Nissan Updates ‘Carwings’ to Quell Leaf Range Anxiety

If you’ve already driven a pure electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, then you’re probably aware of just how unnerving range anxiety can be.

In the short term, Nissan has said it will alleviate range anxiety by improving driver data readout, and in a few years it’s also believed to be working on a double-capacity battery – though for now we can only affirmatively report the “Carwings” telematics update.

A need for further refinement of Leaf data readout has been apparent. Depending on where you live and proximity to charging infrastructure, it’s often a daunting task deciding which journeys to undertake and which to forgo.

It’s not exactly uncommon to set out believing you had more than enough energy in reserve to make it only to discover that due to traversing steep hills or a detour en route, you won’t be able to go the distance.

For those that have driven the Leaf, this scenario can prove quite unnerving, due to the not always reliable nature of the car’s onboard Carwings telematics system.

Designed to provide information such as range required to reach a destination, battery charge necessary to get there, as well as pinpointing charging stations en route, Carwings hasn’t been able to take into account such aspects as elevation changes.

Just as disappointing, when it came to locating charging stations, it wasn’t able to tell you if said stations were available, or even operating, only that they merely existed.

Given that under real-world driving conditions the Leaf delivers a range of approximately 70 miles, for anybody who plans on regular commuting distances of 25 miles or more to work, this can present a significant problem.

Nissan is now hoping to alleviate these concerns by changing to more advanced algorithms that not only take into account elevation and route changes, but also whether charging stations on route are available or operable.

The company hasn’t exactly said when the new Carwings software will be available, only that it’s coming.

And while we’re on the subject of range anxiety, there have been rumors for the last few years that an improved battery pack is under development, able to extend the Leaf’s range to well beyond the nominal “100 miles” up to around 186, if estimates prove correct.

The unit in question is said to employ a lithium nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) oxide cathode, one that is said to provide double the energy capacity of the manganese spinel cell used in the Leaf’s current battery pack.

Although there’s been research into developing batteries with NMC cathodes, including tests done by Argonne Laboratories here in the U.S., as far as Nissan is concerned mum’s currently the word.

“We don’t talk about future product and can NOT confirm any changes in battery technology,” said Nissan USA spokesperson Katherine Zachary.

Nonetheless rumors of a 2015 introduction of this battery system, possibly on the Infinti LE as well as the Leaf, continue to persist.

The fact that Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn remains optimistic about the future of pure EVs, going so far as to predict a 10 percent market share among his company’s vehicles sold by the end of the decade, only serves to add fuel to the fire.

Autoguide via Green Car Reports


  • Finlandier Jones

    Range Anxiety…i have said many times that the single biggest reason why electric only vehicles will never reach mass consumption is because we live in a go-go society…not a slow-go society.

    Many have touted the new California charging stations as the Holy Grail for the EV industry…Some even laughingly suggested that stopping every 80 miles or so for a 30 minute charge and enjoy a picnic or something equally as idiotic would be embraced by everyone. WRONG!!!

    Again…Americans are always in a hurry to get where they are going. And they should be…Time is a precious commodity…We work Mon-Fri…and we play on weekends and we don’t waste time in between…Charging a battery is a waste of time…If I wanted to take my time, I would take a train…hell, it would even be faster to hitch hike than it would stopping every 80-100 miles to re-charge on a 200+ trip…let’s say from L.A. to San Francisco.

    The answer is retractable battery packs that would slide out and be replaced with minutes with a fully charged pack at a service station. That would take all of 10 minutes. Drivers would back up to a battery station…push a button where their battery pack would eject like a VHS cassette. An attendant rolls it aside…pops in another battery pack, scans the bar code on your car for payment and Voila’, you are off.

    Yes, it involves some re-engineering…but electric cars are but a very small fraction of the total car sales and will remain that way until they become more user friendly for the families that need extended ranges and do not want to bother with Range Anxiety.

  • william

    Nissan brought the LEAF tour to my city and I stopped by to test drive the lovely car. They also has lots of info on the vehicle and clearly showed with static displays that there is room for atleast double the cells in the current leaf… so it does not take a rocket scientist to conclude they can double the range without any additional chemistry change.

  • James Davis

    Japan has some incredible batteries and some incredible ICE vehicles that can get over 60 MPG ten years ago, but Detroit’s big three wouldn’t allow that information come into the U.S. because it would present too much of a challenge for them to get their 18 MPG cars up to snuff and the big three still don’t have an electric car that can even come close to the distance the Leaf can get in Japan. In Japan, the Leaf can get the same distance as Tesla’s roadster, and probably even a little better. So, once the big three, here in America, gets their heads out of their butts, you will see the distance on the Leaf skyrocket.

  • Kurt Stevens

    Jones – great idea, they are already trying this in admittedly-small Israel (and maybe elsewhere), you and others might find the article at the below link interesting.

    “they will be able to pull into a Better Place station along the highway and exchange their low battery for a fully charged one. The process should take about five minutes.”

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2066975,00.html

  • CLD

    Guys,

    I’ve been driving a Zenn as my daily commuter for about 2-1/2 years now. Every day, I reset the trip odometer. I know the range of the car (about 30 – 35 miles), and I don’t exceed that. No anxiety involved. If I need to take longer journeys, I have a 2005 Prius at my disposal. I know that a lot of people are thinking in terms of having one car and needing it for impromptu trips above and beyond their normal commuting. But I still think the ‘range anxiety’ notion is overblown. Just ask most people who drive EV’s. Sure, some people are always going to try and test the limit. But at the very least with a Leaf, you always have the option of plugging into a 120 V outlet. You really only need about 1 KWh to get an additional 4 – 5 miles. That shouldn’t take more than an hour at 120 V.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    The Leaf is the ideal second car where range anxiety is a non-issue…. The new Ford EV charges twice as fast as the Leaf using the same 240v charger. That could be bad for the Leaf sales when people compare and don’t care about the Leaf being a bit cheaper to buy…

    MrEnergyCzar

  • Van

    Calling Nissan’s own statements about the coming in 2015 second generation NMC battery with a range claimed to be almost double the initial Leaf range claim a rumor seems a tad odd.

    When these two changes, better Carwings and better battery, sporting a real world range of 120 miles plus occur, then the Leaf will become an ideal second car. The first car, for the time being, must remain a plug-in Hybrid like the Volt or PIP (Plug In Prius)or perhaps the Fusion plug-in due in March of 2013.

    Imagine a $32,000 PIP with a battery range of up to 30 miles, so that many of us would not burn any gas at all!!!! We really need the second generation battery before the GM explosion, Volt fire, Tesla brink, and Rush sour the public such that the market turns away from out dream of a better future.

  • Van

    Calling Nissan’s own statements about the coming in 2015 second generation NMC battery with a range claimed to be almost double the initial Leaf range claim a rumor seems a tad odd.

    When these two changes, better Carwings and better battery, sporting a real world range of 120 miles plus occur, then the Leaf will become an ideal second car. The first car, for the time being, must remain a plug-in Hybrid like the Volt or PIP (Plug In Prius)or perhaps the Fusion plug-in due in March of 2013.

    Imagine a $32,000 PIP with a battery range of up to 30 miles, so that many of us would not burn any gas at all!!!! We really need the second generation battery before the GM explosion, Volt fire, Fisker brick, and Rush sour the public such that the market turns away from out dream of a better future.

  • JP White

    The extra cells may add to range, however that would also increase cost and significantly.

    It would be nice to have the option of more cells at extra cost, likeTesla do offering three battery packages for it’s Tesla S vehicle.

    I hope you are correct about the extra room being available and the extra room isn’t needed to help the pack cool itself, since there is no active cooling system on the LEAF for the pack. It would be really neat if Nissan could offer to fit more cells at the annual battery check. Somehow I believe the latter is a pipe dream of mine :-)

  • volcano

    Lets just face it it, The LEAFs real world range of 70 miles 60 in winter isn’t practical for most people. A better battery must be found to make these things attractive to most buyers. I am speakling from first hand experience having bought a LEAF last year. The range is really frustrating and the frequent charging cant be good for the batteries.

  • StellarRat

    Actually, the “real” world range of 70 miles has been immensely practical for me. I’ve spent a grand total of $4.00 in electricity to drive to work, store, gym and even to grandma’s house 25 miles away for an entire month. That’s about 1/30 of what my old car was costing me (about $150 – 180 per month in gasoline.) Most people don’t drive anywhere near 70 miles per day. By my calculations the car will save me around $20,000 in fuel and maintenance if I hang on to it for 10 years. That will pay for all of the premium for an electric vs. a comparable gas vehicle plus an additional $10, 000. If you add in the tax credit of $7500 it becomes a huge payback. If I need to go somewhere further there is a fast charging network where I live and I can always borrow a gas car or rent. For the amount of money I’m saving it’s not even worth complaining about it.

  • Cameron Bonde

    Look up ‘Better Place’. Their main push is battery swap stations. Where it takes 5 minutes and you lease the battery. They actually operate already in quite a few countries.
    Personally once a single charge can get EV’s a full days driving, then they’ll take off massively (Since we have to sleep, so overnight charging becomes the norm).
    Also.. why the hell doesn’t the Leaf etc sell an optional/rentable fuel powered generator trailer? So on long trips you just hook it up. You’d even get extra boot space for the long trip. The RAV4 EV in the 90′s did this and NO-ONE does it now? Madness. I’d buy a Leaf tomorrow if they had a slick trailer for rare long range trips.