Home > Eco Transportation > Orders for Nissan LEAF start as of today: is there something to worry about?

Orders for Nissan LEAF start as of today: is there something to worry about?

31/08/2010

Starting tomorrow, you can officially order a Nissan LEAF, and I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that we’ve been pretty excited about this vehicle.  It will be the first mass-produced all-electric car on the market and, with federal and state incentives included, it will also be affordable.  But I’m getting a bit nervous as well.

As we’ve mentioned before, this crowning of the LEAF as the inaugural mass market electric vehicle is both a blessing and a curse for Nissan and those of us who strongly support electric cars.  The LEAF will enjoy a bit of fame, but a lot of pressure rests on its wheels to prove that electric cars can easily take the place of their gas-fueled counterparts.  And there’s one particular feature that may hold it back.

The LEAF has been criticized by competitors and auto enthusiasts alike for lacking an active thermal management system for the battery pack.  It has a passive cooling system that features a single fan to distribute heat evenly over the pack.  The LEAF has an official range of 100 miles, but under extreme hot or cold weather conditions, without a competent system to keep temperatures in check, the range could plummet to as low as 40 miles.

Elon Musk has said that the LEAF’s thermal management system is primitive and would lead to “huge degradation” in cold environments and that the battery pack would just “shut off” in hot environments.  If you live in Maine or Texas (as well as any other area that sees temperature extremes), that would be a major problem.

If the LEAF rolls out and enough people complain of limited range and consistency issues, it could be spell the end for the LEAF and could make convincing the average person to buy an all-electric an even harder feat.  I’ve got to believe that Nissan has fully tested the battery pack under extreme temperature conditions and hopefully this all amounts to a bunch of competitive gossip, but I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed just in case

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