While the firestorm of controversy over the woes regarding the battery in the Nissan Leaf continues to rage, the company has stepped up to the inferno with a couple buckets of PR water and a promise to bring out a very large hose. According to a statement from Carla Bailo, Nissan Americas Senior vice president of research and development, everything is cool with the Leaf's battery. Mostly.
Bailo, who is, incidentally, also a Leaf driver, placed an open letter to the Leaf community on the MyNissanLeaf discussion forum. It makes two keys points:
- The Nissan Leafs inspected in Arizona are operating to specification and their battery capacity loss over time is consistent with their usage and operating environment. No battery defects were found.
- A small number of Nissan Leaf owners in Arizona are experiencing a greater than average battery capacity loss due to their unique usage cycle, which includes operating mileages that are higher than average in a high-temperature environment over a short period of time.
As one might expect from a diverse and passionate group of owners who have just been witness to some worrying independent testing, the response has been mixed. Some owners feel that their battery's capacity has been diminished more than what Nissan claims is normal and want to be "made whole." Others have expressed relief that the automaker appears to be taking their concerns seriously and becoming more involved with the owner community.
The thread has also been addressed by Nissan's head of global communications, Jeff Kuhlman, who announced that Nissan vice president Andy Palmer will take questions on the issue at the Paris Motor Show this week and that Nissan is considering a series of town hall meetings.
Nissan is considering a series of town hall meetings to address the issue.
Will it be enough to calm concerns over the actual source of the controversy: a seeming rapid decline in range with Leafs used in hot climates? We suspect not. That may require restoring range to suffering vehicles and the introduction of a warranty that actually covers some amount of range loss (currently, only battery power output loss is covered and it's unclear how little range might exist when that condition occurs). Of course, it goes without saying that the 2013 Leaf needs to demonstrate improved battery performance.
While we await more news on the situation, there is some reason to be optimistic the problem isn't as big as some have supposed. EVTV has pondered the situation and posited that some of the range reduction might be unrelated to the actual battery. Mulling over some numbers given to them from that aforementioned independent owner's tests, they believe the worst affected vehicle in that group had lots more capacity in its battery at the end of the test that just wasn't being tapped, and have suggested the problem might be down to a sensor being affected by the hot climate.
Whatever the cause, affected Leaf owners will want to see relief soon. Some have already terminated leases because of it and many are concerned about resale value, while others are, no doubt, already looking at other vehicle alternatives.