As the initial Nissan Leaf electric vehicles barrel toward their first decade on U.S. roads, some owners are voicing concerns on Internet forums about battery degradation and clamoring for an affordable replacement.
But more than a year after launching a battery refurbishment program for Leaf customers in Japan, Nissan remains noncommittal about offering the program in the brand's largest market -- the U.S.
Nissan, which has sold about 135,000 Leafs in the U.S., told Automotive News Europe sister publication Automotive News it is "looking at potentially putting a battery refurbishment program in place in the U.S.," but it declined to offer a timeline.
The early Leaf batteries are the canaries in the coal mine -- their feeble charge an alarm for what is almost certain to become an industrywide issue.
Just as Nissan was a pioneer in selling a battery-powered, zero-emissions car in the U.S. in late 2010, the automaker must become a pioneer in figuring out how to address aging batteries that -- as consumers have learned with their cellphones -- last only so long. It's an industry reality that eventually all automakers that followed Nissan will have to sort out.
The earliest Tesla Model S sedans, launched in 2012, will soon cross their eight-year battery warranty mark. Next is BMW, which launched the full-electric i3 in the U.S. in 2014.
For Ravi Kan-ade, a battery refurb option can't come soon enough. The 24-kilowatt-hour battery in Kanade's 2012 Nissan Leaf SL has lost half its charging capacity after just 60,000 miles.
"A refurb program is needed to help owners who were affected by Gen 1 vehicles," Kan-ade told Automotive News. "I believe that these early battery failures are part of a learning curve that was passed on to the consumer. Nissan offered a battery replacement program for $5,500, but unfortunately they quietly raised the price to $8,500."
Some dealers are equally frustrated, noting the lack of a refurb program hurts residual values and shoos away would-be buyers concerned about range.
Despite Nissan's claims that it is considering offering the program in the U.S., Kanade is doubtful.