Published on December 31st, 2020 | by Jennifer Sensiba0
What Nissan Should Have Done With The 2021 LEAF
December 31st, 2020 by Jennifer Sensiba
A week ago, Nissan put out a press release detailing the 2021 LEAF’s pricing and options. To be perfectly honest, I feel bad for whoever Nissan has writing these, because nothing has changed. Keep reading, though, because I’m going to make this a whole lot more entertaining than Nissan’s people did.
Before I get into specifics, let’s have a little review. Nissan released the second generation LEAF in 2018, including a bigger, better battery. The previous generation LEAF had a lot of initial issues early in the run with battery degradation, especially in warmer climates. Later years improved the pack with the “Lizard” chemistry, but still with only a 24 kWh pack. In 2016, a 30 kWh pack was released, ultimately leading to a rated range of just over 100 miles.
The 2018 LEAF had a revamped exterior that looks a lot less avant garde compared to previous model years, a sign that EVs are going mainstream. Many people said the first generation LEAF looked like an “alien space pod,” insect, or frog. The 2018 and up looks a lot more like a regular Nissan, including the front grille.
I bought one of the first 2018s, and I’ve put a lot of miles on it. You can find my first article on the car here, where I discuss the first 40,000 miles. In that time, it performed pretty well. There was a lot more battery degradation than you’d get with a car that had a liquid-cooled battery pack, but it did pretty good considering most of that driving happened in Phoenix, Arizona and I was a frequent user of DC fast charging.
I started to lose some love for it when I realized just how bad the “#Rapidgate” problem was. When I first bought it, it was winter. While things don’t get that cold in Phoenix, the cooler temperatures kept the battery pack from heating up too much, allowing for a reasonably OK charging experience. As spring and then summer crept up, it became clear that the car was programmed to slow rapid charging sessions way down to protect the pack.
I lost most patience with the experience on a 1200 mile trip I took in the car, and a few days later got a petition put together to convince Nissan to provide a software update. After months of being bothered by people, it quietly released an update. The update does improve charging speeds a bit, but also cuts back on the amount of regenerative braking a bit, which has a range cost for most drivers.
More recently, I’ve been pretty unhappy with the car. At 66,000 miles, it’s starting to have a lot of problems. At only 2.5 years old and with so few miles, it shouldn’t be heading toward a third set of CV axles, still have no dealers nearby to work on the thing, and have a list of other issues. It’s acting like a lot of cars I’ve had in the past, but after well over 100,000 miles. From talking to a few LEAF certified mechanics at the dealers, it seems that the second generation LEAF is having a lot more repair work done to it compared to the previous generation.
Since the 2018 model was released, Nissan released the LEAF Plus, another model with a 60 kWh battery and a range of over 200 miles. From what we’ve seen, the bigger pack still has problems with heating and durability because Nissan once again didn’t choose to liquid cool the pack. It is, however, a lot more usable for road trips, etc..
Which brings us to 2021. Nissan has had a lot of time to figure out that a non-cooled battery pack is just going to bite them in the ass again and again. The company also had a lot of time to determine that their mechanics are seeing more repair work on the vehicles (assuming it’s a widespread issue, and not just something that affects the Southwest more). It also should know by now that buyers are starting to figure all this out.
But for 2021, Nissan changed nothing but the price. It went up a bit. There’s still non-liquid cooled 40 and 60 kWh battery packs relying on the dying CHAdeMO standard. Everything else is the same as it has been.
If Nissan wants to give its press people something good to write about, they’re going to need to step up. The packs should have some sort of cooling, especially if the company is going to sell them in the Southwest. The CV joints need a redesign. Other things, like the seatbelt retractors and power door locks, need better parts. All of these improvements should be made available to current owners.
Another thing Nissan should consider is making a CCS to CHAdeMO adapter, or offering a retrofit kit. Most of the new infrastructure going in has either zero or one CHAdeMO port, and the LEAF is now the only car with a CHAdeMO port. It’s clearly becoming the Betamax while CCS becomes the VHS. Other formats that lost the war, like HD-DVD, WiMax, and WiPower are pretty easy to replace. A car will be around for a lot longer and is a lot more expensive to replace, so some sort of adapter would be appropriate.
I know that Nissan is going to move on to other models soon, and they’ll have better features, but leaving your prior customers out to dry isn’t a great way to build a business. If Nissan wants people to take a press release seriously, it needs to make some news.
Featured image by Nissan.
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