On Friday, Nissan announced that it was finally offering existing LEAF electric car owners the option of buying replacement battery packs for their used, out-of-warranty electric cars.
For $5,499 after a $1,000 trade-in rebate for your LEAF’s existing battery pack, Nissan says it will install a brand-new LEAF battery pack into your all-electric hatch. A drop-in replacement for 2013/14 Nissan LEAFs and an upgrade option for older LEAFs alongside Nissan’s specially-designed battery upgrade kit, the new battery packs will be built with Nissan’s new heat-resistant battery chemistry, ensuring longer-life in extreme temperatures.
But is Nissan’s battery replacement program a good idea for existing LEAF owners or would-be LEAF owners looking to buy a used LEAF and then upgrade its battery pack? It depends on your circumstances, location, the age of your car, and how you’re intending to use it.
If you’re a high-mileage (more than 100,000 miles) driver of an original Nissan LEAF and your car is starting to show signs of battery degradation, the chances are the upgrade could be a good investment if you’re otherwise happy with your LEAF.
Since higher-mileage cars are generally worth far less than similar lower-mileage models, the chances are you won’t get a good deal on a trade-in with your LEAF. Moreover, electric cars have far less moving parts than internal-combustion engined cars, so there’s much less to go wrong as the car ages.
If your car has been regularly serviced and looked after, the chances are a battery pack upgrade will make more financial sense than buying a new car — at least until Nissan announces longer-range vehicles.
It’s worth remembering however that first-generation LEAFs were far more expensive than current generation cars, so if you’ve got a low or average-mileage LEAF you may still find it cheaper to trade in your car for a new model than buy a replacement battery pack.
Verdict: run the numbers before running out and ordering that new pack. If you’re fond of your existing car, or it’s high mileage and there’s little else wrong with it, you’ll probably be best getting a new pack. If your car has fewer miles on the clock and the battery isn’t too badly degraded, wait and upgrade to a new LEAF.
Second life cars
You were among one of the first people in your town to buy a LEAF three or more years ago. You used your LEAF as your primary transport, but recently found that you wanted more electric in your family. So you’ve upgraded to another EV like a Tesla Model S or RAV4 EV — and your original LEAF is now living life as a second car or transport for your teenage kids.
If that sounds like you, and you’re considering a LEAF battery upgrade for your car, it’s probably worth noting that your need for a new battery pack will depend on the number of miles you need your LEAF to do.
If it’s really now living as a second or perhaps third car, only driving around town for errands or school runs, then the chances are you won’t need the range that a new battery pack can offer. Unless your LEAF’s battery pack is seriously degraded and range has fallen well below acceptable standards, you probably don’t need a new battery right away.
However, if you’ve got a teenage child just about to graduate from high school who needs wheels at University, a new battery pack could be a great way to give them zero-emission motoring on the cheap at University.
Verdict: think long and hard before buying a new battery pack for a LEAF living life as a second or third car. Ask yourself if you can live with limited range of an ageing pack. If the answer is yes, you don’t need to upgrade.
Cheap entry point
Since we reported the news of Nissan’s LEAF battery upgrade option, we have heard from lots of would-be owners talking about the possibility of buying an older, used Nissan LEAF and then upgrading the battery pack for as-new performance and capabilities.
Based on what we’ve seen however, used LEAF prices aren’t yet low enough — unless you know something we don’t — to make buying a used LEAF and immediately upgrading its battery cost-effective.
While a battery upgrade will give you Nissan’s latest battery technology — particularly useful in hot climates like Arizona — it won’t give you some of the features of newer LEAF models, including the more efficient HVAC system, revised motor and power controller found on 2013/14 model years.
Verdict: used LEAF prices haven’t dropped enough to make buying one and installing the new battery pack much cheaper than buying a new entry-level model. Unless you really want a first-generation LEAF or you’ve got access to a very cheap used car that we don’t know about, you’ll be better off buying a brand new — or nearly new– LEAF.
Climates play a part
It’s worth noting too that where you are will likely influence your decision to buy a new battery pack for a used LEAF, or one you’ve owned from new. Arizonan LEAF owners for example are probably better off buying the new battery pack for an existing car than they are buying a new car, since the effect of premature ageing from extreme heat on their original battery pack has probably dramatically reduced the value of their car. The new heat-resistant pack is going to be most beneficial to hot-climate owners too, since it will hopefully ensure future heat-related degradation is minimal.
Run the numbers first
As with all high-ticket items for your car, you should always look at your budget and a variety of scenarios before making your buying decision.
As used LEAFs become cheaper, battery replacement becomes more logical. At the moment however, most LEAF owners may find they’re better off trading up for a new LEAF. That said, if you’re a high-mileage LEAF owner, or someone who already owns their LEAF outright, you may prefer buying a new battery pack to keep your car on the road for many years to come.
Remember to ask yourself if you’ll be happy driving the same car in three or four years’ time, or if you’ll be hankering after the latest plug-in to hit the market. If you’re the former, a battery replacement makes more sense than if your’e the latter.
For now, Nissan’s LEAF battery replacement program doesn’t make sense to most owners — and most owners won’t need it. But it’s good to see Nissan laying the path ahead for a future where worried owners will need some way to replace their car’s ageing battery packs that is both reliable and cost-effective.
Are you considering buying a new battery pack for your LEAF? Have you already made your mind up to buy one? Or are you now looking into selling your LEAF and buying another car?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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