Nissan Leaf
Armen Hareyan's picture

The Catastrophic Error Nissan is Making with LEAF

Do you think Nissan is making a catastrophic error regarding LEAF range? Here is one problem with emulating the range of ICE vehicles.

Bern Niamir comments below. The comment source is from Canada Nissan Owners Facebook Group.

I think the catastrophic error that Nissan is making is that it thinks it has to go from 100 miles nominal to 200 or 250 miles nominal range (because Tesla is there) -- and thus this delays the introduction of a higher range Leaf. I believe a 50% (or even 30%) increase from 100 to 150 miles will have a huge impact on sales (assuming price goes up only marginally). The dealer network who essentially despises the Leaf is probably telling Nissan not to bother with a 150 mile Leaf, consciously knowing that it will take a long time for Nissan to release a 250 mile Leaf.

The problem with emulating the range of ICE vehicles is that not everyone goes to the gas station every day. While an EV does visit the gas station everyday when charged overnight at home. Therefore, the EV does not need to meet the ICE range, if highways and downtowns are populated with DCQCs. There is an expression: Picking up a huge rock means you are not going to throw it at the bad guy. 400 km sounding nice, does not mean it is necessary.

If upcoming Nissan batteries are cheaper and lighter than the old batteries by a factor of 2, then this will be a major breakthrough. Unfortunately no one else has reported this AFAIK. I tend to be skeptical. But again, a 30% increase in capacity will translate into 100% or more increase in utility. I rather have 32 kWh today than 48 kWh in 2 years.

By Bern Niamir
Hydroenergy Expert and LEAF Owner

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How many people do you think are there who are willing to buy an EV, which can go 84 miles on a single charge? I hear LEAF owners are happy with it, but they also have ICE cars for long range trips.
I agree - that a 30% range increase now would greatly benefit the LEAF, at the right price. So rather than hold off on a new model with a range matching Tesla, get beyond one of the LEAF's major drawbacks now - which is it's limited range.
I find the range issue to be the only drawback of the Leaf. Otherwise its a perfect car (for its price).
150 Mile Range target looks good to me and not a big error, but the delay associated with it, seems like a big risk of losing a market share. Especially when we hear news of more cheaper EVs coming to the market.
Weown a leaf, which will remain my commute car. However we definitely need an additional car that can go 200 miles. Simply because I go that far a couple of times a month. And especially since 200 mikes won't be truly 200 miles, just as the current range isn't REALLY 100 miles, or even 60 miles in my case.
Armen-great article. I never thought about the Leaf battery like that. just saying we have seen comments from Andy Palmer say 2 years ago that would lead me to believe the next battery for the Leaf would give the car a 125ish mile range. Now we hear double (the 80 mile figure) from the CEO. still looks like 125 to 150 miles which works for so many more people that 80 and dropping fast. My initial thoughts were based around the lack of liquid cooling and the longevity problems that come with this design. GM is also forcing Nissan's hand. Chevy with their planned BOLT at 200 miles range might put pressure on Nissan to wait another year and do a little better than 150 miles. Time will tell.
Thanks Mike. The story is actually by Bern Niamir's comments.
That's why I recently bought a Chevy Volt. While I like the Leaf, my needs require occasional long trips. My experience with a 40 mile range has instilled a sense of anxiety, though; not sure why, but it is there despite the on-board gen motor. I'm now attempting to adjust my paradigm with my lifestyle. BTW, the gen motor should have been greener and more efficient; and the 12-14 hours to charge on 110V, while at a home charger, is still ridiculous. Faster charging is a necessity if the industry wants these things to sell; regardless of brand.
It only takes 8-10 hours to charge on L1 if you switch the Volt to 12 amp charging. The 2014 and later Volts switch back to 8 amps every time you shift the car from park, so you have to set it manually every time before you plug in. I ended up buying a JuiceBox and don't worry about charging time any more.
The problem with this assumption is that you are excluding a whole category of ICE owners who cannot go electric even if they wanted to because they don't live in a single family home with access to an attached or detached garage for charging at night. If you make the vehicle have a 200 mile range, all of a sudden that person can feasibly own an EV and charge it at a public charging station once or twice a week with DC fast charging. That would be a game changer.
Nissan's dealer network does NOT despite the LEAF, as Mr. Namir states. Most dealerships who are carrying the car are steadily selling them and steadily making money. Like any other vehicle, the LEAF still has warranty claims, required maintenance intervals and checkups, etc. Dealers make money on all fronts. Add in the common add-ons for the LEAF in various markets, such as winter-ready floor mats, specific tires (winter, summer, all low-rolling resistance), and so forth and dealers are seeing income from the car even after the initial sale. Some dealerships even go out of their way to promote their LEAF inventory despite their market not necessarily being "prime" for the car.
Not true. The Nissan Leaf has the lowest amount of warranty claims per capita than any other Nissan model and the only Preventive Maintenance it needs is to rotate the tires, check brakes, change cabin air filter, periodically update battery management firm/software, and check the cooling system. The service interval is 7500 miles but you can make a good argument for 10,000. Dealers are not making as much money on the Leaf as other models so they don't push them as much. The Leafs sell because people want an EV or by word of mouth. You ask most Leaf owners why they got one and they will tell you because a friend of theirs has one and they got to drive it and loved the experience. When was the last time you saw a marketing campaign on TV for the Leaf? It's been several years for me.
Would love to see your hard data for those claims. Because I haven't seen them. As for service, anyone can look at the LEAF's service and warranty guide online. Like most vehicles, it requires an interval every 7,500 miles as you state. That interval is tire rotation and inspections of the mechanical parts of the car - all of which are prone to failure in the LEAF just as they are any other vehicle. Every other service interval requires several fluid and filter changes.. just like every other car on the road. Nearly all Nissan LEAFs on the road are "Schedule 1" cars, meaning they drive a lot of stop-and-go and in-city, short-distance.
Not having an engine, oil and fuel systems, injectors, valves, cams and belts, transmission, mechanical pumps, exhaust system, etc. does cut down not only on maintenance but on pre and post warranty repairs. My best guess is that the maintenance/repair revenue to the dealership will be about 20% of a comparable ICE or even lower as engine/transmission repairs although infrequent are very costly. If you break down maintenance service into two categories - essential maintenance (tune up, oil change, etc.), and less costly preventive maintenance (checking brake fluid level, changing cabin filter, etc.), then the 2011 Leaf owner's manual shows only one essential service - replacing the motor/power electronics coolant after 75,000 miles. Even this is not a costly item, as compared to a tune up service after each 12,000 or 24,000 miles. And then as the vehicle ages, the power train of an EV, including the battery performance, does not really age, and the battery capacity is under an 8 year warranty. But for ICE vehicles, the power train deterioration accelerates, as it ages. It is the well known difference in the probability of breakdown between a mechanical device and its equivalent electrical/electronic device. Does an electrical baseboard heater need as much maintenance as a boiler?
The warranty claims you make may or may not be true. Based on the experiences with my 2011 Leaf I'd say it had way more trips to the dealer for warranty work than my wife's 2010 Sonata. In less than 9100 miles we had to have the brake rotors cut twice to stop the brakes from "Grabbing" and we soon will be looking at a battery replacement. all on a 4 year old car with 9100 miles on it.
The author of this article doesn't have his facts in order. The next generation battery for the Leaf will not be the 200-250 mile range battery. It is in the 140-150 mile range and they have already begun production on it at the Smyrna, TN plant. The new Leaf's will hit dealers later this summer or early fall. I agree with the author in that us Leaf owners visit the gas station every night when we park the vehicle so we can charge pretty much whenever we want. But what about the people who live in apartments who don't have access to their own personal charger? What about that emergency that pops up while I'm at work and I suddently need to drive 100 miles for whatever reason? Another reason for the 200-250 mile range is that that is roughly the average distance between any major metro area. And the metro areas are where the DCQC's are going to be popping up first.
@EVman "The next generation battery for the Leaf will not be the 200-250 mile range battery. It is in the 140-150 mile range and they have already begun production on it at the Smyrna, TN plant." That's HUGE! Tell me more! Any info on pricing?
The pricing is never announced until vehicles are at the dealerships. They give a price range in several news articles. My guess is that the price will not go up that much due to economies of scale. The price of the raw materials to make the batteries goes down the more batteries you make. Lots of new competition for the Leaf which is good for all manufacturers and consumers.
We had a Leaf for 3 years and liked it but couldn't stomach the idea of 3 more years of limited range. We bought one of the last Rav4EVs which is rated at 90-some miles but actually goes much farther (I guess Toyota didn't want to hear any complaints). In practice the 42kwh battery comfortably goes about double the range of the Leaf. Even without the QC, it's a lot more practical.
The Toyota RAV4 EV's power train and battery were both sourced from Tesla which is why it has better than expected power and range. People rave over the BMW i3's acceleration, but the Toyesla RAV4 EV is just as impressive. Real life range of the RAV4 EV is about 130 miles with an 80% standard charge (vs a 100% Range charge) according to some other owners even though it was officially rated at "only" 103 miles. People have easily driven theirs 150 miles and even 180 miles is possible at regular city speeds. Considering one guy drove his 2013 Nissan Leaf with 24 kWh battery pack for a record 188 miles and a Tesla Model S 85D was driven for 550 miles, the RAV4 EV with its 41.8 kWh battery should easily be able to hit 200+ miles if driven at low speeds.
Yes fully agree that 42 kWh is a very acceptable level of range. In fact it may be ideal, if one considers the cost of an EV to be a factor, unlike with the Tesla S. I think 60 kWh is overkill frankly. There will always be those who will feel range anxiety under all circumstances. But for those of us who know how to manage a smaller battery capacity and benefit from lower vehicle cost, then 42 kWh is adequate. 150 miles is guaranteed, assuming no excessive winter heating. Then for those who want to run their EV like they run an ICE (high speeds, climate control, etc.), we may find that 48 kWh is the minimum. And I still think that 54 kWh is acceptable to a lot of people who cannot afford 60 kWh. So probably the following four levels for entry level EVs: 36 kWh - 130 mi - risk takers, pioneers and EV buffs 42 kWh - 150 mi - general public minimum 51 kWh - 180 mi - those who want extra assurance. 60 kWh - 210 mi - for the absolutely squeamish and for those with frequent long distance travelling.
I would have to disagree. The general public won't consider an EV unless it has at least a 200-mile range minimum. That's why we haven't seen a ton of people rushing out to buy EVs with the single exception of the Tesla Model III. Most people who buy electric vehicles are early adopters, wealthy people with plenty of other vehicles to choose from, tech lovers who understand the technology, and those that are concerned with the environment. People understand why an EV is better but yet are still unwilling to "make the sacrifice." The VAST majority of people are unwilling to buy a vehicle that has "only" 150 miles of range. Two hundred miles of range is really only two hours of driving on the interstate loaded with people and stuff, using climate control. For that reason, 200 miles is the minimum with 300 miles really being ideal, though some would prefer 400 miles to make EVs on par with many a gasser. Now you and I know that few people "need" more than about 50 miles of range per day most of the time which means that theoretically the Nissan Leaf (and Chevy Volt) should work perfectly as everyone's commuter car, provided they can stomach the looks and have another vehicle that they can do long distance trips in. Since most families already have more than one vehicle (or Chevy Volt or BMW i3 REx), a "short-ranged" EV should do just fine and save a whole lot of gas. It's getting people to not only understand but actually "get" this that is key. Getting butts in EVs for test drives is the answer to mass sales, that and longer ranges with good performance and beautiful, NOT funky, lines. Case and point: Tesla Model III.
We've had a LEAF for over 2 years now and love it. It's our in-town commuter car. We have an ICE for longer trips. However, our in-town driving does not require a lot of miles per day. We are probably the exception rather than the norm. I agree a 150-mile LEAF would generate a lot more sales.
The reason you need a longer range has to do with climate. My Chevy Volt gives me 42-45 miles in summer, but 29-30 in winter. That is a function of the nature of lithium ion and th etypes of elctrodes used, as well as the type of electrolyte. More advancement required to be comparable to ICe in my opinion.