Three and a half years after the first Nissan Leaf went on sale, Nissan has announced the cost of a replacement lithium-ion battery pack for its electric car.
It's a surprisingly low $5,499 (after a $1,000 credit for turning in the old pack, which is required), plus installation fees and tax. The installation is estimated at roughly 3 hours of labor.
Fitting the replacement pack to 2011 and 2012 Nissan Leaf models requires a special $225 installation kit, which makes the new battery "backward compatible" with even the earliest Leaf models.
The replacement 24-kilowatt-hour packs will use a new and more heat-tolerant battery chemistry that reduces capacity loss under very high temperatures.
Nissan declined, however, to discuss any potential plans for offering higher-capacity replacement batteries in the future.
Overall, the announcement means that the buyer of a used Nissan Leaf will know for certain how much it will cost to replace the battery, if its energy capacity should fall to 70 percent of the original figure.
And that could well give electric cars a much longer life than previously thought.
Nissan's aggressive pricing also demolishes the argument by many electric-car skeptics that "new batteries will cost tens of thousands of dollars."
While Nissan may be losing money initially on the $5,500 price, it is likely counting on low initial demand for replacement packs and future economies of scale in battery making as sales of its battery-electric vehicles continue to rise.
As of the end of this month, about 125,000 Nissan Leafs will have been sold globally--roughly 56,000 of them in the U.S.
The news on the pack-replacement cost appeared yesterday in a post on the MyNissanLeaf forum by Brian Brockman, a senior manager of corporate communications at Nissan.
In 24 hours, the post generated more than 125 comments--largely approving, though far from unanimously so.
The retail price replaces an earlier lease plan for replacement batteries announced by Nissan in June 2013. As Brockman said, "We went back to the drawing board" after "spirited discussion (and very vocal criticism)" of that plan.
The new heat-tolerant battery chemistry will also be fitted to all future Nissan Leaf vehicles, starting with the 2015 models now on sale.
'Lizard' battery standard
While the performance and range of the Leaf doesn't change with the updated battery, Nissan says the new formulation--called by some Leaf advocates the "lizard battery"--is more capable of resisting very high temperatures.
Unlike many other battery-electric cars, the Nissan Leaf uses only passive cooling for its battery--meaning the pack simply sheds heat to the air rather than shedding heat to either cooled air or liquid coolant circulating through the pack itself.
This had led to capacity loss in a few Leafs operated in extremely hot cities like Phoenix, Arizona.
While Nissan maintained that those losses were due to high mileage and within expected parameters, the pressure exerted by a small number of vocal and extremely unhappy owners raised concerns over capacity loss among Leaf owners at large.
New-battery finance plan coming
Nissan also said that it's finalizing details of a financing plan for the replacement battery, estimated at roughly $100 a month over five years. It expects to release full details of the new-battery financing program by the end of the year.
After the five years of payments have been made, the buyer would own the new pack outright under that program.
The replacement Leaf battery packs will be warranted for 8 years/100,000 miles against defects in manufacturing, and 5 years/60,000 against loss of capacity beyond nine out of 12 bars of capacity, or roughly 70 percent of the original energy content.
Old batteries turned in during the replacement process will be recycled, Nissan said, or possibly retained for secondary usage--perhaps for building energy storage--by the company's separate 4R Energy business unit.