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Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, Calls Nissan Leaf Batteries ‘Primitive’

Posted in auto industry, Car Tech, Commuter Cars, Electric Cars, Nissan, Plug-In Vehicles, Tesla by Kurt Ernst | August 9th, 2010 | 3 Responses |

The Nissan Leaf, as seen by Elon Musk.

In a sure sign that things are heating up in the electric car battle for consumers hearts and minds, Elon Musk has called the batteries used by Nissan in the Leaf ‘primitive’ and not even up to the technology used in Tesla’s first prototype. Musk’s comments, quoted from Earth2Tech by Autoblog, were made in a conference call with analysts and investors last Wednesday, where Tesla executives were also forced to defend their slim-but-increasing margins on the Roadster. Investors fear that the Model S sedan will lack profitability unless the cost of materials and production can be lowered significantly.

Musk’s criticism of the Leaf’s batteries comes mainly from Nissan’s thermal management system, required to maintain the batteries within an optimal temperature range. The Tesla Roadster uses a liquid cooling system that maintains precise temperature regardless of environmental conditions; the less expensive Leaf relies on air cooling to maintain battery temperature. If Musk is correct, Leaf owners may face ‘huge degradation’ in cold environments and a total loss of power in extreme heat.

Musk’s comments were prompted by Nissan’s claim of breaking the $400 per kilowatt hour barrier, when other automakers (Tesla included) appear to be stuck in the $500 – $700 range per kilowatt hour. Nissan isn’t worried about battery performance in the Leaf, as they’ve done extensive testing in extreme conditions. They know full well what’s riding on the successful launch of the Leaf, and they can’t afford to get it wrong.

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3 Responses

  1. Mark Smith says:

    Musk may be right, but the Tesla is selling for substantially more than the Leaf. Still, I’d rather have a Tesla (they are WAY cool to drive!).

  2. Cence Alonso says:

    Oooohhh so softdrink battle now shifted to Car making companies……Telsa is monster when it comes to Design….. Nissan need to work harder to catch them……………..

  3. Kurt says:

    Agreed on all counts. If Tesla can benefit from larger economies of scale now that they’re partnered with Toyota, the Model S may be a serious contender for the first mainstream battery powered sedan.

    That is, of course, if Tesla doesn’t get sucked into building only battery powered RAV-4s for Toyota.