Improving More Leaf Design Flaws

[Daniel] was recently featured here for his work in improving the default charging mode for the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle when using the emergency/trickle charger included with the car. His work made it possible to reduce the amount of incoming power from the car, if the charging plug looked like it might not be able to handle the full 1.2 kW -3 kW that these cars draw when charging. Thanks to that work, he was able to create another upgrade for these entry-level EVs, this time addressing a major Leaf design flaw that is known as Rapidgate.

The problem that these cars have is that they still have passive thermal management for their batteries, unlike most of their competitors now. This was fine in the early ’10s when this car was one of the first all-electric cars to market, but now its design age is catching up with it. On long trips at highway speed with many rapid charges in a row the batteries can overheat easily. When this happens, the car’s charging controller will not allow the car to rapid charge any more and severely limits the charge rate even at the rapid charging stations. [Daniel] was able to tweak the charging software in order to limit the rapid charging by default, reducing it from 45 kW to 35 kW and saving a significant amount of heat during charging than is otherwise possible.

While we’d like to see Nissan actually address the design issues with their car designs while making these straighforward software changes (or at least giving Leaf owners the options that improve charging experiences) we are at least happy that there are now other electric vehicles in the market that have at least addressed the battery thermal management issues that are common with all EVs. If you do own a Leaf though, be sure to check out [Daniel]’s original project related to charging these cars.

19 thoughts on “Improving More Leaf Design Flaws

  1. One thing that Tesla seems to have gotten right is OTA updates. It’s seamless, happens in the background, and can both fix problems *and* add features.

    Compare with Windows, which will have you wait for 30 minutes immediately after logging in while it downloads the upgrades, or can brick the computer for a couple of days due to a bad upgrade, or has “BAD SECURITY BUG, MUST INSTALL NOW” upgrades.

    Does the Leaf even have the capacity for upgrades, other than “bring it in to the dealer for recall”?

    1. Yes, all the different modules on the Leaf can have the software upgraded. The Leaf even comes with a telematrics control unit (3G) But there is no financial gain here, Nissan wants you to buy the latest model of their car instead. Hopefully the launch of the Nissan Ariya will change this, and OTA becomes the norm for Nissan.

      But even though the Leaf lacks OTA, it can still be heavily modified, and its usable lifetime extended. I’ve done a similar piece on cracking the battery ID system on the Leaf:

          1. Basically, the Skoda that most people remember were 1960’s soviet technology pressed into service in the 1980’s in cars that were designed to kinda-sorta look like a BMW, while in reality they were technologically more comparable to the Lada.

            They were cheap, unreliable, shoddy, and won a bunch of rallies because they were so cheap to modify/maintain that everyone could have one.

      1. Most 1st and 2nd generation Leafs came with 2G. When AT&T announced it was shuttering it’s 2G network at the start of 2017, Nissan had to offer free 3G upgrades to older Leaf’s still under warranty. I bought a used 2015 Leaf and during my first service appointment they upgraded the telematics to 3G.

        Also, what’s interesting about those early Leafs (Leaves?) is that they don’t use 2G/3G Data, communication is done via SMS Messages.

        1. Well to be honest, I had no idea that was possible and assumed it wasn’t.

          My frame of reference is from watching people on YouTube refurb Teslas only to have everything but basic functionality disabled by Tesla once they realized the car was on the road.

    2. You can schedule those things you know and there is system restore for possible bad updates (I haven’t had this issue yet but I know it happens). Pretty easy really. I am not sure why so many folks have problems with it.

    3. Tesla’s OTA updates aren’t seamless or in the background. You receive a notification on your phone when the update is available, it says the install will take about 25 minutes during which your car will be a brick, and once initiated gives you 2 minutes to abort. When the update is completed a change log is displayed on-screen that you must dismiss.

      Sometimes the car will say an update is available and it needs to connect to Wifi to download but then it refuses to download the update. This was the case for my through most of June/July of this year.

      Mind you I’m not complaining, my car has grown for the better in the two years I’ve had it and it’s the best car I’ve ever owned. But to call the update process “seamless” and “in the background” is misleading and sets false expectations.

    1. About the only thing anyone wants from a Leaf for an EV conversion are the packs. The motor and inverters are of little interest. There’s a whole EV conversion market and they have tons of options:

      Youtube is a good place to start exploring EV conversions as tons of people have documented their journey.

      1. I thought there was a previous article on Hackaday about using the stock Leaf motor with a custom inverter, and pumping a lot of power through it?

        Yeah, here we are:

        I’d love to gut a Leaf and put the drive train into something different. Or hack one into looking like a tiny pickup truck, like the guys at Nissan did for a team building exercise. The only downside is the really cheap ones have really poor battery capacity, from what I’ve seen. I’m surprised no one has started buying them up and using the entire pack for a Powerwall-esque home battery.

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