Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mob Mentality

I will pass 23,000 miles on my 2011 Nissan LEAF sometime this weekend (only have 80 miles to go) and the car has exceeded every expectation I have had over reliability, coolness and longevity and let me examine that last one; longevity.

Nissan told us that under "normal" circumstances, expect about 20% loss of range in 5 years, or 30% after 10.  They then posted a driving scenario that also told us what to expect as far as range goes.  I used that chart to estimate what range I would get and then removed that 30% range reduction and found that the LEAF would still address a significant amount of my transportation needs, so I got one.

That happened Jan 18, 2011  nearly 21 months ago.  Now, the degradation I was expecting really has not happened.  Based on my SOC meter (whose accuracy in measuring true battery state is now in question but still good for general purposes) I have only lost a few percent of my range, but others have not been so lucky due to the climate they live in and I am sorry that Nissan seems to have elected to buy their cars back instead of fixing the cars and allowing them to continue to drive electric because in the grand scheme of things, nearly 2 years after the fact: The LEAF is still the ONLY game in town for me.  the rest dont have quick charge or they are beyond my financial means.

So, I happily push the LEAF to anyone interested because it is a great idea for anyone in a two car household in this area for DOZENS of reasons.  Cheap electricity, refueling at home,  reducing our oil usage, pollution, etc. and on and on and on, Right!!

As much of a no brainer this seems to be, the EV community has turned in on itself.  We as a collective are starting to create a huge philosophical divide. On the one hand; Hot LEAFs verses moderate weather LEAFs.  we have people who are suffering thru huge unknowns because their battery capacity bars are dropping like flies at a RAID party and that is scary especially since Nissan is not telling them what to expect a year from now other than to say "the degradation rate will slow down"

well, slow down to what?? 10% a year verses 15%?  Kinda hard to plan for the future. Generally car buying decisions are pretty lengthy.  With rapid range loss, Phoenicians are panicing and rightly so; the unknown is a bitch!  Cant wait until the job is a mile shorter than the total range and then start discussing options with Nissan or any car manufacturer. In any product issue; the longer you wait, the more of an impression the manufacturer gets that you have a higher level of acceptance. So I get the issues in Phoenix, but what I dont get is the band wagon comments that seem to be the new norm.

Now; the massive efforts to publicize this has benefited them. It has greatly shortened the timeline of action on Nissan's part. No doubt, if left o each individual to fight the corporate giant, there would probably still be nothing accomplished, but it has  also had the unintended consequence of creating a mob mentality born from the compassion of fellow LEAFers and that has gone amuck

I have seen comments from people COMPLETELY unaffected by degradation due to the fact that they live in the Bay Area, Coastal Southern CA, or the Puget Sound region of WA State, who flat out stated they will no longer recommend the LEAF to anyone they run across because of the issues that are going on in AZ!!

What kind of logic is this?? You are dissing a product that might be a great solution to the person you are talking too (who will consider you an "expert" because you experience the EVness daily) and you are helping to hasten the demise of a great product.

How can one not think they are possibly changing the course of EV technology long term?  How many people are potentially impacted by your statements to a single person?  Remember even the ripples of a pebble covers the entire pond.

Now, many happy users of the LEAF have recognized this and have posted comments in support of the LEAF and now are being accused of not caring about the battery issues, glossing over the issues,  dissing affected owners, or living too much in the limelight to realistically evaluate their own personal owner experiences!
How did all this happen? Are we to think that Nissan essentially sold A/C to an Eskimo?


  1. Nice article Dave. The Leaf was/is/and remains a great vehicle for many users WHEN the correct expectations are met. I begin my discussions with a 50-60 mile range discussion. This is not because it can't go more today but because of where it might be tomorrow.


    1. well, i tell people expect no more than 70 miles under good conditions unless they are willing to make driving concessions like i do. iow, drive conservatively. I also tell them they need to compute their needs with the 30% degraded range and not the new range since that new range wont be there next year.

  2. Dave, good blog post. I can't talk for others, but I'm not dissing the product, I merely point out to prospects that they might want to lease instead of buying.

    This is based on concerns about the company, and how the AZ cases have been handled so far. That said, I object to the term 'mob mentality'. There are real people facing real problems out there. From what I can tell, the company has not been very sympathetic, which is surprising given how enthusiastic early adopters have been so far. Many of the affected folks owned EVs before. The folks I met in Phoenix did not look like opportunists that changed their mind and wanted their money back, yelling and screaming along the way.

    Many of us have seen about 10% range impact in one year in moderate climates. Who can say with an authority if this was too much or too little? And it does not matter in this context, it's a technicality.

    What should not be surprising however, is that consumers tend to think and extrapolate linearly. If they see certain amount of range loos, then the implication is 5 times that figure on the 5th anniversary. I believe that Nissan did not do a good job setting the expectations and communicating the characteristics of these batteries upfront.

    And even if they did, there are folks with prior EV experience. I would know of a former MINI-E driver in SoCal. This EV allegedly had lithium manganese spinel cells from Molicel and powertrain from AC propulsion. No active cooling, just a simple fan. The driver, and she calls herself an EV enthusiast, claims that the Leaf is losing range much faster than the MINI-E did. Presumably given the same usage pattern and climate in SoCal. I found that interesting, but not really surprising given the data we have gleaned from other owners online.

    Is it fair to say that these batteries degrading faster than could reasonably be anticipated? Honestly, I don't know. And until the manufacturer discloses some additional information, most of us will stay in the dark. Including yourself.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to hear that your Leaf is working well for you, and I continue to support both the Leaf and Nissan. I had a Gid meter as well, and given my energy readings from the wall, and the repeated range tests I performed, the car had about 5% less usable capacity in April this year, when I was still getting 281 Gids. Although there is good correlation between Gids and battery state of health, they unfortunately do not give a completely reliable reading.

    That said, I believe that the bulk of the work has to be done by the company, we can only help so much. In regards to the cases in Arizona. Personally, I would applaud if the dissatisfied owners were made whole in whatever way possible. It would help them, it would help us, it would help the Leaf, and ultimately Nissan as well.

    1. SS; I agree with you that most of the issues including people not recommending the LEAF in an area where it would thrive is Nissan's fault. Their silence after presented with evidence made it worse but its still a mob mentality and that term in no way is intended towards anyone in Phoenix. I know a guy who lives 30 miles from me who says he cant recommend the LEAF anymore because of how people in AZ were treated. Problem with that is the potential customer will base a lot of their decision on the general tone of his comments and may not choose a LEAF based entirely on misconceptions.

      trust me, i see it every day. all you have to say is the LEAF's batteries degrade rapidly in the heat and people will think back to Sept when it was in the 90's 4 days in a row and think "ok, that wont work"

      Now Nissan could have easily fixed this by simply coming out and saying "our studies show that you can expect this at certain temps" and not be specific (which is what any major corporation avoids at all costs) using values of X to denote a baseline and then go 1.5X, 2X and so on, but they didnt. in fact, they essentially did nothing so we had no choice but to figure it out on our own and against our better judgment, we assumed the worst; linear degradation. lose 15% this year, lose 15% next year and i am toast.

      well as stated; cant wait until the last second, if i thought i was going to have an issue next year in year 2 of a 3 year commitment, i would be addressing the issue ASAP as well.

      Then Nissan chooses what i considered to be the worst possible solution and that was buy back the LEAFs. now we have people out of the EV game, Nissan is seemingly admitting defeat since they dont have a fix which means they dont have an answer right now or one in the works. its all rather confusing to me because things are rarely as they seem and this is no exception.