Some hot Arizona weather is cooling some Nissan Leaf owners' enthusiasm for their electric vehicles.

Nissan is addressing complaints from five Arizona owners of Leafs who say the electric vehicles are losing battery capacity at a faster rate than advertised, reported KPHO, CBS's Phoenix affiliate.

Mark Perry, Nissan's director of product planning, told KPHO that the automaker is investigating complaints from drivers who say the region's heat is draining the EVs' battery capacity. One Arizona driver said his single-charge driving range is down to 44 miles from about 90 miles a year ago, while another says that three of the car's 12 battery-capacity indicator lights are already out, according to KPHO. The forums at MyNissanLeaf.com indicate similar complaints have been recorded in other parts of Arizona, Texas and California. A table of battery capacity losses is being kept online here. Nissan North America Director of Product Planning Mark Perry said in a recent video, "Heat is definitely not a friend of batteries. But I'm talking about severe 130-, 140-degree Fahrenheit kind of heat... Don't park your Nissan Leaf – or any electric vehicle – where it's going to be more than 120 or 130 degrees." We contacted Nissan regarding the issue of reduced capacity in hot climes and received this response from spokesman John Schilling:

"We are aware of the handful of customers that are concerned; we are studying their individual situations and experiences."

Last month, Nissan reiterated that the Leaf battery should have about 80 percent of its original capacity after five years of use, and stating that any capacity-deterioration incidents were "isolated." It's interesting to note that the issue of the Leaf battery's lack of an active thermal management solution was brought up way back in January of 2010. At the time, Nissan's Perry said, "We don't need thermal management in the U.S. ... We've gone on record saying that the pack has a 70 to 80 percent capacity after 10 years."

Regardless, such complaints spell bad news for the Leaf, whose sales have lagged this year as the Japanese automaker prepares to move domestic production to its Tennessee plant. Through June, Nissan sold 3,148 Leafs in the U.S. in 2012, down 19 percent from year-to-date numbers for 2011.

As you'll see in the video below, however, Nissan's warranty only covers the output of the Leaf's battery pack, not its capacity. Where that leaves heat-drenched Leaf owners remains to be seen. Scroll down for videos from both Nissan and CBS5.
CBS 5 - KPHO



Autoblog's Jeremy Korzeniewski contributed to this report.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 109 Comments
      Smith Jim
      • 2 Years Ago
      Elon Musk called the Leaf's battery cooling system "primitive" and perhaps he has now been proven correct. Tesla, GM, Ford etc would not have spent the extra time and money on active liquid thermal management if the benefits of such a system were not significant. I hope the short-sighted, engineer-hating Ghosn didn't permanently tarnish the image of all EVs.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      Although not a fan of solar pv in many of the perfectly daft locations it is installed in, I am in the case of cars. A small pv array can provide the power for a fan, and greatly reduce heating when stationary. Audi use it this way, but for the interior of the car, not the battery.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Yes, it's smart tech, and probably should be more common. If you can bleed heat soak via automatic fan, you can use a smaller, lighter AC unit with less parasitic drain. It'd also save quite a few pets and infants. If NHTSA were to mandate automatic heat vent, when the interior is over 90F and warmer than the outside air, I'd be all for it. This is a "safety" feature which would actually help everyone.
        upstategreenie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        maybe all EV chargers in these 'climes' can all be powered by rooftop solar charging garages cooling temps while charging. that would be outside the box and that is BANNED by congress!!!!! oh well maybe somebody else in other 'progressive' countries can learn from US ignorance and obstruction about running a country and getting off globe melting fossil fuels. anything is possible!!! except US learning from others.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        @Rotation: Fair enough. I suppose the idea of using the problem to provide the solution simply appeals, but running the fan from the battery is no doubt far more cost effective. Still, solar would be helpful for airport parking, where the car might be out there for a couple of weeks.
          Anne
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          @SNP, If you want to look at solar PV, who cares what it could yield in space? Of the 1366 W that hits the top of the atmosphere about 1000 W reaches the surface, a bit less if the sun is at a lower angle. I'm not sure what you mean by "only 15% of the original solar power is available for conversion". Perhaps a more accurate description would help. The most important metric for solar power is price per kWh. PV system prices have dropped considerably, mostly due to the drop in panel prices. Inverters and installation costs (labor) have been more constant. Today you can have a complete solar PV system on your roof from a certified installer for about € 1.50 per W including installation (ex VAT). http://www.solarnrg.nl/prijzen-zonnepanelen/prijzen-senersun-sp60-240a/prijzen-senersun-sp60-240a-schuin-dak In my home country (The Netherlands) each W of nominal system power will yield ~1 kWh annually. 1 kWh from the grid costs 22 cents. So that is an annual payback of about 15 cents to the euro. Including interest in the calculation, such a system pays itself back in about 10 years (depending on your interest rate). You don't have to live in Spain or Arizona or the ISS to enjoy your own homegrown solar electricity.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Efficiency is not the most important metric for car use, Those would be weight and cost. Thin film technology can do the job and be very light weight, so I assume that is what they use.. It is still a pretty expensive add on, but no more so than fancy wheels etc.
          SNP
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Werent solar panels created for space where 99+% of the solar energy is still available to the array? By the time it reaches sea level, only 15% of the original solar power is available for conversion. The original space based arrays also ranged from 30-50% - current technology places it at about 50% conversion efficiency. The panels we buy from china today stand at about 15%. If we buy US, it's about 20% conversion rate. I understand it's cheaper these days, but a far cry from affordable to the masses. I also understand it's free power, but far less efficient when you consider the entire manufacturing, logistics, and installation process. How good can it be if you mount it on a car with the rough equivalent of 50lbs of glass on the roof? (in terms of aerodynamics? weight?)
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        I don't know why you have to have a PV array to drive an interior venting fan. Even a lead-acid battery could run a slow interior fan for hours during the day without running anywhere near low.
          Nick
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          How about a stirling engine....
      Pip
      • 2 Years Ago
      My problem is Nissan's lack of acknowledgment. Only a handful of customers? Only 5 vehicles known? Only in Arizona? Yea, I live in Texas and lost my first bar a month ago. I took my battery in for a one year check and it even showed up on Nissan's report, which they have full access to and get all the information from. So, why the denial? That's the frustrating part. They have loads of information that it is more than 5 vehicles (in fact its about 40 from those that have spoken up on the internet) and in more states, but don't acknowledge they exist. I must be a ghost with a fake car. I feel utterly betrayed by Nissan. It is that revolation that you have when you are a kid, your favorite sports idol you had for years from your favorite team that you follow every stat and every news report finally comes to town. And when you go to the local mall to meet your idol, he is drunk and beligerant and is cursing at everyone - completely crushing your total idea of your hero. Yea, I feel like that...
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 2 Years Ago
      blame it on global warming batteries seem to age a lot at 40c or above. so if it's 45c and you park it in the sun it might get to 70 and that's a problem. 50% range drop in a year is severe. that's easily a deal breaker. I think Nissan should advise all their customers that if they live in these ridiculously hot regions they should at least park in shade, maybe even air conditioned garages. to live their full life they probably shouldn't get above 30c for any length of time. some research on more temperature tolerant batteries might be needed. alternatively it could have an insulated bay with a small aircon to keep the temperature below 35c the car could also complain about temperature
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        More info on heat related battery failure.. http://www.mpoweruk.com/lithium_failures.htm Some parts of Arizona are just as hot as the middle east. Always have been. 140F is extreme for anything. I bet internal combustion cars perform like crap in that heat..
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          I think this is one advantage of a US company, having to deal with Alaska cold, Arizona heat; urban sprawl and open plains; Western desert, Northern snows, and Southern rain versus a smaller island nation with far less range of things to cover in their home market. Kind of like when certain Scandinavian countries were selling dealer-installed AC because nobody needed it in their home markets (but oh, the awesomely powerful heaters).
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          ICEs can run in those temperatures, yes, but hotter air contains less oxygen, and your performance takes a big hit as a result. Then your radiator isn't getting much help since there is little differential between air temp and the engine temp... it's bad news! Oh, and aren't some parts of Arizona at really high elevation? 5000-7000 feet? I bet the mechanics rake it in out there, just sayin :D Luckily this oxygen problem isn't an issue for electric, but those batteries.... i guess Nissan is learning a painful lesson about underspeccing things ;]
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          2WM: The temperature rise from 300K to 310K is minor. There's less oxygen, but if you aren't racing, it isn't a huge deal. High elevation is a bigger deal. Yeah, parts of Arizona are at high elevation too. At least when you take the ICE car back to normal temps and sea level the performance comes back. How's the LEAF do on that? No, mechanics don't rake it in anywhere. I don't know where you've been since the 70s but cars are very reliable now. Even when they break it often isn't due to the ICE anyway. PR: Those are due to cooling system failures, the engine doesn't mine the heat. You have to keep your cooling system in better shape in hotter areas. No car is going to warp a head or blow a head gasket just due to ambient temps in 130F temperatures. And it doesn't get to 140F in Arizona or anywhere. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the US is 134F, the hottest on earth is 136F.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          ICEs don't mind heat all that much. They run at 180F (much more inside) in normal operation. They do have to dump the heat somehow, so you might need to beef up your cooling system (radiator), but the engine itself doesn't really mind the heat.
          Vlad
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Rotation, people had more than a 100 years to perfect the ICE. I bet the first mass-produced ICE car was much less than immune to all sorts of crap that modern cars are not even noticing.
          PR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Rotation, Heat related ICE failures such as blown head gaskets and warped heads are actually much higher in hot states like Arizona. ICE motors are far from immune to the heat.
      PR
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wonder if there are triggers that make the problem worse for some owners than others. Like charging to full capacity in the daytime in the heat. Or deep discharge of the battery on hot days compared to shallow discharges. Or parking outside in the sun compared to covered parking. It seems like the wide differences Leaf owners are experiencing between cars would likely be traceable back to something that Nissan could address if they knew what the trigger was. If I were Nissan, I'd be begging the folks with the worst problems to let me pack their cars with sensors and let me figure out what was going on in exchange for something. Something like a new battery pack and an extended warranty with specific battery capacity guarantees. Hopefully they can come up with some fixes before they start production in the US this fall.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PR
        PR, if you need the full range of the pack for your daily commute, you will charge it to 90+% every night. Or you can't use the Leaf for commute + errands, and are back to a Prius.
      Grendal
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is the article posted on the AB side? So all the jerks over there can spout "See, I told you so" about EV's. Thanks AB and ABG. Tesla Model S is reviewed almost universally as an unbelievable car and none of those articles were posted on the AB side.
        Anne
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Grendal
        Yup, petrolhead universally consider EV's to be the green evil that must be exorcised.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Anne
          No, we consider Nissan to be evil because the Leaf is not good. Totally OK with the Volt, because the car is good. The simple question is whether the car performs at least as well as the buyer would expect, and if not, how the company resolves the problem. With the Volt, GM delivered a good car, and seems to be backing it. When there was a rash of fear over fires, GM offered to buy the cars back as a goodwill gesture. How come Nissan won't do the same?
          PR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Anne
          SVX I'm not sure the risk of fire, and the slow drain of batteries have the same sort of urgency, randomness, and immediate anxiety that would warrant a buyback at this point. It isn't like someone might (rightly or wrongly) feel that they are driving around in a death trap that could go wrong at any second. At some point a buyback might be appropriate, but one of the conditions of warranties on all cars, and on every product is that the party backing the warranty must be given reasonable opportunity to remedy any warranty claim by providing a repair. Nissan deserves that chance the same as every single other car maker or any other type of business.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Anne
          The fires were pure hype, nothing to do with real-world usage, but GM voluntarily made the goodwill gesture nevertheless. That's taking the high road. Nissan seems to be hiding behind legalese for the battery warranty.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Grendal
        The Model S hasn't really been reviewed yet. Only first drive quick glances so far. Tesla has not made the vehicle available to journos properly yet.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          "Tesla has not made the vehicle available to journos properly yet." They haven't disclosed actual monthly sales, either. It's hard to take Tesla seriously when they're so hush-hush and refuse to follow industry norms or allow independent review, testing and evaluation.
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      I was wondering if this would happen. My family in Florida claims to get about 3 years out of a (high quality lead acid) car battery that I would get about 6 out of in Rhode Island. Of course, the number of complaints is still too small to be certain that they are not just a batch of defective cells or something.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave
        I used to live in Michigan. Cranking in cold winters are hard on car batteries, right? Car batteries lasted about 6 years there. Here in California, where it isn't even that hot (not around here), car batteries last maybe 4 years. It was the case with my Saturn and with my Audi. I don't know if Li-Ions work the same way but apparently warm weather is a lot harder on batteries than cold. It surprised me.
          PR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Yeah, cold weather reduces cranking output temporarily, but as long as you don't drain the battery it doesn't do permanent damage. Heat is the other way around. You get lots of cranking amps, but batteries seem to get damaged much quicker. I"m sure there is some cool science out there to explain it all, but I'm not sure what it is.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Cold slows chemical reactions. It's like running in hip-deep molasses. You're just as strong as you were before, but it's tough going. Heat is like running on land, but on very rough and uneven concrete. You can run as fast as you want, but your knees will be destroyed over time, and eventually, you won't be able to run any more.
          Anne
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Indeed, cold reduces the capacity of a battery only temporarily, for as long as the cold lasts. Heat changes the structure of the battery, causing permanent damage.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave
        "Of course, the number of complaints is still too small to be certain that they are not just a batch of defective cells or something." The geographic concentration and volume of complaint suggests it's going to be a chronic problem for high heat locations. These cars are only about 15 months old, and they're seeing degradation levels which 3x to 5x faster than what was claimed.
      upstategreenie
      • 2 Years Ago
      I bet the new normal 'extreme' temp shifts experienced in more places and being underwater in record flooding is also not 'good' for batteries. tarmacs melt and roads buckle in this kind of heat as well so not JUST batteries should not ever be in this heat. NOTHING should. ever. it is like saying leafs get less mileage on mars.
      Smurf
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nissan has a major responsibility by being the first major automaker to deliver an electric vehicle. The reputation of EV's is on their shoulders. With that in mind, it is inconceivable how they could risk not including battery cooling and thermal management. This is not just a risk that could result in low sales numbers. The very future of EV's might be at risk.
      Stoaty Marmot
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nissan already knows detailed battery status for any Leaf that has had its one year birthday since you have to get a battery check to keep the "warranty" in force. The reported should have asked them for the mean one year capacity loss in Phoenix. There are probably dozens of others who have lost a capacity bar, but haven't noticed yet and their commute pattern is such that they aren't impacted... yet. Also, I see they still have only "5 cases of complaints" even though we know others have been reported to Nissan over the last couple of weeks. I guess if they stick with that number and only acknowledge that this "might" be happening if someone actually complains, it isn't really happening at all!
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Stoaty Marmot
        The first bar is at 15%, so there could be quite a few cars which have lost 10%, 12%, 13% - not yet enough for that bar to go away.
      BipDBo
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Heat is definitely not a friend of batteries. But I'm talking about severe 130-, 140-degree Fahrenheit kind of heat... Don't park your Nissan Leaf – or any electric vehicle – where it's going to be more than 120 or 130 degrees." OK, are they saying don't park your car where the outside temperature won't get that high or where it won't get that high inside the car? Since the battery is under the f;ppr. I would think that the temperature inside the car would affect the battery temperature. If you park your car outside, especially on a new black lot, it will get extremely hot. It will get even hotter, about 20 degrees F hotter, inside the car. http://www.mydogiscool.com/x_car_study.php If you take the family to a theme park, you will probably be parked on a fresh black lot. It sounds to me that they may have designed the thermal management based on some bad design parameters. My recommendation to Leaf owners is to always use a windshield screen when parking.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BipDBo
        The windshield screen isn't going to help. The cabin heat isn't what's killing the battery.
          BipDBo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          As a mechanical engineer who is very familiar with heat transfer, I can tell you for certain that cabin temperature affects battery temperature. How much of an effect depends on how much thermal resistance there is between the battery and the air under the car verses the thermal resistance between the battery and the cabin. It also depends on whether, while parked, the Leaf pulls fresh air through the battery compartment, and where exactly that fresh air comes from.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          @Bip: I'm a Mech E, and probably took the same courses you did. The cabin heat is air, which has very little thermal mass. It's like your refrigerator - opening it and letting all of the air rush out doesn't instantly raise the temp of the food to 72F. The minute you close the door, the air drops back down to 32F. That's why a solar-powered (!) external recirc fan does such a great job of keeping cabin temps under control in a parked car. The rest of the cabin is primarily insulators with decent R values, so it doesn't transfer heat well between the air and the battery pack under the floor. While I don't doubt that some cabin heat might transfer downward, I don't think that's what's killing the packs. I think it's the choice of a battery which inherently heats due to chemical reaction with a passive radiator / sink being parked over 120+F blacktop and dead air. The Battery heats itself up, then parks over equally hot blacktop with no air circulation to extract the heat, just the minimal Brownian diffusion under the car. If the Leaf were driving on the highway for "ram air" cooling due to underbody airflow or parked in an air-conditioned garage, it would be OK.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          BipDBo: From what I have seen the LEAF battery pack is sealed, it can only circulate air inside, it cannot bring in fresh air. I would think a windshield screen would help slightly, if only because it's a poor version of putting a reflective foil over the car, reflecting IR (heat) away from the car. Less heat absorbed by the car (no matter where it is absorbed) means the car as a whole will heat up less as well as the air inside it.
        Smurf
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BipDBo
        It's obvious you've never lived here in Phoenix. You rarely have the opportunity to not park in the heat here.... The few shaded areas we have are all occupied. One tiny tree at the back of the parking lot will have 5 cars parked next to it, even though it doesn't really provide any shade. If a vehicle can't handle the heat here, the only option for Phoenix residents is not to buy it.....
      SVX pearlie
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is affecting at least 30 out of 12,800 cars sold within the first 18 months, of which at least 7 have lost 20+% of battery capacity. Unlike a Volt or Plug Prius, lost battery charge cannot be masked by the ICE engine. It looks more and more like the Leaf needs to get to Gen 2 ASAP!
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/01/nissan-leaf-2/
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        Yes, even though the number affected is too small to recall.. they need to address this before gen 2.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          BTW, what I consider a "recall" is not the same as a buyback from customers with capacity degradation. A recall is servicing all Leafs with that model Battery pack (or Lot number) regardless of customer experience. So if that is one of the main reasons we've been arguing, then I apologize for not being clear. This is one of the instances on ABG where I am thinking that we agree on more points than we disagree.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Nissan should take the high road like GM, and offer to buy the cars back.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          The onboard charger should be recalled, along with the Nissan EVSE, as it's a core functionality issue that has safety implications. The battery should be recalled for any vehicle suffering more than 10% per year of ownership in the first 3 years.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          1) The EVSE / Charger problems are still being identified. A recall would be premature. And WHAT safety concern? For those that HAVE failed... they fail SAFE. They don't spark, cause static build up, or keep circuits live when they should be offline. Once again, you're overreacting. 2) Yes, those battery packs affected should be repaired or replaced and keep replacing under warranty until a solution is found (either a new battery design or a thermal management system. ). It will cost Nissan a lot of money to be replacing packs for several dozen Leaf owners in Arizona. And thus give good incentive to find a fix quickly. But neither of those are actually a "recall". But a warranty fix for those having problems. A recall would be fixing a component based on model (or lot number) regardless of symptoms or not. And that would be a waste considering the small numbers affected. Significant numbers for PR, but engineering wise, a scalpel, not a sword.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Too small to recall.. ha.. http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=8802 http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=9327 Two huge threads about battery life loss.. http://www.mynissanleaf.com/wiki/index.php?title=Battery,_Charging_System#Real_World_Battery_Capacity_Loss Wiki thread about it.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Thread length is not relevant. The problem is regional and is affecting about 32 people right now. Unless it is a safety concern, Nissan won't recall. They should just fix the problem for those who have it, and those at risk. Let's not overreact people. Its a problem, but not the end of the world SVX.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          I agree, but I don't think Nissan will. GM is handling things better... and I am pleasantly surprised by that.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Here's the data from one guy on MNL: Azdre/opossum, Phoenix, 3/21/11 purchase. 4/26/12, 16,624mi, lost bar 1. 6/7/12 Range Test: 5mi/kWh, 100% to LBW: 58.6mi (NTB: 75-85mi expected). 6/14/12, ~19,000mi, lost bar 2. 6/30/12, ~19,850mi, 71.8% ScanGauge w/ 100% charge (202 GID). 7/18/12 ~26,170 mi 65.4% ScanGauge (183.8 GID) The first year, he was OK (i.e. above 85%), but clearly, he's never going to see 100 miles from this point forward.
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