Nissan Leaf batteries

The Nissan Leaf is one of the most popular electric cars but understanding the batteries that come with it has been a minefield. Until now

James Wilson
Aug 17, 2021

Although electric cars can seem like very new technology, the Nissan Leaf has been around since 2011. As a result, if there is one battery-powered car that offers insight into how an EV (electric vehicle) holds up to the test of time and specifically how well its batteries last, it is the first-generation Leaf - the car we're focusing on here.

Some drivers would have you believe that the batteries in electric cars will be defunct in a few years and that they will cost a small fortune to replace. Meanwhile, if you speak to an EV early adopter, they would have you believe that electric cars are the answer to life, the universe and everything. The truth is that electric cars have many positives and a number of negatives to bear in mind. Keep reading to understand the pros and cons of the Nissan Leaf and its batteries.

Common questions about electric cars and their batteries include: How long will they last? How much do they cost to replace? And how long is the manufacturer warranty? With the Nissan Leaf, there has also been the question of how battery leasing works - as Nissan offered the option of buying the car and leasing the batteries separately. All this and more will be covered below.

The original Nissan Leaf started arriving on UK roads back in 2011. It remained in production until 2017, shortly after which a new generation arrived. During those six years, Nissan treated the Leaf to two important updates, which are worth bearing in mind if you're considering getting a used Leaf.

The first was in 2013 when the speed at which the battery could be replenished was increased - although this faster charging capability was an option and not standard. Nissan also increased the claimed range per charge that same year. The second important update was in 2015 and brought another jump up in range, courtesy of a new battery pack.

2010-2017 NISSAN LEAF BUYERS' GUIDE

Nissan Leaf battery size/capacity

There were two sizes of battery pack for the first-generation Nissan Leaf; a 24kWh version and a 30kWh version. The first one was available from 2011 and the latter arrived as an option in 2015. The higher the capacity of a battery, the more energy it can store and, therefore, the further a car can travel on one charge.

What does kWh mean?

There are a couple of different ways to measure a battery’s capacity but one of the most common is in kWh. kWh stands for kilowatt-hour and is the typical unit used to present the capacity of an electric car battery.

1kWh is how much energy a 1kW electrical appliance will use in an hour. 24kWh Nissan Leafs can in theory supply 1 kW for 24 hours, 2kW for 12 hours, 3kW for eight hours and so on and forth. The first-generation Nissan Leaf comes with an 80kW electric motor.

So, if you were to use as much power as possible by pressing the accelerator right to the floor and keeping it there, the Nissan Leaf would flatten the battery in around 18 minutes in theory (24kWh divided by 80kW is 0.3 hours, which is approximately 18 minutes).

In reality, no one will drive like this, so the Leaf’s charge should last much longer, though the precise distance you can cover on one charge varies signficantly depending upon the temperature (low temperatures typically reduce the efficiency of electric cars), how many of the car's electrical systems you use - including heating and air-conditioning - and how fast you drive.

This is why electric cars are also presented with estimated range figures. These should give you a good idea of the typical range that is possible per charge. It's worth being aware that test figures - especially those for older cars - are often a best case scenario, so it's wise to see them as the maximum you're likely to achieve, rather than an everyday figure.

Nissan Leaf battery replacement

You might be worried about how much it could cost to replace a Nissan Leaf battery. Especially if you are looking to buy or finance a second-hand Leaf. The thing to remember is that having to replace a full battery is incredibly rare, so there isn’t a wealth of information to judge how, when or why a battery will give up the ghost.

Additionally, it is sometimes possible to replace faulty components instead of the whole pack if you experience battery issues. In these cases, the cost of replacement parts will come down dramatically although labour prices to fix the issue may still be high. On the subject of labour, most UK Nissan EV (electric vehicle) garages are qualified to swap out a battery pack but only a couple are able to open packs up and repair/replace the parts inside them.

Assuming that you are incredibly unlucky and actually need to replace the entire battery pack of a Nissan Leaf, the costs are significant if you get your local Nissan dealer to do the job. Replacing a 24kWh battery pack will cost around £12,500, whereas a 30kWh pack would cost roughly £14,300. These prices are ballpark figures as there will be slight variations from car to car depending on age and condition of the old battery.

If you're wondering whether it is possible to upgrade the battery pack of a 24kWh Leaf to a 30kWh version, the answer is no; at least through Nissan, that is. There are a handful of EV specialists in the UK that can perform battery replacements and upgrades, however. Often these companies will use second-hand batteries from cars that might have been in an crash, though the battery was undamaged. Aside from anything else, this helps bring the cost of a replacement down.

Approximate figures for going down the third party route are as follows. Replacing a 24kWh battery is around £5,500 - although that is highly dependent on how much a second-hand replacement pack can be sourced for. The 24kWh batteries have been out of production for quite a while, so are rare. All is not lost, though, as the same third party specialists can upgrade the battery pack in a 24kWh Leaf to a 30kWh battery or even a 40kWh one.

Costs for jumping up to a 30kWh unit are around £7,000 and you can add another £1,000 to £1,500 if you're after a 40kWh battery. If you need to replace your battery and you can afford the 40kWh, we’d recommend it for the extra range it should give you, though if you only cover short trips, you're bound to be more than happy with one of the cheaper options.

The replacement itself is fairly simple - it isn’t like dismantling a petrol or diesel car. Granted, due to the high voltages and currents involved you'll want to get a skilled professional to do the job, but the simplified process is as follows:

  • Isolate the battery pack (much like turning off a household socket and unplugging whatever is plugged in)
  • Remove the protective trays fitted underneath the car
  • Disconnect the wiring between the battery and other parts of the car
  • Unbolt the battery pack and safely lift the car body out of the way (this will require the kind of car ramps found in a professional garage)
  • Carry out the steps above in reverse to install the replacement pack

We should add that upgrading battery packs isn’t always as simple as just plugging in a new battery pack if it's different to the original. As EV technology is developing so quickly, things such as connectors and how onboard computers communicate regularly change - think of it like one battery pack using an HDMI cable and another using a USB; if that's the case, you are going to have an issue. Fortunately, the third party companies offering the battery upgrades know this and include all the adaptors you need.

Warranty on Nissan Leaf battery

Warranties have been known to promise the world on first impressions but when you get into the small print they can quickly unravel. While the warranty on Nissan Leaf batteries won’t leave you in despair, there are a couple of key points to be aware of.

Firstly, the battery warranty for the first-generation Nissan Leaf is different to that of the second-generation Leaf. Early cars came with a five-year or 60,000-mile warranty. During that time Nissan would repair or replace the damaged battery components required to bring the capacity back up to a minimal level.

Early Leafs use a bar system to indicate the health of a battery - there are 12 bars and once it falls below nine the warranty comes into play. Nissan will then carry out the necessary works to return the Leaf back to at least nine bars. As 24kWh models are amongst the oldest, the majority will be out of manufacturer battery warranty cover by now.

When Nissan launched the 30kWh Leaf it upped its warranty offering. The same nine out of 12 battery health bars caveat remained but the warranty now lasted for eight years or 100,000 miles. This means that newer Leaf models should still be covered by the Nissan battery warranty.

An important consideration if you're planning to use a third party company to fit a new battery is that it will likely void Nissan’s warranty - and not just the battery one but the entire car warranty. That said, if a Leaf needs its battery replacing and there is no warranty cover left to fall back on, going for a third-party supplier is still the most affordable option. Also, don’t expect Nissan to carry over any warranty left on a second-hand battery pack if put into a different car, as this is not transferable.

Finally, if you're financing the car with PCP finance or Hire Purchase, and plan to change the battery, you'll need to agree this with the finance company, since they own the car up until you make the final monthly payment in the case of Hire Purchase and the optional final payment in the case of PCP, should you choose to take ownership.

Nissan Leaf battery lease cost

In the past, Nissan offered motorists the chance to purchase a first-generation Leaf without a battery. Instead, the battery was leased from Nissan for a monthly payment, typically somewhere between £70 and £129 depending on how long the lease was for and how many miles the driver expected to cover. Now though, Nissan has stopped offering the battery lease scheme so up-to-date figures do not exist.

Stopping battery leasing is a shame for some drivers, as it had a number of benefits. The biggest being that you didn’t need to worry about a costly battery replacement should things go wrong, as the warranty lasted the length of the lease. Battery lease cars also tended to be more affordable to buy or finance, although there was the extra monthly battery payment to factor in.

Nissan Leaf battery life

Working out the life of a Nissan Leaf battery is not an exact science. That said, with some 24kWh models now over 10 years old there is plenty of data to analyse. A website called ‘Plug In American’ has collected information from 646 Nissan Leafs that have been claimed to have travelled a combined 16 million miles.

One of the difficulties in assessing the ‘life’ of a battery comes when you try and define when a battery is dead. If you commute 50 miles per day and your electric car can only manage 30 miles on a full charge, that car is likely ‘dead’ to you. That same car in the hands of a person who only uses their car to nip to the shop and back is perfectly ‘alive’.

Plug In America's data showed that both age and mileage impact how quickly a battery loses capacity. The headline findings suggested that after 100,000 miles a Nissan Leaf battery pack (either the 24kWh or 30kWh) would typically have just over 60% of its original capacity.

Plug In America generates information from actual owners so it is important to remember that people can be all too eager to crack out the rose-tinted glasses. However, the results marry up with the general consensus that a battery pack should last between 10 and 20 years before needing to be replaced.

To maximise the life of your battery there are a number of tips out there. Kia, for example, recommends the following:

  • Avoid high temperatures when parked. If your EV battery gets too hot it will try to cool itself (even when parked). By parking in the shade, the requirement to do this should be lessened. Alternatively if you plug your car in when parked the cooling system can draw power from the mains, reducing the strain on the battery.
  • Minimise the time batteries spend at 100% charged. Much like humans, batteries don’t do so well that their extremes, so try to avoid fully charging or discharging your battery. Electric cars typically have onboard computers that automatically manage the charging process when plugged in so you don’t need to worry too much about keeping a close eye on things.
  • Avoid using fast charging. The strain of rapid charging is believed to shorten the life expectancy of a battery. Kia claims that eight years of standard charging will result in 10% more battery capacity being retained compared to using rapid charging for the same period of time.

If you are concerned about the environmental impact of having to replace a large EV battery, there is a saving grace to removing a battery from your car. After a battery is finished being used in a car there are other applications for them. Nissan itself took part in a project where it supplied new and used Leaf batteries to the Dutch football team Ajax, so the club could store energy from solar panels and use it to power the stadium.

How long do Nissan Leaf batteries last?

How long a Nissan Leaf battery will last depends on a lot of factors. The most obvious is its state of charge. When new, the first 24kWh Nissan Leafs were claimed to have enough charge to last 109 miles. This went up to 124 miles in 2013. The larger 30kWh unit was claimed to last 155 miles.

These figures were calculated using something called the ‘NEDC’ testing procedure - as used for all cars at the time. Even petrol and diesel models used the same test to calculate their fuel economy. Nowadays range and fuel economy tests are done using the WLTP procedure - which is much tougher and more representative of what you can expect in the real world. As a result, the NEDC figures should be taken with a pinch of salt. Plus, don’t forget older Leaf models will have lost some battery capacity over time as well.

Other variables that can impact range include; driving with your lights on, parking in direct sunlight on a hot day or playing music out of the speakers on full volume. On a more positive note, if you are driving a lot in stop-start traffic the regenerative braking system will put some charge back into the battery pack, reducing the rate at which the battery is depleted.

 

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