Nissan offers no price point yet
In answer to a question from long time electric vehicle (EV) advocate Chelsea Sexton, recently asked by Nissan to head an independent EV advisory counsel, Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer stated that Nissan never imagined that there would be a customer that would want to replace an entire LEAF battery pack. Nissan has been operating under the impression that a customer would want to replace componenets at the cell or modular level.
Mr. Palmer goes on to state that Nissan expected most LEAF acquisitions to be via a lease rather than a purchase, which would leave the burden of battery risk primarily to Nissan, rather than the customer. Be that as it may, certainly someone at Nissan had to ask this question (hopefully) – “But what about the people that buy a LEAF?” It seems that that particular voice of the customer was shouted down. As an educator in the automotive industry for over twenty years, I am driven to ask the questions that are expected to be asked by the consumer. The answers are not always easy, nor are they necessarily convenient. The fact remains – many LEAF customers purchased rather than leased their vehicle (us included), and we did so with the intent that at some point in the future the battery would need to be replaced. Not taking battery replacement costs into consideration if purchasing would be ill-considered at best, and foolhardy at worst. We have always operated under the assumption that at current prices, the existing battery pack would be in excess of $15,000 (reference here), although that price would be less (perhaps significantly so) several years or more into the future when we would need to acquire such a battery. Apparently the Ford Focus Electric battery pack is priced near $20,000 (reference here). The Ford Focus Electric uses an advertised 23 kilowatt hour battery pack compared to the advertised 24 kilowatt hour battery pack found in the LEAF.
We find it difficult to believe that no one at Nissan thought that a consumer would ever need to buy a battery pack. Certainly, if for no other reason than collision repair, Nissan would need to provide this information. Our take on this is that Nissan is refraining from putting a number “out there” until such time as they start producing the battery cells, modules and packs in the United States. Once production begins in Tennessee later this year, they will be better able to determine a battery pack cost. This whole battery deterioration situation placed a focus on this much earlier than Nissan anticipated. We feel that Nissan will delay providing this cost information for as long as possible for precisely this reason. Think about it – if you didn’t know what your future cost of production of something was based on a change in its production location, would you provide a firm price based on unknown parameters? Not likely. There are currently only two widely known issues of LEAFs that have lost as many as four battery segments of battery capacity. Nissan will likely come to terms with individual owners on a case-by-case basis until such time as the Smyrna, Tennessee battery plant comes online. That time moves nearer as 2012 draws to a close. Nissan has not announced officially when battery production will begin, but it is expected to be prior to the end of the 2012 calendar year.