30kWh Nissan Leaf owners are being short-changed as their batteries lose capacity significantly faster than expected, according to a report by Flip The Fleet, a New Zealand-based “citizen science” project.
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There are about 600 30kWh Leafs on the road, with an estimated 180 more either in transit or for sale in dealer yards. They make up 12% of all electric vehicles (EVs) in New Zealand.
Through data taken from 82 New Zealand owners, Flip The Fleet has found the average battery in a 2-year-old 30kWh Nissan Leaf loses 10% of its capacity every year. This is more than 3 times the loss measured in the similar, but smaller capacity, 24kWh Leaf. The capacity of the 30kWh battery reduces to 85% in cars just 2.1 years old, compared to 4.6 years for cars with the smaller battery.
We think owners with cars exhibiting this problem have a case for recourse under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). It states goods must be of “acceptable quality” and must do what they are meant to do. For buyers who made it clear the extra range of the 30kWh was a key factor at the time of purchase, the CGA case is even stronger. The act states goods must be fit for a particular purpose that you asked about.
If your vehicle’s affected, you can go back to the dealer who sold the car (also likely to be the importer) and ask for a remedy. If the problem can’t be fixed, you could claim compensation for any drop in value, or even reject the car for a refund.
As the manufacturer, Nissan also has responsibilities under the CGA and you can choose to claim compensation from the company for loss in value of your car. This option is useful if there’s a problem with the dealer – it’s difficult to deal with or has shut up shop.
All rechargeable batteries degrade and lose capacity over time – your mobile phone battery charge doesn’t last as long when it gets older. EVs are no different. The degradation seen in the 24kWh Leaf battery matches the prediction made by Nissan of 80% capacity remaining at 5 years. However, the 30kWh behaviour isn’t typical. These cars are predicted on average to reach Nissan’s 5-year battery health prediction in just 2.5 years.
For a 30kWh owner, the loss equates to a driving range reduction of 15km every year. Potential owners cite range as the main concern about EVs. It’s likely many people chose the 30kWh car because of its extra range. The US Environmental Protection Agency says, when new, the 30kWh Leaf will cover 172km on a full charge compared to 135km for the 24kWh model.
If the trend shown in the Flip The Fleet data continues, and the report suggests the rate of loss in the 30kWh model increases as they get older, the average 3-and-a-half-year-old 30kWh model will have no more driving range that its lower-capacity sibling of the same age. Both will cover 120km on a full charge.
30kWh models sell for $6000 more than similar 24kWh models. That premium will be eroded in just 3-and-a-half years and owners will be left with a car that continues to lose capacity at a much higher rate. It will need a new battery sooner than expected to remain usable and will lose resale value.
At time of publication, Nissan had yet to respond, despite Flip The Fleet advising it of the findings weeks ago.
All 30kWh Leafs in New Zealand are used-imports (mostly from Japan or the UK). Nissan New Zealand only offers a warranty on vehicles bought new in New Zealand. Overseas, Nissan offers a battery replacement warranty for the 30kWh Leaf where there is a loss of 4 bars on the dashboard (equivalent to about 60 to 65% battery capacity) within 8 years or 160,000km. Flip the Fleet data, assuming the trend continues, show this threshold for warranty replacement would be met after less than 4 years.
Nissan doesn’t offer replacement battery packs in New Zealand. However, it does have a network of “Zero Emission” certified dealers, which used to sell the 24kWh Leaf new, who could perform battery upgrades should Nissan make them available.
So what should owners of 30kWh Leafs do? We’ve got an FAQ, below, to help. If you’re a Consumer NZ member, you can also contact our advisers for help.
From the Leaf manual: “Nissan estimates that battery capacity will be approximately 80% of original capacity after five years, although this is only an estimate, and this percentage may vary (and could be significantly lower) depending on individual vehicle and Li-ion battery usage.” The battery still has a life even when it’s well below 80% capacity, but how useful it is depends on the range required by each owner. The 30kWh Leaf’s currently observed loss of capacity is more rapid than Nissan’s expectation, hence the range may continue to reduce faster than expected.
The easiest way is to check the dashboard display, which has an outer thin scale representing battery “State of Health (SoH)”.
SoH is the condition of a battery compared to its ideal (new) condition. A new Leaf has 12 bars; in the example pictured, the Leaf has nine bars remaining. The capacity bars are not linear. The first bar disappears when the battery SoH reduces to about 80%, while four bars lost equates to a SoH of 60 to 65%.
The 30kwh Nissan Leaf was never sold new in New Zealand. Nissan New Zealand only offers a warranty on vehicles bought new in New Zealand from a Nissan dealer.
Overseas, Nissan offers a battery replacement warranty for the 30kWh Leaf where there is a loss of four bars on the dashboard (equivalent to 60 to 65% SoH) within eight years or 160,000km. Nissan New Zealand says the warranty in the country of origin (Japan or the UK for most 30kWh Leafs imported here) is not valid in New Zealand.
Your vehicle may be covered by a warranty supplied by the motor trader you purchased the car from.
We think owners with cars exhibiting this problem have a case under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), as long as they bought the car from a trader (and not through a private sale).
The act states goods must be of “acceptable quality”. For buyers who made it clear the extra range of the 30kWh was a key factor at the time of purchase their case is even stronger, the act states goods must be fit for a particular purpose that you asked about.
Consumer NZ members can contact our Advice Line for assistance.
The Fair Trading Act (FTA) protects you from being misled by retailers, prohibiting unsubstantiated claims, and deceptive conduct. It covers claims about products before they’re bought, while the CGA covers the quality of products after they are bought. As it is highly unlikely the dealer selling the car knew about this problem at the time of sale, the FTA won’t apply. However, dealers selling 30kWh Leaf cars after the report became public (16 March) should disclose this potential problem.
If your car’s battery degrades considerably and the driving range and usability of your car reduce, the resale value will be lower than you might have expected when you bought it. You may also need to pay for an additional replacement battery, or accept a shorter usable life for the car.
Nissan New Zealand does not offer replacement battery packs for the 30kWh Leaf (it does offer replacement batteries for the 24kWh Leafs it sold new in New Zealand). A replacement 30kWh battery pack can be purchased and fitted in Japan for about ¥700,000 (NZ$9000).
There is a limited supply of used 24kWh packs in New Zealand, sourced from wrecked cars. Some of these can be fitted to 30kWh Leafs with relative ease. Individual replacement modules from 30kWh battery packs are available through some specialist EV repairers.
Nissan New Zealand has a nationwide network of “Zero Emission” certified dealers who could perform battery upgrades should Nissan New Zealand make batteries available.
No. All EV batteries lose capacity over time (as will all rechargeable batteries, such as those in mobile phones and laptops). But the reported levels of capacity loss on the 30kWh Leaf model appear to exceed those expected by Nissan. The 24kWh Leaf is performing as expected. Other EV models are showing lower loss of battery capacity.
Flip the Fleet is a citizen science project. It aims to “accelerate uptake in electric vehicles in New Zealand”. EV owners provide monthly records on their car’s distance travelled, efficiency, charging patterns and average speed. These data are available to anyone who signs up to the project. As of 14 March, 645 EV drivers have signed up to contribute data since the testing phase of the project began in July 2016, followed by a public launch in 2017. Twenty-two models of EVs provide monthly data, of which 73% are Nissan Leafs.
This information is available to Consumer members only.