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June 2, 2021

Here's One Thing Nissan Didn't Want You To Know About The LEAF

Range anxiety is often the first issue that comes to mind when talking about Electric Vehicles or EVs. It’s for that reason why car manufacturers often tout two things: quick charging capability and long range. Unfortunately, there’s one elephant in the room that almost no car manufacturer wants to talk about; one that can potentially become problematic for EV owners in the long run: heat.

Internal combustion engines run hot—they lose up to 75 percent of their total energy to heat. While EVs are relatively efficient, the energy lost to heat is not zero. Because the battery cells generate or dispel energy, ultimately, heat will be generated too. This is true for all EVs—whether they’re being charged, or being driven.

Why is it important to avoid excessive heat? A battery can be damaged when it gets hot, especially if this happens frequently and for prolonged durations. This damage results in reduced ability of the cells to retain a charge, reduced energy capacity, and an overall shorter service life.

This is why most EVs come with an active thermal management system—think a radiator for a gasoline- or diesel-powered car; only in the case of EVs, they’re there to cool the battery pack. In the most sophisticated cases, they use liquid cooling. In the simplest, they use fans and ducts. Oddly, in the case of the Nissan LEAF, it has none.

This presents a challenge to would-be LEAF owners. If the long payback period wasn’t problematic enough, the Philippines’ high ambient temperatures can potentially limit its charging capability. With no active thermal management to speak of, Nissan has come up with a workaround to preserve the on-board lithium-ion batteries: charge throttling. Just as how the iPhone can optimize battery charging to reduce battery wear-and-tear, the LEAF can do the same.

Unfortunately, for LEAF owners, this fail-safe mode kicks in when the battery pack hits 50 degrees Celsius. In some cases, even when it’s plugged into a fast charger, the amount of electricity that flows in is below 15 kW. This significantly increases the charge times—more than the promised 40 to 60-minute charge time.

And speaking of fast charging, this can actually compound the problem because these chargers actually generate more heat in the battery pack. It’s for this reason why Nissan actively recommends to LEAF owners to charge their cars at home (at the end of the day) rather than juicing up at a charging station.

While Nissan touts the LEAF as an all-rounder, the absence of any sort of active thermal management subtly points out that it’s designed more as an urban runabout. And that’s not problematic per se. For as long as buyers have set their expectations, it’s a great, world-renowned EV. It is, however, not without its limitations and Nissan should have quickly pointed that out too, especially if they want to convince people to go electric now, or in the near future.

For Nissan Philippnes’ part, they’ve issued the following statement:
The Nissan LEAF can perform well in the Philippines’ climate, and can perform at its best so long as it is not exposed to extreme temperatures for extended periods. Depending on how you use the car and its usage environment, the aging level of the battery will vary. Nissan offers an 8-year or 160,000 km warranty (whichever comes first), warranting a minimum state of health level of 9 bars out of 12.

With more than 500,000 LEAF vehicles sold globally since its launch in 2010, Nissan has extensive customer insight and data to direct the features we offer when introducing the New LEAF to a rapidly developing market. We know how the vast majority of our customers use their LEAF, and have designed our second-generation electric vehicle to best meet their needs. We continue to monitor driving patterns to assess the need for any change on Nissan products.

1 comment:

  1. Great insight that is mostly left out in other mainstream articles.


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