The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
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    Is Arizona's Heat Wilting the Leaf?

    In response to a The Truth About Cars article on the Volt, one commenter, then two, claimed that Leaf sales have fallen flat while the Volt is selling comparatively well. To my eyes, the Leaf is as sound a car as the Volt, so I wondered if range anxiety was keeping buyers away from the EV.

    On Father's Day, a Bloomberg headline read, Nissan Sees Leaf Sales Doubling as Factory Begins Production, which would seem to contradict the TTAC commenters, but once past the headline, I read:

    Leaf sales have dropped the past two months, trailing General Motors Co. (GM)’s rechargeable Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s plug-in Prius in May. Volt deliveries more than tripled to 1,680 units in May, while Leaf sales fell 55 percent to 510. The Leaf is made in a single plant in Japan.

    “We’ve had to fulfill demand from one plant globally,” Krueger said. “Once we localize it in December, the second half of the fiscal year is when we’ll see most of the supply, demand be available.”

    The implication is that Nissan feels there are many more eager buyers than Leafs for sale, so they just have to increase supply to meet demand.

    In, Nissan Leaf's U.S. sales may jump after production starts here the LA Times notes that the car has been selling well for yen in Japan and for euros in Great Britain and with substantial incentives in Norway:

    Nissan still has big plans for the Leaf in the U.S.  The company believes it will sell about 20,000 vehicles in the U.S. this year, though it will really have to ramp up sales in the second half of the year to reach that target.

    Nissan is nearing completion of a massive upgrade to its factory complex outside of Nashville that will allow it to build both the battery pack for the Leaf and the car itself domestically near year-end. Once the company starts building Leafs in dollars, the whole marketing and sales approach the Nissan has pursued in U.S. will change ...

    But while Nissan sees good times for the Leaf, they will have to deal with a battery problem in hot, hot Southwest states. I've been concerned about the cold-weather performance of battery electric vehicles, but in 2011 Nissan Leaf Battery Capacity Loss, Green Car Reports, and their commenters, suggest that intense heat from sun-baked pavement is even harder on batteries:

    Just under a month ago, we reported a few cases in which owners of 2011 Nissan Leafs had noticed the first of twelve lights on their car’s battery capacity gauge had switched off, indicating a marked deterioration in battery capacity after just one year.  ... A twelve-bar gauge to the right of the battery charge indicator, the battery capacity gauge is designed to give an at-a-glance indication of battery capacity and health.

    As time passes and the battery ages, its ability to hold charge diminishes, meaning each full charge results in a slightly reduced range compared to when the car was new.

    With time, the capacity gauge slowly drops, representing that drop in capacity.

    When we originally reported the story, the affected cars -- all in Arizona -- experienced the loss of the first battery capacity gauge between 13,633 miles and 17,000 miles.

    Nissan claims there are only five cars and that the depletion curve will flatten out anyway, but commenter Dave Rees isn't reassured:

    There's a huge thread on discussing this. There's at least 10 people who have reported that they've lost a capacity bar, a ~15% loss in capacity in a year or less. All of them so far are in Arizona.

    Many others have reported a loss of capacity of around 10% - typically in warmer areas such as Texas or southern California.

    The highest mileage LEAF (TaylorSFGuy) charges to 100% twice a day and has probably 40k miles on his LEAF so far but doesn't report any significant capacity loss. He is in Seattle. Others in Seattle also report that their battery appears to be like new.

    All those AZ owners must be kicking themselves for not leasing instead of buying right about now...

    Leaf Owner Brian Keez comments:

    I know Phoenix in the summer. On the average 100+ degree summer day, the asphalt is between 150-170 degrees. The 2011 Nissan LEAF manual states “Do not expose a vehicle to ambient temperatures above 120degF (49degC) for over 24 hours.” The battery is right on top of that.

    And Stoaty Marmot notes:

    There are now reports on of 12 Leafs that lost one capacity bar and 2 Leafs that lost two capacity bars. One Leaf is in Texas, the other 13 are in Arizona. One has to assume this is the tip of the iceberg, since most owners probably don't post on the mynissanleaf.

    It is probably much safer to park your Leaf indoors, or at least in the shade, but as with Tesla, we see that when faced with unanticipated EV problems, Nissan simply advises owners not to abuse their batteries.

    “We can confirm that the state of charge[sic] is depicted as a non-linear scale but are not able to confirm the specific totals that each ‘bar’ represents,” Nissan’s official statement says. “Battery life is contingent upon many variables related to driving habits and conditions. We are confident that if owners care for their vehicles properly, they will experience many years of enjoyable driving!”


    I had a summer job working at a mine in La Canada just outside of Tucson in 1982. I commuted to work from Tucson where I had an apartment.

    One day I left some cassettes in the backseat of my car. I'd purchased them the night before at Tower Records. I never got to hear those particular Eagles tapes though, because while I was working in the lab that day, they melted!

    • I hear some guys on bikes got killed.
    • Also, diesel now officially causes cancer.
    • And fracking for oil is working out dandy. 

    Just thought those news items worthy of coverage as well.

    Oh yeah. Not sure you saw GM's battery announcement. Good news. They rejigged the chemistry in the Volt's battery, and so next year, 2013 models, with the same exact weight and same cost, it'll get 8% more all-electric miles per charge. Imagine that. Progress. 

    Also, Volt sales are way up - and, the Plug-In Prius is the 3rd fastest selling car in the US this Spring. Wooo!

    Might want to check out the performance of the Volt as well. Me, I like to avoid anecdote, and there's a summary stats site that's pretyty great. It covers 1,135 of the actual owners of Volts (about 15,000 in all now) with the On-Star system automatically recording and publishing their numbers (and more daily.) Here:

    Pull up the median driver - so we get both the hypermilers and the idiots out of the way - and we see they're getting 174 miles per gallon of liquid gasoline. Also, these everyday drivers are getting 80% of their total mileage delivered through electricity, rather than gas. Pretty great when you consider how many critics thought the 35-45 mile all-electric range wasn't enough.

    As for Nissan, I've said this a few times. They decided to try and get away without putting a thermal management system on their batteries. Thus, they'll lose capacity more quickly, and the company will end up replacing them sooner. Bad call from Ghosn, but he wanted to get out ahead of the Volt. So it goes. 

    So if you have that kindof cash kicking around, get a Volt or - probably better - a Plug-In Prius. Those things are genius. NO range anxiety, because you have a gas tank and a gas engine right with you. And yet, you can get 80% of your miles (Volt) or 60% (PIP) through electricity. 


    I hear some guys on bikes got killed

    And I recently read some guys on bikes are killers! Just sayin' cheeky

    Just thought those news items worthy of coverage as well.

    Then cover them.

    Happy to cover them.

    As soon as you start giving equal time to each breakdown and recall for conventional gas and diesel-using car... as you presently give to 10 guys whose batteries lost 15% of their capacity.

    It's like battery fires. There are tens of thousands of gasoline-powered cars which catch fire each year in the US. The Volt has one catch fire during testing, and it ate headlines for months.

    The selection of items to cover, while absolutely one's right, also reveals one's priorities, values, worldview. And on the issue of green cars, your \ selection lines up very solidly alongside two types of thinkers - the Stone Agers who believe we need to completely dump the car and go biking; and... the Rush Limbaugh types.


    Meanwhile, if the US shifted to the Volt, it would basically eliminate oil imports, while slashing greenhouse gas emissions. I'm down with that.


    I defended the Volt against the fire story because it was bogus. But if Nissan is going to walk away from a battery problem, it affects my opinion of their vehicle. 

    From what I read, Nissan - like most companies using batteries - knows, and has told buyers, that the battery will decline somewhat over time. There has been lots of debate about whether it will tend to fall a bit early on, in a step-change, and then level off for a slower decline... or whether it will be linear over time... or slow at the start and then sharper over time. I've tended to believe you'll get an early drop, as the battery takes a real-world whack. But whatever the nature of the curve, Nissan has told owners they should expect a decline over time, and 10%-20% is the right amount.

    Now.... IF the battery decline continues to 20%, 30% and so on, or the batteries brick entirely, then Nissan will, I have absolutely no doubt, step in and replace them. If not, they will utterly blow their market, bury themselves in court, and cost themselves billions as the new factory and supply lines they've established go for nought. I can't see them doing that.

    On the other hand, if they act too soon, and formally announce that there's a problem, then they're opening the door to God's own hellstorm. I don't know if you've noticed, but GM has been absolutely hammered because it had a battery under testing catch fire. They became the post boy for auto hatred of the Right, and in an election year, to take up that torch could be a deathknell. It cost GM and the Volt a HUGE amount, that one fire. Not just in replacement and repair costs, but in bad PR, in factory closures, etc.

    Those dumb Rightwing assholes, with their frothing madness, took an AMERICAN success story, and spiked it. The Volt being the grand attempt by the US Big 3 to reclaim the green halo from Toyota, and they pissed it away. And guess what - lookie lookie! - Toyota's back selling HUGE numbers of Priuses, Prius Plug-Ins, and the other two new Prius "family" members. Thank you, RightWing Madmen.

    So there's nothing rational about this right now. Nissan will own it, if it's truly a serious problem. There's no choice. But no way on earth do they want to even say this is a problem too early. Because as soon as they do own it, even if it appears to be a manageable problem, look out - because the RW will come braying about Obama's senseless, unworkable, mad electric vehicle give-aways. When it's one thing I give him credit for.

    Nissan needs to run like crazy, right now, behind the scenes, to check out the data from their cars, especially in Arizona, and then find a way to manage it, as much as possible, behind the scenes. Because out here under the hot political sun, there are madmen afoot. 


    ... which is why I posted the blog.

    NASA has an interesting 286 paper on Extreme Environment Technologies for Future Space Science Missions,  published in 2007, which includes lots of interesting problems with electronics, cooling of batteries and survival of spacecraft and planetary probes in exteme environments.

    Arizona doesn't yet come close to Venus for heat (hahaha), but some of the research done by NASA could aid electric car battery technology.

    From NASA:

    Venus - sulfuric acid clouds, missions to date surface lifetimes of two hours - temperatures of 482 degrees C (900 F), pressure = 92 BAR (92 x pressure at sea level on earth)

    Batteries for Venus and other hot environments:

    Longer–range possibilities include a primary battery concept from JPL using a calcium (Ca) metal anode, nickel–fluoride (NiF2) cathode, and fluoride–ion based solid–state electrolyte. Not having to cool the batteries will significantly lower the thermal load in a space mission, and if the battery can be moved outside the temperature– controlled housing, the size of the enclosure can be reduced.

    To meet the needs of Roadmap missions, NASA should consider the following investments in high–temperature energy storage:

    1. Characterize the performance and stability of existing primary batteries at high temperatures
    (500.C) and if a promising candidate is found, select it for advanced development;
    2. Develop an intermediate–temperature secondary battery (250.C) based on current  lithium ion technology:and
    3. Select the most successful components and create a flight–qualifiable primary and secondary battery for the 250–500.C performance range.

    For those with a scientific bent the PDF is on this page: NASA Extreme Environment Technologies

    More Nissan Leaf Battery Loss, Nissan Doesn’t Blink

    ... we contacted Nissan again, this time to ask if it had anything to add to its previous statement, and if it would advise owners to visit their local dealer if worried.

    “Our original statement still applies to the questions you’re asking,” our contact at Nissan reiterated. “If the car is treated as outlined in the owner’s manual, you can expect 80 percent of the battery capacity after 5 years. Variables including driving conditions and habits could make that number higher or lower.”

    By our math, there are currently no more than 20 Nissan Leafs we’re aware of at the time of writing that have experienced any capacity loss. Most, but not all are in Arizona, with the quickest example of battery capacity loss appearing after just 9 months of ownership.

    Admittedly, that’s a small number compared to the total number of Leafs now on the road of the U.S., but is likely to be of little comfort to those Leaf owners who live in warmer climates like Texas, Southern California and Arizona.

    On the MyNissanLeaf discussion board, owners say temperatures inside their garages can reach 100 degF, and they are wondering if batteries are getting damaged sitting outside on dealer lots.

    One commenter:

    It is sad to see Nissan stonewalling about this developing problem for cars in very hot climates. I hope they can figure out what to do quickly to minimize any damage to the Leaf brand. When GM had bad publicity for a non-problem (Volt fire), they got in front of the issue by offering to buy back the Volt of anyone who was concerned. The problem melted away and now the Volt is selling very well. Hiding behind that vague statement isn't going to fool the Leaf supporters (including myself), and they are the ones who have been most bullish about the Leaf. By way of disclosure, I live near the coast in Los Angeles and estimate about 5% capacity loss in my first year based on Gid-meter readings. I love my Leaf and am glad I bought one.

    How Long Will Your Electric Car Battery Last? It Depends Where You Live

    ... how long can we realistically expect electric car battery packs to last?

    The answer, it turns out, depends on where you live, and how the battery is cooled within your car.

    According to the U.S. Department Of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and Pike Research, where you’re based in the U.S. can vary battery life as much as five years.

    In a blog post last week, Pike Research battery specialist John Gartner detailed that electric car lithium ion battery packs perform their best, and last longer, if they are kept at temperatures between -10 and +30 degrees Celsius (14-86 degrees Fahrenheit).

    At lower temperatures, Gartner says, battery packs cannot provide full power. Get hotter than 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and most batteries suffer premature capacity loss.  ...

    If you live in a state where regular summer temperatures go above 90 degrees, you’re better off buying a plug-in car with a liquid-cooled battery pack.

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