While there is no doubt that the Nissan Leaf electric car has made something of a splash in the electric vehicle market, there are concerns that a number of these groundbreaking vehicles have been underperforming expectations. As a consequence, the company has acted very quickly to allay the fears of U.S. Nissan Leaf owners who expressed severe displeasure at the car's battery capacity. Such is the concern amongst consumers, that the company will now extend warranty coverage for almost 20,000 U.S. owners and repair or replace batteries which have fallen under capacity before expected.
SINCE THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN THE BATTERY ISSUEHAS BEEN FIXED BY NISSAN
What is the problem?
The problem relates to the capacity loss of the lithium ion batteries which are used to power the Nissan Leaf. A number of drivers have reported capacity coverage falling below the "nine bars" on the vehicle display dial. This effectively confirms that the battery has fallen below the 70% capacity which was promised by Nissan when the vehicle was released in the U.S. and overseas.
Initially the company had suggested that some U.S. drivers were charging batteries quicker than recommended and this was having an impact upon the capacity going forward. While some people accept this explanation at a very early stage, the problem soon grew as more and more Nissan Leaf users confirmed the same issue. The warranty for the batteries has now been extended for the first five years of its life of 60,000 miles, which is on top of the 36,000 mile warranty which comes with the car and the 100,000 mile coverage for defects.
Will this be enough to allay the fears of US drivers?
There is no doubt that this has been a massive public relations disaster for Nissan and has dented the company's hopes of doubling car sales to the year ended March 2013. Indeed sales of the Nissan Leaf were actually down towards the end of 2012, primarily due to the concerns regarding battery capacity and journey capacity. It will be interesting to see whether the recent announcement by Nissan has a material impact upon the car’s public image and indeed whether sales will recover in the first quarter of 2013.
Quote from the ElectricForum.com : "Is this car for real? Looks like a standard 4 door compact car. This is the type of EV we need, not some small commuter thing that not everyone can use."
A difficult year for Nissan
Despite the fact that the Nissan Leaf is one of the more popular and the more recognisable electric vehicles on the market today, there is no doubt that 2012 has been a very difficult year. Indeed the company had high expectations for 2012/13 although these have been reduced significantly in light of the difficulties in the U.S. The problems in the U.S. have also been reported across Europe, and while the replacement/repair program will begin in the U.S., it will also be replicated across Europe with identical terms for all the Nissan Leaf owners.
The fact that the company was also "obliged" to buy back around 10 electric vehicles from their owners due to disappointing performance was obviously a major blow, but hopefully 2013 will improve. We also await the launch of the new and improved Nissan Leaf 2013 which is rumoured to have an extended journey capacity and improved reliability.
To say that 2012 has been a difficult year for Nissan would be something of an understatement. Aside from the financial impact the battery problems have had on the company a greater significance is the public relations disaster which still continues today. The company has attempted to draw a line under this problem by issuing a new battery warranty and promising to repair/replace underperforming battery cells. In many ways the positive ground made during the early part of 2012 have been lost towards the end of 2012, but hopefully 2013 will be a new and improved year for the company. It is very easy to forget that Nissan has been very influential in increasing the number of electric vehicles around the world, although these achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by the Nissan Leaf issues.
Despite some doom and gloom with regards to other electric vehicles, which have perhaps not performed as well as expected, there is no doubt that the sector is certainly on the up. It seems almost inevitable that 2013 and beyond will see more and more consumers considering electric vehicles and as the technology improves this can only be good for the sector.