How much will it cost to replace a Nissan LEAF battery pack?

by Ernie Hernandez on October 10, 2012

LEAF Battery Pack

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.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve October 11, 2012 at 11:42 am

The answer given in the interview was fairly clear to me, Nissan only expects to replace individual components rather than complete packs. Even in the case of a collision, it might be possible to salvage a significant number of modules from a pack, and it seems likely that in that case it’s cheaper to replace individual components. It sounds like the pack is designed to be serviced in the field.

The big question then becomes how much the modules cost. We can do the math from there.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) October 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Hi Steve, Sorry for the delay in responding to your comment. Whether we are talking about the price of the modules or the battery packs, my point is that the US distribution price of these will change to some degree, from the current Oppama built price once the Smyrna battery plant comes online. My feeling is that Nissan is reluctant to provide a price based on future production costs as they don’t know what they are yet. Nissan knows what it costs to build the cells, modules and packs in Japan. They do not yet know the cost of these components when made in America. Also, I don’t agree that 48 modules will equate to the price of the battery pack. You see that all the time with any multi-component part on a car. Take the car as a whole for instance – the price to build the car part-by-part would be significantly more than the price of the car itself. This example can be reduced to a power mirror which is made of many components that when purchased individually cost more than the assembled mirror. This scenario can be applied to other equipment such as computers and televisions as well.

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dave April 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm

20,000 for a battery?? no thanks

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) April 28, 2013 at 7:04 pm

dave – Welcome to Living LEAF. This is one of the reasons that we now advocate leasing an EV. The burden of battery replacement or reconditioning falls to the manufacturer, be it Nissan, Ford or whomever.

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Ryan July 28, 2013 at 9:51 am

Leasing a vehicle is the absolute most expensive mode of obtaining transportation. To quote Dave Ramsey:

“People get sold automobile leases because they are told that it’s what sophisticated people do. But as it turns out, the car companies make more money on leasing you the car than if you bought the car with cash, according to the National Auto Dealers Association. Broke people think ‘how much down and how much a month’. Rich people think ‘how much’. If you can’t pay cash for a car, then ride a bicycle. But don’t lease a car.”

I love the concept of a Leaf, but it sounds like a horrible idea no matter which way you look at it. I expect a vehicle to last 200,000 miles with very little repair costs. The Leaf sounds like it’s a long way away from my expectations. Too bad.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) July 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Ryan – Welcome to Living LEAF. And thank you for your comments.

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Mark White May 31, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Blanket statements like “leasing a vehicle is absolutely the most expensive …” are simply wrong.

EVs are a different beast and to compare them with buying and leasing gas vehicles is simply shortsighted.

At current interest rates the smart money is quite happy borrowing to pay for a vehicle, even if they could pay cash. Leasing is not something magical or mysterious, it still involves paying interest (last EV I purchased had a money factor that equated to an interest rate of about 2%) but with guaranteed residual values. That means if the vehicle depreciates faster you don’t eat the additional cost and if it doesn’t depreciate as quickly you can purchase it and profit from the better valuation.

What Dave Ramsey really should be preaching is that new vehicles depreciate more than used vehicles so if you want to save money buy used instead of new. Leasing adds very little to the cost of ownership and in the case of some EV leases, it saves a lot of money.

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Ernie Hernandez June 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

Mark – Welcome to Living LEAF. Thank you for your contribution to this discussion.

Charles E. Hammond March 23, 2015 at 10:52 am

I am looking for a used 24 kw Nissan Leaf battery pack!

Where is the best place to locate one of these packs??

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Ernie Hernandez March 23, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Charles – Welcome to Living LEAF. Your best bet would be a wrecking yard. Nissan requires the return of the used pack if a new one is purchased.

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