Since arriving on the scene back in late 2010, the Nissan Leaf has become a popular choice in the world of electric cars. With almost 150,000 units sold in the US since release, thousands of drivers have gotten to grips with the Nissan electric driving experience. The somewhat limited range of the Leaf is one of the reasons that sales were more conservative than more popular and longer-range models like Tesla.
The latest version of the Leaf is rated with a range of about 226 miles, which still places it firmly behind others in the marketplace. For city-dwellers on the other hand, it has more than enough range and the Nissan Leaf is a much more affordable alternative to the more luxury likes of Tesla.
However since the battery is such a big part of the price of the Leaf (up to 40% of its total price), it’s worth fully understanding the Leaf’s battery, including how much it costs to replace or upgrade it.
It’s All About the Battery
The range in electric cars depends entirely on the kind of battery that is used in the powertrain. Below is a summary of the various battery sizes and ranges used in Nissan Leaf models from 2010 to the present generation.
First-Generation Nissan Leaf (2010-2017, ZE0)
- 2011-2015 – 24kWh lithium-ion battery; EPA range 73-84 miles
- 2016 – 30kWh lithium-ion battery; EPA range 84-107 miles
- The 2016 Nissan Leaf S also used the 24kWh battery
Second-Generation Nissan Leaf (2017-Present, ZE1)
- 40kWh lithium-ion battery; EPA range of 151 miles
- 62kWh lithium-ion battery; EPA range of 226 miles
As you can see, the Nissan Leaf has made big improvements on its first generation, but it’s still far behind the Long Range version of the Tesla Model 3, which can already offer 353 miles of range. You do pay a premium of around $38,000 for the benefit of that extra hundred or so miles of range, which is another reason the Nissan Leaf remains a popular and more budget-friendly choice.
How Long Does the Nissan Leaf Battery Last?
Besides pure range, it’s also important to know how long the battery will last. Electric cars are not cheap, and so drivers want to ensure that the critical components have a decently long life.
Nissan offers a standard 5-year or 60,000-mile warranty on the Nissan Leaf powertrain. The bumper-to-bumper warranty is 3 years or 36,000 miles. The battery, however, is given its own special limited warranty of 8 years of 100,000 miles, or at least they are for the 2020 model year. The warranty specifically covers defects in materials or workmanship for that period/distance.
Therefore, we can expect the battery of a Nissan Leaf to last at least for that limited warranty period, 8 years or 100,000 miles. The abcnissan.com blog reports that most owners predict the battery will last for about 10 years. Given that the car was only first released in late 2010, and its second and latest generation is just entering its 5th model year, it’s still too early to tell for sure how long overall the batteries will last.
In the next section of this article, we’ll look at the common problems that Nissan Leaf batteries face.
Nissan Leaf Batteries: Problems
Overall, the Nissan Leaf has proven itself to be a reliable car, ranking 6th in reliability among 30 Nissan models in the PainRank listed on carcomplaints.com. Among the most common problems reported by Leaf owners, battery problems don’t seem to feature very prominently, or even at all.
The site nissanproblems.com lists 4 most common Leaf problems, which include a fault with the automatic emergency braking system, problems with the sunroof glass supposedly shattering, a fault in the occupant classification system and clogs in the EVAP that were causing splash back at gas stations.
The general consensus is that the second-generation models are much more problem-free than the first generation. When it comes to the batteries, the only real problem you have to face is the potential price for a replacement if the regular wear and tear leaves it in need of a switch out.
Cost of Replacement Batteries: Official Channels
There has been a perception in place for a long time that Nissan Leaf owners had very limited options when it came to replacing defunct battery packs. The few choices that were perceived to exist were also incredibly expensive.
Right now, Nissan does offer an official replacement on the older 24kWh battery packs, which are priced at $5499 plus the cost of labor — estimated by Toyota to be about 3 hours altogether. If you drive a Leaf from 2011 or 2012, then you will also need to shell out another $225 for an adapter kit to help retrofit the newer battery into your older model.
When you consider that a brand-new Nissan Leaf is around $31,000, a new 24kWh battery for potentially $6,000 or more is a pretty expensive proposition. Furthermore, you spend all that money to restore a pretty low driving range, too. It would likely be more worthwhile to just take the $6,000 and use it as a downpayment on a brand-new car!
Cost of Replacement Batteries: Alternative Channels
Should you be in need of replacement Nissan Leaf batteries of a larger size, up to the newest 62kWh batteries, then there are some channels through which you can get them, but once again it’s not exactly cheap.
Back in June 2020, insideevs.com did a profile on a company based in Portland Oregon called EV Rides. The company’s founder and manager, Anton Litovchenko, salvages Nissan Leaf batteries from totaled Leaf models, often from the most recent model years. It means he has a very limited inventory, but he can offer a more comprehensive and reliable replacement service than any you could pursue via Nissan themselves.
Litovchenko’s idea is essentially to take pre-owned packs that are in pretty good condition still, and simply fit them to models in need of replacement. For some, it can mean getting a much-needed upgrade on an older Leaf model. If you’re driving a Leaf with the 30kWh battery, for example, EV Rides can upgrade your setup with a 40kWh battery pack, effectively extending your range.
These upgrades still don’t come cheap, however. Even with using in-tact pre-owned battery packs, the process is still quite complex and therefore comes at a premium. Litovchenko claims that the 24kWh and 30kWh packs are the ones he deals with most, as these are both the most commonly available and most in-need of change. He does have limited stock of 40kWh and 62kWh, but their relative newness keeps supply low.
Here’s what you’d pay Litovchenko to make the upgrades you need:
- 24kWh pack replacement – $2,500-3,000
- 30kWh pack replacement – $4,500-5,000
- 40kWh pack replacement – $6,500-9,000
- 62kWh pack replacement – $11,000-12,000
Their company website claims that all the battery packs they use to perform the replacements or upgrades have from 80-90 percent of their capacity intact. Different models and years come with different options for upgrade or replacement.
Once again, however, it’s hard to imagine why you would be willing to shell out up to $12,000 on an upgrade to a 62kWh battery pack, when you could use that money as a very healthy deposit on a finance plan for a brand-new Leaf with better features and more bells and whistles. When you remember that any car, even a fancy electric vehicle, is a depreciating asset, it’s hard to reason such expenses.
Horror Stories: Clayton Brander
Resident of British Columbia, Canada, Clayton Brander, went public in 2020 with the story of his own struggle to get a replacement battery for his 2013 Nissan Leaf. CBC News reported his story. In 2017, Mr. Brander bought his car knowing that sooner or later he would face the issue of battery replacement. It was an older-model car, after all. Upon buying in 2017, the Leaf could still manage about 75 miles on a single charge, but degradation has continued and currently it can only handle about 50 miles.
He’s been all over the place looking for help, multiple mechanic shops and Nissan dealerships, but so far all he has received is:
- A quote for CA$15,000 to replace the battery – more than he paid for the entire car in 2017.
- Advice to buy a brand-new Leaf and be done with it.
It’s not the greatest endorsement for Nissan, especially when the whole thing seems so counterintuitive. Even if you base a business model on the premise that you want to encourage buyers to get a new car instead of a replacement battery, it’s still hard to accept that a car so relatively young is so apparently impossible to fix up on such a critical component. This is especially true when you consider how owners of some classic cars find it easier than Clayton Brander has had things to get replacement or retooled parts for their cars of 40+ years of age.
Further to this, Clayton Brander’s story shows that despite Nissan’s strong claims of zero emissions and eco-friendliness represented by the Leaf, the idea that a car of just 7 years old should face the prospect of going to landfill is enough to negate any and all environmental advantages that the Leaf otherwise holds.
Why Bother with a Used Leaf?
An important question that comes with all the above information on battery replacement costs and limited options for replacement is: why bother with a used Nissan Leaf at all? If any Leaf could potentially turn into a Clayton Brander story, then why even get one at all?
In fact, buying a used Leaf and then facing the possibility of battery replacement is, in most cases, still a much more financially viable option. Here’s why:
A New Nissan Leaf is Still Quite Expensive
The starting price for the Nissan Leaf is definitely much lower than that of the long-range Tesla Model 3, but it’s still not exactly a budget-friendly model. No EV is. When you buy a high-end Leaf with all the bells and whistles, the price gets up to $46,000 or more. If you opt for a used one from the past few years — when many reliability issues had already been ironed out and the batteries greatly improved — you can pay much less.
A used 2017 Nissan Leaf S with an odometer reading of about 32,900 miles should go for a listing price of about $10,189, according to Kelley Blue Book. A 2019 model is typically listed at just $18,325 according to the same book. That’s such a huge difference, that even if you factor in, say, $8,000 for a new battery, you’re still miles ahead of where you would have been financially if you’d bought a new one.
There May Come Other Battery Options
In Japan, Nissan has a joint venture with Sumitomo, with whom they operate a battery remanufacturing facility that disassembles Nissan Leaf batter packs. In the process, they salvage any of the 48 battery modules that still have 80 percent or more of their original capacity. By then grouping the still active modules, they can create an effective new battery pack.
This costs the driver less than $3,000 in Japan, and is thus a great alternative to the idea of getting either a totally new one, or getting the car to Portland to be worked on by the likes of EV Rides, who while undoubtedly doing a good job, also charge a high premium. It’s also true that Nissan dealerships are already equipped to offer the installation service for properly made remanufactured Nissan Leaf batteries. Could this be a viable alternative? It would seem so.
Toyota hybrid owners have been able to enjoy battery repurposing and refurbishing on their cars for some time, and at a much lower cost than that of replacing the battery outright. To be a true champion of the environmental cause, it seems to be on Nissan to provide this more comprehensively to its customers, especially those early adopters who then faced a real predicament when their less-than satisfactory batteries started to lose their charge.
Conclusion: New Technology, New Risks
As is true with virtually any kind of new technology, early adoption means you’re also the first to deal with the potential problems that come with it. It’s unfortunate that currently there appear to be very few options when it comes to Nissan Leaf battery replacements. The good news is that the newer models of the second-generation do not appear to suffer from the same serious degradation — though it’s perhaps still too early to tell for sure — and so owners can rest a little easier for the time being.
One of the biggest things that adds wear to your Nissan Leaf battery is fast charging. One of the best things you can do as an owner to safeguard your battery is to use slower, more sustainable and gentle techniques to charge it up again. Do so and your battery will thank you with a long life. The longer range in the new Nissan Leaf models means that keeping a steady charge level of 80-90 percent is now easier, and owners’ range anxiety has been reduced. Even when the batteries do inevitably start to degrade, the range will remain fairly high for longer.
Time will tell us more about how the new Nissan Leaf battery is faring.