Canadian Safety Agency Investigates Nissan LEAF Electric Car for Cold-Weather Brake Failure

Transport Canada, the Canadian equivalent to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is three-weeks into an official investigation into the braking system of 2013-2015 model year Nissan LEAFs after reports that they may not function properly in severely cold temperatures.

As HybridCars reported last week and The CarConnection detailed in late February, the Transport Canada website doesn’t provide much in the way of context as to what the specifics of the investigation are, but check out NHTSA’s website  and you’ll see several complaints related to braking performance on the LEAF, including one which complains that the LEAF’s friction brakes ‘grab’ during cold weather, causing the car to jerk.

Nissan LEAFs in Canada are under investigation for poor braking performance in extreme cold weather.

Nissan LEAFs in Canada are under investigation for poor braking performance in extreme cold weather.

Like most other electric cars on the market today, the Nissan LEAF features two distinct braking systems. The first uses the car’s electric motor to recapture kinetic energy from movement and turn that into electrical energy which is stored in the car’s lithium-ion battery pack. Called regenerative braking, this braking system is activated by the car’s on-board computer system under light braking force.

The second braking system, a friction-based braking system, operates in the same way as it does in any non plug-in production car, with a series of hydraulically-operated high-friction brake pads which come into contact with the brake disc or brake drum of each wheel, slowing the car down by converting its kinetic energy into heat through friction.

It isn’t clear if the investigation focuses on one or both of these braking systems, but since they operate in concert, we’d guess both are being investigated.

The investigation also appears only to involve U.S-made North American LEAFs made at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee facility between 2013 and 2015.

U.S.-made LEAFs are the subject of this investigation.

U.S.-made LEAFs are the subject of this investigation.

In an official statement made last month Nissan North America said that it was aware of the investigation and was both helping the investigation as well as carrying out its own internal engineering study into the matter.

Nissan is aware that a small number Nissan LEAF drivers in Canada have recently observed that the brake warning light in their car is illuminated on start-up or they are experiencing a soft feel to their brake pedal. We take this matter seriously and an engineering team is currently investigating.
 
Nissan is not aware of any accidents related to this issue and is committed to a high level of customer safety, service and satisfaction.”

Naturally, we’ll bring you more information as we have it, but given the bitter winter that parts of Canada and the U.S. have been experiencing this year, we’re hoping a conclusion (and any necessary fixes) are forthcoming soon.

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  • Lance Pickup

    While it appears the main focus of this investigation is related to a warning light that comes on, I really hope they seriously investigate the grabby brake issue as well.nnnMy Japanese built 2012 LEAF has had grabby brakes in cold weather. It’s gotten worse as the battery has aged, but it has not really elevated much beyond the “annoyance” level.nnnMy wife’s 2013 Smyrna-built LEAF, however takes it to the next level. In even moderately cold weather, the brakes are incredibly grabby, pulsing on and off. It’s actually become somewhat difficult to come to a gradual stop. And this is on a one year old car. I can’t imagine what it will be like when it’s 3 years old like my car.