Nissan Leaf to go farther and cost less in 2013

Nissan has thrown down the warranty gauntlet to other EV makers by announcing it would be the first to "restore" battery capacity if a Leaf's full charge fell below 9 out of 12 "bars" within 5 years or 60k miles. The new clause was announced by VP Andy Palmer and will go into effect in spring of next year on all models, including those sold in 2011 and 2012. The company stressed it would only "repair or replace the battery under warranty with a new or remanufactured unit to restore capacity at or above a minimum of nine bars," and not a full charge -- saying a gradual, but not excessive loss of charge was normal. Nissan added that it'd look to improve the accuracy of the battery gauge, since the aforementioned bars on the dash were computer managed and not exactly scientific. All of this applies to US-only vehicles for now, but similar policies will soon go into effect worldwide, according to the statement. So, if you've been starting to get range anxiety, check the PR below the break for more info.

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Special announcement regarding the Nissan LEAF from Andy Palmer, executive vice president, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Good morning and Happy Holidays to all our Nissan LEAF owners in the U.S. and abroad.

As we approach the close of 2012, I wanted to provide an update on a subject that has interested a number of Nissan LEAF drivers in the U.S. desert southwest and select other markets. I'm speaking, of course, about concerns regarding the rate of battery capacity loss in the Nissan LEAF's Lithium-ion battery.

My comments today will be specific to Nissan LEAFs in the U.S., but the actions I will explain will apply and be specifically communicated to each owner worldwide in the coming months in accordance with applicable law.

Throughout the latter half of this year, our technical teams have worked diligently to ensure that the batteries installed in Nissan LEAFs were operating to specification. As we've gone through this process, we have listened to your concerns, and have communicated with you in various ways, including through the MyNissanLEAF owners' forum and other third parties.

Nissan has been taking your concerns very seriously, yet we know that some of you have not been satisfied with the pace of our support activities. Since launch, the Nissan LEAF has garnered some of the highest customer advocacy of any vehicle in the Nissan lineup, so we understand the importance of maintaining and growing that advocacy. And the only way to do that is by earning a high level of customer trust in our product and our support of it.

Simply put, we want to take actions which will further improve our customers' satisfaction with their Nissan LEAFs while demonstrating industry-leading confidence in the integrity of our battery system. Nissan is fully committed to the long-term viability of electric vehicles and we will continue to demonstrate that with action.

So today, we are announcing that we are enhancing the warranty coverage of the battery system that powers the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle. With this action, Nissan becomes the first and only manufacturer in the automotive industry to provide limited warranty coverage for battery capacity loss for electric vehicles.

Under an expanded New Electric Vehicle Limited Warranty, Nissan will protect against capacity loss in LEAF batteries that fall below nine bars, of the available 12 bars displayed on the vehicle's battery capacity gauge, for the first five years or 60,000 miles in the United States, whichever comes first. 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.

A vehicle whose battery has nine remaining bars indicated on the gauge is retaining approximately 70 percent of its original battery capacity. This new limited warranty coverage remains subject to the other terms, conditions and exclusions of the Nissan New Electric Vehicle Limited Warranty, which otherwise remain unchanged.

As previously mentioned, we are also looking at opportunities to improve the precision of the battery capacity gauge that displays remaining capacity in the LEAFs electric vehicle battery, and intend to have more to report on this topic in the New Year.

The specifics of this new limited warranty coverage will be communicated to each owner in a dedicated communication early next year. The expanded warranty coverage will apply in the United States to the upcoming Model Year 2013 Nissan LEAF upon its release. Importantly, Nissan will provide this expanded coverage to all model year 2011 and 2012 Nissan LEAFs sold and distributed by Nissan in the United States to date, effective upon a date to be announced but which is anticipated to be in the Spring of 2013.

Our actions today are intended to put customer minds at ease regarding the topic of battery capacity loss. Even though it is expected the great majority of owners will never have to use this enhanced warranty, we want each Nissan LEAF owner to have the security that should capacity loss exceed this defined threshold, Nissan will cover the repair or replacement of their battery under warranty.

I'm certain that there will be questions regarding the specifics of what we've announced here today. The attached 'Q&A' is intended to address some of those, although our dialogue on this subject will not end here. We intend to continue communicating with LEAF owners and we hope to add more information early in the New Year.

Also, many of you may have heard about or already read a recent LEAF customer survey that Plug-In America (PIA) administered. The survey, available here, is a valuable read for any LEAF owner concerned about the performance of their electric vehicle battery. I would encourage every LEAF owner to digest PIA's data, which came from over 240 vehicles, with contributions from over 25 states, two Canadian provinces, and the UK, representing over 3 million miles driven.

Finally, in early January, we will also announce the details of the new, model year 2013 Nissan LEAF for the U.S. As many of you know, this vehicle – and the batteries that power it – will be built right here in the United States at our plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. There are exciting changes coming with the 2013 Nissan LEAF, and we can't wait to tell you about them very soon.

In the meantime, Happy New Year to each of you, and thank you again for your advocacy and support of the electric vehicle movement.

Best Regards,

Andy Palmer
Executive Vice President – Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Expanded New Electric Vehicle Limited Warranty 'Question & Answer'

Q. What does the LEAF's Expanded "Nissan New Electric Vehicle Limited Warranty" actually cover?
A. In addition to the coverage provided under the existing Nissan New Electric Vehicle Limited Warranty, this expanded warranty applicable to LEAF vehicles in the United States will protect against capacity loss in LEAF batteries that falls below nine bars, of the available 12 bars displayed on the vehicle's battery capacity gauge, for the first 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. 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. A vehicle whose battery has nine remaining bars indicated on the gauge is retaining approximately 70 percent of its original battery capacity, although remember that the rate of capacity loss is non-linear and decreases over time.

Q. What vehicles are covered by this new limited warranty coverage? Will this warranty be retroactive for existing owners?
A. The expanded warranty coverage will apply in the United States to the upcoming Model Year 2013 Nissan LEAF upon its release. Importantly, Nissan will provide this expanded coverage to all model year 2011 and 2012 Nissan LEAFs sold and distributed by Nissan in the United States to date, effective upon a date to be announced but which is anticipated to be in the Spring of 2013. This new limited warranty coverage remains subject to the other terms, conditions and exclusions of the Nissan New Electric Vehicle Limited Warranty, which otherwise remain unchanged.

Q. Does the warranty cover replacement or refurbishment?
A. This warranty covers any repairs needed to return battery capacity to a level of nine remaining bars on the vehicle's battery capacity level gauge. If possible, the Lithium-Ion battery components will be repaired or replaced, and the original Lithium-Ion battery will be returned to the vehicle. If necessary, the Lithium-Ion battery will be replaced with either a new or remanufactured Lithium-Ion battery. Any repair or replacement made under this Lithium-Ion Battery Capacity Coverage may not return a Lithium-Ion battery to an "as new" condition with all 12 battery capacity bars, but it will provide the vehicle with a capacity level of nine bars or more on the battery capacity level gauge.

Q. Why doesn't the warranty restore the battery to the same level as a brand new one?
A. Gradual capacity loss is normal and expected in all lithium-ion batteries with time and use. The intent of this warranty is to provide consumers with confidence that despite this normal battery capacity loss, they will be assured of a minimum level of capacity throughout the warranty period.

Q. Is there an option for an owner to replace the battery? Is there a price for replacement?
A. Nissan is confident this new warranty will ensure customer satisfaction, but we also plan to release battery replacement pricing for those customers who wish to replace their batteries once they are no longer eligible for the warranty. Further details will be announced at a later timing in spring of 2013.

Q. What is the cost of the replacement battery?
A. We will announce further details before implementation.

Q. When does this new warranty coverage go into effect?
A. This expanded warranty will apply to Model Year 2013 LEAFs upon their release for sale by United States Nissan dealers. The date on which this new warranty coverage becomes effective for Model Year 2011 and 2012 Nissan LEAF vehicles will be announced in the future, effective upon a date to be announced but which is anticipated to be in the Spring of 2013, to allow for proper implementation by Nissan and its network of certified LEAF dealers.

Q. Why did you decide to enhance the warranty policy and implement this program now?
A. The expanded warranty is intended to put customers' minds at ease concerning battery capacity loss, although it is expected that the great majority of LEAF owners will not have to use this enhanced warranty. Nissan's decision is to demonstrate its confidence in the integrity and performance of its battery system.

Q. What is the status of the class-action lawsuit against Nissan related to battery capacity issues?
A. The lawsuit has been settled as part of our effort to address customer concerns including those expressed by the two customers who filed the class-action lawsuit.

Q. What are the other countries where this warranty policy will apply?
A. Further details will be announced in spring of 2013, but in addition to the United States we do plan to include other global markets such as Japan and Europe.

Q. Why are you waiting until spring of 2013 for implementation of this warranty as it applies to Model Year 2011 and 2012 vehicles?
A. Providing prompt and effective warranty service requires proper planning and preparation by our parts and service division working closely with our network of certified LEAF dealers.

Q. What should customers do if the gauge falls below 9 bars?
A. Customers who believe that their vehicle battery may need repair or replacement should visit their nearest certified Nissan LEAF dealer. Additional details on the warranty and repair process will be provided in spring 2013.

Q. How does the frequency of fast charging affect the rate of capacity loss? Are there other factors that influence the rate of capacity loss?
A. Quick charging the vehicle more than one time a day will affect and may hasten the rate of battery capacity loss. Other factors that will affect and may hasten the rate of capacity loss include, but are not limited to: (1) Sustained high battery temperatures (caused, for example, by exposure to very high ambient temperatures or extending highway driving with multiple quick charges); (2) Sustained high battery state of charge (caused, for example, by frequently charging to 100% state of charge and/or leaving the battery above 80% state of charge for long periods of time); and (3) Higher than estimated annual mileage accumulation (such as more than 12,500 miles per year).