Nissan Says Capacity Loss Issues Are Due To High Mileage. Phoenix Cars Are Still Expected To Retain 76% After 5 Years

2 years ago by Jay Cole 32

Three Bars Of Capacity Lost (via MyNissanLeaf.com)

There has been a lot of focus on Nissan LEAFs in places like Phoenix, Arizona rapidly losing range due to excessive temperatures reducing available battery capacity.  At least that was the perception of what was/is happening.  Many cars showing ‘multiple bars’ of capacity loss were recently recalled from their owners by Nissan in order to put them through extensive tests at the company’s facility in Casa Grande, Arizona.

12 Nissan LEAFs With "Multiple Bars Lost" Wait To Begin Independent Range Testing Last Week

Earlier this month, Nissan Executive Vice President, Andy Palmer, said that there is “no problem” with the LEAF battery, and that the any customer complaints were merely the result of instrument problems.

Now in an interview with Green Car Reports another executive, Mark Perry (who is Nissan North America’s Product Planning and Advanced Technology Director), offered another excuse reason for capacity loss of those cars tested by Nissan has been given.  High Mileage.

Of the cars tested by Nissan that had showed excessive battery capacity loss, all were noted by Perry to be over the 12,500 miles (1,041/month) that the company says an average driver would have put on the car in a year.  In fact, Perry says that the cars averaged at least 50% more miles than that (over 19,000 miles), with some “significantly higher.”

Nissan has said that the LEAF in normal conditions should retain 80% of its battery life after 5 years/60,000 miles of use.

Mr. Perry also adds that Phoenix area owners of LEAFS proportionally drive a lot more highway miles than city compared to the rest of the country due to its geographic location.

The difference between highway and city is significant to battery life because the LEAF’s miles per kWh is much lower on the highway than driving on city streets. For example:

At 70 miles an hour, a full charge cycle may only net a LEAF driver 50 miles of range, while in town the LEAF can achieve close to 100.  Therefore (and theoretically according to Mr. Perry’s assumption), 12,500 miles in Phoenix may be equal to 15,000-20,000 in a more normalized setting.

With those factors considered, Perry says,  “The cars and the battery packs are behaving as we expected”.  Mostly.

Mr. Perry noted that after viewing the data from all the LEAFs in Arizona (the car transmits data wirelessly whenever it is in use), that it appears cars in that state are “on a glide path” to 76% retention rate after five years, very close to their expected national retention rate of 80%.

A Nissan Executive Demonstrates What You Probably Don't Want To Do In Phoenix On A Hot Day - DC Fast Charge

It should be noted that while Mark Perry is correct that the cars Nissan tested in Arizona were over this 12,500 threshold of miles,  Nissan also handpicked which cars to test.  According to our sources, there may be as many as 147 confirmed cases of Nissan LEAFs losing at least one capacity bar to date in the southern United States (Nissan says they have received complaints from “less than a hundred” of them), and 47 of which look to fall under the Nissan’s threshold of 12,500/year (1,041/month).

The question still remains however as to what that first bar of capacity loss represents.  Does it equate to earlier suggestions of 15% loss of capacity, or is there some instrument error that is over exaggerating (as has been shown in tests) that figure, and the dashboard is prematurly showing battery capacity failure, which in reality may be much less?

So, while Nissan’s conclusion may still yet to be proven accurate, and cars may hold up to this 76% retention rate after 5 years/60,000 miles, we would say Nissan still deserves an asterisk* at the moment.

Last week, Tony Williams, the leading voice behind getting the word out about capacity loss issues, and contributor here at InsideEVs, put out the largest independent (of Nissan) test of capacity-adverse LEAFs (with the help of many concerned forum members from MyNissanLEAF).

If You're In Phoenix You Might Still Not Want To Have Your LEAF Bake Outside

And while the test demonstrated that there was some instrumentation issues between displayed capacity available and actual real world range, those cars also did have significantly reduced capacities.  (You can read that report, and see all his findings here)

Mr. Perry also commented to Green Car Reports about this test, “I understand what he was trying to do but it’s hard to comment because we weren’t there.”  (Nissan was invited to attend , but declined)

For now, we would say they same for Nissan’s conclusions from their tests; we understand what Nissan was trying to do as well, and while we have no problem commenting about it, in the end we weren’t there either.

It looks like the only definitive answer to this battery capacity loss issue will come from the passing of time itself.  In the meantime, without Nissan being proactive and providing a solution (or alternative option) for these owners who feel Nissan has not been straight forward disclosing the limitations of the LEAF in the southern United States, or is any hurry to assist them, this story will continue to develop and grow over time.

Given the importance of electric vehicles to Nissan, and the reported $5 billion dollars the Nissan-Renault Alliance has already invested in the technology, we (if it were up to us) would just offer to buy these cars back, replace the batteries and re-sell them.  This way Nissan can start over with a clean slate, and customers (and future customers) would know the company stands behind their electric cars.

Another Unanswered Question: What Is Happening To Batteries Inside Nissan LEAFs That Baking On Dealer Lots In Arizona? (photo via KPHO 5)

(Mark Perry quotes via Green Car Reports, photo via KPHO 5), Updated: Sept 23, 2012 @ 11:24 re:status/validity of instrument display vis-à-vis capacity loss)

 

 

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32 responses to "Nissan Says Capacity Loss Issues Are Due To High Mileage. Phoenix Cars Are Still Expected To Retain 76% After 5 Years"

  1. Anton Wahlman says:

    I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Nissan is shooting itself — and perhaps part of the electric car industry — in the foot here. After this experience with the LEAF, who would ever buy a LEAF 2.0 or an Infiniti EV (LE), etc.? I guess the answer is happening before our eyes anyway: The sales of Nissan LEAF has declined dramatically this year, and I don’t think they will turn up to the kind of levels Nissan intended, until they provide much better warranty for the batteries. Until people get at least a 10 year, 150000 mile warranty with some capacity-loss specifics around that 10 year mark, well, you can figure it out…

    1. George B says:

      Great comment Anton, that’s exactly how I see. Aside from the quarrels over unmet expectations or insensitive PR, the marketplace will be the ultimate judge here.

    2. backstroke says:

      150k mile warranty is ridiculous, how many ICE vehicles are sold with more than 100k warranty? How about disclosing your axe to grind here Anton, who are you shorting? :)

      1. gardner dozois says:

        Lots of ICE (internal combustion engine) cars have 100k warranty. In fact under California and other CARB-compliaint states, the Partial-ZEV regulations provide a 150k warranty for the entire emissions system, which includes from the engine’s combustion chamber (where a wornout part can produce high pollution) through the catalytic converter and out the exhaust. For hybrids it also includes the BATTERY since that also affects emissions.

        Wouldn’t it be ironic if hybrids were actually clean than Nissan Leafs, because hybrids are required to be SULEV/PZEV clean through 150,000 miles while Leafs do not?

    3. SPIKE says:

      The Nissan LEAF is the first generation of a brand new model. First generation cars always need improvement. Real world data like this capacity issue will only help make the second generation that much better.

      The mass production of all-electric cars is in its infancy. They are based around technology that improves at an exponential rate. Yes the LEAF has a limited range and this is more obvious to those who are losing capacity at a faster rate than expected. It is still a perfect car if you have a 25 mile daily commute.

      A123 systems already makes a Li-Ion battery that is totally unaffected by heat. Major corporations are racing to be the first with a 500 mile battery. The Tesla Model S goes 265 miles on a charge. I am certain Infinity will take a page out of the Tesla handbook by offering as large a battery pack as an option.

  2. Anon1 says:

    I have access to data from at least 3 of the cars sent to Casa Grande and the annual milage for 2 of them is under 12,000 per year. The other is just over 15,000 per year. They put about 20 miles on one car during testing, which means they still have no idea how it drives under real conditions. They put it on a bench and simulated something. Probably the same tests that told them this wouldn’t happen in the first place.

    1. backstroke says:

      Nissan didn’t need to test the car, the issue isn’t with how it drives but with the battery which you can test directly without putting any miles on the odometer.

  3. Stuart22 says:

    Nissan is playing hardball with people they should be going out of their way to help. Unfortunately it more and more looks like this is going to have to be resolved in the courtroom.

    Problem with their ‘high mileage’ excuse is that LEAFs in cooler climates and with similar or greater mileage than the Arizona LEAFs are not showing similar degradation and range losses.

    Nissan is supposedly getting ready to build the LEAF in Tennessee in just a couple of months. Does anybody know for sure – not from the mouths of Nissan PR types – exactly what work has been done in Smyrna towards this end? Nissan has a billion-plus dollar loan from the government which was to be applied to this…. back when the loan was taken, Nissan was throwing out optimistic sales projections for the LEAF; at the point we are now, the LEAF is selling poorly and has a fatal flaw which is on the verge of becoming exposed to the world….. could it be that Nissan realizes chances are good it will lose loads of money if they go ahead with Smyrna plans, but if they don’t go ahead with the plans they will have to fork over the billion plus back to the US government, money which they possibly don’t have available?

    It looks like Nissan faces problems any direction they decide to go with the LEAF. I am not surprised in their lack of response with this battery degradation problem – the higher ups there probably have concluded the LEAF is finished and are still trying to decide which poison pill to swallow to make its demise hurt the company least. I say this in looking at their shocking lack of care given their LEAF owners and concluding that they would be treating people far better with a product that had a future.

    1. gardner dozois says:

      >>>billion-plus dollar loan from the government

      So that brings the total to what? About 200 billion dollars toward “green jobs” and stimulating Solyndra, Nissan EV, et cetera that ultimately failed. Nice.

  4. quote>>> Mark Perry commented to Green Car Reports about the this [my] test, “I understand what he was trying to do but it’s hard to comment because we weren’t there.” <<<

    Nissan was not only invited, but also encouraged to attend and in addition, to host the tests at their private track nearby. They declined. So, the could have been "there" if they so choose. It's interesting that he didn't challenge the results, or lightly brush the results of as insignificant.

    Unfortunately, these comments from Mr. Perry were expected. I think he will do a good job at galvanizing those owners who are affected with heat amplified battery capacity and range loss. The worst part is that of the over 100 reported affected owners this summer, they will likely multiply to hundreds more next summer.

    Tony

  5. Bonaire says:

    >> 80% of its battery life after 5 years/60,000 miles

    If I considering buying, I’d stop buying there. 80% after 60K miles is a pretty fast decline in mileage. But these guys are seeing 80% now after 19K miles.

  6. Stan Stein says:

    Jay, I agree with your position that Nissan should offer to buy back the cars or replace the batterys . An elegant solution to a horrendous P R nightmare for Nissan. If they do so, it kills the newsworthiness of the situation, buys time for Nissan to come up with a permanent solution to the degrading problem as well as restores goodwill with its customers and potential future customers. To do otherwise risks the EV market for them. Nissan needs to look at the big picture and realize that they potentially can have market dominance if they do the right thing

    I have nearly 18,000 miles on my Leaf. I have no perceptible battery or range loss. I acknowledge that I live in Coastal North County San Diego where I experience optimum temperatures for lithium batterys. My Leaf is one of the best cars I have owned.and it rates it very favorably to cars that I previously owned that were manufactured by Lexus and Mercedes.
    So,. Nissan don’t do irreparable harm to your EV image.

  7. Adarondax says:

    Why isn’t Reuters all over this story?

    1. vdiv says:

      Because they haven’t been commanded by Romney’s campaign/CrossRoads to do so.

  8. AndrewB says:

    “put out the largest independent test of capacity-adverse LEAFs”

    Without wanting to insinuate anything, a test conducted neither by Nissan nor the owners can ever be labeled ‘independent’.

    Furthermore, where did the number of 147 affected LEAF come from? mynissanleaf.com has collected 92 cases: http://www.mynissanleaf.com/wiki/index.php?title=Real_World_Battery_Capacity_Loss

  9. Koz says:

    Are there any Arizona Leafs that have been in service in Arizona for the past two summers, driven more than 15,000 miles, and don’t have at least 15% battery degradation?

  10. James says:

    This is indescribably disappointing. My car has lost two bars, and is on the edge of losing the third. The range at 100% charge when it was new only a year ago read 112 miles on the dash. Now with 100% charge it reads 74 miles. Of course, Nissan doesn’t want you to charge the car to 100%, which is tantamount to abuse in their view, but that means the official range should only be around 50 miles when new and the EPA should change the figures on their website.

    Nissan sold us a production car that was not ready for hot weather. While cars in other markets have also lost capacity, Phoenix cars have lost capacity at a very rapid rate. While Nissan is trying to hide this, anyone looking at the data will not be fooled. Every driver from Phoenix who is on the MyNissanLeaf.com forum has lost at least one bar, and most of us have lost more, especially those of us with 2011′s. So it’s not a few cars, and it’s not just high mileage cars. We lost our first capacity bar at 12K miles, and are on the verge of losing our third at nearly 16K miles.

    I can now say that Nissan is lying to the public and is absolutely not standing by their cars.

    1. Chris Lynt says:

      James, I understand your frustration and it seems Nissan has been slow to deal with the problem. But might I point out that you, and all the other affected Leaf owners whoseposts I’ve read so far, are assuming the dash reading/bar loss is an accurate representation of your battery’s capacity. Maybe it is. Logic says there is probably something all the Phoenix Leaf’s have in common. But what if it isn’t a real battery problem due to heat as you have assumed, but instead is an instrument error caused by some other component failure due to heat? Maybe it’s a $10 Hall-effect sensor that got damaged during a brown-out or power surge or just normal operation in high ambient temperatures, or some other minor electronic component glitch? It seems you are not one of the high-mileage Leaf’s, and didn’t do anything that would lead to the kind of early battery capacity loss the dash bars indicates, so I think you should demand to meet with a Nissan representative and get satisfaction, one way or the other. I understand that is what Nissan is planning on doing now – finally. But I don’t think alleging publicly that Nissan is “lying” is very constructive and it is really unlikely to help your case. As a Leaf owner, I want to see Nissan succeed. I also want to see the cause of the problem you are experiencing identified and solved not just for your benefit, but for all of the other Leaf owners.

  11. Chris Lynt says:

    If there really IS any ‘capacity’ loss in these vehicles, as their owners believe, the ONLY way to know for sure is to remove a suspect battery pack and bench test it by fully charging it, then discharging it through a known load while periodically measuring the power dissipated, the sum being the capacity in kWhrs – that’s what a professional grade watt-hour meter does, in essence. This is the MOST accurate way to measure battery capacity. I know this because I am an electrical engineer. So far no one has done this, have they? No, what both Nissan and the testers are relying on is data coming from the vehicles in question, which could be faulty. The range test fails because if the Leaf detects faulty data it will go into ‘turtle mode’ prematurely – the driver will never know that there COULD be significant unused capacity. Recently, some Leaf owners experienced charger failure with the GE WattStation – the fault turned out to be in the Leaf on-board charger which failed when there was a brown-out condition during a charging cycle (a power surge could possibly cause the same issue). I suppose Phoenix and other hot area probably experience brown-outs, so these Leaf’s in question may have had a failure of some component in the charging or sensing circuitry. Such a failure could result in a misreading of battery terminal voltage level (which as I understand it the Leaf uses along with a Hall-effect current measurement, despite inherent inaccuracies, for capacity calculations) which in turn could result in the loss of bars reported, or even, worst case, an overcharging of the battery pack and resulting damaged cells. There is an old expression – garbage in garbage out – so relying on the Leaf’s data output derived from sensed terminal voltage, when the sensors could be at fault, is NOT definitive. Heat affects all sorts of electrical components – copper wire resistance goes up with temperature for example. Undetected errors could also be present in the firmware – perhaps if the calculations use a temperature measurement, then the hot climates could cause some glitch to appear in the calculations. I think the folks in AZ have jumped to the conclusion that it has to be heat damage to the battery pack, perhaps spurred on by comments by certain Nissan competitors? Rigorous controlled testing of the Leaf’s in question down to the circuit level should be performed before any conclusion is reached. As a fellow-Leaf owner, I look forward to that. In the meantime, Nissan should settle with the few disgruntled Leaf owners out there.

    1. Anon1 says:

      Nissan took our car, removed the pack and did the bench tests. They told us we had lost 14% capacity. The very next week, I did a range test and my calculated range-loss was somewhere between 22-29%. These two numbers don’t line up, and I’ve told them this on many occasions, but they aren’t listening. There’s something in there that is causing range-loss to out-pace capacity loss. Faulty instruments, new battery protections that weren’t in place when the car was new? I don’t know, but as far as I know Nissan isn’t looking into that at this time. This is why I thought it would have been an optimum time for them to do both bench and controlled field tests with my car when they had possession of it for 2 weeks.

      Thanks for your thoughtful posts, unfortunately, the only people who can answer your questions have done nothing but just enough testing to be able to say that capacity loss is normal.

      1. MrEnergyCzar says:

        There unfortunately is no capacity loss warranty anyway, just talk. So if you slowly lose 50% capacity the next 2 years, it’s not sudden so it appears you aren’t covered anyway…

        MrEnergyCzar

  12. MrEnergyCzar says:

    They are asking for exponential problems down the road….. Cater to the early Leaf owners now or risk a PR financial disaster later….

    MrEnergyCzar

  13. George B says:

    Indeed. They are likely working on bringing battery pack costs down, and hopefully improved chemistry. That won’t solve the problem of today, and the situation for some owners in AZ has deteriorated to a point where it must be addressed.

  14. Arizona EV Pilot says:

    As a phoenix leaf owner who keeps loosing bars – mr perry’s statements hurt. It hurts because it shows that he and Nissan were not up front when we were making our purchase decision.

    Hey reporters! We the green automotive consumers rely on your reporting, and it appears that mr perry and Nissan kept a lot from automotive journalists when launching the leaf. I do not blame you, we all (owners and reporters) got mislead. You know the saying- “you fool me once, shame on you, you fool me twice, shame on me”. Do not let them fool you again! Cars are the 2nd most expensive transactions consumers make. And if we want consumers to trust green cars, we need the reporters to weed out the bad apples.

    A green automotive consumer deserves a car manufacture that is upfront, had a well engineered car, and will stand behind their product. Nissan needs to decide if they want to be part of the A list or continue to be a bad apple.

  15. Scott Yarosh says:

    The first picture in this story is a picture of my Leaf’s dashboard. My car was sent to Casa Grande and had lost a total of 4 battery capacity bars only weeks after getting my car back.

    If my car’s “battery packs are behaving as we expected”, they never gave me any indication that my driving behavior was, or even could, decrease the car’s battery capacity or driving range.

    Every time I took my Leaf to the dealership for a battery usage test, Nissan’s reports showed that I was taking good care of the battery. 5 stars (5 is the best) on every aspect on their report. If Nissan would have told me that I was doing something wrong, I would have changed my driving habits, but they told me that I was doing everything to the “Star”.

    BTW, Nissan still hasn’t given me ANY information about what they did to my car while they had it in Casa Grande. They haven’t told me ANY of their finding. They have NEVER notified me, or even hinted (to me) that I was doing, or had ever done, something that could possibly negatively affect my car’s range.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Hey Scott,

      Thanks for checking in. I confess I pilfered that shot from you, hehe.

      Has your car has been returned? I (and I am sure the reader’s) would really like to hear about your personal interactions this week with Nissan, as I guess they are saying that will happen.

      Please keep us in the loop, (=

      1. A C says:

        Jay,
        Green Car Reports posted an update to their article. Apparently, 76% capacity at 5 years is based on annual Phoenix average milage of 7,500 miles per year.

        1. Jay Cole says:

          I seen the quote from John moving the benchmarks on his story, he said:

          “”UPDATE: After this article was published, Nissan used the actual mileage of the seven cars in the test to provide additional data. “The average mileage for the cars investigated was 19,600 miles, and the average in-service time was 14.7 months,” wrote the company’s Katherine Zachary. “Average annual mileage [of those cars] is about 16,000 per year, more than double the average Phoenix customer mileage of 7,500 miles per year.”

          I don’t see this as connected Nissan’s official statement letter they put out that customers can expect 76% at 7,500 per year, but just the fact that the actual recorded/reported mileage of Phoenix drivers today is 7,500 miles.

          Here is the open letter:
          http://insideevs.com/nissan-open-letter-to-the-leaf-community-re-battery-loss-concerns/

          I think if there was a caveat of a special Phoenix level of mileage of 5 years/37,500 there would have to be some kind of notation, and/or they would have had to expressly come forward with that kind of disclosure before they started selling the cars. I think John’s statement just reads a little confusiing perhaps.

          1. A C says:

            I’m really hope this to be false, but I’m taking this from direct Nissan Quotes:

            Carla Bailo:
            “Based on actual vehicle data, we project the average vehicle in that market to have battery capacity of 76 percent after five years…”

            Katherine Zachary:
            ‘…average Phoenix customer mileage of 7,500 miles per year.”

            Taken together, I think you can see how this conclusion can be drawn. I have read both statements and I don’t see anything in the context that contradicts this interpretation. I do admit, however, that it is not a direct, single statement, and is an interpretation that might be incorrect.

            1. Dave R says:

              Yep. Which leaves the question: How much range will whose cars were tested (and have averaged ~16k mi / year) have after 5 years in Arizona?

              1. Jay Cole says:

                I’ll talk to Katherine today and ask for some clarity.

                /stay tuned

  16. Paul says:

    If I understand correctly, I am expected to pay a lot of money for an electric car that I am not supposed to drive very often. The whole point of an eclectric car is to reduce gas concumption… and if today I drive 15,000 miles per year in a gas-powered vehicle, I like the idea of replacing those miles with 15,000 electric miles. Now Nissan is saying that this is not normal usage of an electric vehicle and that I will shorten the life of the batteries. I have a tough time seeing how I can recoup my investement (35 grand for a Leaf compared to 15 grand for a Versa) if I’m not allowed to drive my electric car…