The false assertion that EV batteries wear out quickly, and can’t be replaced or recycled, is a favorite of the anti-EV crowd, so it was interesting to hear an exec from Nissan (one of the few automakers that has actually sold large numbers of EVs) clearly and unequivocally rebut the idea.
“Almost all of the [EV] batteries we’ve ever made are still in cars, and we’ve been selling electric cars for 12 years,” Nissan’s UK Marketing Director Nic Thomas recently told Forbes.
Charged passed the news on down the line, and it seems to have struck a nerve—our post found a lot of readers, and was reposted in several other EV industry publications.
EV advocates are always happy to have a horse’s-mouth quote with which to rebut the naysayers, but a couple of readers pointed out that Mr. Thomas may have overstated his case when he said that “taking the battery out [of an electric car] and putting a new battery in is not a viable proposition.”
Many EV owners, including your favorite journalist (who has had three Prius batteries replaced) know that this isn’t strictly true. Batteries do fail, whether due to manufacturing defects or abuse, and they do lose capacity over time. Replacement is a major expense (akin to replacing a transmission in an ICE vehicle, perhaps), but it isn’t a reason to send the car to the junkyard, whatever the oil-drinking crowd may claim.
Mr. Sal Cameli had the battery in his 2013 LEAF replaced after it lost a substantial amount of range, and the experience inspired him to create a database of companies that offer LEAF battery replacements (InsideEVs reported on his quest).
Cameli’s Nissan LEAF Battery Replacement site currently lists 42 companies around the world that offer the service. “They are mostly taking salvaged packs from wrecked LEAFs and installing them in older LEAFs [pre-2018] for LEAF owners around the world,” he told us.
Cameli is less than pleased with Nissan, which he says refuses to sell new battery packs to independent repair shops. “All of these companies have tried to purchase new packs from Nissan and they just don’t want the business. They don’t want us to prolong the life of the old LEAFs—they’d rather customers buy a new LEAF instead. How is that being green?”
Todd Thompson of Tampa Hybrids reminded us that battery failure and battery degradation are two different things. Most of Nissan’s batteries may still be functional, but the older ones have lost substantial amounts of range—sometimes as much as 50%.
“There’s a huge market for replacement LEAF batteries,” Thompson told Charged. “There’s more demand than there are wrecked batteries out there.” He says Nissan is charging around $8,000 plus installation for an OEM replacement battery. At that price, restoring an older LEAF probably isn’t viable.
Independent shops can do the job for less, but the supply of salvaged batteries is limited. “If a manufacturer made a battery for this car that was affordable, and could restore a 100-mile range, I think it would be a viable business model,” says Thompson. “We could keep these cars on the road for 20 more years.”