StaffCar Update: After 73,100 Miles, Our Nissan LEAF Loses its Second Capacity Bar

Just over four years ago, a shiny red 2011 Nissan LEAF joined the Transport Evolved Staff car fleet as the Gordon-Bloomfield family’s daily driver. It quickly became known as Hiro Nakamura: a quirky, slightly nerdy but endearing little car that wants to save the world (and maybe the Cheerleader too).

Hiro Nakamura, fresh from the dealers in 2011. No, we weren't buying gas: just a drink for the return trip home.

Hiro Nakamura, fresh from the dealers in 2011. No, we weren’t buying gas: just a drink for the return trip home.

Since then, just like the rest of our extensive staff car fleet, we’ve kept you up to date with various milestones along the way, including Hiro’s first MOT test and three-year service, the loss of Hiro’s first capacity bar at 52,800 miles, the loss of Hiro’s first capacity bar at 52,800 miles, and of course our fun, if somewhat misguided adventures in Europe last spring.

Over the past winter however, we’ve certainly started to notice a drop in battery pack capacity and range in our aging plug-in and on Sunday, the inevitable happened: Hiro lost his second capacity bar. This indicates our main staff Nissan LEAF can now store less than 80 percent of the energy it could when new.

Friday night: a late-night bit of driving with energy efficiency above 190 wh/mile gave us 53 miles of range.

Before we lost bar number two (Friday night): a late-night bit of driving with energy efficiency above 190 wh/mile gave us 53 miles of range.

For those who don’t know, all Nissan electric vehicles are built with not only a battery state-of-charge meter and range prediction meter — which many LEAF owners have taken to calling the ‘Guess-o-meter’ after its notorious inaccuracy — but also a capacity gauge.

Sitting to the right of the state of charge gauge, the capacity gauge records the overall amount of energy the car is capable of storing in its battery pack over time. When the car is new, the capacity gauge — a twelve-segment display — shows all twelve segments illuminated, illustrating that the new battery pack can store its rated capacity in kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Two days later, and we'd lost our second capacity bar. Strong headwinds didn't help our range, either.

Two days later, and we’d lost our second capacity bar. Strong headwinds didn’t help our range, either.

As the battery slowly ages, the pack losses its ability to store as much charge as it once did, slowly reducing the pack’s overall useable capacity, something TransportEvolved regular and CrossChasm Technologies CEO and battery guru Matt Stevens explains very well below.

While most electric cars don’t display that capacity loss on the dashboard, Nissan’s LEAF and e-NV200 electric vehicles do by slowly extinguishing the twelve-bar capacity gauge as the battery loses its ability to store energy.

Back to our staff car. With 73,100 miles on the clock or thereabouts, we noticed the second capacity bar had vanished while waiting for Hiro to quick charge during a long, 500-mile weekend round trip. With a strong headwind gusting to beyond 20 mph in places, we’d also been hammering Hiro‘s battery pack pretty hard, driving just 45 miles at 70 mph before needing a top-up charge.

With just 45 miles on the clock in 2011, 55 miles was predicted with half a charge.

With just 45 miles on the clock in 2011, 55 miles was predicted with half a charge.

But don’t think that range is representative. A few days earlier, we’d managed more than 74 miles on a 90 percent quick charge, with just a half-hour, 3-kilowatt top up mid-way and ten miles remaining on arrival at our destination.

On a good day, we’re now resigned to a useable single-charge range of between 55 and 65 miles, with 70 possible with care. More is possible in optimum conditions, but now the pack degradation has started to impact longer-distance trips in the form of a little longer spent charging.

Rapid charging is certainly slower than it once was.

Rapid charging is certainly slower than it once was.

Interestingly however, it’s not the range impact that we’re feeling so much as the time to charge at a rapid CHAdeMO charging station. When Hiro was new, charging from empty to 80 percent full was possible in around 30 minutes. Now, thanks to increased internal resistance in the battery pack, charging from empty to 80 percent full can take nearer to 40 minutes.

That’s because as the battery ages, its ability to receive high current charging slowly drops. When charging at a compatible DC CHAdeMO quick charging station, the battery temperature rises more quickly than it once did. To protect the car and its battery pack, the LEAF’s on-board power electronics turn down the power output of the charging station earlier than it did when the battery pack was newer.

As for range anxiety? With more DC quick charging stations than ever before — at least twenty within easy reach of the Transport Evolved office and at least one DC quick charging station at every motorway service station on the M4 arterial motorway between Bristol and London, range anxiety is still a rarity. Provided we allow extra time, trips are still possible with relative ease, and only the occasional weather-related problem (like the aforementioned headwind) causes us to worry. Furthermore, hypermiling and switching into the Leaf’s ‘eco’ mode can extend range with care.

With a strong headwind and 80 percent charge, range has dropped now compared to new.

With a strong headwind and 80 percent charge, range has dropped now compared to new. It’s more usual to see predicted ranges between 75 and 85 miles now when fully-charged, with the occasional 95.

We note too that with the warming weather comes an increase in range, since less energy is being used to heat the interior and the battery’s internal resistance — which affects how much power you can put in and take out of a battery pack — naturally drops as the weather warms.

With front tyres now getting within a few thousand miles of their legal limits, our next big spend will be a new set of Michelin Energy Saver tyres and perhaps a full valet. And while we’ve not been able to get our car to talk to the LEAFSpy app lately, the arrival of two MyEV data loggers means that we’re already logging battery and usage data to document the longevity of our LEAF’s battery pack further.

As for warranty? In the UK, the LEAF’s standard battery capacity loss warranty is for 60,000 miles or five years, whichever is soonest, and covers capacity loss of four bars or greater. With 13,000 more miles beyond the warranty, that’s something long gone for us, and well within the planned behavior for a LEAF battery pack. Other cars in the UK have fared much better, with some on far higher mileage with less capacity loss.

Finally, we’d like to note that while we have lost some range since the car was new, we’re still happy with out 2011 Nissan LEAF overall. With no major faults since our last report and the odometer climbing ever-higher, we’re confident in the LEAF’s ability to keep serving as the main family transport until a planned move this summer means we’ll likely be passing Hiro on to new owners.

Until then, we’ll keep you abreast of the ownership experience of this and the rest of our fleet.

The Gordon-Bloomfield family paid full sticker price for the Nissan LEAF in 2011, and the car is owned and registered as a private vehicle. 


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  • vdiv

    These are a lot of miles considering the age and the average annual miles driven in Europe. (Hiro may object that he’s been called old, no offense is intended 🙂 )nnHave you encountered a fellow driver with a similar high-mileage LEAF that is considering purchasing a new battery?

  • jeffsongster

    I hope our original 2013 blue Leaf holds up that well… now that we also have a pearly 2015 that is getting used first. The blue is at around 20k and getting trickle charged most of the time now. My wife drives it mostly around town so it likely will get less occasional DC charging. Pearly meanwhile is starting the day with 103 miles of range often. Apparently the 2015 has somewhat more capacity. The Leaf App seems to think it has 295 gids to start with.nnnSounds like your Mr. Hiro has served you well… too bad he didn’t come in under warranty… the ultimate eco car is one that is economical and lasts 20 years… Cheers.

    • jjdoe

      Pearly? We call ours Pearl. Pearly sounds like she needs those big eye lashes above the headlight. ;>

  • A fellow Smart ED driver in Canada has driven 40,000km on his 2013 model with no appreciable loss of range. nMeanwhile another had a battery test performed by the dealer and saw 2% difference between his battery and the theoretical maximum after one year and 10,000km.nMyself, no way to know, I’ve only ever driven it to zero a handful of times, and I deliberately drove the car harder to get to zero on those trips, knowing I had enough range to comfortably get home. Most trips are around the city here, and I rarely go more than 70km in a day.

  • Thomas William Barron

    How much will a new pack cost and can the battery be reconditioned?

    • David Galvan

      $5500 (US) for the battery itself, plus install costs/taxes/etc. So, maybe you’re out the door for $6500 (US)?nThe new battery would be the new-chemistry, heat-resistant “Lizard Battery”, that comes with 2015 Model year Leafs.nn

      • Thomas William Barron

        Thankyou David. I might need to lose a few more bars before buying one but given the lack of maintenance that EV’s require they should make excellent second hand purchases and a new battery might not be a bad investment especially as it would immediately increase the value of the car.

        • David Galvan

          Here is more information on the 2011-2012 Nissan Leaf battery capacity loss. (I don’t think 2013+ data has been folded into this yet.) nn handy inclusion is a list of cities and an estimate for what the battery capacity will likely be in 5 and 10 years. For the city closest to where I live (Van Nuys, CA), it suggests I should expect a 2011-2012 battery to have 47.7% capacity after ten years. nnGiven a.) I have a 2014 Leaf with a slightly more advanced battery, and b.) my commute is only 22 miles each way on non-freeway roads, I expect that my car will still meet my commuting/local needs after 10 years. This encouraged me to purchase my 2014 Leaf.

          • Thomas William Barron

            I remembered another question. Will there be a trade in value for the old battery?

          • David Galvan

            The $5500 price from Nissan requires that you trade in your degraded battery. So that price is the net price including the trade-in, which they assign a value of $1000. (Note that Nissan is subsidizing this process. They lose money every time they replace a battery. That is, Nissan’s costs for the new battery are higher than $6500.) n

          • Thomas William Barron

            Nice link. Thanks. Costs are coming down all the time. Change is coming….

  • TheFrequentPoster

    A more reliable way to judge capacity loss — and maybe one you’ll want to consider when testing your next vehicle — ought to be to use an appliance meter to measure the uptake at recharging time. If you did this on every recharge, you’d eventually wind up with a more precise measure of degradation than looking at bars on the guess-o-meter. “Carwings” doesn’t work, because of how the measurement works in that system.nnAnd a question: Can you describe your charging procedure? Specifically: Did you commonly top it off before you had gone down to (roughly) 20-25% of capacity? Did you commonly recharge to 100%?nnThere is a significant anecdotal record of LEAF batteries degrading faster than expected, and not just in very hot climates like Phoenix. I have attributed this to LEAFs commonly being leased rather than purchased (mainly because of Nissan’s very attractive lease rates, and therefore the lessees not worrying about battery cycles and hence topping up much more frequently than owners do.nnBut that’s entirely a guess on my part, hence my questions about your recharging procedures.

    • Karim of the Crop

      u20ac5000 for a replacement batterynn

      • TheFrequentPoster

        Thanks for answering a question I never asked.

        • Karim of the Crop

          Apologies. Thought I was replying to thomaswilliambarron!

          • Jose Paredes

            Those anyone knows if the red bars are counted in a Nissan Leaf to indicate that a new battery is needed to according to Nissan warranty. Also there is a class action law suit against Nissan wish they have settle in 20011 and 2012 leaf, to replace batteries and have extended warranty in those viecles.

  • D. Harrower

    Do you attribute the capacity loss to the frequent use of DCQCs?

    • David Galvan

      I wouldn’t. Only losing 2 bars after 73k miles is pretty darn good. See what others in hotter climates are getting:nn…

  • evfan

    I think your experience will be repeated over and over as more Leafs get up to high mileage. nnnI think it is tough to write a $6000 check, but you get a lot for that. Basically the car’s mechanicals become as good as new. Actually better than new.nnnThis is a unique experience for EVs, as they have one weak component, so it makes sense to replace the battery as it gets old. nnnICE cars are more complicated and have many parts that wear. There is no opportunity to become better than new with a single part replacement.

  • TDIPower

    Nikki, thank you for sharing this and being honest about it. Have you fast charged this battery to death by any chance ? getting the pack hot many times ?

    Can you post the Leafspy data over at leaftalk ? this would be really good data to have.

    The MK 1.5 leaf has some change to the battery chemistry, check out the U.K Taxi with over 100,000 miles still on the first capacity bar, actual capacity loss about 10%. 1,700 fast charges and 7,200 or so L2 charges. This is a remarkable achievement for Nissan and NEC for such a small battery to last so long.

    More and more reports coming in now of the current Gen leaf battery lasting a lot longer.

    Leaf II with much larger capacity could see 300,000 miles at this rate. No reason the current Gen 1.5 model can;t see over 200,000 miles and still be usable.

  • John J Sarter

    I have lost one bar after 43,000 miles, but my Leaf charges BEYOND the lost bar to the full 12 bars… odd. It could be that my battery is holding up better than expected, and the “lost bars” are simply built in to the mileage use of the car. This would mean that the lost bars are not a true indication of battery degradation, and simply another “guestimate”. I have replaced my tires and noted a loss of range from that, as new tires have more rolling resistance than older worn ones. Still, the vehicle serves my commute and weekend usage needs very, except when an extended trip is planned such as to the mountains of NorCal. In that case, we take our second vehicle which is a Rav 4.

    All in all, the Leaf has served my needs of 60 to 70 miles commuting etc a day exceptionally well, and it is a very “Zen” driving experience for me!

    • The charge indicator on the left indicates percent – it will always be 12 bars when charged. The bars on the right indicate how much 100% charge is worth.
      I know it’s a year after your comment, but I wanted to explain for future readers.

  • bioburner

    WOW you guys did very well as far as capacity loss goes. I’m thinking this vehicle is in the U.K. and not in the south west USA? We are in Virginia USA and lost our first bar on our 2011 Leaf at 3400 miles. Glad to see others are getting better durability than me.

    • Nick Wilson

      3,400 miles??

      • bioburner

        NO. 3 thousand and 400 miles.

        • Nick Wilson

          Dang. And Nissan didn’t want to fix it? I know their warranty only covers so much loss in a period of time, but I would think they would’ve been interested to know about that one. I think they did fix some things in the 2015 that will make it last longer.

          • bioburner

            Nice Beagle. We lost our 19 year old a few months back. But yes Nissan has been slowly working to improve their batteries over the years. The big improvement has come with the 30 KWH batteries in the 2016. These batteries have almost twice the capacity loss warranty of the 2011-2015 model batteries. We lost our first bar at 3400 miles. About 2 years later we lost our second bar so its beginning to look like I will not qualify for a warranty replacement.

          • Nick Wilson

            Aww, I’m sorry to hear that. 19 years, wow. Ours is a hound mutt, but we think mostly Beagle. Anyway that’s too bad about the battery. I think I’m at like 1500 miles on my 2015, and no loss yet. I’m hoping for the best as I continue to wear it down.

          • Rohan Bussell

            “I’m hoping for the best”
            You know the saying: hope for the best, plan for the worst.

          • Nick Wilson

            Exactly, right? Sorry to say I ended up planning for the worst by trading mine in and getting an ICE vehicle (particularly, a Hyundai that comes with a 5 year 60k bumper to bumper warranty, and 10 year 100k powertrain warranty). Put all my worries to ease and very affordable.

          • kabomber
  • Ramon A. Cardona

    Our 2011 Leaf purchased used with 19,000 miles, now with close to 40,000 miles indicates one loss bar. With Leaf Spy, the battery reports about 17kW of the 24 kW. I guess 21 kW was usable as new. So, 4 kW loss= 1 bar?

  • Jorge Rosano

    Hey guys, nice article! I’m looking to buy a 2011 Nissan Leaf SL THIS week!! Obviously used, with 40,000. Getting for right under $6000. What do you guys honestly think? Get it or not?? It’s great reading all the good reviews and it’s exciting! BUT this battery situation is the only thing thats making me (just a bit) think about it twice. Is it safe to say that the worse case scenario us jus to replace battery when it goes out completely! And would the cost be worth it . . . Long term?? Thanks!

  • jjdoe

    Thanks. How do you think the fast-charging you do affects the battery capacity? We do ours every night, on 110v house current. My wife has a 40 mile round trip, in city traffic. The 2015 car has under 30k, and still has all it’s bars.
    With all your data, and base – do you see a difference?
    — We bought the car off-lease, in the next state, with a 250mi drive. (it was difficult finding an LV! Almost all the ones we found locally were the base model). There were two Nissan dealers along the way, and we stopped at both to charge up. The only time we fast-charged. 30 minutes the first time, so we had lunch. The 2nd time we only needed 15min go get home. We read the manual. It was an adventure, with my wife driving behind me all the way!
    She loves the car. I’d like to get the new model, for the safety features. Gettin’ old…. I’d rather have the Tesla’s durability (range is never an issue, as this is a commuter car), but I’m not going to pay $60k for the traffic radar option! I’ll pay $20k for a year old 2018 LV, and hope for the best, battery-wise. We generally keep cars ten or more years these days, but that doesn’t work with the Leaf. Or will, with a new battery pack.