack of active cooling means that in the hot Arizona desert, parked in the sun at work or at the mall your battery is slowly dying. Why? It’s all back to the chemistry again. The optimum service life of Lithium-ion batteries is achieved when the cell is a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Baking in the sun for 8 hours a day while you’re at the office the inside of the car can easily go over 170 degrees when it’s 115 outside. Since he had to charge his car at the office in order to get back home, he was compounding the problem since batteries get hot as they charge. As the battery aged because of the long commute he started to drop by the local DC quick charge station. This made the battery age even faster because now the battery is hot and you are rapidly going from one state of charge to the other. Net result: 20% loss in capacity over 2 years and 33,000 miles. Case closed.

What about my Prius? (or other hybrids)

Right now the Prius, and most older hybrids like the Escape Hybrid and the first generation Fusion Hybrid use Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. This chemistry is more stable but less power dense than lithium based batteries. In addition remember what I said about battery life? State of charge and charge/discharge rates are large factors. Hybrids extend their battery life deliberately by never fully charging nor fully discharging their batteries. In fact most non-plug-in hybrids use 60-70% of the rated capacity in the battery. Since they don’t depend on the battery for 100% of the propulsion like an EV does, charge and discharge rates are lower which also extends battery life. And lastly, it’s less obvious when your hybrid’s battery does age because it’s not your only source of propulsion. As hybrids move to lithium batteries they are retaining these life extending measures, but even still they may or may not have the same life span as the NiMH batteries, only time will tell. In the plug-in world, only GM seems to be operating in a cautious fashion by only using about 80% of the Volt and ELR’s battery pack vs nearly 95% of the capacity in Ford and Toyota models.

Who’s right and who’s wrong here? Who is to blame?

Everyone. The EV buyer who didn’t bother to do his homework, the dealer who didn’t help set expectations, and the manufacturer who promised all would be well. My inclination however is to place the burden on the EV buyer. If you’re going to buy a car of any description, you need to do your homework. You don’t buy a Mazda Miata and then get upset when you bend the frame trying to tow your 5th wheel. Likewise, don’t expect any EV to have some magical battery that runs on butterfly-farts and lasts 250,000 miles, it just won’t happen. Yet.

 

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Ghosn Backtracks On “10 Percent By 2020″ EV Sales Claims http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/ghosn-backtracks-on-10-percent-by-2020-ev-sales-claims/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/ghosn-backtracks-on-10-percent-by-2020-ev-sales-claims/#comments Fri, 15 Feb 2013 16:21:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477671

Carlos Ghosn’s assertion that “...electric vehicles could represent 10% of the global market in the next ten years, or 6 million vehicles…” may no longer be en vogue over at Renault, at least according to French business paper La Tribune.

The paper claims that Ghosn added a qualifier to this claim during a presentation to discuss Renault’s latest financial results. Regarding the 10 percent claims, Ghosn cautioned that “this will be the case where the vehicles will be sold…“, suggesting that the volumes would be restricted to certain markets, rather than globally.

Ironically, the remarks come as the Leaf celebrated 50,000 units globally – a nice milestone for Nissan, but still rather small numbers in the grand scheme of things. Ghosn is of course, still bullish on EV prospects, but it appears as if some of the juice has been drained from those particular batteries.

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QOTD: Is The EV Honeymoon Over? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/qotd-is-the-ev-honeymoon-over/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/qotd-is-the-ev-honeymoon-over/#comments Thu, 17 Jan 2013 14:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474112  

Now that the Nissan Leaf is being made in Tennessee, Nissan has decided that a big price drop is in order. While the 2012 car retailed for $35,200, the 2013 Leaf starts at $28,800, thanks to a new base model. Anyone who bought a 2012 must be pretty ticked off at the resale-ruining price cut. Higher-end SV and SL trim levels will retail for $31,820 and $37,250 respectively.

The domestic production of the Leaf and its battery components undoubtedly help make the car cheaper, but one has to wonder how much of this is related to the Leaf’s slow sales and the general downward trend of EV enthusiasm. Past auto shows have featured a bounty of EVs in both concept and production form. This year’s NAIAS featured the Tesla Model X, which received far less fanfare than one would expect, and the Leaf was largely overshadowed by well, everything else, including Nissan’s own Versa Note subcompact.

One canard of the industry is that electric cars are still a decade out – and they always will be. Personally, I find it ironic that electric vehicles, derided as boring, appliance-like transportation for eco-weenies, deliver a very rewarding driving experience. They are fast, brilliantly packaged (look at the flat floor of a Nissan Leaf if you don’t believe me) and the ability to place the battery pack nearly anywhere can lead to excellent handling characteristics.

But issues like diminished performance in cold weather to a lack of charging infrastructure have confined EVs to playthings for affluent coastal dwellers. The question now is whether they will remain in this niche or not.

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Made In America Nissan Leaf Now In Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/made-in-america-nissan-leaf-now-in-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/made-in-america-nissan-leaf-now-in-production/#comments Thu, 10 Jan 2013 17:33:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472841

Nissan will make good on its $1.4 billion DOE loan, and finally start building the Leaf EV right here in America. In addition to the Leafs going off the assembly line, Nissan will also build the battery packs at a separate plant next door. Nissan hasn’t set production targets for the Smyrna, Tennessee plant, though Leaf sales have been flat over the last year, despite projections of them doubling.

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QOTD: What Sound Should Hybrids And EVs Make Below 18 MPH? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/qotd-what-sound-should-hybrids-and-evs-make-below-18-mph/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/qotd-what-sound-should-hybrids-and-evs-make-below-18-mph/#comments Tue, 08 Jan 2013 16:04:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472704

NHTSA is proposing to make it mandatory that hybrid cars and EVs have the ability to emit a sound when traveling below 18 mph on electric power, as a means of warning pedestrians and cyclists. The system is said to add about $30 to the cost of each vehicle, and will no doubt tie up bureaucrats for months as they debate just what kind of tone will best protect the public from the horror of low-speed injuries. So why don’t we make life easier for them and decide ourselves?

I”m going to nominate the weird burping noise made by a koala as my own favorite; koalas, like hybrids and EVs, are slow and non-threatening, but few know that the koala actually makes a strange, low bellowing noise.

Compare that to the higher-pitched chirp or the low humming seen on cars like the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius. It’s a bit more masculine and menacing, isn’t it? Yet at the same time, it won’t really give anyone a fright like it would if you used a sound clip from a Norwegian death metal concert.

 

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London Looking To Alter Congestion Charge Exemptions By Lowering CO2 Threshold http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/london-looking-to-alter-congestion-charge-exemptions-by-lowering-co2-threshold/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/london-looking-to-alter-congestion-charge-exemptions-by-lowering-co2-threshold/#comments Wed, 05 Dec 2012 16:22:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=469193

The 100 grams/km CO2 output figure is an important one for motorists in the UK. Cars that can hit this magic number are exempt from London’s daily $16 Congestion Charge, which is levied upon motorists attempting to enter London’s downtown core. But new rules may leave drivers liable for the daily fee, as lawmakers seek to change the exemption threshold to 75 grams/km.

AutoExpress reports that as many as 19,000 motorists could be screwed over by the change in regulations, though they’d be exempt from having to pay the fee until 2015. The new rules would leave just 9 cars – 6 of which are pure EVs – exempt from the charge. The remaining three use some sort of hybrid system to achieve such a low CO2 output.

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Nissan Leaf Gets The “Taurus G” Treatment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/nissan-leaf-gets-the-taurus-g-treatment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/nissan-leaf-gets-the-taurus-g-treatment/#comments Fri, 05 Oct 2012 18:05:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=462805

With sales of the third-generation Ford Taurus lagging, the Blue Oval decided that an entry-level variant would be just what was needed to help kickstart sales. Faced with slumping sales of their Leaf EV, Nissan is apparently taking the same route.

Without the $7,500 tax credit, a Leaf costs $36,050, and there’s no indication of how much the entry-level trim will knock off the sticker price. The new base model will forgo the high-tech, energy-efficient LED headlamps in favor of traditional HID units, as well as some unspecified features integrated into the car’s GPS system. The LED lamps are considered integral to the Leaf’s battery performance, since they use far less energy than traditional headlights.

Nissan will also switch production of the Leaf and its battery components to Tennessee, allowing the Leaf to escape the unfavorable exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the yen. Leaf production hasn’t started Stateside, but battery production at the Smyrna, TN plant is set to begin shortly.

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GE WattStations and LEAFs: We’ll fix it in software. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/ge-wattstations-and-leafs-well-fix-it-in-software/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/ge-wattstations-and-leafs-well-fix-it-in-software/#comments Fri, 27 Jul 2012 17:15:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454460

As we reported back on July 17th, there were reports of Nissan LEAFs “bricking” themselves while connected to GE’s WattStation home charging stations. Over the last 10 days, I have been on a number of conference calls, spoken with a number of Leaf owners, electrical engineers and battery charging gurus. As it turns out, the problem was exactly as I had surmised: bad utility power damaged the LEAF. The only involvement the GE WattStation had, was that it was merely the connection between the LEAF’s on-board charger and the utility.

Back when I was contemplating getting an electrical engineering degree, I was working for a small computer peripheral design company. The experience has proved useful countless times, but this popular engineering joke is particularly àpropos: how many hardware engineers does it take to change a light bulb? None, we’ll fix it in software. To that end, GE released the following statement this morning:

“Nissan and GE have completed their investigation into the instances of Nissan LEAFs experiencing on-board charging (OBC) issues when using certain EV chargers. Nissan has traced the root cause of the issue to the LEAFs OBC software that can allow damage to occur to its OBC components while using certain chargers and in certain instances, such as when a brief under voltage or blackout condition occurs. Nissan is working to address this issue as quickly as possible, and in the meantime is advising customers to avoid charging during times when brownouts or momentary power dips may be likely, such as during electrical storms or high power usage on the grid.”

Until Nissan releases this fix, Nissan and GE are both telling us that LEAF owners should continue charging as normal, and on the off-chance you fry your LEAF during an electrical storm before Nissan has this fix, your warranty should cover the problem.

What about the problem with LEAF batteries permanently loosing their charge in the Arizona heat? Check back for an in-depth look next week.

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Dead LEAFs and GE Chargers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/dead-leafs-and-ge-chargers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/dead-leafs-and-ge-chargers/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2012 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452941

The GE Wattstation killed my Leaf! That’s the story being reported by the New York Times as well as PlugInCars.com. As the tale goes, 11 Leaf owners have had their chargers “damaged” while charging with GE’s Wattstation home charging station. The relative significance of only 11 failures aside, the Nissan Dealer in San Pablo, CA confirmed to PlugInCars.com that Nissan North America has notified dealers of a potential problem with the Leaf and the GE home charging station. TTAC contacted Hilltop Nissan and they have yet to return our calls. Rather than just parroting back the usual news reports we dug deep. We contacted GE and Nissan, consulted some professional electrical engineers and read though hundred of pages of boring SAE documents. Click past the jump to learn more about EV charging than you ever wanted to know.

Before we dissect the dead Leaf issue, we must first understand how EV charging stations work. Because there were a wide variety of charging connectors prior to the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt coming on the scene, we’re going to focus on just the SAE J1772 standard. Other than Tesla, who has decided to off on a tangent with their “prettier” charging connector, all EVs and PHEVs on sale in America use this connector. The short list includes the Leaf, Volt, Karma, Coda, Prius Plug-in, i MiEV, Fit EV, RAV4 EV, Focus Electric, Smart EV, and ActiveE.

The first thing you need to understand is that a “charging station” or “EV home charger” is a confusing term that seems to imply that the home unit is “doing all the work.” In reality, the J1772 connector and station you plug your car into is simply a “smart” extension cord for your car. All the circuitry required to charge the battery, monitor the rate of charge, and keep tabs of the heath of the battery are driving around with you all the time.

Wait! Why is my charger in my car, isn’t that inefficient? While the extra weight of hauling around your charger sounds crazy at first, it is the easiest way to make the charging infrastructure both universal and cost-effective. Because each EV’s battery differs in cell count, voltage, chemistry, cooling characteristics and capacity, it is easier to supply AC power directly to the car and allow the car’s electronics to charge the battery the way it sees fit. The charging connector is simply responsible for communicating to the vehicle what kind of power is available and providing protection to the electrical circuit on which it is installed.

The J1772 connector has 5 pins: AC1, AC2, ground, “control pilot” (aka data) and “proximity detection.” AC1, AC2 and ground are fairly self-explanatory. When using 120VAC AC1 is power and AC2 is neutral. When connected to a 240V circuit AC1 is power and AC2 becomes power as well.

OK, why not just use an extension cord? What’s going on in my charger? Excellent question. Inside the charger we essentially get some relays that turn on and off the power to the pins when the car requests it. In addition we have electronics that communicate the power type (120VAC or 240VAC) and maximum charge current available from the charging station.

So how does it work? When the station is not connected to a car, the AC1 and AC2 pins are not active. This is a safety measure to keep you safe if you should decide to go probing with a paperclip. When you start to connect the vehicle, the first thing that connects is the ground pin because it is longer than the others. The ground in theory helps prevent (among other things) static discharge that could harm the electrical components. The next pins that connect are the power, data and proximity detection pins. Now that everything is connected, the car sees the proximity detect line, establishes a data connection with the charging station, and tells the car what voltage and current options are available. Part of this process involves checking for the presence of a small silicone diode SAE refers to as D1. According to SAE, the purpose of D1 is that it “insures that an EV is actually connected and can be discriminated from other potential low impedance loads.” In other words, D1 isn’t involved in actually charging, just in the verification that there’s actually a car connected to the plug. Next, the car tells the charger what kind of charging it will be doing and requests power. The station energizes AC1 and AC2, the car begins drawing power and charging the battery.

During the charge the station and the car are both monitoring the connection and either device can end the charge at any time. When you unplug the car, the first connections broken are the proximity and control pilot connections, which cause the station to stop power to AC1 and AC2 within milliseconds.

Back to that whole GE thing

The core of the issue seems to be the circuitry that communicates with the charging station. According to SAE, “the minimum control circuit necessary on the EV to use in conjunction with the inlet uses one diode, one capacitor, and one resistor“. Based on the way these components are connected between the “control pilot” pin and the ground connector, the station knows a car is connected and can tell basic charge status.

With me so far? Let’s dig deeper. Suppose that for some reason you had a bad building ground that caused some sort of transient voltage, or ground fault in your home’s electrical system, or a massive power surge from your utility. If this was the case, it is possible to damage the diode which, in this case, is the most likely component to be damaged from a reverse voltage situation. Again, this is possible because the station just connects the car’s on-board charger to the mains. This is likely enough that the J1772 spec outlines that D1 should be rated for at least 100V because “this diode is exposed directly to cable transients.” If D1 fails, charging stations that adhere strictly to J1772 won’t energize AC1 and AC2 because they will think that there is no vehicle connected or there is a fault in the connection.

Actual failures

From my forum research is appears that the Leaf failures fall into two broad categories: D1 failure and a failure involving more than just D1 on the control side of the charger.

The failures can be identified from one another by using the EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) that came with your car. Users on MyNissanLeaf.com report that if D1 has failed, then the car will still charge with the EVSE as it does not check for the existence of D1 in the first place. If the car fails to charge period, then there’s more wrong.

Assuming there is no design fault inherent in the Wattstation’s “control pilot” design (and we might assume this logically because the issues are limited to Nissan Leaf vehicles only), the most likely possibility is a problem with the an underrated or faulty D1 diode in the Leaf’s charger that makes the control pilot circuit more susceptible to transient current and failure. While it does seem fishy that the problems are only reported with the Wattstation and not the popular Leviton and Nissan branded chargers, the issue likely comes down to surge suppression and bad luck. It is likely that Nissan uses a D1 diode with a lower rating (and therefore affording less protection) than the Volt and Prius plug-in. With so few EVs on the road, and little public information on the specifications of electrical components in the chargers it is hard to say for sure.

With US Leaf sales at approximately 12,841 through June 2012, Volt sales at 16,814, i MiEV at 413 and some 2,000 Plug-in Prius sales to the same date, there are some 32,000 EV/PHEVs on the road (not counting the smaller volume vehicles). GE won’t release specific sales numbers simply citing sales in the “thousands.” Even if we assume this means only 2,000, then the number of actual problem units is just over half a percent. If you assume that half the units went to Volt owners and half went to Leaf owners, then the problem percentage raises only to about 1% of all the units being used with the Leaf. Maybe.

Confirming our hypothesis which is that the root cause of the failure is a factor external to the Leaf we got a statement from Nissan at the 11th hour.

We are aware of several isolated instances of Nissan LEAFs sustaining damage due to voltage current spikes from the power grid. These isolated instances, while resulting in component damage to the on-board charger, did not result in any injuries or fires.  Some of these reported occurred while LEAFs were charging at GE WattStations. Nissan and GE are working to investigate every issue and determine root cause of the charging issues. While this issue represents a handful of incidents out of millions of charging events involving the Nissan LEAF, we are doing everything we can to get to the bottom of the issue. --Katherine Zachary, Nissan North America

While a power surge/spike is the most likely cause, it seems to highlight a possible shortcoming in the Leaf’s charging circuitry that may make it more susceptible to this type of damage. But it’s probably not all D1′s fault, your home might be killing your leaf. If you live in a home built before 1960, your home was likely built without grounded outlets, and possibly without the neutral line being connected to ground properly. If the neutral is “floating,” there is the possibility of having some very strange voltage potentials at the charging connector to your car. We have no real way of knowing whether the Leaf or the Volt is more likely to fail from this sort of event, but we can assume that it may manifest itself in the Leaf first as Volts don’t have to be plugged in to operate. There are a few steps you should take regardless.

1. Get a surge suppressor. You put one on your computer, your TV, your stereo and even your fridge. Why wouldn’t you put one on the most expensive appliance you’ll ever buy? Regardless of the outcome of the GE/Nissan investigation, the few hundred you’ll spend on a surge suppressor is insurance well spent, especially if you live in a lightning prone area. According to GE, the Wattstation has an internal 6kV surge protection per UL2231-2 & IEC 1000-4-5 which is the same standard that Leviton and other competitors meet. Buy a whole house surge suppressor anyway.

2. Have an electrician checkout your electrical system before you have a station installed. This may seem like a no brainer, but if you’re just asking your electrician to install an outlet to plug the station into, or hard wire the station, they may not check your main panel to see what’s going on. Be sure they check your main and all sub-panels (at the least) to see if everything is kosher.

3. If you live in a lighting prone area, have lightning rods professionally installed on your home.

 

In the end this is a textbook example of the power of the internet. The fact that a very small percentage of problems can make a New York Times article is amusing to say the least. But it also tells us something else: As EVs gain market share and our cars become essentially expensive electrical appliances with expensive computers inside, we need to re-think how we view the quality of the power in our homes.

 

According to the New York Times: A spokeswoman for Nissan North America, Katherine Zachary, said in an e-mail, “There’s no official Nissan policy instructing customers not to use G.E. WattStations.”

We contacted GE ourselves and got the following response:

Since its launch in 2011, GE’s WattStation Wall Mount has performed as designed, thousands of units have been shipped, and it has received positive reviews from EV drivers. Regarding the charging issue raised by 11 Nissan Leaf owners who had GE WattStations, GE’s current analysis does not indicate that the WattStation is the cause of the reported failures.  GE has been actively working with Nissan to help determine the source of this issue. The GE WattStation has not encountered a similar issue with other brands of electric vehicles. GE’s WattStation is also designed and tested to the SAE J1772 and appropriate UL standards and these tests have been validated by an independent third party. And there have been no design changes to WattStation since its 2011 launch.

The GE WattStation has surge protection per UL2231-2 & IEC 1000-4-5 which will protect the internal circuitry of the charger in the event of a surge up to 6kV.  This  is consistent with what is seen with our competitors.  –Sean Gannon, GE Energy Spokesperson

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Plug-In Car Sales Breakdown: June 2012 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/plug-in-car-sales-breakdown-june-2012/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/plug-in-car-sales-breakdown-june-2012/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2012 16:32:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451427

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a look at our favorite automotive urination competition, the epic battle between the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Prius Plug-In.

Chevrolet emerged as July’s victor, as well as the year-to-date champion. With 1,760 Volts sold in June, the General is leading the plug-in sales stakes with 8,817 units sold in the first six months of 2012. Still not the kind of volumes that GM was hoping for. In second was the Toyota Prius Plug-In, with 695 units sold in June and 4,347 in the first half of 2012. The Nissan Leaf finished third, with 535 sold in June, and 3,148 cumulatively.

Nissan is blaming a marketing mishap for the Leaf’s slow sales. Rather than selling them directly to customers via a waiting list, the cars can now be bought off the lot, and a Nissan spokesman told Bloomberg that they “…miscalculated the marketing that had to go behind it.” The Volt, on the other hand, seems to have from a boost in sales in California, now that the car can be driven in the HOV lane without a passenger.

Regardless of the surrounding factors, adoption of plug-in cars is growing, albeit at a slower than anticipated pace. Chevrolet dealers still had a 90 day supply of Volts on June 1st, and breakdowns for the Prius Plug-In and Leaf weren’t available at time of publication. Leaf sales are down 69 percent year-over-year and 19 percent versus the first half of 2011. The Volt, of course, is doing much better.

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Have You Been Dying For An Electrified Nissan NV That Vaguely Resembles A Leaf? Here You Go! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/have-you-been-dying-for-an-electrified-nissan-nv-that-vaguely-resembles-a-leaf-here-you-go/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/have-you-been-dying-for-an-electrified-nissan-nv-that-vaguely-resembles-a-leaf-here-you-go/#comments Thu, 24 May 2012 20:55:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=445894

Nissan now has a zero emissions van that you’ll be able to buy in a couple years -if that’s what you’re into. We won’t judge. Either way, the company seems to be creating a brand identity for its electric vehicles.

Notice how there are vague cues that harken to the Nissan Leaf in the e-NV200′s styling? That’s not a coincidence. Creating this sort of common look between the Leaf and e-NV200 is certainly intentional, and don’t be surprised to see it on future Nissan EVs. It worked for Toyota and the Prius, so of course Nissan is going to try it out here. No details about cost, powertrain or anything worthwhile were announced, just that Nissan will be building it at the same Barcelona plant as the standard NV, and 700 workers will be hired.

 

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April Plug-In Car Sales: Toyota Prius Wins, Chevrolet Volt Takes Second, Nissan Leaf Third http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/april-plug-in-car-sales-toyota-prius-wins-chevrolet-volt-takes-second-nissan-leaf-third/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/april-plug-in-car-sales-toyota-prius-wins-chevrolet-volt-takes-second-nissan-leaf-third/#comments Thu, 03 May 2012 13:07:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=442768

It was a good month for the Toyota Prius Plug-In, with the newest plug-in car outselling the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf in April.

Pent-up demand and the desire to outdo your neighbors in Marin County likely had something to do with the Prius Plug-In’s 1,654 units sold in April. How long will the demand last? We’ll have to wait a while to see how it all shakes out.

Chevrolet Volt sales were down from March’s record of 2,289 sales, but with 1,462, the Volt still had one of its better months so far. Indeed, the biggest loser in April, 2012 was the Nissan Leaf. With just 370 sold, the Leaf was down year-over-year (with 573 sold in April 2011) and way off of its best month ever (1,708 sold in June, 2011).

Prius and Leaf inventory data was unavailable via Automotive News, but the Volt had a 61 day supply as of April 1, down from 154 on March 1st.

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Review: A Week In A 2012 Nissan Leaf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-a-week-in-a-2012-nissan-leaf/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-a-week-in-a-2012-nissan-leaf/#comments Wed, 29 Feb 2012 14:30:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=432115

Last May, the Nissan Leaf was the hottest thing on the green radar. Limited production and a long waiting list for the press meant that Nissan was lending out Leafs (Nissan tells us that is the correct way to pluralize a Leaf) 62-hours at a time. With my long commute and lengthy 120V charging times, this meant a review with only 217 miles under our belt (read our three-part review here: 1 2 3). Now that a few thousand Leafs have found homes in Northern California and I had practiced my “range anxiety” breathing techniques, I was eager to see if the ultimate green ride was also a decent car beyond the batteries.

2012 hasn’t brought any changes to the outside of the Leaf, – it’s still offered only as a hatchback.  While the style can easily be called polarizing, and one friend thought it looked like a miniature hearse, passengers seemed to be split 50/50 on the look. Nissan tells us there is a reason for the chihuahua-lamps; aerodynamics and noise. When you create a car with a nearly silent drivetrain, wind noise becomes more obvious.  The shape of the lamp modules is designed to cut down on this element while in motion. The big-tire crowd will complain about the stock 205-width tires and 16-inch rims, but I didn’t mind the look. The rear lights? They just look cool.

Up to this point, essentially all cars heat the cabin with “waste heat” from the engine. Since the Leaf doesn’t have an engine, and the electric motor generates very little heat, the Leaf uses a 5kW electric heater to heat the cabin (roughly equal to 5 conventional space heaters). 2012 has brought a few welcome changes to combat this power draw:  heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel are now standard. The “luxury” touch of a heated tiller may seem out-of-place, but it takes considerably less power to heat the surfaces you interact with than the air in the cabin. The solution worked well for me, and I didn’t mind turning the cabin heating down to 61 degrees with my seat and steering wheel heating my touch-points on a 35 degree morning. Last time I was in the Leaf, I sacrificed everything in the name of range, but this time I drove it like a normal car.  Should you decide to use the cabin heater, rear passengers will notice some ducting improvements to make it more comfortable in the rear. At 31 inches, rear seat legroom is behind the Camry or Prius (36/38 respectively), but generous headroom all the way around made it possible to comfortably fit six-foot tall humans all the way around. We were also able to squeeze in two rearward facing child seats with two average sized adults up front.


Under the Leaf’s small hood lies an 80kW synchronous AC motor. Throw out most of what you know about engines when it comes to electric cars because they behave quite differently. Because the Leaf has a single-speed transmission and the motor redlines at 10,390RPM, the top speed is 96MPH. This linear relationship is important when thinking about the Leaf’s performance. 107 horsepowers are delivered between 2,730 and 9,800 RPM (25-90 MPH) while peak torque of 207 lb-ft is available right off the line from 0-2730 RPM (0-25 MPH) where it tapers off slightly.

Thanks to the low-end grunt, the Leaf posts a very respectable 2.92 second 0-30MPH time while the 0-60 time stretches out to 8.96 seconds (a considerable improvement over the 10.2 seconds the pre-production Leaf achieved in May). As you would expect with a 1 speed transmission, acceleration is very linear right up to its top speed. Due to some earlier complaints about the battery not charging properly in cold temperatures, Nissan added some basic thermal management in 2012 for the battery pack to keep it from loosing a charge when it is not plugged in and sitting in extremely cold weather.

Unlike your cell phone, the Leaf’s charging circuitry is built-in, and the “charger” is just a smart plug that communicates with the car and supplies the power to the car’s charger. 2011 and 2012 Leafs support three charge modes called Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 (Level 3 is optional on 2011 and 2012 SV models) via it’s internal 3.3kW charger. For those not in the know, Level 1 is 120V AC, Level 2 is 240V AC and Level 3 is 480V DC. Charging the 24kWh battery will take a little over 26 hours at Level 1 via the included “emergency charging cable,” just over 7 hours with a Level 2 charger (available in some public parking lots or installed in your garage at home), or just over 30 minutes if and when 480V quick charge stations become available on our side of the Pacific. Shoppers should note that Nissan confirmed the 2013 leaf will have a 6.6kW charger which would cut Level 2 charging times in half to just over 3.5 hours. The DC quick charge connector was a standalone option in 2011, but with Nissan pushing for DC quick charging infrastructure, they have made it standard on the Leaf’s SL trim for 2012 (still optional on SV). According to EPA tests, the Leaf’s range varies from 138 miles under perfect conditions to 47 miles in heavy stop-and-go traffic. The traffic test cycle was 8 hours long and the A/C was in use for the entire test. I had no problems getting 75 miles out of the Leaf driving it like I would any other vehicle we have tested, with the automatic climate control set to 68 during a mild Northern California winter and mixed driving. Like all battery-powered appliances, your run time will vary.

During our week with the Leaf we noticed considerably wider availability of charging stations than during our first all-electric fling back in May. Among the stations we visited was a “PlugShare” station at the home of Howard Page, who agreed to an interview with us. Expect a more detailed charging story later, but in essence Howard listed his home charging station on PlugShare (there’s a web site and an app) as available for use. To “fill-up”, you SMS message or call the PlugShare host and ask if you can charge. If the host is feeling altruistic, they say yes, give you their address and any instructions about charging at their home. Our Leaf spent 7 hours in Howard’s driveway one day saving me the $2 per hour at my local public parking garage with the Level 2 charger, as well as allowing me to make i home. The concept is novel to say the least; handing out free electrons to similarly minded early adopters hoping it all evens out in the end. At $5 a complete charge, I wonder how long this system will last without some mini-payment system? Sound off in the comment section below if you would share your charging station to those in need, and similarly, how is this different from a gasoline sharing program where you keep a gallon on your doorstep for passers-by?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Last time we had the Leaf, our range anxiety prevented us from really thrashing the Leaf on windy mountain roads, romping the go pedal from a stop and mashing the brake pedal as we would with a normal car. A full week in the electron powered hatch (and careful pre-planned Level 2 charging arrangements) allowed us to do just that. The handling limits of the Leaf are, as one would assume, defined mostly by the 3,400lb curb weight and low rolling resistance tires. With the “40 MPG car” being all the rage lately, more and more cars are being sold with low rolling resistance rubber, so while the Leaf’s handling is unspectacular, so is the competition. The Leaf’s electric power steering takes some getting used to, but since the target market is unlikely to carve corners, it’s probably a non-issue. Whizzing along above 75 MPH is surprisingly easy and eerily quiet thanks to a nearly silent motor. Our last flirtation with the Leaf was fleeting enough that our Leaf was never fully charged, but this time, things were different.

To help extend battery life, hybrid vehicles never fully charge nor discharge their batteries – a luxury an all-electric vehicle cannot afford. This deep-cycling, or even the micro-cycling caused by regenerative braking when the battery is nearly full can shorten the battery’s life. As a result, the Leaf does something interesting, if you’re fully charged; the car won’t employ regenerative braking until the battery is sufficiently discharged. Why is this important? Because the Leaf’s braking is nicely weighted and balanced when regenerative braking, but for those first few miles in the morning when the battery is 100% charged, the mushy brake pedal feel was surprising and disconcerting until I checked in with a Nissan dealer’s mechanic. Again this probably isn’t a problem for the Leaf’s target demographic, but it does perhaps indicate some of the challenges of going all-electric. The suspension is tuned for a moderate ride, neither floaty, nor stiff and the chassis remains composed over a variety of road surfaces from gravel to pot-holed-asphalt.


The Leaf uses a modified version of the infotainment system available in other Nissan and Infiniti vehicles and includes a standard navigation system. iPod and iPhone integration is standard Nissan issue with on-screen access to playlists, songs, etc but no voice command ability ala Ford’s SYNC product. Speaking of voice commands, the Leaf’s navigation system curiously omits the ability to enter a street address via voice command, the only voice “command-able” destinations are saved destinations and the Leaf’s pre-programmed home address. As you would expect, you won’t find a power-sucking high wattage amp in the Leaf. The standard 6-speaker sound system does however have a neutral balance and is fairly competitive with the standard sound systems in the average mid-sized sedan. For those of you who still remember CDs, there’s a single slot located behind the sliding touchscreen which can also be used to update your nav’s map database.

I’d like to talk competition, but let’s be honest, there isn’t any yet. The Volt vs Leaf war is misguided at best because the Volt is not a pure electric car, as much as GM would like to claim otherwise. Ditto the plug-in Prius. Tesla cars will cost a king’s ransom and the i-MiEV sports one less seat, a considerably smaller interior and shorter range. The only real competition will be the 2013 Ford Focus Electric, which (on paper) appears to have the Leaf squarely in its sights. According to Ford, the Focus Electric will trump the Leaf with more gadgetry, a snazzier sound system, a more powerful 130 HP motor and some undeniably gorgeous looks. Ford is touting shorter recharge times versus the Leaf, but don’t be so quick to believe it. Both have similarly sized batteries (the Ford’s is actually 1kWh smaller) and Nissan has confirmed the 2013 Leaf will have a 6.6kW charger just like the Focus, so 2013 charging times will be equal. On the downside, the Focus is heavier, so despite claiming to be more efficient than the Leaf, if hill climbing is in your repertoire, use caution. The Focus is also $3,500 more expensive than the base Leaf and lacks the DC quick-charge port our SL tester was equipped with. Speaking of pricing, the Leaf starts at $35,200 and the SL model rings in at $37,250 (due to the addition of the quick charger, backup camera, auto healamps, fog lights and a cargo cover). If this price blows your mind, you’re not the target shopper. You’ll also need to factor in $1,500 (installed) for a home charging station (Best Buy tells us they cost $500 less than last year.)

Never before has buying an alternative fuel car meant as much of a lifestyle change. Diesel, natural gas, liquid propane and hydrogen vehicles all fill at a rate that is more-or-less the same as the average gasoline vehicle and deliver similar driving ranges. An electric car on the other hand delivers only 1/3 of the fairly standard 300 mile range you’ll find in most vehicles and takes 42 times longer to “fill”. If these drawback don’t bother you, the Leaf is a solid (if expensive) choice in the green car segment, but I’d wait for the 2013 model with the faster charger and perhaps for our review on the Focus Electric whenever we get our hands on one.

 

Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one full charge for our review.

Specifications as tested

0-30 MPH: 2.92 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 8.96 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.96 Seconds at 78.2 MPH

Average economy: 3.7 Miles/kWh over 689 miles

2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, charging connector, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, charging port, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes IMG_2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, headlamp, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, headlight, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, heated rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, shifter, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, trunk, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Interior, trunk, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, charging, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, charging connector, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Nissan Invests $2 Billion Into Mexican Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/nissan-invests-2-billion-into-mexican-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/nissan-invests-2-billion-into-mexican-plant/#comments Wed, 25 Jan 2012 17:01:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=428036

While Honda and Mazda are just getting their respective footholds in Mexico (the two automakers are opening up respective assembly plants in Mexico), Nissan has had a long presence south of the border, building cars at its Augascalientes, Mexico plant for decades.

Nissan is set to build an all-new plant in Augascalientes, with a total investment of $2 billion. The plant will produce B-segment cars (such as the Versa). Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is on a major push to avoid exporting Japanese-built vehicles due to a strong yen. The Mexican plant will help shore up North American vehicle production, as Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant will add a range of new vehicles shortly, including the Infiniti JX, the Nissan Rogue and the Nissan Leaf. Greater expansion of the new plant, as well as facilities for suppliers were also in the cards.

With the goal of becoming Latin America’s top Japanese OEM, as well as outselling Honda in the United States, the new plant is crucial to Nissan’s plans. Nissan is hoping to have the factory producing cars in less than 24 months.

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Chevrolet Volt Misses 2011 Sales Target By 2,300 Units, Outsold By Nissan Leaf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/chevrolet-volt-misses-2011-sales-target-by-2300-units-outsold-by-nissan-leaf/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/chevrolet-volt-misses-2011-sales-target-by-2300-units-outsold-by-nissan-leaf/#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2012 20:08:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=424292

Wamp wamp! That’s the sound of the sad trombone playing for the Chevrolet Volt, which missed its 2011 sales target by 2,329 units. General Motors hoped that the Volt would sell 10,000 units in 2011, but it was not to be.

Bloomberg reports that the bow tie brand sold only 7,671 Volts in 2011, but has plants to increase annual production to 60,000 units annually. 45,000 of those will be sold in the United States. The Volt had only been on sale nationwide for the final three months of 2011.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Nissan Leaf  had sold 8,720 units through November, compared to 6,142 Volts (according to data from Automotive News). Despite being hyped up as an electric car devoid of range anxiety, consumers evidently didn’t care, opting for the little Nissan instead.

While the Volt was helped by GM authorizing the sale of 2,300 demonstrator units in November, the Leaf, unlike the Volt, has still not been launched in all 50 states, instead remaining on sale solely in the coastal regions and the Chicago metropolitan area. It’s still to early to tell how the NHTSA investigation into the Volt’s battery-related fires has impacted sales, as our data only extends to the month of November, and the NHTSA announcement came on November 25th.

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