Electric car owners are generally described as forward-thinking and fanatical about their alternative-energy vehicles. But they’re not as devoted when their driving range from a prematurely deteriorating battery happens a year into ownership.
Blame Arizona’s weather.
With sweltering heat, some Nissan Leaf owners are reportedly seeing 30-percent battery capacity loss in their electric vehicles. Debuting last year in the U.S. and making its nationwide debut earlier this year, the Nissan Leaf should be good for approximately 76 miles of driving range, according to EPA estimates.
And just a few weeks ago, we found that we could extend that range if we relaxed our driving style a bit to cater to the car’s regenerative braking technology.
But some owners in Arizona are reporting a much shorter driving range. “I can drive approximately 44 miles on this without having to stop and change,” says Leaf owner Scott Yarosh.
With more than 13,000 Nissan Leafs on the road in the U.S. and greater than 30,000 in the hands of owners across the world, the car is by far the most-purchased EV to ever go on sale. And most people aren’t experiencing the sorts of problems Arizonans are. But most people don’t have to deal with scorching temperatures, either, a known cause of battery deterioration. Unlike the smaller Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Nissan Leaf doesn’t have an on-board battery cooler. It relies solely on air-cooling.
Still, as Nissan product planner Mark Perry says, the Nissan Leaf shouldn’t be losing 30 percent of its battery capacity due to 100-degree temperatures currently making their way through Arizona. “Heat is definitely not a friend of batteries, but I’m talking severe 130, 140 degrees (to have an impact),” he said in a YouTube video.
Indeed, automakers warm-weather test all of their vehicles, and we’re sure Nissan made no exceptions with the Leaf. They go to places like Death Valley, the Mojave Desert, and the Sahara, evaluating for possible defects under duress.
The Nissan Leaf’s battery is a finicky thing. Driving a Leaf aggressively for 10 minutes can knock a significant amount of miles off its range. But we’ll wait and see what Nissan reports as the root of the problem a little later this summer after it has some time to evaluate the problem.
UPDATE: Nissan Senior Vice President of Research and Development Carla Bailo posted an open letter on the MyNissanLeaf online forum saying that, “Working closely with our owners to get to the bottom of these concerns is exactly what we’re committed to do.”
In her letter, Bailo explains that battery degradation is normal in lithium-ion battery packs, with Nissan Leafs retaining approximately 80 percent of their battery life after five years and 70 percent by the 10-year mark. She said that just 0.3 percent of customers have experienced losses, and she said the company was diligently working with customers to discover what, if anything, is affecting the aggressive battery power loss. “We are taking them—as well as the concerns of the larger Leaf family—very seriously.”
Follow the link here to read her letter in its entirety.
Source: CBS Phoenix