Nissan responds to Leaf owners' massive test in battery aging case
The controversy over Nissan Leaf battery pack capacity loss is getting deeper, following a statement from Nissan published through Green Car Reports, and a response published by EV Owner Tony Williams writing on InsideEV's. Nissan's response that range loss is occurring for Leaf's that have been driven a long distance, but Williams counters with evidence that contradicts Nissan's claims.
As TorqueNews noted earlier, a group of Phoenix-are Nissan Leaf owners staged a test last weekend to verify claims of battery pack capacity loss. This lost capacity would result in a shorter driving range than Nissan claims for the Leaf, and if true would make the Leaf a less-useful car. The issue has been under discussion on the MyNissanLeaf forum for months, leading Nissan to issue a statement saying they were studying the issue.
In July, Nissan brought seven Leaf's to its technical unit at its Arizona Testing Center for a technical assessment. Nissan collects data from each Nissan Leaf and has found that the 450 Leaf's currently in Arizona are on a path which will result in 76% capacity after five years, rather than the 80% capacity Nissan had expected. Nissan's published claims of expected range loss over time were based on an average driving distance of 12,500 miles/year in climates similar to Los Angeles. The seven Leaf's examined closely by Nissan had all been driven much further than the average, some well over 20,000 miles/year.
To complicate this, Nissan additionally says the geographic layout of Phoenix makes the problem worse. Driving at highway speeds requires more energy, and is harder on the pack, than is driving at city street speeds. Because Phoenix is a sprawling city where highway speed travel is more common than city speed travel, Leaf's in that city have a harder life than those in other cities, according to Nissan. The argument is rather technical, but battery pack life is actually not measured in its calendar age, but based on the total usage the pack has seen (kilowatt-hour throughput). With a full charge a Leaf driven at highway speed might travel as few as 50 miles, but driven at city streets speed could travel as far as 100 miles.
Nissan's Mark Perry told Green Car Reports, ”The cars and the battery packs are behaving as we expected”. This may be little comfort to the affected Nissan Leaf owners because Nissan had published certain claims about range, and range loss over time.
Indeed, an article on InsideEV's responding to Nissan's statements in the Green Car Reports article characterized those statements as their "latest excuse."
That article notes that the seven Leaf's tested by Nissan were hand picked, by Nissan. InsideEV's claims there are 147 Nissan Leaf's in the Southern US that have at least one bar of capacity loss, 47 of which have been driven less than the 12,500 miles/year threshold stated by Nissan.
Tony Williams claims that his own Nissan Leaf, the one he drove on the BC2BC trip (Baja California to British Columbia) in June, has already suffered enough battery capacity loss that he could not make that same trip today. He lives in San Diego, an area that does not suffer from a hot climate.
In other words, Nissan's claims may not be solid enough to hold water.
The problem has both technical and corporate goodwill aspects to it.
Nissan started this out by claiming, two years ago, that the Nissan Leaf would experience 80% remaining capacity in five years. Thousand's of Leaf's have been sold with the Leaf owners understanding that promise. However we now see from Nissan a highly nuanced claim of the expected normal battery capacity loss. That is, maybe heat can damage the Leaf battery pack, or maybe it can be damaged from heavy use, and maybe next week Nissan will talk about another causitive factor. Today it's not as straightforward as Nissan originally said, but depends on this and that and something else.
Technically these causes Nissan has named are plausible, and technically sound. In the case of product scandals, do plausible and technically sound arguments win the hearts and minds of the affected customers? Not often. In particular, does the shifting and highly nuanced story cause Leaf owners to continue feeling goodwill towards Nissan? Will worried Leaf owners have the patience to understand the nuances to Nissan's latest claims? What will Nissan do to win back the goodwill of their current and future customers?
Source: Green Car Reports