The original report came from a CBS affiliate in Phoenix Arizona who spoke with two proud Nissan Leaf owners who went from loving their electric car to being very frustrated with it. The cause? The vehicle has had a massive reduction in the battery capacity when driving in very high temperatures. Nissan claims that the vehicle can go around 100 miles on a full charge and one of the owners interviewed by CBS5 in Phoenix stated that during his first year of Leaf ownership, he was easily able to make his daily 90 mile commute on a single charge. However, that same owner claims that during this, his second summer with the Leaf, his battery range has plummeted to a very disappointing 44 miles – and he isn’t the only owner dealing with this problem. Nissan has allegedly received 5 complaints of similar battery power loss during this hot summer in Arizona alone. You can watch the full video segment from CBS5 below.
A quick tour of internet enthusiast sites like MyNissanLeaf.com shows that Arizona owners are not the only ones dealing with this problem as Nissan Leaf drivers in Texas and California are also reporting substantial losses in battery capacity during their second year of ownership. Nissan has asked that owners with these problems take their vehicle to the nearest dealership for evaluation and that owners should be certain that the dealership service department contacts the regional Nissan representative to report the problem.
Unlike some other electric vehicles on the market that use built-in cooling and heating systems to control the temperature of the battery in any climate – the Leaf does not use a cooling system like the Chevrolet Volt. Nissan claims that the Leaf did not come with a battery cooling system because it didn’t need one in the United States under normal conditions and that with this setup, the Leaf battery is still operating at 70-80 percent after 10 years of use. Unfortunately, real world usage in Arizona is showing that after just one year in these brutal conditions, the Leaf battery is operating at less than half of the capacity that it did when new. Nissan says that the Leaf should never be parked anywhere that has temperatures reaching the range of 120 degrees but for those who live in the American southwest, these conditions can be unavoidable in the summer months.
If Nissan cannot find some resolution to this problem, it could be a crushing blow to the Leaf electric vehicle. The Leaf has already seen sales numbers plunge during the second full year of sales and an issue with the batteries losing half of their capacity after just a year in hot temperatures could be the kind of talk that could ruin what little momentum the Leaf has right now.
The Nissan Leaf is a pure electric vehicle and unlike the Chevrolet Volt – there is no backup gasoline engine. When the battery in the Leaf is dead the car is dead which leads to the dreaded “range anxiety” that turns many prospective consumers away from pure electric vehicles. If the Nissan Leaf begins to face mechanical issues that further (and vastly) reduce the life and range of the battery system, even more consumers will shy away from the Leaf – instead opting for a vehicle like the Toyota Prius or the Chevrolet Volt that offers electric driving with the security of a gasoline engine.
Right now, Nissan Motors is investigating these complaints on a case by case basis and the automaker “does not consider this a problem”. I am betting that those Leaf owners who only have enough range to make it halfway through their daily commute would strongly disagree.