Nissan Leaf Owners Take The Lead In Improving Efficiency

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

One of most common complaints that traditional “car guys” have about the modern auto industry is that cars have become so complex and computerized that repairs and modifications have become too complex for their mechanical skillset. But, on the other end of the car guy spectrum, EV enthusiasts are taking over the mantle of the homebrew automotive modifications. The New York Times reports that Nissan Leaf owners are taking the lead to fix issues with the first mass-market electric car, creating more reliable state-of-charge indicators and rapid-chargers, tipping the balance of power from the manufacturer back to the savvy, hands-on consumer. And as EV enthusiasts build communities, share their experiments and improve vehicles like the Leaf, automakers like Nissan are listening.

Despite the antipathy between old-school auto enthusiasts and their new-wave EV counterparts, these two groups have more in common than you might realize… which can only be good news for the larger automotive culture.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Oct 15, 2011

    Yes Leaf owners represent a new niche in the "tuner" world, with a high amount of grass roots efforts. I believe that a large reason it is happening so quickly is that a lot of the early purchasers are already EV enthusiasts that have built their own EVs already. I know 2 people who own them. For the one family it's their 3rd EV, the others being a converted Fiero and S-10. The other traded in his Civic so it's his only car. He helped with building the Fiero and S-10's range trailer and another S-10. He is already planning on mods to his Leaf.

  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Oct 15, 2011

    Anybody can build a fast charger, but lithium ion cells don't like it. That's a matter of battery chemistry and construction, not the inability of Nissan to make such a charger. [Now I know Nissan actually does offer a fast charger, but I'm wondering how they plan to warrant cars against constant usage of it.] IMO, anyone building a fast charger for an EV does so at their own peril (seriously), not to mention endangering the warranty. If I was Nissan, I wouldn't cover repairs on any car showing evidence of geek tweaking. I am an engineer for a business that designs its own lithium ion battery packs and chargers. Nissan has certainly invested many millions into the charging system and "gas gauging" for this car. There may be some improvements to make, but I'd leave it to them. It's ironic to me that the man quoted in the article is using a cord made by Panasonic. Panasonic also produces lithium ion cells and is very cautious about their application by battery pack manufacturers; he should ask Panasonic how they feel about his improvements to Nissan's product using their power cord in an uncertified manner. The NYT article would have you think Nissan's engineers are the hacks and the shadetree engineers are the geniuses. Gimme a break.

    • See 1 previous
    • Dhanson865 Dhanson865 on Oct 16, 2011

      The "charger" is in the car. The article is referring to a modified EVSE which is NOT a charger. All it does is plug in to the AC and act as a quick disconnect for the charging process. Nothing done is causing the car to charge faster than Nissan designed it to be charged. The only thing is you can save $1000 or so by not buying a wall mounted EVSE.

  • Amca Amca on Oct 16, 2011

    Wow, toying around with a $10,000+ battery pack based on rumors and faith that Nissan has "over-engineered" it? Risky business. Fires? Early burnouts? Bad, bad, bad. With a simple gas engine of the days of yore any reasonably educated shade tree mechanic could understand the risks he was taking. And the engines could be fixed easily is readily available parts and techniques. You really want to try to take apart a battery pack yo've damaged? Really?

    • Noevfud Noevfud on Nov 11, 2011

      amca, Let's shed some light on your ignorance of EV operation. The described modification allows 240V to pass to the cars charger rather than 120V, it is not a fast charge but the standard 240 charge spec NIssan recommends. This is the same voltage and spec as the Nissan unit and other public charge stations. The onboard charger regulates the charging not the cord so it is no different then the OEM spec. It's like saying one 240V extension cord will harm your table saw over another. End of story. On an unrelated subject, to those that think the LEAF pack will be damaged by fast charge over the above described 3.3kw standard charge method, take note of the L3 port on the LEAF that charges at 400V and 50kw. The ignorance about EVs and EV charging is amazing and the FUD on the web is even worse. At least some posters know what they are talking about before posting.

  • Slow kills Slow kills on Oct 16, 2011

    Major manufacturers are used to building a practical low-risk compromise vehicle, and that is not what hot-rodders or hackers of any sort are interested in. They want boundaries pushed to suit their specific goals. I do like the open source DIY mentality. If you can't open it up and alter it, it's not really yours. People voiding warranties know the risk, and the manufacturer is off the hook. Win, win.