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By Russ Finley on Oct 10, 2012 with 33 responses

Nissan Leaf Range Issues

A group of Nissan Leaf owners recently conducted a test in Arizona to see if high ambient summer temperatures in Arizona have  permanently reduced the capacity of their batteries to hold a charge.

 Does the Leaf go as far as advertised?

From Tony Williams, organizer of the group that tested the twelve Leafs:

“If you need the car to go that mythical 100 miles that Nissan advertises, first know that it never really went 100 miles for the typical US consumer.”

That conclusion, of course, depends entirely on your definition of myth and  “typical US consumer” (a term not used by Nissan on its U.S. website). Click here and then click on one of the colored boxes to see how far a Leaf will go for a variety of driving conditions.

The first question any Leaf owner gets is “How far will it go?” My standard answer is, “Around 100 miles if you’re tooling around town, and roughly 70-75 miles on the highway.” As that chart attests, the car is quite capable of going further than 100 miles especially if you minimize interstate highway speeds. The electric-only range estimates of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid are just as dependent on speed but because it automatically starts sucking gas when the charge is used up, the fact that it may not go as far as hoped on a charge is largely a moot point.

Jump on the nearest bicycle and try to make it go 40 miles an hour. The only thing stopping you (gearing permitting) is wind resistance, which increases exponentially with velocity. You would have no problem riding a bicycle 40 miles an hour on the moon where there is no wind resistance.

Interestingly enough, most conventional cars using internal combustion engines actually get better mileage on the freeway. It’s complicated, but in a nutshell, that’s because conventional cars are so inefficient in city driving scenarios (braking and engine acceleration losses) that those inefficiencies actually exceed wind resistance losses below a given speed.

 Analysis of the test results

I was putting together an analysis of their test data when I found a blog post by Mark Larson that beat me to the punch.

Click here to read his report AZ Leaf Capacity Kerfuffle: Much Ado About Nothing?

The above graph, published by Larson, summarizes the test results.

The table above, also created by Larson, summarizes the data in a different format.

This test would never pass muster in the world of science, where a hypothesis is proposed and tested using methods to minimize researcher bias. These guys were out to prove that the capacity of their batteries had been reduced by exposure to extreme heat beyond what the published specifications would predict. When any researcher sets out to prove he’s right, he will invariably manage to do so, at least until his research is peer reviewed or attempts are made to duplicate results. That is why the scientific method was invented.

There is a simple, relatively crude gauge, in the Leaf dashboard to warn owners when their battery won’t hold as much charge as it did when new. Nissan has suggested that some of these gauges may be out of calibration (possibly because of the extreme heat) and may be providing overly conservative estimates of battery life. Lo and behold, one of the cars in the test with a gauge indication of just 10 bars out of 12 went further than any other car.

The fact that more than one of the twelve cars tested by the Leaf owners had gauges that were not accurately indicating battery capacity suggests that a significant number of  Leafs may have gauges that exaggerate battery capacity loss.

In short, this paper failed its peer review. The test actually proved that:

  1.  Out-of-calibration gauges really are contributing to misperceptions.
  2.  All but two of the twelve cars thought to be damaged were actually performing within or just a few percentage points outside of the range band stated in a published Nissan technical bulletin (76 to 84 mile range when consuming energy at a rate of 4 miles/kWh at 70 degrees F ambient air temperature).

Again, from Williams, organizer of the group that tested the twelve Leafs:

“It was sheer stupidity to tell this group of owners that the batteries are ok…”

That conclusion, of course, depends entirely on your definition of OK, and stupidity. Larson’s analysis of the test results (which I concur with) didn’t jive with some Leaf owner’s misperceptions:

 “What I cannot see anywhere in these data is evidence that a Leaf is only achieving half its original range after one year, nor that another Leaf has lost 30% of its capacity in the same amount of time, nor that yet another is losing its capacity at 3 times the rate as anybody else, nor that a relatively new Leaf has lost 9% of its range in only one month.”

 Temperature impact on battery life and performance

Rightly or wrongly, Nissan never claimed that the batteries would perform per that specification no matter what and has warned from day one (in the owner’s manual and in a waiver signed at purchase) that exposing batteries to high ambient temperatures will likely permanently reduce their energy storage capacity faster than what would be expected for batteries not exposed to such temperatures.

Following is an excerpt from that disclaimer from the Williams analysis:

Nissan was anticipating that some cars would be driven in places like, say, Death Valley, or maybe Phoenix during record heat waves. It is likely that these car batteries were affected by heat.

 Click on the pink box in this link to get a feel for how much low temperatures can impact range.

The Leaf owner’s manual makes it clear that the rate of battery degradation will depend on how it is treated over its life.  From my owner’s manual:

The capacity of the Li-ion battery in your vehicle to hold a charge will, like all such batteries, decrease with time and usage. As the battery ages and capacity decreases, this will result in a decrease from the vehicle’s initial mileage range. This is normal, expected,and not indicative of any defect in your Li-ion battery. NISSAN estimates that battery capacity will be approximately 80% of original capacity after five years, although this is only an estimate, and this percentage may vary (and could be significantly lower) depending on individual vehicle and Li-ion battery usage.

Use of quick charge should be minimized in order to help prolong Li-ion battery life.

NISSAN recommends charging the Li-ion battery using the long life mode to help maximize the Li-ion battery useful life.

To prevent damage to the Li-ion battery do not expose a vehicle to ambient temperatures above 120 degrees F for over 24 hours.

If the outside temperature is −13 degrees F or less, the Li-ion battery may freeze and it cannot be charged or provide power to run the vehicle. Move the vehicle to a warm location.

 Passive battery cooling an engineering faux pas?

 Some pundits are questioning the wisdom of Nissan’s decision not to use an active battery cooling system.

Heat is an anticipated potential issue for a few dozen cars in very hot places. Certainly for 99% of the Leafs in the world, the passive system is perfectly adequate. Because there is no such thing as a free lunch, is it a good idea to saddle all cars with the weight, complexity, cost, and energy consumption penalties that come with an active cooling system (pumps, fans, tubes, hoses, radiators, coolant) just for a handful of cars (one or two percent of all Leafs sold in the world) in very hot places even when the owners signed a waiver?

It might be cheaper to buy back a few cars than stick all Leaf owners with that engineering trade off. The plug-in hybrid Volt recalled 8,000 vehicles for safety reasons. Recalls, retrofits and buybacks are common even with conventional cars.

 Nissan’s response

 At the time of my writing this article, Nissan had bought back two Leafs in the Arizona. They also took seven Leafs from owners complaining of reduced range back to their test facility for evaluation.

Nissan’s test results:

  • Nissan identified seven LEAF owners in the Phoenix area who had reported concerns with their vehicles. Nissan brought the cars to its Arizona test facility, removed the batteries for evaluation, measured capacity, and conducted voltage testing on individual battery cells.
  • The Nissan LEAFs inspected in Arizona are operating to specification and their battery capacity loss over time is consistent with their usage and operating environment. No battery defects were found.
  • A small number of Nissan LEAF owners in Arizona are experiencing a greater than average battery capacity loss due to their unique usage cycle, which includes operating mileages that are higher than average in a high-temperature environment over a short period of time.
  • In Arizona, we have approximately 450 LEAFs on the road. Based on actual vehicle data, we project the average vehicle in that market to have battery capacity of 76 percent after five years—or a few percentage points lower than the global estimate. Some vehicles in Arizona will be above this average, and some below. Factors that may account for this differential include extreme heat, high speed, high annual mileage and charging method and frequency of the Nissan LEAFs in the Phoenix market.

They may eventually have to offer consumers a hot climate cooling package for a few thousand extra, similar to the quick charge package I paid for (but have never used …that is now standard). Seattle residents would not need a cooling package.

Expectations and a Class Action Lawsuit

Williams, author of the independent Leaf owner study tells us:

I planned, and completed a promotional trip from Mexico to Canada, “BC2BC”, in June 2012 with my Nissan LEAF. However, my first car could not complete the trip as planned, due to its reduced range capability, so I leased my current LEAF, built in April 2012 and took delivery at the end of May. Now, with 7000 miles (11000 km), and only 3 months of actual use, this car could not complete the trip that it did in June. During the BC2BC trip, several times I arrived with 4%-5% capacity remaining, which means today, just a few months later, I would come up 4%-5% short. This car has never been exposed to the heat of Phoenix, although it was 104F (40C) in San Jose, California the one day that I was there.

He’s convinced that his new Leaf is also deficient even though it has never been exposed to “the heat of Phoenix.” What are the odds?

I strongly suspect that there’s nothing wrong with his car. I see the problem largely as a matter of expectations. Anyone who keeps careful track of car mileage (like my wife in her Prius) knows that it varies all over the place, usually for reasons unknown. Electric cars are no different in that respect. But, as common sense might suggest, because an electric car only has an 80 mile gas tank instead of a 300 mile one, and because you can’t quickly refill it, you should avoid the edges of its range envelope.

It just isn’t wise to ever purposely drive this generation of electric car to within 5% of its potential range estimate. In the sixteen months I’ve owned my Leaf I have done that exactly twice, and not on purpose (got lost). There are dozens of variables that you can’t control that impact range and with today’s slow rates of charge, you can’t count on filling up in a timely manner if you fall short.

Rule of thumb; if you can’t meet 95% of your annual driving needs within 75% of your car’s estimated range, don’t buy an electric car.

The entire concept of 120 and 240 volt public chargers (levels I and II respectively) seems like one of those “The Emperor has no clothes on” situations. It takes several hours to put a significant charge in a battery with these.  Why would anyone risk finding someone else already using that charger you were counting on (or finding that the charger is on the blink as is often the case), in order to get back home again?

I recently pulled in next to a Volt at a public charger at my local grocery store. I never bother to plug in because it isn’t worth a few cents of free electricity. I certainly don’t need that charge to get home. I asked the Volt owner why he bothered to plug in, which resulted in one of those awkward blank stares. The idea that maybe there was no good reason to plug in had not crossed his mind.

If I were offered more battery capacity for a fee, I’d decline. Because 99 percent of my driving missions are less than 50 miles, I already have more battery capacity than I need. I swap cars with a family member if I need to drive anywhere near the limit of my Leaf’s range. I have my car’s timer set to charge after 1:00 AM to 80% capacity to maximize battery life. I will on occasion charge it all the way up when I have a lot of driving to do the next day. If my daily commute took me to the edge of the Leaf’s range, I wouldn’t have bought it. Leaf owners who bought a Leaf needing to drive it to the edge of its range, quite simply, should have known better.

There are many people who bought Leafs who probably shouldn’t have and some of them are regretting it, as this recently filed class action lawsuit attests.

Having said all that, it will be interesting to see how Nissan now deals with what they already knew was coming–the fact that some owners would have faster than normal battery life degradation. Nissan may have underestimated how many people would experience early degradation because of where and how they are used, and just as importantly, how an American consumer would react to it.

  1. By david laur on October 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Great article! and yes, we LEAF owners were warned but still hard to deny the fact that many are experiencing capacity loss and a much greater rate than we were told. There are a few owners (Nissan has bought their cars back) that were seeing 20% loss after a year and less than 10,000 miles, so that is extreme.  

    Like you, I bought my LEAF after evaluating my needs with a LEAF that already had the 30% degraded range and found it to be more than enough for what I needed most of the time and I would just switch to my Prius for the longer trips that did not work.  I had hoped (and it does appear to be happening albeit slowly) that quick charge stations would take up any slack and allow a much greater driving freedom and I am lucky enough to be in an area that has a decent start on that path.

     plugging in when a charge is not needed does have its merits.  Right now, many EV charging spots are being ICE’d by well intentioned drivers who are simply missing the signage.   One MNL’er relayed a story about charging his LEAF with a vacant charging spot next to him.  he watched car after car pull into the space only to see his LEAF charging and it was only then they notice the signage for the space they were going to occupy and then they would pull out to find another space.  Now, maybe they wanted to obey the “EV charging only” or simply the person charging had a menacing look and they were unwilling to chance their faith but either way,  it does help to get the message out. 

    in the prehistoric days when i was driving my ZENN NEV ( a 35 mph “wonder” with a 20 mile range and yes i often wondered how i talked myself into buying one)  i plugged in often (as if i had a choice with a 20 mile range!) but only because most people were totally unaware public charging spaces existed (we have had 120 volt charging for years here)  and i frequently was forced to circle the parking lot to wait for the existing gas guzzler to move.  

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    • By Russ Finley on October 14, 2012 at 8:58 pm

      Thank you, David

      In <a href=”http://www.consumerenergyreport.com/2012/03/28/electric-car-technology-upgrades-subsidies-and-the-anti-nuke-crowd/#more-10194″>this article</a> I talk about the parking spaces for electric cars in the parking garage at <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benaroya_Hall”>Benaroya Hall</a>, which are located right next to the elevator as well as to the exit to the street. They are primo parking spots. Just the other night we pulled into the garage just ahead of an identical Leaf. Sure enough, there was already a Leaf in one spot and a Volt in the other. The guy behind me had to park with the peasants. Hopefully he didn’t need a charge to get home that night.

      <blockquote>There are a few owners (Nissan has bought their cars back) that were seeing 20% loss after a year and less than 10,000 miles, so that is extreme.</blockquote>

      There are only a few cars out of spec so far. I’m glad Nissan is buying those back.

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      • By Russ Finley on October 14, 2012 at 9:06 pm

        Oops. My bad with the illegal hypertext code. Let me try again:

        In this article I talk about the parking spaces for electric cars in the parking garage at Benaroya Hall, which are located right next to the elevator as well as to the exit to the street. They are primo parking spots. The other night we pulled into the garage just ahead of an identical Leaf. Sure enough, there was already a Leaf in one spot and a Volt in the other. The guy behind me had to park with the peasants. Hopefully he didn’t need a charge to get home that night.

        “There are a few owners (Nissan has bought their cars back) that were seeing 20% loss after a year and less than 10,000 miles, so that is extreme.”

        There are only a few cars out of spec so far. I’m glad Nissan is buying those back.

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    • By Elizete on December 8, 2012 at 3:23 am

      at the beginning of the post Bryan that it MAY cgnahe, but wind power isn’t going to be the panacea. Just like oil, we will only be able to produce so much wind electricity limited by the space we have to install the turbines, and our present use already outpaces that potential. There is a possibility of having satellite photo generators, but the economics of this is also limiting. I share the dream we will no longer need carbon based fuels and have alternatives to meet all of our needs, but that time is off in a nebulous future that shows no promise. To date, every source of electricity except for the limited hydroelectric and wind, is run by carbon operated turbines . or nuclear, which has its own limiting prohibitions. The only source of electricity production that we can claim is unlimited and leaves a limited footprint is to go higher up on the carbon chain and grow vast forests to run our generators. This would provide sequestration and electricity. It too is limited because we would need to take food cropland out of use for long periods of time to grow the trees.

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  2. By Tony Williams on October 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Russ,

     

     

    First, thank you for authoring your article without ad hominems. Our Nissan LEAF demonstration on September 15, 2012 in Phoenix was never intended to be a science experiment, and is why I titled it, “Nissan LEAF Range Autonomy Demonstration With Reduced Battery Capacity”. It’s purpose was to wake up Nissan to the fact that these cars weren’t handling the Phoenix heat well and get satisfaction for affected owners that were being told “all is well” by Nissan. To that end, it met its goal.

    Since our test, four of the twelve cars tested have been returned to Nissan. Of course, with no admission that anything is wrong, as is prudent for a company that is in litigation over these very issues.

     

     

    I don’t have the resources, or desire, to do all that might be required to make a clinical study of LEAF range. Naturally, neither you, nor Mr. Larsen that you quote, have conducted any tests to counter our results.

     

     

     

     

    Your references to the EPA LA4 cycle tests that show the LEAF going 100 miles, or more, just do not reflect reality of the average consumer. As you know, these tests are not conducted on a road, but are instead are run on a chassis dynomometer to simulate driving in those prescribed conditions. That’s not to say that you can’t drive 100 miles in a LEAF; I’ve done it exactly twice. Both times were difficult exercises that the average consumer will not do. About 41 drivers have chronicled their successful milestone of 100 miles on the “MyNissanLEAF” forum, out of more than 13,000 LEAFs in the USA to have a chance at that milestone. I’ll bet that neither you, nor Mr. Larsen, have actually driven a LEAF 100 miles. It’s easy to say; not so easy to do, nor is it typical.

     

     

    I do agree that “out-of-calibration gauges really are contributing to misperceptions”, and make reference to that in the paper. I’m not sure why you suggest otherwise. That’s not to suggest that those batteries are OK; it’s not an either/or situation. Both the instruments are faulty, and the batteries are degrading quickly.

     

     

    Since you reference Mr. Larsen’s claim that 76 miles should be used in lieu of 84 miles of range for a new LEAF, per the Nissan technical bulletin that I reference (76 to 84 mile range when consuming energy at a rate of 4 miles/kWh at 70 degrees F ambient air temperature),  let me just say we disagree. The LEAF is fully capable of 84 miles when new at 4.0 miles/kWh, and I have demonstrated that MANY times outside this test. Granted, it’s an omission in the test, but again, we worked within the limitations presented us. The biggest limitation was not having a SINGLE car that could reach 84 miles. That doesn’t mean they can’t; they did when new on the factory floor in Japan.

     

     

    I disagree that heat is a potential issue for “only a few dozen cars in very hot places”. Let’s revisit this one year from now and see who is right, ok? I predict hundreds, if not one thousand or more complaints of reduced range. You and Mr. Larsen will likely blame that on instruments, as Nissan has done, and the rest of the folks who are suffering the effects of bona fide reduced range will think differently. What the court’s will rule is anybody’s guess.

     

     

    You make an assumption that I somehow am “convinced that (my) new Leaf is also deficient even though it has never been exposed to the ‘heat of Phoenix.’ ”

    My LEAF, “Black782”, much like “Red244” that I owned for one year and 25,000 driving miles before it, both were able to drive 84 miles at 4 miles/kWh. We knew that information BEFORE Nissan published their referenced technical bulletin in December 2011. I drove Black782 from Mexico to Canada, and lo and behold, it did in fact hit that target range over and over, as expected.  Whether you believe it, or not, Black782 drives 10% less than it did when new, 4 months ago. If you understand the chemistry used in the LEAF, you know that this is normal; it’s just not information that Nissan shared with customers when they purchased or leased the LEAF.

     

     

    I took Black782 to Phoenix for it to be one of two “control” cars. There was no expectation that either my car, or the other 2012 LEAF tested, would not go 84 miles, considering they were both built in April 2012. I physically towed my car 400 miles to Phoenix, only to find out that the “measured stored energy” was only about 90% on both cars. This is before we drove either car.

     

     

    You make some further assumptions that mileage varies “all over the place” in your wife’s Prius, and while I can’t comment on that, as I’ve never tested a Prius, I can tell you that the LEAF can be VERY consistent in it’s range given specified parameters. I’ll suggest, once again, that you haven’t actually tested a LEAF to generate those assumptions.

     

     

    I see that you have an aviation background, as I do, so you may find some use in a “Range Chart” that I’ve compiled, much like the performance data for aircraft.

     

     

    http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?p=101293#p101293

     

     

     

    Tony Williams

    San Deigo

     

     

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  3. By John Hollenberg on October 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    For a more objective account of the range test and factors influencing battery capacity, see the Wiki here:

    http://www.mynissanleaf.com/wiki/index.php?title=Battery_Capacity_Loss#Range_Test_on_Cars_with_Battery_Capacity_Loss

    http://www.mynissanleaf.com/wiki/index.php?title=Battery_Capacity_Loss#Factors_Affecting_Battery_Capacity_Loss

    My mileage has been extremely consistent at 5.7 miles per kwh over the life of my Leaf (11,000 miles), so I would say that one of the statements is clearly false.

    PS I don’t have any problems with my Leaf, but there is a large amount of evidence documented in the Wiki that Nissan did not disclose the very significant effects of a hot climate on battery life.  You can read the details for yourself.

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    • By Russ Finley on October 15, 2012 at 11:21 pm

      This is a strange comment, John.

      Those links appear to point to nearly identical articles.

      More objective than who?

      Neither wiki appears to be particularly objective, or accurate. Much of what they contain has been refuted in this comment field.

      What statement is clearly false?

      I also didn’t see any evidence of Nissan not disclosing the effects of temperature.

       

       

       


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  4. By Herm on October 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Nissan has lucked out that so far the average Leaf Phoenix driver only drives about 7500 miles a year (probably retired wealthy folks), and still those people should expect to get 76% battery capacity at 5 years and no idea what at 10 years.. those normal people that drive 12,000 miles a year in Phoenix will enjoy only 50% capacity at 5 years, my guess. Basically they would need a new battery.

    Nissan needs to disclose this very carefully to customers in the hot States (and they have the simulations and data to do it) and not just use an average degradation for every place in the US..  perhaps they should offer an optional cooling package if it helps, or have a different optional chemistry that is heat resistant or just allow leasing in certain places with travel restrictions.

     

     

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  5. By Paul Sepuka on October 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I am the owner of Blue917 from the Phoenix test and I have a battery pack that will require replacement, when it’s remaining capacity reaches 70%, after only 30 to 36 months of driving. What a far cry from the 5 to 10 year estimate Nissan advertised. I drive the national average of 1,000 miles a year (32 miles a day). Currently I can travel 45 miles of mixed city/highway driving at 4.5kw/mile to  low battery warning on the 80% charge Nissan recommends. When the car was new, I regularly obtained 62 miles of range under very similar driving conditions. That’s only 72% of my original range from new after only 15 months and 15,000 miles of driving. Nissan can’t explain this loss to me (as a matter of fact, they state it is normal), maybe you have some ideas? 

    I cannot state it more clearly than to say that Mark Larson’s chart that you quoted in this article is junk. He really needs to remove the article from the web, and you need to remove it from your article. The issue with it is he assumes that all LEAFs are shipped from Nissan in a defective state. By stating that a new LEAF only  has a range of 76 mile at 4kw/mile, he is stating that Nissan is delivering all LEAFs to Phoenix drivers with a damaged battery capacity of only 19kw (19kw X 4kw/mile = 76 miles), when Nissan is really delivering a battery pack with 21kw of usable energy. To assume Nisssan is shipping a defective product when new is a bad statring point for refuting the realities of degradation Phoenix LEAF drivers are experiencing.

    Here are two photos of trips I took about 1 year apart, driving the exact same course, demonstrating at least a 19% reduction in range over the course of 13 months.

    http://img138.imagevenue.com/img.php?image=919210887_LeafEnd11_122_251lo.jpg

    http://img177.imagevenue.com/img.php?image=919219720_LeafEnd12_122_40lo.jpg

     

    Statements from Nissan that concern me:

    A 20% capacity loss over the period of 1 year is considered NORMAL. (Why would they state this if all of us Phoenix drivers were just blowing smoke? I encourage you to contact Nissan and confirm this.)

    To obtain 76% battery capacity after 5 years in Phoenix, you may only drive a maximum average of 20 miles per day or 7,500 miles per year. (Stated by Andy Palmer here) https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=p … WPI#t=193s

    I encourage you to speak with Phoenix owners like me that own this disaster. You may change your opinion.

    Paul Sepuka, Phoenix

     

     

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    • By Christopher Lynt, MSCEE, JD on October 11, 2012 at 11:00 am

      I thought I recalled you posting somewhere that you had done some ‘Fast DC charging’ of your Leaf? If I’m wrong, forgive me, I must have you confused with someone else…but if I’m right, surely you know THAT can shorten the life of your battery? Whatever the issue is with your Leaf, and I do wish you well, why not just get Nissan to buy it back and be done with it? I’ve seen many posts of Leaf owners with better than predicted battery capacity indications at higher mileage than the Phoenix vehicles, so it does seem puzzling. Perhaps there really IS something wrong with some of the batch of Leaf’s that went to Phoenix and elsewhere? But I agree with the author of this article that it remains to be proven. Assuming there is a problem, eventually the cause will be uncovered and corrected by qualified technical folks. I must add, the venom of the posts at MNL about this issue surprised and disappointed me – unbecoming of early adopters, IMHO. I am still lovin’ Leaf.

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    • By Russ Finley on October 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Paul,

      I cannot state it more clearly than to say that Mark Larson’s chart that you quoted in this article is junk.

      It isn’t junk. It’s simple math. Your car, Blue917, is the dot lying on the green curve right in the middle.

      He really needs to remove the article from the web, and you need to remove it from your article. The issue with it is he assumes that all LEAFs are shipped from Nissan in a defective state.

      You need to read this article about the Dunning-Kruger effect. Being at the low end of an acceptable performance range is not synonymous with “defective.” For example, the weight of every airliner delivered has to fall into an acceptable band, which can vary by many hundreds of pounds with every airplane. To call an airliner that fails to weigh exactly the least amount in that band “defective” is nonsensical.

      By stating that a new LEAF only  has a range of 76 mile at 4kw/mile, he is stating that Nissan is delivering all LEAFs to Phoenix drivers with a damaged battery capacity of only 19kw (19kw X 4kw/mile = 76 miles)

      He didn’t state any of that. He simply plotted your range against the published specs. Nobody is disputing that heat is having its impact on batteries in that area.

      Nissan stated that …A 20% capacity loss over the period of 1 year is considered NORMAL.

      No they didn’t. See your dot on that graph. That is what Nissan states.

      To obtain 76% battery capacity after 5 years in Phoenix, you may only drive a maximum average of 20 miles per day or 7,500 miles per year

      They also didn’t say that. Some will drive much more than that and have much more capacity than 76%. Those are averages based on all cars, including those driven 29,000 miles per year.

       

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  6. By George-Leaf on October 11, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Russ, I have been a Leaf owner for about 18 months now.  I am neither a fan boy of the Leaf or a hater.  I think it is a very good first attempt at a mass market EV.  I have been watching the hot climate range issue very closely.  Your article comes across as an attempt at objectivity but written from the position of a bewildered defender, someone still in the throws of trying to make sense of something you haven’t totally come to terms with.  from everything I’ve read, it is absolutely clear that a substantial number of people in hot climates are seeing what can only be described as rapid capacity loss, not gradual.  When I bought my Leaf, I asked about heat and the battery’s longevity before signing the “gradual capacity loss” admission.  I was told then and have heard repeated since, that there was a Leaf on a race track near Phoenix (casa grande) that Nissan was driving continuously and quick charging continuously and that “even in one of the hottest places on earth”, it was showing no battery degradation.  This claim must have been part of the original PR that Nissan fed to it’s salesman because it was repeated in more places than the dealership I went to.  Then there was also the story of the Leaf taxi in Japan that was being nothing but quick charged, with no ill effects.  As a prospective buyer, I was assured that the Leaf’s batteries were the result of $4 billion in research and were superior to anything on the market, robust enough to take just about anything a US driver could throw at them and that they just simply didn’t need temperature management because of advancements in battery chemistry.  After going through a couple seasons now, I can no longer agree.  My conclusion now is that Nissan has no business selling these cars in hot climates, they should Lease only, offer an exit clause if the range declines below 70%.  My other conclusion is that temperature management is essential, not just for the effects of heat but for the effects of cold as well. For any markets that exerience cold, there should be a way to warm the battery to around 65 degrees prior to travel as the effects of cold, even moderate cold can really sap the range, even with climate control off.    It’s just too much to ask the consumer to try and account for the effects of temperature on range as they ride the seasonal roller coaster.  Considering there are so many factors that influence range (wind direction, elevation change, driving style etc), we need constants wherever constants can be had and temperature management can offer much needed consistency in an otherwise dizzying sea of relativity.  I think you need to dig much deeper into this issue before writing more about it, I think with time you will realize the owners who are coming forward are not just a bunch of belly achers jumping on some band waggon.  I believe many of them have legitimate gripes that need to be addressed if the for no other reason than to assure the future of the mass market EV.  Nissan’s insistence that “all is normal” is a huge mistake, IMHO.

     

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    • By Russ Finley on October 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      George-Leaf said

      Your article comes across as an attempt at objectivity but written from the position of a bewildered defender, someone still in the throws of trying to make sense of something you haven’t totally come to terms with.

      I don’t follow the old style of journalism where you try to hide your bias so you won’t lose readership and advertisers. My blog articles are opinion pieces, backed by my reasoning and numbers.I’m anything but bewildered. Everyone acknowledges that heat is impacting battery longevity, so there isn’t much to come to terms with.

      it is absolutely clear that a substantial number of people in hot climates are seeing what can only be described as rapid capacity loss, not gradual.

      Let me attempt to define the term “substantial number.” Look at that red line in the chart below. As for a definition of “rapid loss,” look at the graphs presented in the other comments. Leaf appears to be taking care of customers who fall outside the published range bands.

      Your conspiracy theory that the race track story is PR given to dealerships to sell cars  won’t be found in any official Nissan literature. Sounds to me like you are passing along an urban legend probably started and propagated by used-car salesman, members of the most trusted profession on Earth.

      Your entire comment consists of innuendo with no supporting evidence.

      My conclusion now is that Nissan has no business selling these cars in hot climates, they should Lease only, offer an exit clause if the range declines below 70%.

      The above comment actually sounds like a reasonable option to me, but they would have to do that for cars sold in cold climates as well. Excess heat is not the only issue with “all” batteries.

      My other conclusion is that temperature management is essential, not just for the effects of heat but for the effects of cold as well.

      It isn’t essential. The Nissan engineers know what they are doing. This is the engineering tradeoff they decided upon. Keeping batteries warm would require energy from the batteries to run heaters …need I explain what that would do to range?  The same is true for cooling. Imagine using your battery to run an air-conditioner hooked to the battery pack.

      It’s just too much to ask the consumer to try and account for the effects of temperature on range as they ride the seasonal roller coaster.

      Because the energy needed to air-condition the battery compartment would be a function of outside air temperature (hot or cold) and because that energy has to come from your battery, temperature changes would still result in a seasonal roller coaster.

      I think you need to dig much deeper into this issue before writing more about it

      I think that shoe is on your foot.

      I think with time you will realize the owners who are coming forward are not just a bunch of belly achers jumping on some band waggon

      Good description. Time will tell.

      I believe many of them have legitimate gripes that need to be addressed if the for no other reason than to assure the future of the mass market EV.  Nissan’s insistence that “all is normal” is a huge mistake, IMHO.

      Nissan never said all is normal. A very small number do have legitimate gripes and Nissan is addressing them.

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  7. By Jpwhite on October 11, 2012 at 8:19 am

    You indicate that the Volt driver you questioned regarding a grocery store charge was flummoxed by your enquiry. I think I would be too, it’s an odd question to ask Especially as a LEAf owner.

    for a range limited EV such as the LEAF, opportunity charging is called for, you don’t know if you will need to change your plans later in the day and need an extra 15 miles. It’s not a question of not being worth the few cents of electric, it’s all about adding miles you may need later. If you don’t its of no consequence, if you do you’ll regret not adding miles when you had the opportunity.

    for the Volt owner you cite, the Volt with smaller battery, running out of range impacts the cost of running the vehicle. No range anxiety, but those few cents of electric may save him a dollar in gas.

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  8. By John Hollenberg on October 11, 2012 at 10:09 am

    The whole premise of this article is that the range of a new Leaf is only 76 miles at 4 miles per kwh.  This implies usable energy from the battery of only 19 kwh.  A number of tests have shown the range to be 84 miles at 4 miles per kwh.  Now we have validation from the NREL, which found usable energy of a new Leaf to be 21.381 kwh.  This would suggest a range of 85.5 miles at 4 miles per kwh.  You can read the information here (with links to PDF files):

    http://www.mynissanleaf.com/wiki/index.php?title=Battery_Capacity_Loss#Range_Test_on_Cars_with_Battery_Capacity_Loss

    There are a variety of reasons that Nissan may have listed the range as 76-84 miles.  These are explored in the Wiki:

    http://www.mynissanleaf.com/wiki/index.php?title=Battery_Capacity_Loss#Range_Test_on_Cars_with_Battery_Capacity_Loss

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    • By Russ Finley on October 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      John, you already posted these two identical links. A wiki is essentially a blog without a comment field.

      The reason Nissan lists a range for performance is because that is what their test data indicates. Everything has a range. And it isn’t true that your link explores why they gave that range. For the most part, the link perpetuates innuendo, speculation, and the conspiracy theory that Nissan published a range in an effort to hide the car’s actual capacity, which according to you guys is a perfect 34 miles at 4mile/kWh, for every car produced, which is ridiculous. No two cars will perform exactly the same.

      You entire argument hinges on this conspiracy theory, which allows you to ignore the fact that the test showed most of the cars performing inside the published acceptable range.

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  9. By notKit P on October 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    As the owner of a classic ’89 Ford Ranger is there a forum where I can go to make fun of those who spent $40k on a car that is not a practical and take themselves too seriously?

     

    First of all it is fun to drive.  I can be seen waiting at a light going varoom, varoom.  I have a much chance of smoking tire coming away from the stop light as a Volt battery lasting 100k miles.   

     

    Second of all it requires very little maintenance.  I do not even have to wash it.  One of the time my Ranger embarrassed me was when I one a car wash from the CEO for doing something I would have done anyway.  The pictures ended up in the company magazine with the faded truck looking the same before and after.   

     

    Unfortunately, there are BEV no changing stations where I live so I cannot park there.  I once parked in the dean of a divinity parking spot.  My brother-in-law said I could not park there.  He is from West Virginia and has a permit to carry.  I told he would not see me parking in the reserved spot of Buba outside of Buba’s Guns and Ammo Shop.

     

    It is hard to take some people seriously.  If there were a bunch of signs reserving parking spots for those who do the lords work, I would have no problem walking father.

     

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    • By John Hollenberg on October 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      I’m not really sure what car you are referring to.  My Leaf was $33,000 minus $12,500 in state and federal rebates/tax credits.  So for $20,500 plus a one time charge to install my charging dock I can fuel up on green energy for less than 3 cents a mile.  My Leaf is very practical, it is actually my main car now.  I do have an old Camry I keep for 5-6 long trips per year, but the rest of the time I drive the Leaf.  Now what car were you referring to?

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      • By notKit P on October 12, 2012 at 11:53 pm

        The MSRP for the Volt is $39,145.  If you got a tax rebate that is still money spent.   We jsut took a long trip in our son’s ‘classic’ Camray using green gasoline.  My main car is a ‘classic’ Ranger which also green gasoline.

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  10. By Yanquetino on October 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Hi, Russ:

     
    I see in the comments above that many of the usual suspects have weighed in to dismiss my analysis. The owner of test Leaf Blue917 even labels it “junk” and purports that you “need to remove it from your article.” I suppose it is about time I responded to those criticisms.
     
    For the record, my only purpose in examining the owners’ test data was to compare the actual ranges achieved with the parameters postulated by Nissan.
     
    To reiterate, in its Technical Bulletin NTB11-076a, Nissan states that a brand new Leaf should achieve a range of about 76-to-84 miles at 4 miles-per-kWh. As for capacity loss, the automaker has repeatedly predicted that it will drop to about 80% after 5 years, and around 70% after 10 years. Those benchmarks plot a polynomial curve, and the equation for the trendline generates corresponding percentages of capacity loss from month-to-month and mile-after-mile.
     
    For example, said trendline predicts that Blue917, with 14,000 miles on its odometer, should have achieved between 71.5 and 79.5 miles on the owners’ test. It actually went 72.5 miles in the experiment. How, then, can one claim that its range is not within Nissan’s “normal” parameters?
     
    I have never stated anything about Nissan shipping a “defective product.” Those words are being put in my mouth. Indeed, I have never ventured to theorize about why Nissan would declare those particular benchmarks and range predictions. I have simply taken the figures at face value and applied them to the data gathered. Had the results shown that all the test Leafs had fallen below the trendline ranges, I would have declared as much. But they did not. It is a question of math, not personal bias.
     
    Mark D Larsen

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    • By Russ Finley on October 14, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Thanks, Mark

      I encourage everyone to drop in to Mark’s updated posting to get the full scoop. I posted his updated curves below. The second order polynomial demonstrates the exponential nature of battery capacity loss (faster at first, slower later).

      The other curve uses the average range value of 80 instead of 76 or 84 but adds error bands so you can see where a dot sits relative to specified limits.

       

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  11. By Russ Finley on October 14, 2012 at 9:25 pm

     Tony Williams said:

     It’s purpose was to wake up Nissan to the fact that these cars weren’t handling the Phoenix heat well and get satisfaction for affected owners that were being told “all is well” by Nissan. To that end, it met its goal.

      Except, Nissan never said “all is well.” They explained that the batteries were behaving as expected given their history (temperature exposure etc). I’m happy for the owners who returned their cars, especially the two that appear to have been more compromised by temperature. I’m sure the Nissan engineers will make great use of the data stored in the black boxes of the cars they bought back.

         neither you, nor Mr. Larsen that you quote, have conducted any tests to counter our results.

     If I wanted to test a hypothesis stating that part of the problem is gauge calibration, and that 80 percent of the owners who think their cars are not performing normally are misinformed I could not have asked for better results than those provided by your test, which had cars with miscalibrated gauges and 10 out of 12 (or 8 out of 10 depending) fell within published operating parameters (accelerations, speeds, and charging history assumed to be normal).

     Your references to the EPA LA4 cycle tests that show the LEAF going 100 miles, or more, just do not reflect reality of the average consumer. As you know, these tests are not conducted on a road, but are instead are run on a chassis dynomometer to simulate driving in those prescribed conditions.

     That critique loses some of its effect when you consider that every car sold in America has an EPA estimated mileage sticker generated by that test, not to mention only one of those six colored boxes at the following link is the result of EPA LA4 cycle tests.

     You have created a bit of a straw man by consistently appending the words “average” and “typical” to the 100 mile range estimate. It isn’t particularly relevant that those terms are both imprecise and undefined, but it is relevant that Nissan does not use either in reference to the 100 mile capability. Considering that pickup trucks are some of the best selling vehicles in America, you may want to change “typical consumer” to “typical Leaf owner” and I wish you luck defining how typical Leaf owner’s drive. According to Nissan’s data, the “average” Leaf owner in the Phoenix area only drives about 7,500 miles a year.

     That’s not to say that you can’t drive 100 miles in a LEAF; I’ve done it exactly twice. Both times were difficult exercises that the average consumer will not do.

     You, the EPA, Nissan, and at least 40 other people have all gone to the trouble to prove that this “mythical” 100 miles on a charge isn’t a myth. What is mythical is your insistence that Nissan appends the terms “typical/average consumer” to this range estimate. Nissan never claims that 100 miles on a charge is compatible with the average consumer’s driving mission/environment, whatever that is.

     In other words, anyone in a newish Leaf who wants to bother can get 100 miles on a charge by staying in ECO mode while sticking to city speed limits in nice 70 degree weather on flat terrain for roughly 5 hours …and is also willing to risk needing a tow truck when the charge is used up because the odds of that happening as you roll into your driveway is not exactly 100 percent. Clearly, the Leaf is quite capable of going 100 miles on a charge.

     Average speeds for around town driving are often below 20 mph. That’s why my electric bike tends to get me around town faster than a car. Seattle is an unending series of steep hills so I would not be expected to get 100 miles on a charge which requires relatively level terrain. Had I owned my Leaf when I was working from my home office in Seattle (where all my driving was urban with little interstate travel) I would have routinely approached 100 miles on a charge …in the summer …had I chosen not to charge every day for however many days that would take to put 100 miles on it …and didn’t care if my car ran out of charge away from my charger on any given day forcing me to call a tow truck to fetch me from wherever that happened.

     About 41 drivers have chronicled their successful milestone of 100 miles on the “MyNissanLEAF” forum, out of more than 13,000 LEAFs in the USA to have a chance at that milestone.

     Chance at that milestone? Those 13,000 Leaf owners have no inclination to spend up to five hours driving a car in a city with flat terrain on a single charge in ECO mode on a nice 70 degree day…just to verify what the EPA, yourself, Nissan, and at least forty others have already verified. I suspect that out of the 13,000 owners who have attempted to get 100 miles on a single charge while staying within the published driving conditions, the success rate approaches100 percent.

     I’ll bet that neither you, nor Mr. Larsen, have actually driven a LEAF 100 miles. It’s easy to say; not so easy to do, nor is it “typical” [my quotes].

     That test is not easy to do in the sense that it can’t be done in the dead of winter, or in the middle of a heat wave, or on hilly terrain, or at interstate speeds etc. You have to find yourself a relatively flat city to drive around in on a sunny 70 degree day for about five hours ..and end up back at your charger. And again, Nissan never claimed that the “typical” consumer (whatever that is) would leave their cars uncharged until they hit 100 miles, nor that “typical” driving habits would achieve 100 miles on a charge.

     According to Nissan’s published literature, I should not expect to get 100 miles on a charge driving around in Seattle because as every EV enthusiast knows, hills are a major mileage killer. Coming back down a hill only recaptures with regenerative braking a relatively small percentage of the energy lost fighting gravity.

     All the same, it being a Saturday, and after reading your challenge I charged my Leaf to 100% and headed off to my office which is at the edge of Seattle’s city limits to see what she would do on a fifty degree, windy, rainy day. I met or exceeded all posted speed limits, and maintained speed as needed so as not to slow any other drivers down. Ten miles of this trip were spent in the dark at city speeds, with five more miles spent doing 67 mph on the interstate in the dark with lights and wipers on.

     I repeated that commute twice then stuck closer to home, driving uphill as far as I was comfortable, then finally back to my neighborhood. Because it was dark and raining I gave it up for the day.

     Sunday morning I took the car back out into my neighborhood for the last few miles where I drove up and down the hill I live on (flat spots are very few and far between in Seattle) should I need to coast downhill to my driveway when my charge ran out. I pulled into my driveway as soon as I got the warning asking if I wanted to know where the nearest charging stations were. I stopped short of forcing my car into turtle mode because I am loath to abuse my batteries in this fashion. My average energy use gauge at that point was indicating an abysmal 3.5 kWh per mile thanks to the hills.

     So, it is unknown how many more miles were left before I would have entered turtle mode. Poking around the internet I found one guy who got 8.8 more miles after that warning. I suspect the variation from car to car is fairly large. If I had a 70 degree sunny day and a flat neighborhood to drain my battery to turtle mode with, I would have exceeded 100 miles even though the rest of my driving had been in conditions far from conducive to maximizing range. Make a guess as to how many miles I got.

     According to Nissan, my driving conditions were far from ideal for achieving 100 miles on a charge. But after having spent so much time driving in Seattle traffic trying to get my car to use up all of its charge, I have a reinforced appreciation for what a remarkable piece of history-making engineering the Leaf is.

     I do agree that “out-of-calibration gauges really are contributing to misperceptions”, and make reference to that in the paper. I’m not sure why you suggest otherwise. That’s not to suggest that those batteries are OK; it’s not an either/or situation. Both the instruments are faulty, and the batteries are degrading quickly.

     Here is what you said about the instruments:

     Other cars had HUGE differences between the instruments and the actual range performance. So, Andy Palmer was right… they have poor instruments.

     All but two of the twelve cars (or 8 of the 10 depending) you tested are following published performance curves. I presented your test results again below.

     Since you reference Mr. Larsen’s claim that 76 miles should be used in lieu of 84 miles of range for a new LEAF, per the Nissan technical bulletin that I reference (76 to 84 mile range when consuming energy at a rate of 4 miles/kWh at 70 degrees F ambient air temperature), let me just say we disagree.

     Reference his claim? I republished his appropriate interpretation of your test data. I would have published the same thing had he not beat me to it.

     Simply put, because you used 84 miles as your standard instead of 76, this was not a test to see if these twelve cars performed within published acceptable limits, which would be a reasonable thing to test. It was instead, a test to prove that they would not meet the maximum value in an acceptable range, which is a nonsensical thing to test. However, by simply plotting your test results using the appropriate value (the low end of the acceptable range) your test transforms into one demonstrating that 10 out of the 12 (or 8 out of 10 depending) cars thought to be out of spec were, in reality, within (or just barely out of) spec.

     Engineering and science make constant use of tolerance bands and margins of safety because in the real world there is no such thing as perfection.

     The biggest limitation was not having a SINGLE car that could reach 84 miles. That doesn’t mean they can’t; they did when new on the factory floor in Japan.

     I don’t see how that was a limitation at all. The conclusions would have been the same had those two cars not participated (8 out of 10 cars instead of 10 out of 12). Your claim that every new Leaf has that capability is at odds with Nissan’s published spec that says a new car will fall within a tolerance band of 76 to 84 miles at that rate of energy use (and assuming the batteries have not been exposed to temperatures above 120 degrees F).

     Assuming for the sake of discussion a symmetrical bell curve distribution, the only cars you would expect to get 76 or 84 when new would be toward the tails of the curve. On average you might expect something closer to 80 miles.

     I disagree that heat is a potential issue for “only a few dozen cars in very hot places”. Let’s revisit this one year from now and see who is right, ok? I predict hundreds, if not one thousand or more complaints of reduced range [emphasis mine].

     Counting complaints is one thing, counting batteries performing out of spec, is another. I have little doubt that there will be many complaints thanks to your efforts, but according to your test results (10 out of 12 or possibly 8 of 10 cars thought to be out of spec were not out of spec, with a significant percentage having miscalibrated gauges as well) roughly 80% of those complaints will be unjustified. How Nissan will deal with the issue is yet to be seen. And keep in mind, it isn’t uncommon for millions of cars to be recalled at a time. A thousand complaints would hardly be justification for telling “everybody (I) know that it’s a fantastic car with one fatal flaw … a GREAT first try (a fail)” [parenthesis are mine].

     You make an assumption that I somehow am “convinced that (my) new Leaf is also deficient even though it has never been exposed to the ‘heat of Phoenix.’ ”

     I based that remark on the following comment you made:

     I leased my current LEAF, built in April 2012 and took delivery at the end of May. Now, with 7000 miles (11000 km), and only 3 months of actual use, this car could not complete the trip that it did in June. During the BC2BC trip, several times I arrived with 4%-5% capacity remaining, which means today, just a few months later, I would come up 4%-5% short. This car has never been exposed to the heat of Phoenix…

     Seems like a reasonable interpretation.

     My LEAF, “Black782”, much like “Red244” that I owned for one year and 25,000 driving miles before it, both were able to drive 84 miles at 4 miles/kWh. We knew that information BEFORE Nissan published their referenced technical bulletin in December 2011. I drove Black782 from Mexico to Canada, and lo and behold, it did in fact hit that target range over and over, as expected.

     BEFORE? I don’t understand your use of caps, but here come the conspiracy theorists. You drove a leased Leaf 25,000 miles in one year? Assuming a car moving on average about 50 mph, that’s the equivalent of sitting in a car 8 hours a day for over two months.

     You leap-frogged from charger to charger, a Leaf, designed for urban city driving of less than 100 miles on a charge, from Mexico to Canada. I’m trying to think of a better way to stifle the sales/development of the first generation of mass produced electric vehicles than by highlighting their inherent engineering limitations by taking them on missions they were never designed to do using chargers that will eventually fall into disrepair and be removed when the honeymoon period of free charges is over and once their cost-to-benefit ratio becomes apparent based on their low frequency of use.

     Even Nissan isn’t capable of building 38,000 identical Leafs, all capable of getting exactly the same range. There is no such thing as perfection. There is a range band for expected performance(76-84 mile range at that rate of energy consumption).

     You were able to nail exactly 84 miles per charge regardless of varying accelerations, traffic speeds, temperatures, head/tail winds, and altitude gains all the way from Mexico to Canada …over and over again? That’s quite a feat given that you have little to no control over those variables.

     Whether you believe it, or not, Black782 drives 10% less than it did when new, 4 months ago. If you understand the chemistry used in the LEAF, you know that this is normal; it’s just not information that Nissan shared with customers when they purchased or leased the LEAF.

     It is normal, and they did share this information. You signed a waiver. It’s in your owner’s manual. It’s all over the internet. Maybe car salesman should be required to give a written test (that must be passed) complete with performance charts and graphs to potential buyers to verify that they fully understand the Leaf’s limits and the potential impacts of things like temperature and high mileage before allowing them to sign the waiver that states the same thing in simple to understand language. Although I’m sure they exist, I have yet to meet a Leaf owner who thought they would be getting 100 miles to a charge regardless of how, when or where it is driven when they bought it. Anyone who bought a Leaf because a car salesman told them that, well, I have some land in Florida that’s for sale …

     You make some further assumptions that mileage varies “all over the place” in your wife’s Prius, and while I can’t comment on that, as I’ve never tested a Prius, I can tell you that the LEAF can be VERY consistent in it’s range given specified parameters.

     The range of the Prius would also be very consistent if it were possible to control the dozens of variables that impact range, like traffic and the weather.

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  12. By Yanquetino on October 15, 2012 at 12:02 am

    Hi, Russ:

    Because the critics kept claiming that using the lowest range in Nissan’s 76-to-84 scale invalidated my analysis, I have updated my post with the middle average (80) from that scale to plot the polynomial curve, but also included error bars to illustrate the corresponding scale for each Leaf tested according to the mileage on their odometers. I will insert the updated graph below.

    As you can see, 8 of the Leafs tested within Nissan’s parameters. 2 more were in such close proximity to their corresponding lowest estimate that the differences are practically negligible: 1.6 miles and 2.4 miles short. The remaining 2 Leafs (in red) did indeed fall notably outside their projected variance. Again, I would be most interested in the CarWings data for those 2 vehicles to see if there are possibly other usage factors that caused their greater capacity loss.

    Overall, then, the majority of the owners’ test Leafs fell within predicted parameters –despite the exaggerated degradation that their gauges were showing.

    In that regard, I can’t blame the owners in the least for being alarmed: it was only logical to assume that those capacity bars were reliable. That would have been my default conclusion had I suddenly noticed that the first bar was missing! However, now that their test results have shown otherwise, I would hope that they’d feel relieved and reassured to know that, as Nissan confirmed with its own analysis, their Leafs “are behaving as we expected.”

    Gotta tune up those gauges, Nissan! Otherwise, how are owners to know that the readouts are not to be trusted?

    Mark

     

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    • By Russ Finley on October 15, 2012 at 12:33 am

      Beauty. Looks like we crossed posts. Heat is an issue as well, just not as big of an issue as some have been led to believe.

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      • By Yanquetino on October 15, 2012 at 12:03 pm

         

        Russ:

        Yup, ’tis true that heat can also plays a role. No question. As Nissan’s disclaimer explicitly states: “Factors that will affect and may hasten the rate of capacity loss include, but are not limited to: exposure to very high ambient temperatures for extended periods of time.” I might even venture to guess that this might explain why only 1 of the test Leafs plotted above its error bar, 3 toward the middle, and 4 toward the bottom. Regardless, they nonetheless performed as Nissan anticipaed.

        As for the 2 vehicles that fell notably below their error bars, there must be additional factors involved besides the AZ climate. Consider, for example, the Leaf that plotted the lowest, with 29,000 miles on the odometer. According to the polynomial curve, it should have achieved between 67-to-75 miles on the test, yet it only managed 59.3. So why the discrepancy, nearly 8 miles below the bottom of its error bar?

        One newscast in AZ revealed that this owner could no longer “make his 45-mile one-way commute to work.” That’s 90 miles per workday, much more than the average driver in this country. According to the closest of the 6 range scenarios to Phoenix (Scenario 2: “Cross-Town Commute on a Hot Day”), after 29,000 miles a 100% charge would only give a normal range of 57-to-65 miles; an 80% charge merely 45-to-53 miles. I think it logical to therefore assume that the owner was charging twice a day, at both home and work, probably to 100%. He could not have made the round trip on a single charge under Scenario 2 conditions, even in a brand new Leaf (64-to-72 miles with a 100% charge; 50-to-58 miles with an 80% charge). Impossible.

        It is also reasonable to postulate that charging at work might have been outside, in the blazing sun, parked over baking asphalt. Obviously climate control was a must. Finally, with a commute that long, my guess is that it involved driving the interstate at freeway speeds. If such guesses are right, these are all factors that “may hasten the rate of capacity loss.” I can only conclude that, if Carwings were to verify such usage patterns, it just wouldn’t surprise me that this Leaf experienced a battery capacity loss more accelerated than Nissan’s benchmarks would predict.

        Mark

         

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  13. By Paul Scott on October 16, 2012 at 12:06 am

    I’m going to concede that Nissan’s communications with its customers should have been better. I think we all agree with that. As to whether the  battery damage is within prescribed parameters, it appears to be arguable both ways.

    But I want to take up a quote made in an earlier comment by, I think Tony Williams, although it’s a common perception among all drivers.

    “Your references to the EPA LA4 cycle tests that show the LEAF going 100 miles, or more, just do not reflect reality of the average consumer.”

    Considering that the use of oil as a transportation fuel is rife with negative externalities ranging from economic, to environmental, health and national security, it seems the “average consumer” is at fault here. We need to shift the paradigm, if you will, such that people accept that they should pay for these things. We shouldn’t just accept it as it is. Waste is always wrong.  A just society will reduce it. 

    For some reason, people will accept inefficient driving as a given when it is so very easy to make huge gains in this area with nothing but positive results across the board. You don’t have to participate if you don’t want to, but you have to pay the penalty. This is what we should demand.

    The LEAF can easily travel 100 miles on a charge. I, and others, do it all the time. I expect the capacity to diminish over time, but with efficient driving, I can extend the usefulness of my car for easily a decade, then I can replace the pack with whatever is available at the time.

    The growing EVSE infrastructure will mitigate much of the lost range with ubiquitous convenience charging.

    It’s OK to critique a company for introducing a new technology that isn’t perfect. But keeping a little perspective over the big picture, the speed at which we can make the transition from oil to renewables, should be paramount in everyone’s mind. 

    Please keep this in mind when expressing your feelings.

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  14. By Tony Williams on November 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Russ and Mark,

    We were able to get a new LEAF in Phoenix with only 138 miles on the odometer (and a recent production date) to run the exact course and parameters in similar weather as the Sept 15, 2012 LEAF range autonomy demonstration. This was a shortcoming of our original test, with no “control” car that was capable of producing 84 miles of range autonomy at 4 miles/kWh.

    While I suspect you both will have any number of exceptions with this, the results didn’t surprise me, or those who are intimately affected or impacted by these issues.

    83.2 miles driven (with 21 Gids / 7.47% remaining)
    88.7 miles calculated range to turtle

    Start battery stored energy: 265 Gids / 94.3%
    Start pack volts: 393.5 (4.1 per cell average)

    Start SOC: 91.4%
    Start GOM: 103
    Start temperature: 6 bar segments
    Economy: 0 miles/kWh (reset)

    Weakest cellpair: 4093mv
    Strongest cellpair: 4055mv
    Average cellpair: 4095mv
    Max voltage delta: 40mv (50mv max allowable)

    End of test battery stored energy: 21 Gids / 7.47%

    TEST COMPLETE. The car was driven an additional 4 miles to a charger when these readings were recorded:

    Gids: 11 / 3.9% remaining
    Pack volts: 317.5 (3.3 volt average per cell)
    SOC: 4.3%
    GOM: “—” (normal for “Very Low Battery”)
    Battery temperature: 7 bar segments

    I offer these results as a warm up to next year, when I predict you both will be singing in tune with Nissan that “all is (mostly) well” while hundreds complain of reduced range autonomy in mostly hot climates.

    Since Nissan produces the data that you base your assumptions and comments on, we’ll just keep producing real world testing. Next year, I predict the you- know-what will hit the fan.
     
    Tailwinds always,
     
    Tony
     

     

     

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    • By Russ Finley on November 7, 2012 at 10:53 pm

      Tony,

      Your entire argument rests on a conspiracy theory; Nissan’s published performance specifications were cobbled together as a last ditch effort to cover up performance problems they did not anticipate.

      Your test car is a single data point, and note that you did not get 84 miles at that rate of use. Nissan can’t make every car have identical performance. There is a published range band.

      Assuming 10% of all Leafs in Arizona are out of spec, the following graphic attempts to put the problem into perspective:

       

       

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  15. By Oldcheme on December 8, 2012 at 8:49 am

    After reading the report and some of the comments, I keep returning to my initial assessment that the technology is not yet competitive economically.  The range issue helps illustrate the point that you can’t pay out electric or hybrid with a short commute. If you are limited to 50 miles per day @ 65 MPH and because you need the A/C, with 200 working days per year,  that’s only 10,000 miles/yr.  That’s a safe operating window for the Leaf. A similar gasoline car would only cost 14,000 and use $1,000 per year in gasoline. Even with free recharges, the payout is 10 years, and the battery may not last that long.  The hybrid case is only marginally better in a higher miles driven case. But the dichotomy in that case is how do you rack up 25,000 miles per year in city driving. If you compare highway mileage between similar weight and Cd vehicles there is little benefit left to pay for the second drive train. So, unless you’re a city delivery vehicle, stick with a cheap gasoline car.

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    • By Russ Finley on December 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      After reading the report and some of the comments, I keep returning to my initial assessment that the technology is not yet competitive economically.

      I can’t argue with that. Clearly, conventional cars are more economical at this point in time.

      If you are limited to 50 miles per day @ 65 MPH and because you need the A/C, with 200 working days per year,  that’s only 10,000 miles/yr.  That’s a safe operating window for the Leaf.

      That is another very good point, but for people who drive about 10,000 miles a year, that isn’t a concern and there are probably a hundred million or so Americans who fit that bill when you look at the average.

      A similar gasoline car would only cost 14,000 and use $1,000 per year in gasoline. Even with free recharges, the payout is 10 years, and the battery may not last that long.

      Very few people purchase a car purely on payout. If that is why we buy cars, we would all be driving Metro Geos.

       The hybrid case is only marginally better in a higher miles driven case. But the dichotomy in that case is how do you rack up 25,000 miles per year in city driving. If you compare highway mileage between similar weight and Cd vehicles there is little benefit left to pay for the second drive train. So, unless you’re a city delivery vehicle, stick with a cheap gasoline car.

      A Prius easily and consistently gets 50 mpg highway. The base sticker price for a Prius C is $19K.  Just about every Taxi in Seattle is now a Prius, which all the proof you need of their economic viability. Some Taxis have a quarter million miles on the same battery.

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      • By notKit P on December 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm

        I suspect that aggressive cab drivers are the perfect use of hybrids.

        Russ, does Seattle have some data that compares mpg for aggressive cab drivers compared to drive to use less gas?  I suspect not!

        Other words, Russ can not provide a good reason to haul batteries around.

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    • By notKit P on December 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      Very well stated. One minor quibble with the use of the word ‘cheap’. I think it is hard to beat the quality of the drive train of a Civic or Corolla. That said many make purchase decisions not on economics based on some status symbol such as being ‘sporty’ or ‘green’.

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  16. By Makes Sense on March 14, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Everyone knows the problems you encounter with battery charged devices (e.g. phones, tablets, laptops). Why would anyone want to have those problems with their car?

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