Nissan Leaf battery
Luke Ottaway's picture

Replacement battery cost bodes well for used LEAF market

A big unknown when it comes to resale value of electric vehicles is battery degradation and the cost of replacing the battery pack. Nissan has addressed this concern with aggressive pricing of Nissan LEAF replacement batteries.

Nissan has released encouraging news concerning replacement battery packs for the best-selling LEAF electric vehicle. Brian Brockman, a senior manager of corporate communications at Nissan, posted in the MyNissanLeaf forum detailing the newly unveiled battery replacement program based on a year of customer feedback.

The facts: reasonable cost, optional financing, new chemistry, but same capacity

The crucial piece of information: any Nissan LEAF owner may now purchase a brand new 24-kWh battery pack for a suggested retail price of just $5,499 plus installation fees and tax.

In addition the owner will be required to trade in the old battery, which Nissan is valuing at $1,000 but does not count toward the cost of the new battery. The replacement packs are now available for purchase at any certified Nissan dealer.

Owners of the 2011 and 2012 model year LEAF will also have to purchase a $225 kit that includes brackets and related hardware to install the new battery. Installation time is estimated to be three hours, although no projected installation cost was given.

Nissan also revised its heavily critiqued monthly payment plan for a new battery so that owners may finance the replacement for around $100 per month over five years if they so desire and would own the battery at the end of the finance terms. More details on the financing program will be made available as they are finalized.

The replacement batteries will be the same packs as those in the 2015 LEAF, which feature a modified cell chemistry for improved durability in hot climates. The new heat-tolerant chemistry should alleviate worries about excessive capacity loss such as that experienced by some owners in the southwest United States, but it does not improve range or charging characteristics over the previous version.

How much is Nissan subsidizing the cost?

Some quick math reveals that Nissan valuing the new 24-kWh packs at $6,500 ($5,500 plus $1,000 for the old pack) theoretically indicates a cost of around $270/kWh for the new battery. This suggests that the increase in volume production of large-format lithium ion cells has driven the cost down significantly, although Nissan is most likely going to lose money on the few replacement batteries sold for the first year or two as it lowers costs further.

A spent LEAF battery is worth more than $1,000 for applications like residential solar energy storage, but most of the old batteries initially will be recycled. Some will be reused as part of Nissan’s 4R Energy operation, though it will be interesting to see what Nissan ultimately does with used packs once they begin coming offline in droves.

Why it is so important

Batteries are without question the weak link of electric vehicles. They are the limiting variable in the longevity of the vehicle; though critical EV components like the drive motor and brakes will last far longer than their counterparts in gasoline vehicles, the battery pack limits the effective life of the car as the rest is useless without adequate battery life to power it.

Nissan knows this – they only warranty their battery packs against capacity loss for 5 years and 60,000 miles (8 years and 100,000 miles against defects), although they may adjust those numbers if the new heat-tolerant chemistry proves more successful. They also know that the used LEAF market will struggle without a competitive battery replacement program; nobody is going to pay very much for a vehicle that comes with a timer counting down to the end of its useful life.

With used conventional vehicles, there is at least the hope that nothing will break down if it is maintained well. If components break, they can often be repaired or replaced at relatively low cost.

With used electric vehicles, the battery will degrade to unusable capacity and there is virtually nothing that you can do about it, short of delaying the inevitable with careful charging and driving patterns. Thus the concern about replacement battery costs; overly expensive replacement batteries would greatly hurt the resale value of the vehicle.

The obvious flip side of this concern is that if the battery can be replaced at reasonable cost, an electric vehicle gets a new lease on life and a huge boost in resale value. That’s why the aggressive pricing set by Nissan is encouraging – considering that a brand new battery could legitimately double the life of a LEAF, $5,500 is a very fair price to pay.

Keep an eye on 2017

Though Nissan refused to offer any details on future higher-capacity battery packs, we are free to speculate. It is widely expected that the next-generation LEAF, likely to debut as a 2017 model year, will come with the option of a larger battery for more range. Specifically, current LEAF owners were asked in a detailed survey how much extra they would be willing to pay for 150 miles of range instead of 85.

The upgrade will be mostly from improved battery chemistry with greater energy density than the current generation. We could see a pack with capacity as large as 42 kWh, which would put the LEAF in the ballpark of 150 miles of range.

If the future larger battery packs are not the same in size and shape as the 2015 battery, owners wishing to upgrade their current LEAF to a 150-mile version will be disappointed. Nissan no doubt is aware of this, so we will see if their engineers can figure out how to package a significantly greater capacity in the same space even with a large energy density increase.

Utilizing more of the available capacity could be another route, or offering the option of an occasional maximum charge like the Mercedes Benz B-Class ED would be an easy way to “achieve” 150 miles of range.

Given Nissan’s recommended retail price of $270/kWh for the 2015 battery pack, this number suggests that increasing range from 85 miles to 150 miles would cost something like $5,000. We will see how close that value is to reality, but early indications are that a longer-range LEAF won’t break the bank.

Biggest takeaway

The most important thing to come out of Nissan’s replacement battery announcement is that LEAFs are no longer restricted to a mere 8 years on the road. Without noticeable aging in the drivetrain, a used LEAF upgraded with a new heat-tolerant battery will feel just like a brand-new car again. With no transmission, combustion engine, or exhaust system, electric vehicles can last far longer than conventional vehicles if the issue of battery life is eliminated.

Nissan has done its part to maximize the service life of its LEAF vehicles. The used market will flourish, and owners who really love their LEAF may now effectively double its useful life for just over $6,000 after taxes and installation fees. This will certainly change the way people think about leasing or financing the LEAF and does wonders for the confidence of existing and potential owners.

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Well this is certainly very good news. With the rapidly falling value of a used LEAF the economics of spending say $6500 to replace a bad pack might not be as good an option as Leasing a new LEAF. I have a 2011 LEAF with greater than normal battery degradation and it floors me to think it will cost ME $6500 to fix Nissans mistake. Guess the upside is one could just spend $100 a month, get a new pack every 5 years and drive the car till the wheels fall off.
I agree with MIke. While I appreciate the"value added" implications of an affordable battery replacement or upgrade, I believe it to border on criminal for Nissan to dump the cost of a malfunctioning battery pack on the consumer. * Good read Luke; Thanks.
Nissan really put their reputation at risk with the previous policy of renting you a substitute battery. I would have NEVER purchased another Nissan again. But this new policy of selling a battery for what seems to be a fair price is much better. My only hope is that future batteries have compatibility with the new batteries in future year models.
We, twice a week, have to make a journey of 120 kilometers which is costing us a small fortune in petrol bills. We would love to get a late model Leaf but have serious doubts that such a trip would be at the outer limit if not over the per charge range. We are now also seriously concerned at the degradation speed of the battery pack which could necessitate complete battery replacement at about year 5 to 6. Any constructive advice would be greatfully accepted.
Hi Brendan, it sounds like you would need a Leaf with a new battery. That trip wouldn't be a problem for a new Leaf or an older model year with a brand-new battery, but it wouldn't take much degradation (could be 3 years, could be 6) for 120 km to be outside your practical range unless you drove with a really light foot and kept it below 100 km/h.
Thanks for your comment Luke. I suspected that might be the case. As We live at the bottom of the world (New Zealand) I will try to contact Nissan NZ to see if they are prepared to comment. Although the sales people are well intentioned, they by nature of their job, spout regurgitated brochure material. I want expert technical opnion so it will be interesting to see how far I can burrow.
The leaf is not for you. Does it ever get cold where you live? Need a heater? That cuts battery charge almost in half. I also only drive in eco mode and "b" mode. Does it get hot where you live? That reduces battery life. Don't get caught in traffic either! The car is a golf cart. Just where is it any good?
Hi Brendan. I'm not sure a Nissan Leaf is you best bet for the driving conditions you described. The "Normal" battery degradation is say 15% in the first 3 years and levels off to 30% long term. If the vast majority of the miles you drive on the 120 Km trip is highway miles and I'm guessing turning off the A/C is not an option you will need to find a quick charge on route. If a quick charge or L2 is available on route you'll be fine with the LEAF.
I just looked up a Km to miles calculator. You are going 74.5645 miles! You should FORGET EV for now. The cars/batteries can only get better with time.
I own a 2011 LEAF which has lost 3 bars (I live in Arizona). I have told Nissan that the current degradation rate far exceeds what is described in the product literature, and that I am not satisfied with the current 5yr/60k warranty to "restore up to 9 bars" (70% capacity). I am optimistic about battery technology improvement, but would not buy another LEAF without a more ironclad, long term battery capacity guarantee. Say, one that matches the product literature!!
The BMW i3 comes with a capacity loss warranty that goes to something like 8 years and 100,000 miles. Our experience with the 2011 Leaf is not very good. Nissan's response to my complaints about capacity loss are unacceptable. We will never buy another Nissan again!!!
WILL NEVER BUY ANY NISSAN AGAIN. The salesman told me it will average 100 miles per charge! Disgusting.
Disingenuous of that salesperson, but at my average economy I get ~110 miles per full charge. A lot of it just comes down to the kind of driving you do (city vs highway) and how you drive. If you do purely city driving below 40MPH, and accelerate and brake very gently, 120+ isn't unreasonable. On the other hand, if you have a lead foot and do highway driving, I'd expect below 80.
I agree. I just get upset sometimes at all this. Upgrade to 9 bars is no good. I would want a new a new one.
Richard--If your lucky you will get a NEW battery under warranty. Nissan has changed the "Chemistry" on their batteries twice and no longer makes the obsolete cells used in the 2011/2012 or the 2013/2014 batteries. These older batteries can only be replaced not repaired. Another lie from Nissan. We lost our first far at 1 ( ONE) year and 3500 miles. I live in Virginia no excuses about heat. Was pissed at the time but it looks like Nissan threw up a wall of lies, denial and lawyers because $200 Million was riding on it. Their short sightedness cost them me as a returning customer and believe me I do not hesitate to tell anybody about my experiences with the Leaf and Nissan.
The only thing I can do is tell my friends not to buy a Nissian. The corporate culture there is likely corrupt, and I tell them all about the leaf. Oh I rue the day I did business with Nissian!
WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER NISSAN also goes for us. We also were told 100 miles per charge. I get 5+ miles per kwh and NEVER got more than 60 miles on a charge. lying Bas.... We were also advised not to get the DCFC option because there were no fast charge stations here in Virginia and we were also told not to get the battery heater because it was only used to protect the battery from damage if the temperature dropped below -22F. Its disgusting and beyond. Anybody out there know how long the 12 volt lead acid battery under the hood lasts?
NISSAN IS DESTROYING THEIR REPUTATION -and God help you if you use the heater in freezing winter!
Any lawyers out there?? Anyone know a lawyer? There would be a lot of money to make!
Need a lawyer? I am not one but did you have something in mind? There already is a class action law suit against Nissan regarding the batteries they put in the 2011 and 2012 Leafs. The half baked settlement was designed by Nissan to limit the number of packs Nissan has to pay for thus sticking us with the battery replacement bill. Getting tired of pressing the accept/decline button every time you start your Leaf?. I press decline every time and the system ask me non-stop. That is HARRASMENT no? I live in Virginia don't know where you live but if your are serious about suing Nissan for harassment contact the site moderator and have them contact me directly.
Anyone know if defects are in the 2013 packs? My leaf had a computer upgrade after a small charging issue. Issue was recalled and fixed by Nissan. Car charges and runs great. My lease expires next year and would like to buy but seems like I should wait until the new battery details are released.
The 2015 batteries do not get better mileage. :-(
I don't think the replacement batteries will be better than the '15 batteries. WINTER has hit. I can't go more than 40 miles off of a single charge. Is this normal for weather around 30 degrees Fahrenheit? Help! My model is a 2014 Leaf.
Richard - That's really low. Even on a very cold day (sub 10 degrees) I still get about 65-70 miles on a full charge. I would take your Leaf in to check for a recall. My 2013, which has the same battery, had to be re-programmed at about 15,000 miles. It would only charge about 2/3 of the way (50 miles or so max) for a couple weeks, then stopped charging all together. Just shut off after 20 minutes of charging. It was a recall covered under warranty.
Richard. The new 2015 batteries are suppose to last longer in the heat. No improvement in COLD climate. The newer models were suppose have heat pumps which reduce electric consumption for heating when the outside air temp is above 28F otherwise the heat switched to electric resistance heating. Poor range is expected when the weather is cold. The newer cars should a small heater in the battery to improve cold weather range. BTW our 2011 has no battery heater and we get 30 miles in winter if we keep the heat turned OFF. Cant wait for the 2016 VOLT to get here.
I have a 2011 leaf im lucky to get 40 miles round trip providing I don't use the ac and heater. I took it to Nissan dealership and they wont replace the battery unit it charges to 8 bars only , it is currently charging to 10 bars so I believe that the latest firmware is giving a bogus charge indication. the capacity is degrading rapidly soon ill have to get it towed to the dealership when I cant make the run of 20 miles. as I lose capacity the charging bars still indicate 10 bars. something is not right.
Yes, in cold weather I get about 40 miles per charge. My leaf is 2014. The salesman told me to expect 100 miles per charge. This is gross fraud. I would join a class action suit in a minute. BTW, mine still shows 12 bars!!! I do "pre-heat" the car with the charger plugged in. A good feature. I will never buy a Nissan ANYTHING.
We are pretty much in the same boat as you. Our 2011 Leaf when new only got 60 miles on a full charge. The local dealer said nothing was wrong. After 1 year we lost our first bar and filed a complaint with Nissan and the BBB and got nowhere with them. We contacted somebody at "My wilting leaf" web site but it did no good. The guy told me he was in Arizona but his phone number was a land line in Franklin Tenn. Same as Nissans headquarters. Nissan took my car for 2 days and got somebody from the home office to come look at the car. Again I was told nothing was wrong with the car ,battery or charger. My Leaf SPY says I'm at 77% but the second bar did not drop so I know something is not right with my car also. With the current trade in value of my 3 year old $32,000 car at less than $10,000 I really feel like I got robbed when I bought my Leaf.
I still have 12 bars, and it only gets 40 mi. per charge in the winter. This car is a joke.
If only I had done my research before buying. I feel like a fool buying that car. Depreciation is beyond belief. I'd love to get out from under this car.