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Are Air-Cooled Batteries Hurting Nissan Leaf Range?

A test of driving range by Nissan Leaf owners seeks to find out if the electric car’s battery capacity is being negatively affected by hot temperatures.

The Nissan Leaf’s 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack relies on air cooling, rather than a more complex liquid-cooling system. Credit: Nissan

For months, Nissan Leaf owners in Arizona have complained about degrading battery capacity from high heat. Now, a group of Leaf owners have performed a test that appears to add credence to those claims.

A group of Nissan Leaf owners on Saturday performed a controlled range test in Phoenix to measure how far 12 of the electric sedans can go compared to the car’s new battery range. The data, published yesterday on the EV enthusiast site Inside EVs, show significant loss of range for many of the cars tested. They were model year 2011 and 2012 Leafs.

The range loss is due to the loss in battery capacity and not only a dashboard instrumentation problem, as Nissan has told drivers, says Tony Williams, a Leaf owner who collected the data. “A significant percentage (of affected Leaf owners) have owned electric vehicles prior to the Leaf, and many, if not most of those who have traded their faulty Leaf have gotten another electric powered car, like the GM Volt, and like me, another LEAF,” he wrote.

The battery capacity complaints, which are documented in detail on driver forms, appear to be centered in places with hot climates, such as Arizona and Texas.

It’s well known that temperature extremes—either very hot or very cold–degrade batteries, along with other factors such as driving and charging patterns. (Here are some tips on how to improve battery life for people who live in hot climates.) The actual range of an electric vehicle will be affected by topography and the interior electric load, such as air conditioning and heat.
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