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.