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Plug In America has launched a second electric vehicle owner experience survey – this time with the Tesla Roadster. It follows a survey conducted last year among Nissan Leaf owners, which was utilized and acknowledged by Nissan as it dealt with unexpected battery capacity loss reported by Leaf owners in high temperature Arizona.

Last year, Plug In America's Expert Assistance and Research Group launched its first-ever consumer-oriented evaluation of plug in battery performance. It was intended to educate consumers on battery reliability and extended warranty purchase options, along with supporting industry-wide adoption of standard battery performance warranties.

Last year's survey found that many Leaf owners were experiencing a high degree of stability and reliability. Along with that, the study clarified that ambient temperature seems to be the most significant factor in battery deterioration. Soon after release of the findings, Nissan announced a new battery warranty for Leaf owners. Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer encouraged Leaf owners to read the Plug In America survey results.

More people own Leaf than Roadsters, but the Roadsters have been on the road longer. The expensive Roadster electric sports car (which started at $109,000) was launched nearly three years before the Leaf, in 2008. About 2,500 Roadsters were sold through 2011, and Roadster owners have had a lot of experience behind the wheel. While the Leaf and Chevrolet Volt were lauded for returning EVs to the market following the limited number built by major automakers in the 1990s, the Tesla Roadster actually opened the door for EV commercial production.

Roadster owners are encouraged to visit the Plug In America website and take the survey. Like the Leaf survey, most of the questions focus on the battery pack's performance and the influence of determining factors – time and mileage in use; how it compares to owner expectations; how well the Roadster's active thermal management protected the battery pack in hot and cold weather; and distinctions between those who've experienced the different versions of the Roadster – 1.5, 2.0 and 2.5 and the mainstay Roadster compared to the Roadster Sport. There's also a question dealing with what owners might expect when considering purchasing an extended warranty.

The survey project is led by Plug In America's Chief Science Officer Tom Saxton. Along with this sort of real-world battery performance research, Saxton and the PIA research group conducted their first ever performance evaluation of charging station down time last year.
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Email from Plug In America

Like owners of conventional gas cars, owners of electric cars are naturally interested in understanding expectations of long-term performance and maintenance issues.

In the fall of 2012, Plug In America conducted a survey of Nissan LEAF owners to gain a better understanding of the unexpected battery capacity loss reported by some LEAF owners in hot climates such as Tucson, Arizona. In December, results from the survey were released.

Around the same time, Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer announced an enhanced limited battery warranty for the LEAF which covers battery capacity performance for 5 years or 60,000 miles, the first such warranty for an all-electric vehicle from a mainstream automaker. In the warranty announcement, Palmer encouraged all LEAF owners to read Plug In America's LEAF survey report, a strong validation and recognition of Plug In America's effort. The LEAF survey is ongoing.

This week, Plug In America launched a similar survey of Tesla Roadster owners. Although absent reports of issues with battery capacity loss, the Tesla Roadster user base has significant experience with electric vehicles that have been on the road since as far back as 2008. With the Roadster survey, Plug In America plans to explore several topics:

How does the Roadster battery pack hold up over time and miles?
How does this compare to owner expectations as set by Tesla Motors?
How well does the Roadster's active thermal management protect the battery pack against hot and cold weather?
How do version 1.5, 2.0 and 2.5 Roadsters compare in battery longevity and major maintenance?
Is there a difference in drivetrain maintenance between the Roadster and Roadster Sport?
How common are major Roadster drivetrain component replacements?
What should owners know when considering purchasing an extended warranty?

Owners of the Nissan LEAF or Tesla Roadster are invited to participate in these surveys:
Nissan LEAF Battery Survey
Tesla Roadster Battery Survey

Please feel free to share these links with other LEAF and Tesla owners or send them a note from our Tell-a-Friend page.

Plug In America values the privacy of survey participants and will not use participants' names or email for any purpose other than matters related to the survey.

Results from the Roadster survey, and possible updates to the LEAF survey, will be made available as these studies progress. Plug In America expects these studies will be followed by others as staff and resources permit.

Current and potential plug-in vehicle owners interested in objective third-party research of issues important to EV drivers are encouraged to donate generously to Plug In America in support of this vital work.

Tom Saxton
Chief Science Officer
Plug In America

The LEAF and Roadster survey efforts are being lead by Plug In America's Chief Science Officer, Tom Saxton. Saxton and his wife have been driving electric since 2008 when they purchased a used 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV. Their all-electric garage also includes a 2008 Tesla Roadster and a 2011 Nissan LEAF. Together they have driven over 65,000 all-electric miles. Saxton's previous work includes the Plug In America Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Study, released at EVS-26 in May, 2012, and an informal survey of Roadster owners in the Pacific Northwest on battery capacity performance in 2011.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 33 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      Results so far are pretty uniform > ideal range on standard charge - around 180 miles = actual around 150 (it's a sportscar!) with little degradation, if any on the battery.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        By 'standard charge' you mean to 80%? I thought the Roadster had a 245 mile range, but I really did not follow the car at all closely, partly because I am not very interested in 2 seater luxury sports cars, but mainly because I thought that they would never get the car to work properly, or be able to actually produce and sell it in volume! I am glad I was wrong on that one.
        Giza Plateau
        • 2 Years Ago
        Struass, are you with PIA? no correlation between degradation and distance driven? what's the most driven in the survey? no hot temperature correlation either? nor age? sounds very promising, especially for a chemistry that has a reputation for dying quickly
          JakeY
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          Data is right here: http://www.pluginamerica.org/surveys/batteries/tesla-roadster/vehicles.php So far it seems most fall between 170-180 in standard charge, 220-240 for range mode charge. The only anomalies are the ones with replacement batteries and one person who has the car stored in storage mode at 40% SOC (he reports 150 for standard, 160 for range, I suspect his battery may need to be balanced to see the real number). Most driven in the survey is 75k miles with 169 standard. I know the most driven worldwide is in Germany (200,000 km = ~124k miles as of April 2012). I don't expect a huge correlation with temperature given the thermal management. There should be some correlation with age though, but that would be mixed in with usage (older packs tend to have more miles). So far 44 reporting, so about 2% of Roadster owners reporting. I'm sure the trends will be more clear with more data.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          Many thanks for the data. Looking at that, with as GP says no clear indication from the data that calender life is going to be a major factor, I would not really expect the battery to only last around 15-20 years. As mentioned here already, battery degradation tends to slow after dropping to around 70%, so I would pretty much expect an old battery to behave like the rest of the bits in an old car, ie to keep right on going until it doesn't, at some indeterminate time and cycle life. That effect is enhanced by the owners of old cars being a self-selecting group of those who take care to look after them, in the case of batteries ensuring that they are not regularly fully charged, and very rarely fully discharged. If I were around I would fully expect that in 30-40 years time to be regaled with the occasional story of a Roadster which is still driving around on its original battery, but my own state of repair by then should ensure that I am spared the inconvenience, having long since gone to the great scrap-heap in the sky myself! ;-) Good job, Tesla, good job, Panasonic!
          Giza Plateau
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          Dave, I hear there is a pretty good recycling program in the sky, I wouldn't worry about it :) You just keep it on the straight and narrow and you'll have good scrap value.
          Giza Plateau
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          Interesting http://www.zev.dk/web/TeslaRoadster-battery-degradation.png No clear calendarlife, fairly clear cyclelife indicating a typical remaining range of 142 miles after 160k miles driven. This would seem to suggest that most packs would survive the 'life of the car' although it's perhaps hard to imagine the cars would be trashed after 15-20 years. It certainly doesn't look like you need a new pack after 7-8 years. Very far from it. There seems to be an additional element in play because it doesn't follow the cycle and calendar simply. This could be heat damage, deep cycles or cell quality variation. It could also be important whether people have left the cars standing or always kept them on charge. Since the roadster has terrible idle power drain, a non connected car will cycle 5-10km on the pack each day but not really enough to make a clear difference and you'd expect that to show as a trend in pack age. Heat damage too. The variation could just be battery quality and depending on how the pack is designed, it could be a matter of a few cells that define the max capacity such that if they were replaced it would be a much more uniform picture. BMS data could be interesting. Presumably Tesla has such data since all cars report in via cellphone data. There could also have been changes to the design over the years that will mask certain things.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          GP: Many thanks for the kind thought.
      Ford Future
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'd like a smaller one to commute with.
        Giza Plateau
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ford Future
        There is a huge opportunity for a company to produce a light aerodynamic version of this with half the range and quarter the battery yet still have the acceleration. It could retail for 25000$ profitably. It's a small simple car that has huge appeal. Think about it. High performance is largely free in EVs, especially in a light car.
          Giza Plateau
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          Largely true. A123 would be ideal if available and at decent price. What few people realize is that there was so much packaging in the Tesla Roadster pack that the effective density was only 125Wh/kg. A123 cells can match that yet have so much higher power density and no risk of thermal runaway. Alternatively CALB CA cells are pretty good as well.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          The batteries used in the Tesla have high energy but low power output. IOW they work fine in big packs, but not in small ones. Smaller packs also affect cycle life, which is why Tesla on their site rate their 40kwh pack for the Tesla S at less miles than the big ones. So a much lighter car needing a smaller pack would have to use a totally different battery, and the costs on the Panasonic's used in the Tesla have nothing to do with it.
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sounds interesting. I have wondered about that. Since we haven't heard anything about failing packs other than the bricked ones I expect the packs are doing fairly well.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      Doesn't Tesla have all the data from telematics?
        Ryan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        But is Tesla making that data publicly available? Battery degradation is a concern many people have, and until the data is out there showing that it doesn't impact the usage of the car 5-15 years after it has been sold, then it will still cause some doubts.
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ryan
          it will still cause doubts even after 20 years. Those that don't want to be convinced, will never be convinced
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ryan
          Those packs won't have much capacity left after 20 years.
      Levine Levine
      • 2 Years Ago
      Jon LeSage: Volt is not an EV.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Levine Levine
        The Volt is a PHEV . . . a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. A combo of an convention hybrid and an electric vehicle.
          JP
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          The Volt is a hybrid, with a larger battery and a plug, but still a hybrid. You cannot just remove the generator from the Volt and have it work, if the Volt has an empty gas tank it reduces power to the electric motor in order to preserve battery range. It will also start the ICE even if the battery is full if it's cold, and if it needs to run the ICE to keep it functional. It can also be driven only on gas if you never plug it in. It's a hybrid, not an EV.
          Greg
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          The Volt is an EV that happens to carry around a generator. It is no different than if you had any other EV & built a little trailer with a generator and an umbilical for it. You can remove the generator from the Volt and it would work just fine for 25 mi or so.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Greg, the Volt does not really work like that at all times. It has a very complex planetary gear-set and the gas engine does actually help drive the wheels in certain situations.
      brotherkenny4
      • 2 Years Ago
      Liquid cooled battery, LiCoO3 cathode. I'd expect it to perform as anticipated by tesla, because they left nothing at risk. However, it is part of the reason for the high cost. Well, that and the lotus gliders. I wonder if Tesla will go back and build another roadster (two seater) themselves and possibly see if they could find a battery source that wouldn't require the liquid cooling? Might be nice to see a cheaper two seater with similar range out there.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        But what is "as anticipated"? I think these batteries were not designed for long term usage.
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      So when will we hear results?
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      A third-party analysis of the Tesla batteries would be a great thing to have.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think the answer to this is going to be: 'Pretty well'. The battery pack of the wired together 18650's using the chemistry of the time was never sold as one expected to last forever, and since they were quite upfront about that there is no cause to grumble. I was amazed when they managed to make it work, and perhaps nearly as surprised when they overcame their initial difficulties with gearing and actually produced a desirable car for sale. Even the present generation of batteries really relies on the large pack to give reasonable cycle life, which again is fair enough. I understand that the individual 18650 cells do though have somewhat better cycle life than the old ones, and of course putting a different cell into the modules they build will be rather trivial. So hopefully Tesla will produce replacement modules for the Roadster with the new, superior chemistry and drivers will have many more years of emission low motoring to look forward to. Hopefully Roadster owners will keep us informed when replacement packs are made available.
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Tesla Roadster batteries go about 400 cycle and reach 70%. However they stay at 70% for 3000 or more cycles with little capacity loss. So says Jack Rickard of EVTV, he know everything.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          Is Jack Rickard related to Yoda? The grammar you are using to describe him sure make him sound as though he is! ;-) On a more serious note, it is actually pretty typical for a battery to decline to 70% and then decline much more slowly. That is fine as long as you have a biggish pack to start with, which is the case for the Roadster. Things are not so fine when you are talking about, for instance, the Leaf, as 70% of 73 miles is 51 miles, and they are only recommended to be charged to 80% normally. In cold weather that sounds to me like range problems for most, even if they usually don't drive very far. 70% of the Tesla's 245 miles is a still respectable and very usable 171 miles.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        'Tesla Motors stated in February 2009 that the current replacement cost of the ESS is slightly under US$36,000, with an expected life span of 7 years/100,000 mi (160,000 km), and began offering owners an option to pre-purchase a battery replacement for US$12,000 today with the replacement to be delivered after seven years. The ESS is expected to retain 70% capacity after 5 years and 50,000 miles (80,000 km) of driving (10,000 miles (16,000 km) driven each year). Tesla Motors provides a 3 year/36,000 mile warranty on the Roadster with an optional 4 year/50,000 mile extended warranty available at an "additional cost" (2008 Roadster buyers received the 4/50 extension at no cost while later purchasers need to pay). A non-ESS warranty extension is available for US$5,000 and adds another 3/36 to the coverage of components, excluding the ESS, for a total of 6 years for 72,000 mi (116,000 km).[113][114]' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Roadster So the replacements should start going in around 2016. If they replace the packs with ones of the same capacity, the car should get a small performance boost as they will be lighter. Perhaps they will offer the option of having more capacity.
          Ford Future
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Electron, where are you getting the Panasonic info?
          Electron
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Yes, after a battery replacement one might actually end up with a better car, making BEVs the only cars that could actually improve with age. By 2016 even better cells should be available (Panasonic is already working on 3.4AH and 4.0AH cells) further cutting the cost of replacement packs. Battery costs are coming down quickly making speculation about future replacement cost rather futile. For instance: the $36K number from your Wikipedia reference should be wildly outdated already since Tesla's battery cost are obviously $300/KWh tops which should enable Tesla to offer a 53KWh replacement pack at $20K today and still make a decent profit.
        Electron
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Tesla had better make next gen chemistry battery packs available to Roadster owners. Since it currently uses 3.1AH batteries vs 2.1 AH batteries in the Roadster the replacement packs should have ~4800 18650 cells rather than the 6800 of the original pack making them cheaper to build. Going for more range is an option too of course. Not that there appears to be much demand for replacement packs so far though. It's going to be really interesting to get some hard data on Roadster pack performance and it might turn out it's doing remarkably well.
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