Nissan Leaf Drive Train is 25 Times More Reliable than Conventional Cars
[Updated 5/4/2015 to delete potentially incorrect information about storage space and battery size.]
Nissan recently released the results of a five year study that found 99.99 percent of its battery packs are still operating as warrantied (battery not having less than 80 percent capacity after five years). Using that information, a study conducted by Warranty Direct (an independent British insurance specialist) found that the Leaf drive train is 0.255/0.01 =25 times more reliable than internal combustion engines. This is, however, somewhat misleading because today’s conventional cars are amazingly reliable, especially compared to a 1973 Pinto. They found that out of 50,000 conventional cars aged 3-6 years old, only a quarter of one percent “had an issue that led to an immobilization of the internal combustion engine.” This finding appears to have led Glass’s (Britain’s used car guide) to conclude:
“They [Leafs] are good enough that, as an expert in this field, we will be looking again at our residual value forecasts for LEAF and probably revising them upwards. Long-term battery life has been a definite concern for used EV buyers but the new figures from Nissan effectively remove this worry.
“Really, Nissan has gone through a process with the LEAF similar to Toyota with the first generation Prius several years ago, where the cars had to be proven in real life conditions before used buyers could feel confident. Now, the Prius enjoys excellent residuals and the LEAF should start to find a similar level of market acceptance.”
Coincidentally, my neighbor pulled up in front of my house the other day in a 2012 Leaf with 11,000 miles on it that she had just purchased at a Honda dealer for $13,000. As an early adopter, I paid $35,000-$7,500 tax credit = $27.500 for my 2011, which recently crossed 30,000 miles and has performed flawlessly with the exception of a flat tire, two new sets of wiper blades, and a failed key fob.
Also, just this week the battery condition indicator dropped one bar out of the 12 bars that indicate a new battery condition. My battery isn’t like new anymore but still provides more than enough range for 99 percent or so of my driving needs. I sometimes pull a four foot by eight foot trailer with it and recently took it on a long journey to do maintenance on my remote forest property, which required two hour-long ferry rides and stopping at a charge station for 1.5 hours to complete the trip. The day some entrepreneur finds a way to put a fast charger at every 7-11 is the day electric car sales will really take off.
New Leafs have a 6.6kW on board charger compared to my 3.3 kW one. They also have a heat pump instead of resistance heating elements and a more heat resistant, higher capacity battery. Four or five years from now I will have to decide to spend roughly $6,000 to replace the battery or get another car. On the plus side, a Leaf with a new battery would perform like a new car. I’m guessing that a Leaf with a worn out battery will have very low resale value because the new owner will have to put a new pack in it. The electric motor is likely to outlive the rest of the car. Time will tell.
I’ve read a few times that low gas prices have been hurting EV sales while improving SUV sales, and if true, I would not be surprised. If the day ever comes that there are enough electric cars to measurably impact oil demand, there will be a tendency for lower demand to reduce oil prices, eventually stimulating more oil consumption (SUV sales), and up and down it will go. Displacing oil isn’t going to be as easy as displacing coal, which has three strong competitors in natural gas, hydro, and nuclear.