In a move designed to improve consumer confidence in its Leaf all-electric vehicle, Nissan has announced that it will repair or replace the car’s lithium-ion batteries if they fail to meet the company’s advertised performance standard. The decision to offer the extended battery warranty was prompted by concerns by a small number of Leaf owners in Arizona that their batteries were losing capacity faster than expected. Nissan says the extended warranty will apply to all Leafs sold since the model went on sale in late 2010.
Nissan spokesman Dave Reuter said that a certain amount of battery capacity loss is normal over time, but added, “We want those battery car advocates to have more confidence in their batteries.”
Under the new extended warranty, Nissan will either replace the entire battery pack, or repair one of more of the 48 battery modules if the total capacity of the lithium-ion battery pack falls below 70 percent after five years or 60,000 miles.
The automaker says Leaf owners can easily tell if the battery capacity has fallen below 70 percent by observing the charge capacity indicator on the vehicle’s instrument panel.
Although lithium-ion batteries car batteries have generally performed as well, or better than expected, their long-term dependability remains a hotly-debated topic among industry experts and consumers alike.
Reuter says that a variety of factors can affect batter life. These factors include the use of quick chargers, extended driving and ambient temperature. Excessive cold or hot ambient temperatures, like those experienced by the Leaf owners in Arizona, can significantly shorten batter life. Based on its research, however, Nissan says that Leaf batteries should maintain 76 percent of their battery capacity in such extreme climates.
The Leaf, with its air-cooled battery pack, is more susceptible to the effects of extreme ambient temperatures than the Toyota RAV-4 EV and Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid; both of which use more expensive and complex liquid-cooled battery systems. Nissan has no plans to convert to the liquid-cooled model.
Although U.S. demand for the Leaf remained low during the first three quarters, there was an uptick in sales during the fourth quarter. To boost sales in its home market, Nissan recently began selling a base model Leaf in Japan, and is expected to begin offering a similar model in the U.S. in the near future.
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