By on July 25, 2014

2011_Nissan_Leaf_SL_--_10-28-2011

In June, Nissan announced that Leaf owners could obtain a replacement battery pack for $5,500 upon trading in the old unit. While a boon to said owners, the automaker is losing blood on the deal every time a pack is sold.

Green Car Reports interviewed Nissan vice president of global communications Jeff Kuhlman, who explained that the low price for the new pack was the result of his employer subsidizing the price, though he declined to state how much Nissan spends per replacement. Thus, no profit is being made at this time off of the exchange.

However, Nissan isn’t yet hurting on this “customer-first” initiative. According to Kuhlman, no one has taken the automaker up on its Leaf battery replacement program.

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40 Comments on “Nissan Loses Money On Every Leaf Replacement Battery Sold...”


  • avatar
    redav

    “no one has taken the automaker up on its Leaf battery replacement program.”

    And why should they? Every Leaf battery is still probably under warranty.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    How many miles do they typically last? Is Norway in the house?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The warranty is 8 yr/100k mi., so it has to be longer than that or else Nissan is really throwing money away. Assuming you aren’t baking it in AZ summers and generally taking care of it, the battery probably lasts 150k+ mi.

      Does anyone have long-term data yet?

      • 0 avatar
        Nicholas Weaver

        I thought I remembered seeing stories about the Leaf battery not having the longevity it should, mostly attributed to the lack of water cooling.

        (The Tesla Roadster and Volt battery packs have been generally solid, as they have better thermal management).

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          You mean solid like bricks?

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          The Leaf battery packs that have experienced premature capacity reduction have typically been in the southern parts of the US where they get overly hot.

          Up here in the temperate PNW, they seem to do just fine. My friend has close to 60K on his Leaf already with no issues thus far.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      It depends on what you mean by ‘last’. Lithium ion batteries degrade with cycling, so there isn’t a day on which they just die.

      Nissan promises they’ll still have 80% capacity after 5 years, which works out to 4.4% degradation compounded annually. My Leaf’s battery is exactly on track with that rate, so after 20 months I’ve lost about 8%.

      Don’t be deceived by the 8 year warranties the EV makers offer – that’s federally-mandated, and they’re only promising the battery will be functional, not original performance. After 8 years, you’re likely to be down 30%.

      So when you fill it to just 80% as Nissan recommends, and your winter range is only 60% of the reading on the gas gauge, and your battery is degraded by 30% after 8 years, you’ll be thinking about a replacement battery. OR, you’ll simply dump the vehicle for something else. Under these conditions, the math on my Leaf says I could feasibly drive only 25 miles – yuk – although I could still make it to work and back.

      Having a sense of this future is why I leased the car rather than buy it. As much a fan of EVs that I’ve become, I really don’t know how it will go for the EV mfrs when the market is flooded with EVs coming off lease, and with terrible resale value. This is already starting.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Oh oh, this math will not make the EV fanbois happy. Sort of wrecks the mantra of “the average driver only drives 45 miles (or pick your own number) a day so range issues are irrelevant.”

        Those who write about people being irrational about range never take into account unexpected trips/errands/emergencies, spouses forgetting to charge the car, being stuck in traffic and needing to run the HVAC for an hour(s), etc; in other words, real life.

        The Leaf may be a great car for single male engineers. For the rest of us I’m skeptical.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          >> never take into account unexpected trips/errands/emergencies, spouses forgetting to charge the car,

          Had a spouse forget to put gas in an ICE car and it ran dry before making it to the nearest gas station. Ironically if it had been an EV, it would have charged overnight and there would have been no problem.

          My commute is typically 20 miles round trip. Only about 8 miles of that is subject to traffic, so I figure I can blast my A/C of heater all I want. If the range drops to 25 miles on a cold day, that’s not an issue.

          Had a Mazda MPV rack up about $5500 in repairs when the transmission went right after the warranty ran out. What about the cost of oil changes with good synthetic, catalytic converter replacement, oxygen sensors, belt replacement, exhaust system replacement – it adds up. Add to that things like alternators and starters going. Do-it yourself and you save money, but many people go to the dealer and it can add up. It also takes time to do the ICE maintenance.

          • 0 avatar
            SpinnyD

            “Had a spouse forget to put gas in an ICE car and it ran dry before making it to the nearest gas station. Ironically if it had been an EV, it would have charged overnight and there would have been no problem. ”

            An EV that automatically plugs itself in? Awesome!

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “An EV that automatically plugs itself in?”

            AAA can always bring by a gallon of electricity if the battery is drained.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          Any single male engineer who doesn’t understand that having a “range that doesn’t matter” had better understand that
          assuming a two-sigma range failure event: means being towed every month or two.
          For a three-sigma event that’s still going to happen.

          Single engineers might not have the absolute need to be somewhere on time (and perhaps that moved them back into the single catagory), but they need to understand that or turn over their plastic pocket protector and pencil collection.

          /single male engineer

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            wumpus wrote, “/single male engineer”

            ^^^
            When I played Hunt the Wumpus, on a Commodore PET, in 1983, I’m pretty sure the Wumpus had a mate.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I heard the warranty is for ~70% capacity at the end of 8 yrs, not mere “functionality,” which certainly fits in with the notion of 4% loss per year. Thirty percent after 8 yrs is so far off Nissan’s claim and your experience that it seems a silly guess.

        I’m also a bit skeptical of “range doesn’t matter” claims. Who has said that. The press releases typically say the average daily use is xx, thus yy range is more than adequate. That’s not “it doesn’t matter.” I generally think of a vehicle satisfying zz% of my trips. No vehicle can ever get to 100%, so people pick some value that’s high enough for them. If it’s an only car, then obviously that number must be higher; if it’s a second car, then it can be lower.

        Two primary flaws in EV criticism is the assumption that EVs are (or should be) in some way mandatory, and EVs are a household’s only car. Viability of EVs does not require obsoleting ICEs. Rather, they need to good enough at what they need to do at a reasonable price to be compelling to enough people. They aren’t there yet, but like autonomous cars, there’s a great chance they will cross that threshold sooner than many expect. Considering there are 250M+ cars in the US & only 125M households, I have to believe that most households have more than one car. The horror stories of IRL are about the same as owning a Corvette–you can’t take the family on vacation in one of those, but that’s why the second car is an SUV.

  • avatar
    bikephil

    I still fail to see the point of electric or hybrid cars. $5500 for a replacement battery? You could buy a lot of gas for that $5500…

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Sometimes you can finagle sweet taxpayer transfer payments to subsidize your environmental smugness. It’s totally worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      A hybrid Camry or Fusion is around $3300 more than an identically equipped gasoline powered version, and if you drive 12000 urban/suburban miles per year the payback is between 4 and 5 years. After that you save $700 or more per year for the rest of the car’s life.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Priced a replacement German transmission lately?

      It’s not that much less expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I think you’d be lucky to get it that cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        But a BMW that needs a new transmission is probably worth enough for it to makes sense to do it. A Leaf with a dead battery out of warranty? Not so much, most likely. And EVERY Leaf is going to need a new battery – that is simple physics. Most German cars will have one transmission their entire lives, regardless of Internet silliness.

        And note – my buddy who has a leased Leaf just got a new battery under warranty. The thing just quit stone dead on him on the way to pick up his kid at school. Haven’t heard the actual diagnosis yet.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          The rest of the car won’t last forever, so the battery only needs to last that long. If it’s 150k mi or 200k mi, if the battery meets that, it’s sufficient.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Also, in town driving, the electric drivetrain is vastly more pleasant to drive. I drive a PHEV, and I don’t think I could go back to a conventional drivetrain.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    Lease a leaf for three years, the lease payment is less than the normal fuel cost, then give it back.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “While a boon to said owners, the automaker begs to differ.”

    So Nissan is arguing this is not a boon to customers.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I saw a black LEAF yesterday, first time for that. It caught my eye because of the shape. IMO looks pretty “concept” style in black. Not so much in the more common white.

    Sorry SCE, I like the black better! :)

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I recall when the Volt (and the Leaf) first came out, there was talk of what to do with the batteries after they were no longer suitable for automotive service. More than one source said that even after the batteries weren’t good enough to be put in a car, they would be more than fine for household use as a back-up or supplemental power supply. In other words, a used automotive battery could provide peak and back-up power to a solar or wind powered home. Even in a grid-connected house, the household battery could be charged off-peak and provide power during peak time. You could stick one in your basement and use it to power your sump pump during a power outage.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      My house’s baseline electric consumption (i.e., no HVAC) is only 5 kWh/day. A very real scenario is a hurricane blowing through and taking out grid power for a few weeks. So, if I installed solar panels to provide for my baseline usage (going without AC is tough, but the alternative is going without AC *AND* going without refrigeration, some cooking, fans, lighting, communication, etc.), I wouldn’t even need that much battery backup to meet minimal needs–I only need enough to last when the sun doesn’t shine–maybe 3 kWh. The Leaf battery is somewhere around 25 kWh when new, so even at 50%, it’s 4x my baseline needs.

      Alternatively, there is an electric provider here that has free electricity at night (10PM – 6AM). Using the Leaf’s battery, even at 50%, to soak up power at night for use in the day could eliminate my electric bill for nearly 8 mo of the year without any other modification.

      Repurposing a Leaf battery, even degraded, for home use certainly seems feasible.

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    I was thinking about one these bad boys as a commuter car. I live in the Midwest and it gets really cold. Do and any of the B&B here have one? I’d like to know range, charging and performance when it’s way cold. My local Nissan dealer is run by idiots. How long will the heater run if you end up in the ditch (my wife thinks she’s indestructible?) How is it it in the snow? How does it work on snow tires? I was going to wait and see what the new little truck from FCA was like before I bought something, however I’ve seen Leafs kinda cheap used. I could take the $5K hit if I had to(I’m cheap not poor.) I’m looking for something interesting to drive. The 200 mile Sonic would be perfect, except I don’t trust GM to roll out new technology nor to stand behind it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I have a friend who has one here in Maine. He loses about 25-30% range in the winter when it is really cold. He does not have a garage, so the car sits out in the cold, I don’t know if that makes it worse. I assume it would if only due to cold bearings and tires and whatnot, even if the battery is kept warm by the charging.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      There are a few Leaf drivers here, but I’m probably the most vocal – to the chagrin of the B&B. For starters, I’m not a tree-hugger, so you’ll not get the save-the-earth thing from me. I live in western PA, so my Leaf has seen two winters since September 2012. Fortunately, we don’t have the blistering heat of Phoenix, which has killed some early Leaf batteries, and Nissan has allegedly fixed this problem anyway – with new chemistry.

      I’ve posted some battery comments above. The EV mfrs should be more honest about EV ranges. Filling to 80% is recommended (rather than 100%) for longevity, so the advertised ranges are always artificially high. The Leaf’s guess-o-meter is notoriously inaccurate, but I’ve learned how to interpret it.

      The first rule of EV buying is this: DO NOT take the mfr’s claimed range and assume that can be your daily commute. You have to derate for everything. Speeding is deleterious to range, but the car can certainly keep up with traffic. I’ve become more of a law-abiding driver with the EV (mostly – heh), and I arrive happier.

      I installed a Level 2 charger at home myself, so that’s an extra expense – but very convenient.

      Cold weather idling only consumes heater power – not motor power – but the heater power is significant. Newer Leafs use a heat pump which supposedly is much more efficient.

      As for a used Leaf, I’d be cautious. It will be much cheaper than new, but you won’t get any of the tax breaks offered for new ones, and obviously it won’t perform like new.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Heat pumps are considerably more efficient than resistance heaters, but they are limited to the temperature differential they can create. So if it’s bone-achingly frigid outside, the car will be merely stone-cold inside.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “While a boon to said owners, the automaker begs to differ.”

    Learn how to write. This is phrased to imply that the automaker differs that it’s a boon to owners.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Why do Leaf owners need to exchange old for a new pack???


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