After one year, how my new battery is wearing

The original battery in my 2011 LEAF was worn enough to be replaced at 88,000 miles and I did end up replacing it at 99,000 miles. That was towards the end of 2016, 15 months later I checked to see how is the battery holding up.

Chart of how the LEAF battery has worn

There is some wear, about 7% reduction in total capacity since I purchased the new battery. The chart above shows the battery capacity expressed as Ampere Hours since May 2013 when I started keeping records until today. Prior to May 2013 there was no way for me to measure the battery capacity until I purchased a new app called LEAF Spy Pro. You can see where I replaced the battery in December 2016 when there is a big jump in the battery capacity.

No Wear for first 226 days / 8 months.

Lithium Ion batteries typically lose capacity at a faster rate when new and then one can expect the rate of loss to taper off as it ages. The odd thing about the new LEAF battery is that it lost no capacity for the first 8 months. This is highly unusual and one can only speculate why this is. I’m sure Nissan would not comment on the inner workings of their battery as it is proprietary.

My theory is that Nissan have added extra “hidden” capacity to the new battery packs and the battery management system (BMS) makes capacity available from the hidden reserve when needed, until there is no reserve left after which its business as usual.

Accelerated wear after first 8 months.

The old battery lost about 6% per year over its lifespan. The new battery has lost 4.7 ampere hours of capacity which is a rate of 4.3% per year. Sounds better than the old battery. However if I measure the rate of loss from 8 months of age until today the battery is losing capacity at a rate of 9% per year. Whoa!

This is partly explained since the period from 7/17/17 until 2/13/18 includes July and August the two hottest months of the year. Heat is not a friend of lithium ion batteries. So to be fair I compared a similar period from 7/1/13 until 2/1/14, however during the same hot months the old battery lost capacity at an annual rate of only 4%.  Hmmm, that does not sound good for the new battery.

There are many factors that contribute to battery wear.

I can only compare statistics for my new and old batteries which were used at different times and subject to different use patterns. While heat is major contributor to lithium ion battery wear, driving speed, acceleration and rapid charging can have a significant impact as well. I suspect that higher percentage of interstate driving in recent years has contributed to additional wear on the new battery.

No Better no worse

I don’t think it is fair to say the new battery technology is worse based on a sample of one and extrapolating wear rates, however it is fair to say the new battery is not any better than the old.

When I have had the new battery for 20 months I will be able to calculate a full year of continuous wear since the battery started to lose capacity at the age of 8 months.

Comparison to other electric vehicles

Competitive EV’s from Tesla and GM appear to fairing better than Nissan EV’s with less than 5% loss after 100,000 miles of driving. The technological differentiator is that Tesla and GM use active thermal management in their battery packs. This adds extra cost and complexity to their vehicles but does appear to be very effective at preserving their batteries.

LEAF’s in Europe fair much better than the southern states of the US. This is due to the lower temperatures in Europe. Active thermal management of EV batteries is necessary in warm and hot climates.


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First “Breakdown” at 111,000 miles

The day before a two week vacation I went out to the garage to go to work and the LEAF failed to start up. It turned on but stalled half way through its start up sequence. After several attempts to start the vehicle I started to wonder about getting it to the repair shop. I couldn’t even get it in neutral to allow a tow truck to pull it out of the garage. It was a poser.

I went inside to consider my options. I soon realized that modern EV’s are like computers on wheels; a reboot often resolves computer issues, the same might work for the car. I returned to the garage, disconnected the 12 volt battery and left the car for 30 minutes.

Upon reconnecting the 12 volt battery the car started normally and drove normally. I chose to take it to the local Nissan dealer for it to be checked over. The dealer retained the car for two weeks while I was on vacation. Diagnostics revealed no fault. It started for them every day without fail and has for me since I returned. The failure to start is still an unsolved mystery. This is the first time in 111,000 miles the car has let me down in anyway, and thankfully I was able to resolve the issue myself easily enough.

I carry tools with me to disconnect the 12 volt battery in case it fails me again away from home.

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Nissan agree to refund $1,000 of my recent repair bill !!

A few weeks ago my LEAF’s onboard charger failed and I was left with a $2,581 repair bill. This is just 8 months after replacing the battery. I decided to call Nissan Consumer Affairs and ask for out of warranty assistance.

I must have caught them in a good mood, they agreed to refund me $1,000. The check is in the mail. It should take about 5 weeks to get the check, but that’s fine. I’m relieved they were able to help with the cost.

Newton Nissan were instrumental in encouraging the corporate office to help me by sharing the number of service visits I have made over the last 6 years for both my LEAF and Altima. Newton Nissan do hold the distinction of being the number one rated Nissan dealer in North America.

Thank you Mr. Nissan.

Posted in Customer Service, Electric Car, Nissan LEAF, Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments

Tesla Roadster spotted in Nashville

Tesla Roadster. Click to enlarge.

With only 2,450 Roadsters sold worldwide, it is very rare to see one in person. Anywhere. Never mind Nashville. It’s thought only 1,500 Roadsters were sold in the US. This is a collectors car for sure.

The car is tiny and very low to the ground. I don’t think I could manage to get into and out of the vehicle without help 🙂

The Tesla I saw in Nashville has Colorado tags with Stanford license plate holder. I saw one other Roadster in person while on a business trip to New England. Getting the car to Nashville must have taken some time. Roadsters do not have supercharger capability.

Roadsters were first sold in 2008 and their batteries are now getting to be old. Tesla have made available an upgraded battery pack that will boost the range of 244 miles to over 340, more than the longest range Model S which gets 315 miles. The upgrade to the battery costs $29,000. About the same price as a Model 3 after the $7,500 Federal tax credit. In a departure from Teslas’ exclusive use of Panasonic battery cells, the upgraded battery cells are made by LG Chem.

Tesla Roadster – Click to enlarge

Posted in Electric Car, SuperCharger, Tesla Roadster | 2 Comments

Another expensive out-of-warranty repair

One morning recently when I unplugged and started my vehicle I saw a warning lamp on the dashboard. I had seen this lamp once several years before after charging at a faulty public charging station. I wasn’t too concerned, the car drove fine. I power cycled the car when I got to work and the light went out and stayed out. Problem solved. That is until I tried to plug the car in to charge. It refused to charge even after several attempts.

Error codes from my LEAF

I have a program called LEAFSpyPro that can read the diagnostics codes from the cars computer. I saw 21 problem codes. Uh-Oh I thought, last time this light came on I got just two. With enough miles left to get me back home and onto the Nissan dealer I decided to drop the car off for repair after work.

When I got to the dealer, I shared the problem and showed the diagnostic codes to the service advisor. He asked me if I had replaced the 12v battery. No, never, was my response. Well hopefully that’s all it would be, he spoke of several LEAFs they had worked on that refused to charge and the root cause was a weak 12v battery. However the call I received the next day was not good, the 12v battery was just fine, the fault was with the built in battery charging assembly, estimated cost to repair $2,581. Unable to charge the car and with 19 miles remaining I had little choice but to get the car fixed.

Extended Warranty, good while it lasts. When I purchased the car new I bought an extended warranty good for 8 years or 100,000 miles. The car had been very reliable and and thankfully I didn’t need to use the warranty much. Six months after the warranty expired, this happened. That’s what you call bad luck. I knew that this was a risk but reasoned with the 100,000 miles of trouble free driving and only a year to take delivery of my Tesla Model 3 it should be an acceptable risk. After all I have done all the recommended maintenance. I’ve driven plenty of other cars without a warranty, and had pretty good luck, if you maintain a car it typically is faithful.

Other components in the LEAF such as the main drive motor and the inverter are also expensive assemblies. Driving a LEAF without a warranty is a financial time bomb, there are multiple expensive components that can fail, and few shops that are trained and certified to repair these EV components. With the high voltages in an EV fixing the car yourself without the expertise could prove fatal.

Good for just 100,000 miles.

It seems clear to me now that one should only drive a LEAF with a warranty. Once it gets to 100,000 miles, the car should be traded.

Fact or Myth? EV’s are cheaper to maintain. Err that would be a myth, despite fewer moving parts, the electrical components such as Battery, Charger, Inverter and Motor are all expensive.

Update 2017-07-13 Nissan agrees to refund $1,000

Nissan Consumer Affairs were able to arrange for a $1,000 refund for this repair given that it occurred close to the battery replacement just 8 months prior. See this post.

Posted in Electric Car, Level 2 EV Charger, Newton Nissan, Nissan LEAF | 5 Comments

RAV4 EV Spotted in Nashville

RAV4 EV in Nashville!! Click to enlarge.

Seeing a RAV4 EV is much like spotting a unicorn. Especially in Tennessee.

Toyota sold just 2,492 of the second generation RAV4 EV’s in the US starting in September 2012 until the end of 2014. (A handful were sold in 2015 after production ceased in September 2014). Additionally the RAV4 EV was sold only in California as a compliance vehicle to meet the California CARB regulations. The production run was deliberately limited to 2600 vehicles. Tesla provided the battery and drivetrain for this vehicle.

The vehicle is registered to someone in Davidson County Tennessee. Where the owner gets this vehicle serviced I’m not sure. It was only sold in California so trained mechanics will not be available here locally. The vehicle was purchased at Carvana. Carvana have created themselves quite the niche in second hand EV sales. I’m pretty sure this was transported from California by Carvana to make the sale.

An electric SUV is such an obvious car to make in the US where SUV’s are very popular. Very few electric SUV’s have been made, the Tesla Model X being the most popular despite its steep price tag of over $100,000. The RAV4 EV sold for about $50,000 new and has a range of about 120 miles in extended range mode, which back in 2012 was a market leading range. Toyota still have a webpage dedicated to the RAV4 EV, which assures owners they can still get service despite the car being discontinued. A brief paragraph on the RAV4 EV is followed by advertising for the Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle, also a California only compliance vehicle.

An electric SUV powered by Tesla technology before Tesla made their SUV


Posted in Carvana, Electric Car, Tesla Model X | Tagged | 3 Comments

BMW 330e spotted in Nashville

BMW 330e spotted in Nashville. Click to enlarge

It seems hardly a day goes by without me spotting another type of electric vehicle on the streets of Nashville. Today I saw a BMW 330e plugged in at work. This car has Florida tags so may just be visiting. I’ve now seen 3 different types of BMW EV’s in Nashville, the most of any manufacturer.

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