lowest mileage LEAF battery fail ever?

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Jun 30, 2023
Can anyone claim LEAF battery degradation at even fewer miles?

I have a 2011 Nissan LEAF with 17,820 miles. The car is in nearly new condition, except for the battery. The GOM is at 7/12 bars; the SOH is 50.50%; it has 128 GIDs. Ten months ago, it had 16,392 miles, the SOH was 62.77%, and it had 173 GIDs.

In the car's entire vehicle lifespan (~13 years so far), it has had ONE quick charge and 1228 L1/L2 charges. The average miles driven between charges is 14.5 miles, so the depth of discharge was not severe (even for such a small battery).

Rightfully, the car should have been subject to a Nissan warranty replacement, but the miles driven during the warranty were small enough to defer the battery degradation until after Nissan could wash its hands of their design mistake.

The alleged $5,499 Nissan battery replacement that @BBrockman (Brian Brockman: Vice President, Nissan Communications, U.S. & Canada) trumpeted on this forum is complete vaporware IMHO. The local Nissan dealer wouldn't quote me a price over the phone, telling me that I would have to bring in the vehicle. After I did just that and they kept the vehicle for three days, they still told me there was nothing they would do and just gave me the Nissan consumer affairs phone number. The excuse I get from Nissan Customer Quality & Dealer Network Development is that there are "supply chain issues"; they are being particularly hostile to me because I didn't buy the vehicle from a dealer.

I've been collecting data during my ten months of ownership, and you can see some of it in the graphs further below. The vehicle is configured to charge to only 80%, and I try to avoid more than three dots (~20kW) of motor consumption so as to moderate the battery temperature.

Other degraded battery symptoms that I'm encountering are:

1) The car has the infamous intermittent touchy brake pedal problem where it goes from limited braking to tons of braking at lower speeds at a particular point in the brake pedal travel. (The result is herky-jerky driving in stop and go because there is too much braking, so I let ever-so-slightly off on the brake pedal, but then there is too little braking to safely stop in time, so I have to press the brake pedal a little harder again, which again gives too much braking.) The dealer bilked me to apply the NTB12-086a software update. The software update hasn't changed things significantly.
2) There is no regenerative braking (as confirmed by the energy screen information showing current battery absorption of power) until the vehicle is going less than, say, ~15 MPH. I suspect that it may be part of the cause behind #1.
3) When I infrequently try to override the timer and charge to 100%, the trend is for it to terminate earlier and earlier (as low as 85% recently).

My fingers are (wishfully?) crossed that the battery degradation slows down enough that I can get enough short journeys that it won't have been a complete waste of both: a) my money, and b) the environmental cost incurred by Nissan by building the car in the first place.
What is your typical driving pattern and what climate do you live in? Your car is something like 4700 days old, and the battery could of course be older than that. That means it's averaged something like 3.8 miles driven per day. That's not much. Did the car sit undriven for long periods of time? If so, what was the charge level when parked?

You say the average miles driven between charges is 14.5 miles. When you charged, where you charging repeatedly from, say, 75% back to 100%, or did you try to keep the max charge at 80%, which I think was an option with the earliest Leafs?

I'm not suggesting that you did anything wrong, or even suggesting that I understand enough about EVs to know if you did, but I am curious for more background information.
It was stated already, but the vehicle is configured for 80% max charge during my ownership. To elaborate, I start with 80% charge, make a trip, and then charge back to 80%. For a rare long journey, I override the timer to charge to 100% just prior to the trip, make the trip, and charge back to 80%. All the data graphed is during this period. I cannot speak to the previous owner's behavior, other than the odometer and charge counts. Climate for the vehicle's entire usage is almost certainly all in central Texas given the limited range of the vehicle.

I have written notes for most of all individual trips that I have done during ownership, but haven't gone to the hassle to type them all into a computer. I reset the economy meter at the start of every journey, and I log the date, destination (including route if relevant), vehicle-reported economy, the exact meter reading of the power fed to the home EVSE "charger" to restore the battery to the same level, and any trip conditions (rain, headlamps, A/C usage, etc.).

The longest single charge journey that I've ever done was early (May 14) in my ownership as a one-off to see how far was feasible, and that was 29 miles at 4.6miles/kwh with rain and headlamp usage. I mention the date so that it can be compared against the graph.

Typical journeys are 9 miles (3.7 to 4.7 miles/kwh) or 16 miles (3.6 to 4.4 miles/kwh).

Something that I think doesn't get anywhere near as much attention as it deserves (for EVs in general, not just the LEAF) is how much more power goes into charging versus what the vehicle claims the economy is. I was reminded of this last week whilst watching a YouTube channel that was discovering something similar. I have this data written down because I have a dedicated power meter for my EVSE "charger".

So, for example, if the vehicle says the economy was 4.1 miles/kwh and the trip was 9 miles, the owner might erroneously think the power consumed was 9/4.1 = 2.195 kwh. In reality, it was 3.0 kwh to recharge (26.8% of the power lost to cable losses, coolant pump, on-board charger efficiency, etc.). As you know, the LEAF doesn't have active cooling, so finding out so much power is lost even without those extras was an eye-opener for me.
Sorry for missing the 80% charge limit. Upon rereading more carefully it certainly looks like you're doing everything possible to treat the battery kindly. Unfortunately, your ownership has covered 300-ish days out of the car's 4700-ish day lifespan, so it seems you have a "too little, too late" scenario where significant damage was done to the battery before you acquired the car.

You have documentation that the car wasn't quick charged, but presumably no idea if it was, for example, parked for long periods of time at 100% charge in the TX heat, which is a known battery killer.

I can understand your frustration at the current state of your Leaf, but have to ask why you purchased this specific Leaf which was clearly showing signs of poor battery performance (e.g., 62.77% SOH)? Even in the degraded state, it sounds like it still works for your typical 9 or 16 mile trips, but more battery is always better.

As for the charging inefficiency you have documented, I think that's inherent to all rechargeable devices, whether you're talking about AAA batteries, cell phones, laptops, or EVs. I wonder if the percentage of "loss" grows with larger batteries/longer charge times as more heat is generated. It would be interesting to compare something like a 24 kWh Leaf with a newer EV with a much larger battery, such as the Lucid Air (118 kWh) or Rivian (180 kWh).
I'm someone who owns and has owned solid, dependable cars that are several decades old; replacement parts ensure vehicles continue working. So, the notion that it should be acceptable that a vehicle (particular a "green" one) needs to be thrown away after limited use really rubs me the wrong way.

This LEAF works for my narrow use cases as long as the battery descent bottoms out. You can see from the graph that there was considerable degradation after I purchased it, so even scanning battery information before purchase is of limited value in my experience. What is unknown is how much further the SOH and upper charge limit will fall in future.

I'm more frustrated with Nissan's (dealer and their customer affairs) shenanigans and the lack of availability of a sound battery at a sane price.

IMHO, there is a dire need for EV manufacturers to start providing at least two things:

1) battery usage history data for each vehicle to be made available at low/no cost to buyers (depth and intensity of each charge, depth and intensity of each discharge, each time period of inactivity, temperatures during all these, etc.)

2) Provide (in escrow and verified complete by independent 3rd parties) complete technical information to provide a substitute battery that can, in all aspects, interoperate with the car's electronics. This information could be protected for some period of time TBD (warranty period?), but after than time expires, it should become public information.

For legacy cars, we have things like vehicle miles, service history, motor oil analysis, etc. to gauge a used vehicle's health. It is imperfect for sure, but it is something. There is precious little equivalent currently in the EV space, at least that I'm aware of, and detailed battery usage would be a step in that direction. (As a bonus, it should provide us with feedback to gain insight into the right and wrong behavior to preserve battery life, which is of value to everyone and yet solid information is still limited.)

I too would like to see these charging inefficiencies documented and compared over vehicle models and battery age. The reasons are at least twofold:

a) Consumers should have a right to know what the overall efficiency of their vehicle is, as they are the ones footing the bill for the power. (If a claimed 40 MPG gas car always leaked 27% of its gas and was really a 29 MPG car, wouldn't customers be justifiably angry?) Manufacturers report vehicle "efficiency" without reflecting this, and this is inaccurate.

b) If decision makers are evaluating the "greenness" of a particular transport option, the "well to wheels" needs to be considered. If a particular EV is a claimed 90% efficient but loses 27% in charging a battery for that 90% efficient motor, then it is really 66% efficient and needs to be evaluated as such.
I hope some of the more knowledgeable folks around here get involved, because you're raising some interesting points. So take anything I say with a grain of salt as I have limited EV experience. I did, however, grow up with a mechanic dad so I have a good deal of ICE knowledge.

It does stink that your specific Leaf has severe battery degradation, but as I mentioned previously you had pretty solid evidence of that when you purchased it. Further, if an EV battery is seriously degraded, you might expect further or faster degradation than a comparable Leaf with no evidence of ongoing battery issues.

Imagine that I bought a Toyota Camry (or whatever ICE vehicle you consider generally reliable) with 300,000 miles and then got upset when it started having mechanical problems. I might complain that I'm replacing wheel bearings and ball joints, my transmission is slipping, and it's getting poor gas mileage and leaks oil everywhere. Was I duped by Toyota or did I make a poor buying decision?

As for your specific ideas:

1) Battery usage history - Isn't this the sort of information you get from LeafSpy? I've never used it, so I don't know exactly what it tells you. If you're thinking of something more detailed than that, how would the data be recorded? By the car? By the car communicating with Nissan databases?

I'm imagining the Congressional hearings when a certain political party discovers that the evil EVs are tracking our energy usage and trying to take our hamberders... That would be fun.

2) Replacement batteries - I'm not sure what you're asking for here. You can get a replacement battery right now if you want. You can buy a wrecked Leaf and change the battery yourself, you can provide a wrecked Leaf to one of the businesses that specialize in EV battery swaps and they'll do it, or you can get a EV battery business to source and swap a battery for you. If you have the money I pretty sure you can get someone to build you a brand new battery that fits into your Leaf.

Nissan has a decent battery warranty on the Leaf. Based on the degradation on your Leaf, it's highly likely that the original owner qualified for a free replacement battery within the warranty period.

If you're talking about locking in the cost of a battery swap for those past the warranty, I'm not sure how that would work as costs are constantly changing with supply and demand and also as technology changes. I doubt you would want to be locked into the 2011 cost of a battery swap, as it was probably significantly higher than current prices. Are you thinking of a battery life insurance policy? Would it be prorated like tire mileage warranties?

As for information about best practices for EV batteries, that information is readily available. Generally speaking, it's the same information that applies to all rechargeable batteries from cell phones to laptops. Don't get them too hot, don't keep them at 100% charge all the time, don't run them to 0% all the time, etc. I'm currently typing on a Sony laptop purchased in December 2009. The original battery still has >90% of its stated capacity. How? Sony was kind enough to provide battery management software to restrict the max charge so I leave it at 50% almost all the time as it rarely leaves my desk.

3) Charging inefficiency - Again, I'm not sure how you would convert this into a single number for easy comparison purposes. As far as I understand, it's not a constant value, as it depends on stuff like the temperature of the battery, the input source (e.g., L1, L2, or fast charger), probably even the wiring in your house and garage, the current charge in the battery, etc.

You make comparisons with a hypthetical 40 mpg ICE car, so I'm sure you know that even 40 mpg cars are incredibly inefficient. I can't remember the exact percentages off the top of my head, but only something like 30% of the energy in a gallon of gas powers the car, with the rest being output as waste heat. If you want to add in powerplant generation costs, transmission line losses, etc. for the EV then in fairness you have to add in the monumental inefficiency of fossil fuel extraction and transport for the ICE vehicle. Everything I have read has shown that on the whole EVs are more efficient than ICE vehicles, and that will only improve over time as the percentage of renewable energy inputs increases.

As you suggest, it would be great to have a single number for comparative purposes. I think that's what the miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) was supposed to do. According to our friend wikipedia, "MPGe is used by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to compare energy consumption of alternative fuel vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles, and other advanced technology vehicles with the energy consumption of conventional internal combustion vehicles rated in miles per U.S. gallon." Here's your 2011 Leaf coming in at a cool 99 MPGe. Obviously this doesn't account for transmission losses like you want, but as I hope I've outlined above that's not a clear-cut calculation and would require similar adjustments for ICE vehicles to make a fair comparison.

The pack only has a 10 year life. And the cost today to replace for our 2011 Leaf is up around 12,000 Nissan only makes the pack on order.. However your sounds like its still with in spec. mines is now down to 6 bars. at about 40 miles range,, And yes Nissan did lie to us back in 2011 about the easy and low cost battery packs they promised us.. I love my LEAF but because Nissan lied to us Early Adopters I will never buy a Nissan again. I am ready for a new pack. But Nissan Tells me 13,000 and it can take up to a year for them to make a new pack just for me. And that price does not included install.