The Case Of The Missing Bars: Leaf Owners Stage Massive Test To Prove Premature Battery Aging

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
the case of the missing bars leaf owners stage massive test to prove premature

Earlier this year, Nissan Leaf owners in Arizona started to observe bars missing from the charge state display of their cars. Instead of the 12 bars that signal a full battery, some saw only 10 or less. This spread like the Arizona wildfires through the EV community. As of today, the discussion at the Mynissanleaf forum has swelled to 373 pages. Nissan looked at the affected cars, and so far has not rendered a verdict. Or maybe it did. 12 Leaf owners did assemble one night to prove Nissan wrong.

Three weeks ago, Nissan’s Executive Vice President Andy Palmer was quoted by Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald as saying that “we don’t have a battery problem” and that the battery level display is faulty. Enraged, the Arizona Leaf owners set up a massive test, and published the results at InsideEVs.

12 Leafs with odometer readings as low as 2,500 miles and as high as 29,000 miles assembled at night at 7755 South Research Drive, Tempe, Arizona. The location was chosen because it has a DC Chademo fast charger, and two J1772-2009 EVSE charging stations. From there, they did set out to drive the Leafs until the battery runs out, or more exactly, until the Turtle in the display strongly recommends to get off the road. They even had a small fleet of dollies and a flatbed truck to collect the exhausted Leafs.

The results of the test appear to support the group’s claim that the Leaf’s batteries degrade much faster than they should, at least in the hot climate of Arizona. A Leaf with 29,000 miles on the clock did last only 59.3 miles during the group’s test, a nearly 30 percent degradation from the 84 miles the group says a new Leaf should get. A Leaf with only 2,500 miles on the meter did last nearly 80 miles.

The test was professionally set up, VERY detailed description here. The group also measured the charge indicator, and found that in most cases, the instrument low-balls the available charge. Says Tony Williams who spearheaded the effort , and who had done an all-electric Canada to Mexico trip in a Leaf:

So, Andy Palmer was right… they have poor instruments. But, he was wrong about the batteries. It was sheer stupidity to tell this group of owners that the batteries are ok. “

We talked to Nissan’s General Manager of Global Communications, Jeff Kuhlman, in Yokohama. Kuhlman praises the affected owners who “are very knowledgeable, some are engineers themselves.”

He denies that Nissan has come to a conclusion on the matter: “We cannot give you a final analysis, because there simply is none available yet.”

Seven affected Leafs were inspected by Nissan , and subsequently returned to their customers. Nissan did a full data download on all units.

“The data are with our technical team in Yokohama, and they are still analyzing them,” says Kuhlman. “Once they have finished their analysis, the owners will be contacted first, and we will discuss with them what needs to be done.”

Kuhlman expects the verdict to be available “within days.”

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6 of 33 comments
  • Chuckrs Chuckrs on Sep 19, 2012

    Until The Miracle happens and someone stumbles across a robust, high energy density battery chemistry, a hybrid or high efficiency ICE is a better deal.

  • APaGttH APaGttH on Sep 19, 2012

    Nissan really, really, screwed this up. You can't change the law of physics. Battery capacity is impacted by ambient temperature. Nissan does not provide cooling for their batteries, and only provided heating optionally in the first model year. Great way to cut corners as the heating/cooling systems are expensive and add weight (which hurts range) but the impact is very clear. The batteries degrade quickly. Everyone else, from Ford, to Toyota, to GM, to Mitsubishi, to Tesla, to Fisker to.... got it right. There is no clean easy fix to this issue long term, Nissan is going to be buying customers a lot of batteries, and a Leaf with 80K to 100K miles is going to be worth - squat. Oh well, they are cheaper than a Volt.

    • See 3 previous
    • Herm Herm on Sep 21, 2012

      @BrianL No capacity warranty but the way some of these batteries are going (in Arizona) they will become warranty items with 3-4 years of use once the car refuses to accelerate.. even worse if the owner has a longer commute than normal and needs the full 80 mile range daily. There are 400 Leafs in Arizona and it costs $5000 for a new battery, you do the math. Nissan is probably waiting for the Tennessee battery factory to gear up in a couple of months, presently they are made in Japan. There is a Leaf in Washington at over 50k miles and estimated to be around 10% degradation.. battery capacity is hard to measure because anything affects range, including tire thread depth.

  • SCE to AUX Faraday Future shouldn't even be here, and they won't make it. Other ultra-expensive EVs are fun projects for companies who can fund them from other revenue.The Lucid Air is a strange one because it starts at $87k but can run to over $250k. Most cars jump only around 50% for top trims, not 300%.As for EVs - don't give me more power (easy); give me more range (hard). And quicker filling time.
  • Dukeisduke It's funny how stuff like this crosses over between sites nowadays - there's an article about it today on MacRumors: Polestar 2 Software Update Brings Wave of New Apple CarPlay Features - MacRumors
  • Fahrvergnugen "If you’re itching for an ultra-exclusive EV – and who isn’t – "Me...
  • Dukeisduke Tim, once all this foam is everywhere, how do you get rid of it? Does it take a while to break down? I think of the scene in the 1963 James Garner / Doris Day film "The Thrill Of It All", where boxes of soap end up in the swimming pool, creating mountains of foam. The Thrill of It All (1963) - IMDb
  • MrIcky I have a foam cannon, it makes washing the car much faster which helps me do it more often. Foam cannon>pressure wash>suds bucket and mitt for tough spots but touch as little as possible>pressure wash those spots>spray on some detailer solution as I dry to keep the water beading up. 15 minutes-ish?