The earliest Nissan Leafs are now 10 years old and didn’t start off with a large battery (24kWh) due to the very high costs at the time of launch. Battery prices have reduced by around 80% over that period, and also have increased in size which means more range. The car itself was extremely good from the start, being designed as a clean sheet EV rather than a conversion from an ICE car, such as VW’s e-Golf. In 2014 there was a model refresh but these were relatively minor improvements.
With the 24kWh battery providing a useable 22kWh, this translated into a range of approx 85 miles. The Leaf’s battery is air-cooled rather than liquid-cooled in the BMW i3 or Kia e-Niro, and this has led to slightly higher degradation over many years than its competitors, around 2% per year as opposed to a more typical 1%. This results in the battery ‘SOH’ or State Of Health – simply put this is the % of charge the battery will still retain compared to a brand new pack. How much the battery has degraded very much dependent on the climate (high temperature zones affecting the battery more) and also how many times the battery has been rapid/DC charged. The earliest high-mileage cars leading a hard life could well be down to 70% SOH, giving a 50-60mile range, but the advantage of these is they can be bought cheaply.
But the car itself is still fundamentally good and an extremely good used option, particularly as a second car which is how we use ours. You might well decide that a home charger and 60 miles is good enough for this purpose. But another option is at hand: replace the battery. This should mean the car is good for another 10 years. You could replace it with a 30kWh pack from the newer Mk1 Leaf , but the 40kWh pack from the Mk2 Leaf also fits and it’s a swap in / swap out task. Specialists such as the dutch company Muxsan have sprung up to provide a way of adapting the electronics and more EV specialists are beginning to offer this service. The swap itself takes between half and one day. If you’re feeling really adventurous a Finnish enthusiast has done a DIY conversion on YouTube.
The Leaf Mk2 pack will give you a real world 150mile range which for the vast majority of people will be a very useable amount. The 40kWh will usually be a second-user pack, but thoroughly tested and individual failing cells replaced. So what’s the cost? Expect to pay in the region of £8,000/€10,000 but you can then either sell the removed 24kWh unit or give it a second-life in a battery storage pack on a solar-PV system.
Another option is a range-extender battery pack. Your original battery (below the floor) is kept in place and a buddy pack is added, but this takes boot space. It’s not as neat an option and our preference would be to swap the pack out.
Nissan’s electric e-NV200 van is based on the same platform as the Mk1 Leaf so its battery can also be swapped out, including the 62kWh pack which will provide a range of around 220miles.
Compared to a diesel/petrol car which is likely to have significant defects and be uneconomic after 150K miles, replacing an EV’s battery is undoubtedly more sustainable and extends the life of the vehicle for many years. As battery technology continues to improve with new chemistry, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some original Nissan Leafs still running in 2040 with a 500mile pack.