Published on August 9th, 2011 | by Breath on the Wind


Nissan Explains Leaf Battery (Video)

August 9th, 2011 by  

Nissan’s worldwide Leaf sales are now over 10,000 but questions continue to be asked about the technology. In a recently released video, Nissan Corporate Vice-President Simon Sproule answers six questions about the Nissan Leaf battery.

Replacement cost of the battery: The battery should be good for 10 years. Nissan assumes most will sell the vehicle after about 5 years at which time the battery should have approximately 80% capacity. The issue was sidestepped a bit by focusing on replacing individual modules rather than the entire pack. The price for those should be “in the hundreds of dollars” (there are 48 of them). A comparison was made to an IC engine needing only parts rather than an entire engine replacement.

Elsewhere in the industry, it is suggested that batteries may initially drop in capacity and then begin a slower long-term decline. The battery may have residual value with some suggesting that they should be leased. However, over the course of 8 to 10 years, technology will improve and the remaining value may be minimal… something like a 10-year-old computer.

The question that might have been asked and answered is what the battery costs today. Nissan may not have a fixed price, as different suppliers deliver component parts in a volatile market, but they might give us some idea. Nissan has been reluctant to give a definitive answer. Initial reports had the battery cost as low as $9000. This was later revised to twice that amount.

–>Also recommended for you: Advanced Batteries Market to 2020 — Demand for Electric Vehicles to Drive Growth, Asia Pacific to Remain the Major Producer

Knowing today’s cost would enable us to calculate an estimated cost per mile for the battery alone. This is another way of calculating the cost of the vehiclem with the battey cost as an operating expense vs a capital expense. At $18,000, with a 100,000 mile warranty, the battery cost might be estimated at 18 cents/mile, while the vehicle’s initial cost would be reduced by the same amount.

Costs are expected to drop from 8 to 10% per year as energy density increases. But, like computers, existing batteries may become obsolete as new and better chemistries offer higher performance.

Regarding range issues, Nissan is focusing on selling vehicles and expects that the infrastructure will follow. Future batteries will certainly increase the vehicle range. It is also likely that they will cut its cost.

Leaf charging app

Will fast charging damage the batteries after long use? The question was converted to “who uses a fast charger constantly: someone who travels 70,000 miles a year. (Fast charging 2 times per day.)

Cost of charging during the day will be “higher” because “power has some elasticity in terms of pricing.” But this assumes time of use metering so that electricity that is used at night costs the consumer less than that used during peak hours. This is a smart option for a utility that wants to shave peak electrical usage and for a consumer who wants to charge their electric at the lowest cost.

Vehicle expense: EVs have always been expensive, with much of the cost in the battery. This is another reason to know the present value of the battery. If the Leaf is just over $32,000 and the battery is $18,000, the base car is only a remarkable $14,000 and becomes a basis for comparison to other vehicles and an idea of what any new technology may cost. Nissan’s solution is “scale.” Selling lots of vehicles will create what is known a “economies of scale,” where it is cheaper to produce many items than a few mostly hand-made vehicles, as Tesla has done. Each approach has its place. Tesla’s concentration on quality has promoted the EV concept immensely, while Nissan may eventually popularize the vehicle. History will certainly recognize the Tesla Roadster. Nissan’s legacy is uncertain.

Although the battery is under a long warranty, car engines do have to be replaced, and with hundreds of thousands of vehicles anticipated eventually, so may entire battery packs. This should not necessarily keep us from buying the vehicle. If we solely concentrate on our fears instead of the opportunities, then how can we ever progress. Overall, we might wish the quality of the video and questions were better and the answers more forthcoming. This may be part of the process of moving from manufacturing petrol vehicles to electrics. There tends to be a tacit apology for the electric vehicles that may not ultimately be necessary.

Image Credits:
Volumetric Energy Density Chart via Green Car Congress
Leaf charging app by Mariordo59 via flickr

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About the Author

We share this World; its past, present resources and our combined future. With every aspiration, the very molecules we use for life are passed to others through time and space so that each of us may be considered a Breath on the Wind. This part of the world's consciousness lives in NYC; has worked in law, research, construction, engineering; has traveled, often drawn to Asia; writes on Energy and Electric Vehicle issues and looks forward to all your comments.   "If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect." -- Benjamin Franklin

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