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By Russ Finley on Jul 3, 2014 with 5 responses

Nissan Leaf Replacement Battery for $5,500


Provision of an after-market battery pack is another electric car first and an all important step for electric cars to gain greater market share. Leaf owners now have the option to upgrade to a new battery (with new, more heat resistant chemistry) when the old one wears out, or of selling their car and letting someone else put a new battery in it. An electric car with a worn out battery wouldn’t have much resale value if you couldn’t replace the battery. The existence of a reasonably priced battery replacement might stimulate sales by putting at ease any prospective customers concerned about how they would sell their electric car once its battery wore out.

All automotive lead-acid batteries have a core charge to make sure they get recycled (parts store will pay $5-$10 for your old battery). The core charge for the Leaf battery is $1,000 (new battery would cost $6,500 without it). And you don’t have the option of keeping your old battery. Nissan wants them back to recycle or possibly become part of a study that uses old batteries for other energy storage applications. Nissan may not want to be sued by tinkerers who burn their garages down (like may biodiesel tinkerers have) trying to use the old batteries for solar back-up and such. Modern lithium battery packs require sophisticated charging and discharging controllers to keep them safe.

It should take two or three hours for a dealership to replace a battery and if you own a 2011 Leaf, you need to purchase a retrofit kit for a few hundred more dollars as well. This cost is comparable to having a dealership put a new engine in a conventional car, and certainly no more than the cost of putting a new engine and a new transmission in a car (it isn’t advisable to put a new engine in a high-mileage car without also replacing the transmission). Having only one moving part, the electric motor may last longer than the car.

It may come as a surprise to many, but there are still only two electric car manufacturers that sell (and can maintain) your electric car at any of their dealerships: Nissan and (of course) Tesla. The Ford Focus electric and Mitsubishi MiEV are low volume cars. I just called my local Ford dealership and was told that they had a Ford Focus Electric on the lot about a month ago but wasn’t sure when there would be another one. The Fiat 500e, Chevrolet Spark EV, Honda Fit EV, and Toyota RAV4 EV are even lower volume cars sold in states like California primarily to meet zero-emission vehicle mandates. For this reason they are sometimes referred to as compliance cars. Unfortunately, with an $80,000 price tag the Tesla is relegated to a niche market. Tesla can only sell them to a relatively limited number of people willing and able to pay that much for a sports car.

Nissan may provide an option for  a 150 mile range battery pack in the next year or two. Considering the Leaf’s passive battery cooling system, I suspect that this upgrade is technically possible thanks to the more heat resistant battery chemistry. A reasonably priced 150 mile range electric car along with fast chargers sitting next to the coin operated tire pumps at most 7-Elevens could be the beginning of the end for market dominance of internal combustion engine automobiles.

  1. By Cult O'Clock on July 5, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I’m certainly no advocate of replacing ICE vehicles. Not that I don’t think it will, must happen sooner or later. Advocating the use of EVs is another matter. We have a Volt and solar, but it’s not for everyone. Not yet. It takes time to change such an entrenched technology. Sadly, it looks like the Americans will sit on their hands while the Japanese and Germans move to dominate the emerging market

    • By Russ Finley on July 6, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      The Japanese were the first with the Prius and the Leaf. I’m not aware of anything like that coming from Germany yet.

      • By Cult O'Clock on July 7, 2014 at 9:47 am

        I’m not sure to what you refer, Russ. Are we talking EV’s or battery tech? If Ev’s then I think the BMW i3 is a first of sorts. Nothing new under the sun, but they have put together a number of good ideas to come up with a possible winner. A modular car is a brilliant idea. Daimler invested early in Tesla and now has a line of EV’s coming out. Audi is ramping up their R&D to take advantage of other people trailblazing efforts. VW is onboard because they own Audi. I think you’ll find that the Germans are moving along fairly quickly. It may not show at the moment, but when they do break out it will be in a big way.

        If battery tech then BASF is working on some advanced ideas. That field is still so wide open that anything could happen. A high school kid may come up with the deal breaker. Who knows? These are exciting times!

  2. By Forrest on July 7, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Good news that they have a replacement battery available. Speculation abounded for $10k battery cost. I did review of my actual cost of similar sized auto. The fuel savings offset by the battery cost…it’s a wash. The range, variety, low cost, and ample refueling stations definitely the factors to chose traditional auto. The battery car may have a very long life span and become attractive per the used car market? Picking up a cheap 7 year old car and replacing battery may provide a low cost and reliable neighbor hood transportation. Motor Trend had compared cost of ownership ’13 and evaluated the battery car as $2,500 more costly over 5 year ownership. The electricity rate was very low and included no road tax. Evaluations are tough per many factors. Nissan appears to be losing money on the model, offering dealerships $8,500-$7,500 cash incentive. Federal government $7,500 tax credit (not much help for retiree’s). Colorado $6,000 rebate. I’m not sure what the current discounts, rebates, incentives, and tax credits amount to? If it weren’t for all the corporate money and taxpayer money, the attractiveness of the battery car would be dismal. I question the extreme support money required and environmental benefits. These cars fuel up on current grid’s poor efficiencies hovering in the 30′s. Maybe the power load would improve the ability of grid to balance load? Such as the Wests high hydro power waste during night time. Same for nuclear energy. The maximum benefit to those with solar power roof top power in which to offset meter. The conundrum to battery car…ICE technology is steady approaching efficiency of grid. Fuel cell is twice the efficiency. I did read the energy department is offering money for fuel cell battery car hybrid for extended range. CAFE regulations apply twice the auto company benefit for battery car, to hold corporate interests, but now delete all such benefits for flex fuel vehicles. The CAFE regulations are just a method and way for elitist within government to control market and apparently not connected to real world results. For example CAFE standards are not comparable year to year as the formulations all change. Also, they penalize high mpg vehicles per their lessening ability to improve. The overall pollution stream of each model is not important as their improvement. Also, battery car assumptions per grid pollution is wholly unrealistic. They take the opposite approach to flex fuel vehicles.

  3. By Forrest on July 8, 2014 at 8:04 am

    The providence of battery car appears to be metro tropical climate wealthy. Reviews of the BMW i3 are positive per styling with ability to attract much attention. This must be the primary motive to customers per the incredible price premium. The owners recommend avoiding heater to save driving range. They choose instead seat warmers. Best to avoiding freeway cruising speeds and plug in vehicle at every opportunity. German’s pay equivalent $1,160/mo for economy car. Owners dare not stray more than 40 miles away from home without ensuring additional recharge. That is with new battery and paying close attention to rate of discharge. Older cars would suffer with 20-28 mile range. Highway trust fund for road repair and construction going broke with lack of federal road tax. Battery cars will have to eventually share the same burden as fueled cars. Many have consider the environmental benefit of battery car minimal upon parts of country with coal power. Only those utilizing solar, wind, hydro, or nuclear power can claim environmental benefit. If EPA were more concerned of global warming gas and not in controlling markets, they would focus to utilize bio-energy for space heating needs. For example over half of Vermont home owners still heat with fuel oil. The common pellet stove would be a big cost savings for heating needs and provide 3x the benefit to environment as compared to fed spending for wealthy whom have resources to install solar, probably upon seldom used ski chalets. Also, the Ford focus flex fuel get good mileage with E85. This car I would estimate to achieve better environmental benefits fueled with biofuel than battery car upon current grid. If EPA were concerned of global warming they would celebrate this generation of auto as the choice actually saves consumers money and requires no expensive government incentives. Also, the car requires no compromise in driving habits or convenience.

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