The all-electric Nissan LEAF is currently the world’s best-selling electric car, having sold more than 85,000 cars globally since it first went on sale in Japan in 2010. But while the LEAF has proved popular with buyers in temperate and cooler climates around the world, many buyers in warmer climates have complained that their LEAF’s battery packs have suffered from premature ageing caused by extreme ambient temperatures, resulting in a loss of range after several months that would normally take years — or even decades — to occur in most climates.
But an improved battery chemistry developed by Nissan which ages far more slowly in extreme heat than the current LEAF battery technology should be entering production within a year, Nissan’s Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Marketing, Andy Palmer, has confirmed.
Speaking to Green Car Reports’ Bengt Halvorson last week at the Tokyo Motor Show, Palmer said that the new chemistry will ‘probably’ be implemented by Nissan within a year, most likely in the first six months of 2014.
The chemistry, which won’t improve the LEAF’s all-electric range, is designed primarily to improve the longevity of the LEAF’s 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Unlike most electric cars on the market today which use active liquid cooling to ensure the battery pack stays at an optimum operating temperature regardless of the weather outside, Nissan’s LEAF battery pack uses forced-air cooling to keep itself cool, making it more susceptible to heat-related premature ageing if subjected to prolonged spells of ambient temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius.)
The new chemistry, while similar to the existing LEAF lithium-ion battery technology, can withstand higher ambient temperatures without suffering premature battery ageing, Nissan says.
Moreover, the switch over to the new technology should be a fairly simple process for Nissan. Since the technology is manufactured in an almost identical way, Nissan says the production line can stop making the old chemistry one day, and begin making the new one the next. This theoretically means no disruption in LEAF production.
News of the new battery pack will be met with relief by customers in warmer U.S. states like Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, many of whom have suffered premature battery ageing in their LEAFs. Since premature ageing is covered by Nissan’s warranty, these owners can look forward to receiving the newer battery chemistry as a warranty replacement in future.
The only final hurdle for Nissan? The final round of testing that the revised chemistry is undertaking at the moment. If that’s successful, says Nissan, it will begin production of the new chemistry packs once it’s solved a few final logistical decisions needed to ensure the implementation of the new chemistry is smooth and as easy as possible.
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