Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Batteries Batteries Batteries

It seems clear to me that although I personally think Nissan Motor Corporation is doing a stellar job with the roll-out of the Nissan LEAF — Aerovironment issues and the occasional opaqueness of the process not withstanding — one area I think they've dropped the ball with is in the Batteries.  Don't get me wrong, I think the 8-year / 100,000 mi warranty is laudable and quite right.  The biggest problem, though, is the issue of capacity loss.  Nissan has implied that egregious battery capacity losses would be covered under warranty, but has yet to define what extreme loss would constitute coverage.  They have already stated that they have an internal charge level curve that they will use to determine what is fair bleed-down of the battery, but have yet to release this curve to the buying public.  But that isn't my beef — they have a curve and will warranty beyond it and I doubt that curve would be outrageously unfavorable to the customer.

No, my beef is basically that there is no plan, even optional, for battery upgrade and replacement.  No battery insurance, like I suggested in one of the earlier Nissan surveys.  No swap-out program, like in Israel.  Now, I once calculated the battery capacity loss function on the My Nissan LEAF forum and based on some estimates by Mark Perry and in the Battery Survey, I came up with: capacity = 24 kWh × 0.83y5, i.e. a loss of 17% every 5 years.  That comes out to about 3.5% loss per year.

Now, I can't fault Nissan if they say any loss with that range is not covered under warranty since they more or less warned us as much already.  The question is, what can we do about it?  Ideally, if we're not offered Battery Insurance, we might be able to participate in a non-complimentary battery swap-out and exchange.  Indeed, it may be possible in 5 years time to make a new cell the same size as the LEAF cell but with even greater capacity than the original cell at peak.  Then, I at least might be tempted to pay a fair price to get more range and extend the life of my LEAF.  And what a nice way for the dealerships to make back some of the money they're loosing from us LEAF owners because we don't need oil changes and carburetor cleaning.  Just offer battery upgrade and replacements.  Have it in the parts shop, and make it available at any time at the customers' will.  And here's where a dealership could really offer VIP service to their RAQ customers today: if you buy with us, we'll offer 5% off your first battery upgrade.  Now that's an offer a LEAF enthusiast can take to the bank!