Why LEAF Battery Replacements Are A Big Deal
There’s a good chance that if somebody mentions the Nissan LEAF, and you’re an EV enthusiast, the next words out of someone’s mouth will have something to do with battery health. The first LEAFs sold in 2010-2013 had what were possibly the worst batteries to ever be slung under an EV, with many owners losing crazy amounts of range in short periods of time. The situation improved with the “Lizard” battery chemistry, but degradation was still significant. The newest 40 kWh and 62 kWh battery packs were even better, but still not as durable as liquid-cooled packs in hot climates. Plus, even the best LEAFs have issues with fast charging on road trips.
But, one upside to the lack of active cooling for Nissan LEAF battery cells is that degraded LEAFs are cheap. People who otherwise couldn’t even dream of affording an EV right now can sometimes find them for well below $10,000. Some heavily-degraded cars have sold for under $2,000, so even the “beater” market, where people buy cars that have one foot in the junkyard because that’s all they can afford, now has an EV.
The downside to that is that people sometimes don’t have any idea what they’re getting into. A degraded first generation LEAF can have some fairly optimistic readings on its “guess-o-meter,” leading people to believe that they can achieve more range than they really can. Plus, a new EV owner sometimes learns that a car with 40 miles of theoretical range might only go 20 miles on the freeway, so it’s less useful than they thought.
Even if someone knows what they’re getting into, having affordable replacement options is definitely something that will help people buying in that price range. Nissan charges people up to $10,000 for a battery replacement, with a good chunk of that being labor. But, independent suppliers of both used and new batteries are emerging and independent shops are starting to offer labor at a fraction of the price.
The big benefit to this is that people with lower incomes will be able to get into EVs and people reselling old LEAFs will be able to provide a better used car to their customers.
Sadly, Many Companies Have Come & Gone, But That’s Changing
One really sad thing is that companies have tried to offer replacement batteries and haven’t always been able to get as far as production. There are too many to name here, but if you’re a LEAF owner who has faced the degradation issue, you’ve probably seen at least one company that didn’t deliver.
But, the marketplace is starting to provide. A number of companies are now offering not only replacement battery packs, but also range upgrades. The first companies to have any real success at this didn’t build their own packs, instead salvaging intact battery packs from wrecked 40 kWh and 60 kWh LEAFs. Some electronic and minor mounting changes were needed for the 60 kWh packs, but it has been a successful approach.
Now, we’re starting to see companies offer whole aftermarket packs. One such company we’ve written about here at CleanTechnica is EVs Enhanced out of New Zealand. It is offering a liquid-cooled replacement battery pack that not only restores factory range, but also allows for repeated rapid charging sessions on road trips without overheating.
A New Player Wants To Send A Free Test Pack
Sal Cameli, a guy who’s popular in Nissan LEAF groups online and sometimes called “Uncle Sal,” runs a website dedicated to Nissan LEAF battery replacement options. It’s not the prettiest website, and has an almost “Web 1.0” look to it, but it has important information about companies which will offer replacement batteries, battery removal and replacement, and other related products and services.
His vision is to give people a place to find different companies that might work together to fulfill customer needs, and in many cases support small businesses. Plus, if you can find a battery installer near you, you won’t have to trailer a dying LEAF across a continent to get it fixed up.
Running this website has attracted a lot of people trying to get in touch. Many are people who need a new battery, but sometimes he gets an e-mail from a company which wants to get into the industry and then he does what he can to vet it and make sure it’s not either a scam or an effort that’s likely to fail. In this particular case, Chooship of Shenzhen, China, offered to send him a free battery pack that he could install and test so that he could see for himself whether it was legitimate.
Sal didn’t want to use the battery in one of his own LEAFs because he doesn’t depend on them for transportation like he used to. These days, he uses them mostly to hold scarce urban parking spaces so he can consistently charge his Model Y when he gets home from his rounds as an IT and networking tech. So, he wanted to offer the free battery pack to somebody else who uses their LEAF for daily transport and can’t afford to buy a new pack.
But, they can’t cover the freight costs and they can’t cover the cost of removing the old battery pack and replacing it with the new one. So, Sal started a GoFundMe fundraiser to cover these costs. As of this writing, they’ve only raised a few hundred dollars of the needed $4,500 to ship the battery from China to an independent shop in Dallas, and to pay the shop for the swap-out and testing.
If they can successfully raise the funds, a LEAF owner will get a free pack installed in his car, the Chinese company will get to prove that it is making a decent battery, and LEAF owners all over the United States will have another source from which to get somewhat affordable new battery packs for their otherwise running vehicles. This also means that a bunch of EVs will stay on the road instead of ending up in junkyards, and many tons of carbon emissions will be saved.
For all of these reasons, I’d recommend helping the fundraiser out here if you can.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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