The plot thickens on the health and durability of the Nissan Leaf's battery pack. A class action lawsuit has been filed in federal court by a Leaf owner accusing Nissan of covering up the electric vehicle's range reality. California plaintiff Humberto Klee says Nissan is advertising the Leaf as being able to drive up 100 miles on a charge, depending on variables such as road conditions and weather, but Klee alleges that Nissan has not been honest about the car's real-world range.

According to the suit, Nissan's advertised driving range is based on the vehicle's performance only after charging the battery to 100-percent capacity. Yet the suit says Nissan tells owners not to do so because that kind of charging could cause battery damage. The lawsuit, known as Humberto Daniel Klee, et al. v. Nissan North America, Inc., et al., has been filed in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Western Division. The crux of it can be found online (here in PDF) and reads, in part:

Before purchase or lease, Nissan failed to disclose its own recommendations that owners avoid charging the battery beyond 80% in order to mitigate battery damage and failed to disclose that Nissan's estimated 100 mile range was based on a full charge battery, which is contrary to Nissan's own recommendation for battery charging.

But wait, there's more. The lawsuits also claims Nissan failed to disclose or intentionally neglected to reveal a design defect in the Leaf's battery system that causes the Leaf to suffer "widespread, severe and premature loss of driving range, battery capacity and battery life."

The class actions lawsuit is being brought on behalf of a proposed class of all California and Arizona consumers who purchased or leased any Model Year 2011 or 2012 Nissan Leaf hatchback, even though the actual numbers (thus far) of affected "wilting" Leafs in Arizona has been small. Plaintiffs are asking the court to rule that Nissan must remove and replace battery systems with a suitable alternative product, reform its battery warranty, cover the loss of battery capacity under warranty and reimburse class members for any repairs made.

Nissan's response is that the lawsuit "lacks merit," and the automaker is standing by both the battery and how it has marketed and explained the Leaf to buyers. The company's official statement, provided to AutoblogGreen and available below, expresses regret "that a very small number of LEAF owners are dissatisfied." Nissan also concedes that EVs might not be right for everyone, "But if you're determined to have minimal impact on the environment then an all-electric vehicle remains the only pathway to zero-emissions mobility."

Stay tuned for more as this story develops.
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Nissan Statement:

Nissan is aware of the filing of a lawsuit by two Nissan LEAF owners. We believe the lawsuit lacks merit.

We stand by our breakthrough technology and the world's best-selling electric vehicle. We also acknowledge and are grateful to our customers who have chosen to embark on a zero-emission leadership path with us.

In bringing this exciting new technology to market, Nissan has sought to educate the public and potential purchasers about the unique operating characteristics of an electric vehicle. Nissan has provided information on how the vehicle works, its estimated range, and factors that can affect both range and battery life through many sources, including the Nissan LEAF website, owner's manual and detailed written disclosure.

While Nissan regrets that a very small number of LEAF owners are dissatisfied, Nissan stands behind its product and consumers, and remains committed to electric vehicle technology. Globally, more than 38,000 LEAFs are on the road and have travelled collectively more than 100 million zero-emission miles. In fact, LEAF customers are some of Nissan's most satisfied. Just as a pickup truck or a sports car isn't right for every customer, an electric vehicle may not be right for a specific customer. But if you're determined to have minimal impact on the environment then an all-electric vehicle remains the only pathway to zero-emissions mobility.

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