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Nissan LEAF Electric Car Battery Pack Proves 99.9 Reliable, Busts Battery Replacement Myth

Back in 2010 when the Nissan LEAF first launched, critics of electric cars claimed that the LEAF’s lithium-ion battery pack would last just three years before it needed a costly replacement in excess of $10,000+, making the LEAF hatchback something of a automotive paperweight in the process.

Yet after more than four and a half years of being on the market, Nissan says the majority of LEAFs on the road are still operating with their original battery packs. And while some LEAF owners in hot U.S. states like Arizona and California have been given replacement battery packs for their cars under warranty due to premature battery ageing in extreme summer heat, the number of LEAFs in Europe which have been given full battery replacements account for less than 0.01 percent of all LEAFs sold there.

Of all the Nissan LEAFs on the road today in Europe, only three have been given a battery replacement.

Of all the Nissan LEAFs on the road today in Europe, only three have been given a battery replacement.

To date, more than 35,000 LEAF electric hatches have been registered on the roads of Europe, but as Nissan detailed earlier this week, only three cars so far in Europe have been given battery replacements.

To celebrate that fact, it enlisted the help of our good friend and Transport Evolved regular Robert Llewellyn, who tracked down the very Nissan LEAF that BBC Top Gear famously ran flat during a filming stunt in Lincolnshire, England. No-longer part of the Nissan press fleet, the car is owned and driven daily by London resident Rebecca Pinero, who purchased the infamous car second-hand without knowing its heritage.

“I didn’t know at first, but I found out after I bought it,” she said. “As soon as I found out, I went and watched the episode.”

But despite its past, Pinero says she hasn’t noticed any loss in capacity or range, despite it being four years old.

“The facts speak for themselves,” said Jean-Pierre Diernaz, director of electric vehicles for Nissan Europe. “The rate of battery faults in our vehicles is negligible, even the most ardent critic cannot argue with that.”

Our staff cars are still quite happy after more than 100,000 combined miles.

Our staff cars are still quite happy after more than 100,000 combined miles.

Since late last year, Nissan Europe has offered customers with Nissan LEAF hatchbacks or Nissan e-NV200 electric vans the chance to purchase a brand-new replacement battery pack for their car for just €5,000, including a €1,000 rebate for the old pack.

To date however, no-one has purchased a replacement pack.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve two 2011 model-year Nissan LEAFs in our staff fleet, plus the 2011 Nissan LEAF owned by Robert.

Hiro, our highest-mileage LEAF at 72,300 miles, has lost approximately 20 percent battery capacity since being new in March 2011, yet can still manage a range of between 50 and 73 miles per charge, depending on weather conditions and road type. The all-black 2011 Nissan LEAF owned by Mark has covered more than 47,800 miles, and can easily manage 60 miles per charge, with 70+ possible with careful driving.

Do you have a Nissan LEAF? How is your car’s battery pack faring? Leave your reports in the Comments below.

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  • Ezzy

    20% capacity loss in 72k miles sounds pretty bad O_o Tesla’s seem to be at about 6% at 50k and from there on 1% loss per 30k miles. That on top of the poor range of Leaf’s in the winter, bad combo. But that’s what you get with a small battery pack, unfortunately.

    • My Smart ED has shown practically no degradation in 1.5 years. I’ve seen reports of another owner who had their battery pack tested and showed 2% loss in the first 10,000km, or about 2 km of range loss, nothing. Small battery pack is not a problem, if your commute is short, the 120km range of a city EV like my Smart is more than enough, and I don’t recharge every day, as I don’t need the range…

      • Ezzy

        Same with me, my commute is only like 20mi a day, I’d be fine with most EV’s 🙂

  • dm33

    Talk to almost anyone in Arizona about their battery. Almost everyone has had significant degradation. Nissans test is less than 70% of original capacity. Most people consider that a very severe reduction in range. nThe video also says people can charge their LEAF once a week! Seriously? People in Europe drive 70 miles… a week? I often drive that much in a day sometimes 100 miles. nClimate makes a big difference. Hot climate kills the LEAF battery.

    • Ok, so the Leaf suffers from this issue, at least the packs are still working.nnnYou could always get a Tesla, Volt, Smart ED or other vehicle that has a conditioned battery pack if that concern was top of your list…

  • Erocker

    I bought my second Leaf a year ago because I need at least 80 % of the vehicles range to reach my house from work. I noticed about 15% range drop during the 3 years I had it driving in the warm climate of the San Joaquin Valley of California. I bought the new one in White after finding that the high temperatures where causing batteries to degrade early. The new 2014 Leaf was suppose to have better range than the 2011 but I did not notice any increase in range compared to the 2011 when it was new.

    • KIMS

      It would be pretty neat if you could provide an updated statement to your comment now, after around 2 more years with the white Leaf / battery life. It’s still a relevant subject to many. 🙂

      • Erocker

        Batteries are degrading about half as fast as the 2011. Still have 12 bars after charging. The 2014 has 27,000 miles.

        • KIMS

          Thank you!

  • I have pretty actively monitored reports on Smart forums for reports of battery pack failure. Seen 4 instances in two years out of 1000+ estimated Smart ED owners on these forums. nnnSo, we have statistically accurate and very low incidence of issues on Leaf.nPlus my “back of the envelope” shows quite low on Smart ED too.nnnI think they “doth protest too much” about quality and longevity.nnnOf course, of those reported pack failures, who knows if they were due to cells, or other elements of the pack (the Smart ED pack is more advanced with heating/cooling loops and motors for those).

  • Ben Helton

    I don’t think 3 years declares these things worthy. Most Leaf’s are garage kept, as they HAVE to be hooked up to a charger. nnnLet’s take a sample after say, 7 years?

  • rhynoxray .

    Wait…. Are you suggesting a Tesla is better than a Leaf? I’m shocked.

  • leptoquark

    “But despite its past, Pinero says she hasnu2019t noticed any loss in capacity or range, despite it being four years old.”nnThat would be cool if Top Gear did a follow-up story on it’s (in)famous Leaf.

  • smb4eva

    My Leaf has 67K miles with range of around 50 miles or so. Given the range when I purchased the car new was around 85 miles…a 50 mile range would equal a 42% loss over 4 years. Not good. I still have 9 bars of battery capacity, which once it goes down to 8 bars, the dealership will work on the battery to restore it back to 9 bars.

    • cros13

      They normally give an entirely new pack. The original plan was they might replace modules to restore it to 9 bars. However, it’s cheaper and easier for them to replace the entire pack. They also tend to use the 2015 battery pack with an adapter so in effect you get an upgrade.

  • D. Harrower

    My “Media-spin” alarm was going off in my head the whole time I was watching Robert’s video.nnSure, Nissan may have only ever replaced 3 Leaf batteries since their debut, but they doesn’t mean there aren’t a significant number out there with severe degradation which were denied for some reason.nnFor instance, Nikki’s report of 20% loss in 3 years seems very significant to me, especially on a car with such short range to begin with.

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