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.