2018 Nissan Leaf is a stopgap electric car

Nissan unveils electric ecosystem at Nissan Futures 3.0

Last year, I wrote an article about the new generation Nissan Leaf and the role it will play in the car market. In the article I explained why I think that the 2019 Nissan Leaf will be the real deal and why BMW should be worried.

Unfortunately, the same thinking doesn’t apply to the current model year. The 2018 Nissan Leaf is just a stopgap until the no-compromise 2019 model year arrives.

I’ll proceed to explain why…

 

Nowadays, we get higher energy density battery cells mostly by adding more nickel to the cathodes and the NCM 622/811 cathodes are clear examples of this. However, nickel-rich cathodes have a downside, they have less thermal stability.

 

Thermal stability vs discharge capacity in NCM cathodes

 

With less thermal stability, thermal runaway occurs at lower temperatures and it becomes more important to have a TMS (Thermal Management System) to protect the battery and assure that it operates at a comfortable temperature. However, as you already know, the Nissan Leaf still lacks a TMS and this is a problem, specially now that it has NCM 622 battery cells.

 

Remember that Nissan no longer owns the battery cell maker AESC and can no longer push its battery packs to the limits and expect free replacements under warranty when things get bad. Now to be eligible for warranty Nissan has to comply with more demanding requirements from the – now independent – battery cell maker.

Since the Leaf’s battery pack isn’t protected by a TMS, now the newly independent battery cell maker AESC demands – for warranty purposes – that the BMS (Battery Management System) becomes “overprotective” and has to step in frequently and protect the battery when temperatures get high – by limiting the charge/discharge rate. Therefore we can expect frequent very low DC charging rates in the 2018 Nissan Leaf…

Imagine the battery as a CPU and the TMS as a cooler, if you’re not using a cooler you can’t overclock the CPU to get its best performance. You might even have to underclock the CPU to prevent it from burning…

 

James from the Electrified Journeys Japan YouTube channel is a Nissan Leaf fan and was one of the first persons to test the 2018 Nissan Leaf in Japan. He already shared his concerns about this topic multiple times in some of his videos such as the one below.

 

 

Initially, before its launch, the 2018 Nissan Leaf was advertised as being able to fast charge from 0 to 80 % in just 40 minutes. Then, more recently, Nissan started advertising the charging time as something between 40 and 60 minutes.

I think that by summertime, we’ll see Nissan saying that it’ll “fast” charge in roughly 2 hours at 23 kW like we see in the video below shared on Twitter by Ecocars.

 

 

Anyway, if you have any interest in this topic there is an ongoing discussion at SpeakEV forum that you’ll probably find interesting.

 

Finally, to make things clear, I’m not saying that the 2018 Nissan Leaf is a bad electric car, it isn’t. It has more range, looks nice (like a bigger Nissan Micra that I like so much) and is much safer than the outgoing model.

However, Nissan should be honest about what they’re selling. Some buyers are expecting to use fast charging regularly and it’ll be a problem in this particular electric car. Nissan should under-promise and over-deliver by saying that the Leaf can “fast” charge at 22 kW or more, so that buyers can have nice surprises instead of disappointments. The Renault Zoe was the best selling electric car in Europe for many years and it wasn’t the lack of super fast charging that undermined it – unlike many other things like mandatory battery rental or bad customer service…

 

Summing up, if you don’t plan to fast charge regularly nor you live in a hot region, the 2018 Nissan Leaf is a good electric car to buy – although a bit expensive for a stopgap car -, otherwise, wait a bit more for the next model year. The 2019 Nissan Leaf will be almost perfect. Trust me 😉

 

What do you think? Are you worried? Or are you just waiting to get the 2018 Nissan Leaf at a lower price, when summer discounts become available?

This Post Has 33 Comments

  1. That 22kW charging i think something was wrong with the charger. It shouldn’t be that low when battery temperature is that low and outside temp minus 1.

    I think it will be similar to the old leafs. 1 or 2 repeated rapid charging sessions will give 40-45kW charging but then the speed will taper off. We’ll see when more tests come out. Right now I think your conclusions are too rash.

    1. I wish that was the case, unfortunately it isn’t. I have enough data now to back my conclusions.

    2. I have see charge rate below 20 kW on the new LEAF when the battery is warm, so I do not think the charger was the issue. I have tested it at temperature around freezing.

  2. I am glad that I went for the Ioniq. Had a charging session with 77 kW average today :). 180.000 km and 8 years warranty on the battery.

    1. Thanks for sharing it, I’m writing an article about it right now.

  3. May I suggest you revisit the contrast and possibly font-size/line-height in your page? The text is FAR too light – it completely recedes on the page, making it hard for the reader to follow along. The line-height is also set too high – consider 1.4 instead of 1.8; it’s well known large gaps between lines make reading far harder. There are other things, like using either line height (2.5!) or margins, but not both, larger font-sizes for the body text and smaller for comments, perhaps a smaller h3 or moving comment headers to h4…it’s really hard for my eye to target important things (like body content and comments) over less-important things (comment titles, random colors)

    1. I’m in the middle of changing the theme. I appreciate your suggestions and hope you find it better now. Thanks.

  4. At first this looks rather disappointing but, come to think of it, who didn’t know already that this Leaf would be exactly that? A stopgap? It’s just that now we are beginning to see data that confirms our expectations. Mind you, I mean as a real car for one car families. As a second car that does a lot of km but stays at home when time comes to go on holiday, er, well, it could be a little bit cheaper. Otherwise perfect.

  5. Hi,

    I can confirm this as well. I have my new 2018 2.zero edition Leaf since 17th March now and have driven nearly 700km already in the past 3 days. I wrote everything down (ok not everything yet but I will 😉 in my German blog. There are Leaf Spy and dashboard images as well for those who can’t read it otherwise, not sure how well Google translate works for this.

    I have initially driven ~200km mostly highway with 110-120km/h (display, adjust -10km/h for GPS speed),and then did the first DC quickcharge. The battery got really warm. Then I did a high speed test (144km/h =133km/h GPS) for ~102km and got the “EV system too hot” warning about 15km before my destination.

    I did some high speed driving with as well.

  6. Very interesting post, thanks Pedro. I suppose Nissan was going for maximum advertised kwh and maximum advertised range with this version, maybe banking on the fact that many buyers won’t be as aware of what a TMS is and how DC fast charging works. If they see that there are 50kw chargers, many might still think they can charge at 50 kw, not understanding the temperature and SOC tapering affect it as well.

    If Nissan had put a TMS in this version as well, maybe they couldn’t have fit as many cells in it? Then although it might be able to charge at 70kw/2C, they would only be able to advertise a 36kwh vehicle that could only go just over 200km, which doesn’t sound like nearly as good, especially since the cost would go up because of the TMS system.

    Then again, I suspect a liquid based TMS might go in the empty space that the currently have between the cells, so they might not reduce the capacity to fit it in.

    And how much does a TMS really cost? I can’t imagine it would be that much.

    It’ll be interesting to see how much sales drop when they announce the 2019 version.

  7. Ioniq in USA has LIFETIME battery warranty! & it’s free replacement, not pro-rated (according to the tech rep I asked). I’m a bit curious how they determine when replacement is necessary but that may not really matter with the average driver using much less than half the battery’s capacity on a daily basis:
    – At that low depth of discharge, the battery will last a LONG time
    – If they don’t replace the battery until it reaches half capacity, it will still go much further than the average daily drive.

  8. Me parece realmente preocupante y denunciable “Me extraña que a día de hoy no le esten cayendo denuncias a Nissan por esta chapuza” que a 133km/h de marcador te salte la alarma por sobretemperatura de batería es de traca. Esto seria como si en un termico a 130km/h te saltara una alarma para que bajaras de velocidad por riesgo de sobrecalentamiento y esto durante toda la vida util del vehiculo. No me sorprende las chapuzas de Nissan en sus electricos pero esta es de auténtico escandalo. Hoja yo de usted devolveria su Leaf de 40kwh de batería rapido y si Nissan se negara iniciar proceso de denuncia por fraude. Lo más dantesco de todo es que Nissan ya ha tenido bastantes problemas con los anteriores Leaf por baterías que se degradan rapidamente por no llevar su correspondiente sistema de refrigeración y en pleno 2018 vuelven a hacer lo mismo.

  9. Definately a stop-gap. They wanted to brong the new battery, but they did’nt have neough time. Either the battery or the re-design of the car was the issue. So they did a make-up of the current Leaf, with no time for major changes of the battery system (such as cooling).

    Any news on time-frame for the next version? Orderable end-of 2018 in Europe?

    1. I think that the 2019 model year is still a year away.

  10. That doesn’t look good, that is the same speed as the Renault Zoe and the Zoe is not a fast charging car. I think I would prefer the Ioniq in that case.

  11. They could have used the env200 battery with active cooling…i bet a long trip in summer will work in the env200 with 40 kwh better than the leaf…

    Waiting for the real new leaf …makes us 2 years older

    1. With the env200 24 kWh that I have, there’s not an overheat problem, but the reverse. No when it is around 0 degrees, average power from 40% to 80% is about 16kW.

  12. For the 80% of buyers, of this car this inconvenient if not a problem, You need to put the pros and cons in balance, and see yours needs. This car is a good value, for the price, only if you usually do trips from more 400-500km, this car is not for you. The tecnology go very fast, but for now, need more advance, for a perfect EV, we need to wait 4-5 years.

    1. Hi Luic, based on my initial tests I think 400-500km trips are perfectly fine with the new Leaf! I did this already and it worked out well enough (except that I also did some high speed tests during this trip and it overheated a bit then 😉 but after 20min break during a second DC chademo charge, it already cooled off again. we will see how it performs in summer. as there is no heater required, i think the range will more like 500km with one quick charge session of about 30-45 minutes.

      my blog is in German, but google translate seems to work mostly. here is the first article from my series and you can click through them for more details regarding my trips:
      https://e-klar.xyz/2018/03/16/der-umstieg-in-die-elektromobilitaet-das-warten-hat-ein-ende/

      according to this (German as well), the new 60kWh leaf will be announced in april 2019! my guess is that the new car won’t arrive (in our markets) before Q1/Q2 2020 similar to what we are seeing currently with the 40kwh version!
      https://m.heise.de/autos/artikel/Grosser-Nissan-Leaf-in-Jahresfrist-3998180.html

    2. Yes, it looks like this car is a good value if you don’t plan on making many trips.

      I just watched this video, and this driver gets 200km at 100km/h at 5C outside, with some elevation changes and the heater on low. But that gets the dashboard SOC down to 0%. Leaf Spy shows it still has 3.8kwh left, and 9.7% actual SOC. So it looks like Nissan has built in a significant buffer at the top and bottom of the charge indicator.

      Going by that info, if you wanted to do a trip under good conditions (moderate temps, no snow tires, etc.) and the chargers line up in the right places:
      * 180-190km on the first leg
      * 30-45 minutes to charge to 80% (5kwh -> 28kwh), depending on battery temperatures, the car will allow up to 40kW, but maybe less.
      * ~140km on the second leg
      * 60 minutes or more to charge to 80%, as the car won’t allow more than 20kW on the second charge
      * ~140km on the third leg

      So if chargers are lined up well for you, you could do a trip of ~450km, but with an almost 2 hours of time charging. So less convenient but doable. Farther than that and it’s a real issue, because the third DCFC will probably be slowed down below 20kW. It’s also a real PITA if the chargers are in use when you arrive, which could add more hours onto the trip.

      You’d also have to take into account some battery degradation. It’s likely that this new battery is better than the 30kwh version, especially now that the BMS is more protective of it, but you still have to count on at least 10% loss if you’re going to keep the car for a few years.

      The 60kwh versions of all the EVs coming out will certainly be a lot closer to the perfect EVs you are talking about. They should be able to fast charge at much higher rates on same day sessions due to larger pack capacity and thermal management systems.

  13. A good article. If it won’t rapid charge properly more than once and it overheats at motorway speed, then it should be marketed as a local run around. 60mph/100kph top speed, slow charging only. That or they need to fix the fault. Lovely car, but seriously not fit for purpose. The New Leaf 40kWh should be able to go further & faster, long distance, than the old Leaf 30kWh. #rapidgate

  14. I’m really having an internal battle whether to actually accept the 2.zero I ordered or not as it appears the car might not be fit for purpose. The car was supposed to arrive this month but no sign of it yet. Maybe time to cancel and save the pennies for the MY 2019 next year… Who would have thought that my current 24 kWh car might actually be the better tool for a trip across Europe than the new car. Quite amazing really.

    I’m keeping a close eye on what Nissan’s reply to eco-cars.net and my decision whether to accept the new car or not hinges on this. Surely bringing a car with such a major design compromise to the market was a very bad decision from Nissan.

    1. Your conclusion that the 24 kWh car would be better suited appears to be completely unwarranted. How far do you want to go in one day? One commenter here stated he thinks 500 km is realistic with one 45 minute charging stop. If you drive at reasonable speed, how many days will you exceed that?

  15. How long do you have to wait until you can rapid charge properly again?

    1. The battery packs on Leafs are sealed, so they take a long time to cool off. Some videos I’ve seen have shown battery temps of 45C+, and it probably needs to get to below 25C to fast charge again. I’d guess 6-10 hours if it’s cold out, (below 10C) and maybe not at all if it’s 30C outside. Also you’d have to park the car in the shade, as the sun can heat the car up quite a lot in a couple of hours.

    2. I really wonder if Nissan would’ve been better off making this a 36kwh pack with a TMS? Using the savings in space and $ to fit it in. Yes, range would be disappointing, but it would still be useable and would be able to fast charge repeatedly at a higher rate, and everyone would be a lot more confident that the battery wouldn’t degrade overly fast. It would be a very practical EV like the Ioniq.

  16. Apparently Nissan already have a rudimentary cooling system for the battery and inverter in the E-NV200 van because they felt it would put more stress on the EV system. They should have fitted this to the 2018 leaf. It will be interesting to see if the cooling system still exists when they bring out the 2018 E-NV200

  17. Hi people. I’ll be running the 2018 leaf in primarily as a taxi here in the UK and so far the vehicle is doing well in its intended role (it’s not perfect). My take on this issue is in regards to the costing of rapid charging (unless your lucky enough for the taxi company to provide very cheap kwh rapid charging or you live near Nissan dealerships that provide free rapid charging) my primary reason for using the vehicle was to save potentially large amounts of money over so many years by only using the home charger therefore negating the use of the the rapid charging network and costs. One thing to bear in mind (not being negative) regarding the 2019 variant is the batteries are unknown so we have zero data to compare them to in terms of durability etc. Sometimes evolution is better than revolution. Just saying 😉

    1. The 2019 gets LG battery pack as far as I understand, and a TMS. There’s every reason to expect it to be radically better than the current one.

    2. Hi! I might be late to the party, but I’m running a 2015 24 kWh Leaf as a taxi and about to upgrade. One big question is the real urban-suburban range of the new Leaf. What’s your mileage? Thanks.

  18. Great post! Thank you for sharing these information with us!

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