A closer look at the Nissan LEAF battery capacity warranty

by Ernie Hernandez on January 3, 2013

LEAF battery cell module and pack

This warranty should satisfy those affected

Last week, we wrote a brief article about the new Nissan LEAF battery capacity warranty (found here). Here we take a closer look at owner reaction, and further analysis of the statement.

First, Nissan announced this news on a LEAF forum in an unusual show of offering to interact with Nissan owners directly, rather than through a traditional public relations press release. This method of news distribution should not be taken lightly. As a message from Nissan corporate that owners matter, and that these owners pleas have not fallen on deaf ears, we see this as a bold departure from Nissan’s conservative nature. We have said oftentimes before that Nissan (and most large corporations for that matter) can be glacially slow in their responsiveness, solely because of the size of the organization and the layers of legal veils that must be waded through. Our experience with the automobile industry in particular has proven this to be the norm rather than the exception. Nissan’s response to the loss of battery capacity issue in the Nissan LEAF, when it finally did come, is as important for its method of distribution as it is for its content. In our opinion.

We will once again reproduce the salient sentence of the announcement:

For LEAF vehicles whose batteries have fallen below nine bars during this period, Nissan will repair or replace the battery under warranty with a new or remanufactured battery to restore capacity at or above a minimum of nine bars.

On the aforementioned LEAF forum, an overlong dialog has taken place regarding this warranty, with many focusing on the last two words of the sentence – nine bars. Our view is that Nissan will focus on this portion of the sentence:

Nissan will repair or replace the battery under warranty with a new or remanufactured battery

The likely scenario is that Nissan’s intent is to replace any degraded batteries with remanufactured batteries in close to as-new condition. The last portion of the sentence is worded to allow for the occurence of a remanufactured battery sitting in inventory that may have lost some capacity over time, although we rarely expect this to be the case.

We reported earlier that the LEAF forum members generally found the terms of the LEAF battery capacity warranty to be acceptable. With 192 votes cast thus far, 61 percent were positive, 17 percent were negative, with 22 percent neutral. These percentage numbers are virtually unchanged from last week with significantly more votes counted, so we now view the result as fairly representative.

While it appears that Chevrolet has offered a capacity warranty (loss of more than 30 percent capacity over 8 years), there is no mention of a new replacement battery. Here is the Chevrolet Volt warranty information directly from the 2011 Chevrolet Volt Limited Warranty and Owner Assistance Information manual:

Propulsion Battery Warranty Policy

Like all batteries, the amount of energy that the high-voltage “propulsion” battery can store will decrease with time and miles driven. Depending on use, the battery may degrade as little as 10 percent to as much as 30 percent of capacity over the warranty period. A dealer service technician will determine if the battery energy capacity (kWh storage) is within the proper limit, given the age and mileage of the vehicle. Your Volt battery warranty replacement may not return your vehicle to “as-new” condition, but it will make your Volt fully operational appropriate to its age and mileage.

Chevrolet’s Volt warranty offers no specific information as to what would constitute a warranty claim, but does state that “it will make your Volt fully operational appropriate to its age and mileage.”

The Tesla Model S also offers no battery capacity warranty that we could discern. Here is the wording from the Tesla consumer website:

An additional warranty covers the battery and varies by capacity. The 40 kWh battery is covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles, and 60 kWh battery is covered for 8 years or 125,000 miles, whichever comes first in both cases. The largest battery, 85 kWh, is covered for eight years and unlimited miles.

There likely is more detailed information in a warranty manual, but from the above statement, it does not look like there is any type of capacity warranty.

After researching this topic, it seems that the Nissan LEAF battery capacity warranty establishes a new standard for electric vehicle (EV) owners in the United States. We throw that qualifier in because European Renault EV owners have a battery capacity warranty on their battery. The difference is that these European owners lease the battery so that Renault retains ownership of the battery. The warranty is likely to protect Renault as much as it is to support the customer. We mention Renault because as an alliance partner with Nissan, Renault is using variations of the same battery as that used in the LEAF.

Our takeaway from the announcement is that it is a move in a positive direction from Nissan. While there will always be those that will pick any proposal apart, we feel that this could be the first step in a trend of positive improvements for the LEAF, and the EV industry in general.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

George B January 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Nice article. Tesla copied portions of Nissan’s original warranty verbatim, and has been using this wording in the warranty declaration for Model S. The Chevy Volt absolutely offers a capacity warranty, this was discussed at some length on the owner forum as well. The declaration on the consumer website may not be enough to make projections about actual coverage. Additionally, the Volt offers 8 years and 100,000 miles warranty by default, and 10 year and 150,000 in CARB states. It’s been rumored that this was due to emission regulation. The threads on mynissanleaf.com can meander, but I would not rate the current discussion as “overly long”. While on the topic, I found your earlier analysis of the situation in Phoenix, and other hot climates to be lacking. It would be good if you acknowledged that, when criticizing a group of individual owners, who have banded together to address a problem industry experts, such as yourself, should be championing instead.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm

George, thanks for you input. The Volt battery warranty language quoted comes directly from the 2011 Chevrolet Volt Limited Warranty and Owner Assistance Information booklet found online. Here is a link to it. While I pulled the wording from a warranty page on the consumer site, it is verbatim from the owner’s warranty booklet. Re-reading the passage, it looks as if battery capacity is reduced by more than 30 percent anytime during the warranty, Chevrolet can replace the degraded battery with one that will make your Volt fully operational appropriate to its age and mileage. There is no mention of replacing the degraded battery with a new one. So I stand corrected regarding my battery capacity warranty statement, and will reflect that in my article above.

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