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Batteries

Published on August 10th, 2019 | by Jennifer Sensiba

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A 2012 LEAF With 150 Miles Of Range

August 10th, 2019 by  


Unlike my previous post about a hypothetical LEAF with 380 miles of range, this is the real deal, and has been done to three vehicles. A shop in Quebec is fixing up older Nissan LEAFs and giving them around 150 miles of range. Compared to the 80 or so miles of range they came with from the factory, and the much lower ranges many have after degradation, this is a huge improvement. Swap services will be available both in their shop or using an upcoming DIY kit.

The donor and recipient LEAFs. Image provided by Véhicules électriques Simon André.

Mechanically, the process is fairly straightforward. The techs at Véhicules électriques Simon André find a 2018 or newer 40 kWh LEAF that has been in a serious enough accident to be totaled out by insurance, but that hasn’t sustained damage to the battery pack. Because the battery pack is mounted in the middle of the car and down low, most totaled LEAFs have a salvageable battery pack. The bolt pattern (the position of the bolt holes on the car and battery) is the same for older LEAFs and the newest ones, so mounting the newer pack is just a matter of removing it from the newer totaled LEAF and bolting it under the older one that has a degraded 24 kWh pack. No adapter plates, welding, drilling, etc. is needed to perform the swap.

There are a couple of challenges, though.

First, the pack’s lid does need some minor modifications. The company is based in Canada, and cold battery packs are a concern. To alleviate this, they add the cabin heater exit to the battery. From what I can see, it looks like they cut out a small part of the top cover and add the needed vent holes, and carefully water-seal the entire area after. As you can see from the photos, it looks professional and done right. With that, the older LEAF will be able to keep the pack warmer during the cold months.

The small modification to the lid of the pack (left side). Image provided by Véhicules électriques Simon André.

The other big problem is software. While both the old pack and the new pack speak the same language (CAN bus messages), the car’s computers are expecting the kind of messages they’d get from the 24 kWh pack, and the newer pack’s data wouldn’t look right. If not addressed, the car will still run, but will show errors and probably only allow “turtle mode,” a limp-mode that only allows a small amount of power. To address this, they use an aftermarket “gateway module” that translates the CAN messages to and from the pack to give each part what it’s expecting to see. Not only does this allow the car to run properly, but it also allows the car’s gauges to show the correct information. It will give a reasonably accurate “guess-o-meter,” battery percentage, battery health, temperature, etc.

Perhaps most importantly, the car does charge properly using both the J1772 and CHAdeMO ports. Level 1 charging works as expected, but level 2 charging will still be at the speeds the car came with (3.3 or 6.6 kW). Level 3 CHAdeMO works as it should for rapid charging.

For those living in or willing to travel to Quebec, they’re doing upgrades now in their shop. For the rest of us, they’re developing a kit you can use to do the swap yourself or at the facility of your choice. The kit is expected to be around $1000 (not including the salvaged 40 kWh pack), and will be programmed for the year of car and pack you specify. They also told us that they plan to offer a kit to swap 62 kWh packs from the LEAF Plus to other years, but that will come later.

The donor vehicle. Image provided by Véhicules électriques Simon André.

Featured image of gauge cluster provided by Véhicules électriques Simon André. 
 





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About the Author

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals.



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