In a July 18 Service Bulletin, Nissan quietly released a software update for North American LEAF owners. It appears to give U.S., Mexican, and Canadian customers the same improved charging rates that European customers received earlier. If it gives the same improved rates as European customers received, it will largely solve the #Rapidgate issue.
In a screenshot provided to CleanTechnica by one of our sources, the bulletin is listed as classification EL19-018 and reference NTB19-056. It’s titled “2018-2019 LEAF; LITHIUM-ION BATTERY WILL NOT QUICK CHARGE.” The bulletin tells technicians to apply the updated software if the customer complains of slow DC fast charging, or if they complain of inability to fast charge at all after several consecutive sessions. The software is offered for all 2018 and 2019 LEAFs, which is a little confusing, given the history of the #Rapidgate issue (more on this below).
For those unfamiliar with #Rapidgate, the social media hashtag refers to many early LEAF buyers’ displeasure with the second-generation LEAF’s charging speeds. Unlike the previous model year, the car would cut charging speeds down under elevated battery temperatures. For people living in milder environments, they might get 1–2 full speed (50 kW) charging sessions before suffering reduced speeds. In hotter, drier climates, the first session would suffer from reduced speeds during the hotter months. Level 1 and Level 2 charging is unaffected by the issue. While the second-generation LEAF came with much longer range than previous model years, it was proving to be less capable of road trips for many buyers.
After hearing customer complaints for months, Nissan changed the car’s battery management and charging software to allow for higher charge rates. For European customers, new vehicles coming out of the factory got this update and existing owners could get the update applied at dealers. New North American vehicles got improved software like the European ones did, but customers who already had a LEAF could not get an update, at least until now.
After fielding additional customer complaints in 2019, and a petition I posted online, Nissan appears to finally be responding with an update.
What is unclear is why this software update is being offered for both 2018 and 2019 vehicles. Late 2018 cars already have improved software, as well as all 2019s. By offering this update for both model years, it may be possible that the software update is an improvement beyond that which newer 2018 and 2019 vehicles got from the factory.
It also may have software fixes beyond the charging speeds, or may have additional code to protect against cell ruptures when charging at higher rates and temperatures. While the information from our sources is still thin on the issue, some second-generation LEAF owners have had to get their battery packs rebuilt under warranty after cells to the rear of the pack ruptured. We do not know at this point whether this issue is related to thermal issues or arises from some other defects, but we do know that it’s not that common.
I intend to get this update applied to my own early 2018 LEAF for further testing. Once I see how this update affects charging rates at different pack temperatures, we will be publishing some followup articles that should shed further light on the situation. Stay tuned to see how this goes!