Nissan Motor Co. is planning to commission an independent global study of the batteries of its Leaf electric vehicle just to satisfy a small group of owners in Phoenix, Arizona, who claim their batteries are aging too fast. Despite its position that the Leaf’s lithium ion batteries pose no problems, Nissan has requested electric-car advocate and former General Motors marketing manager Chelsea Sexton to create a global group to probe independently of the Japanese carmaker. Carla Bailo, Nissan's senior vice president of research and development, announced the move in an open letter published on the Leaf owner website, mynissanleaf.com. The letter said that the members of the study group would be Chelsea, not Nissan, and they would recommend their own mandate.
Nissan added that it hopes that the study would “hold up a mirror” to the carmaker and help it to be more open and approachable in its communication and to advise the company on its strategy. Although the issue could be considered small, it posed an annoying distraction to Nissan as the carmaker gets ready to launch a $1.6 billion project to mass produce the Leaf and its batteries in the US starting in December 2012.
Nissan has so far sold around 14,000 Leafs to U.S. consumers over the past two years. Nissan has repeatedly reminded its customers that like cell phone batteries, Leaf's lithium ion battery modules will lose their ability to hold a charge as it ages. Nissan, however, said that the batteries should retain an 80 percent charging capacity after five years of use. Seven Leaf owners in Phoenix claim that their batteries are losing charging capacity after only a few years. Tension rose green-car websites among Leaf owners and alternative-vehicle enthusiasts who suspect that Nissan is hiding a product flaw.