In-depth

Nissan Leaf Battery Upgrade Guide

What are the options for replacing the battery in a Nissan Leaf?

June 18, 2024       11 min read
nissan leaf mountain 1

Nissan Leaf’s battery issue

There are over 23,000 Nissan Leafs in NZ (and counting).

The LEAF is one of the first mass-market EVs, and its batteries degrade more than those of newer-generation EVs (a lack of active cooling is the main culprit).

Earlier models (24 kWh and 30 kWh) suffer from more degradation.

Note: Newer 40 kWh Leafs (2018-) are not following the same degradation curve. Telematic data from FliptheFleet shows a flattening off of degradation (consistent with other modern NMC batteries).

Battery lifecycle

  1. New battery in a Leaf with maximum range.
  2. Battery degrades until no longer viable (range gets too low).
  3. Battery removed and modules sold on the aftermarket for reuse as an energy storage system.
  4. Replacement battery installed in Leaf (either from existing Leaf, completely new battery, or all modules replaced).
  5. Once the reused modules are no longer viable, batteries must be recycled to obtain valuable metals.

Assessing Leaf battery health

Battery health can be estimated by looking at the dashboard bars.

Here’s a 2014 24 kWh Leaf

Currently at 10 bars. Compare with the Leaf Spy data further down.

This doesn’t provide much detail, so a tool called Leaf Spy is used.

What is Leaf Spy?

A group of enthusiasts reverse-engineered data from the LEAFs OBD (onboard diagnosis) port.

They made an app to interpret the data and called it Leaf Spy. It has an awkward user interface but is helpful.

Leaf Spy requires a special Bluetooth attachment that plugs into the OBD port.

Leaf Spy is not an official Nissan product, but allows more insight into battery health.

Interpreting Leaf Spy

There are a few things to look for.

SOH or SOC? 🤔

State of Health and State of Charge.

It’s easy to mix these two up.

We don’t care about SoC – it is simply the percentage charge already shown on the LEAF’s dashboard.

  1. SOH – State of Health (%)
    This number shows the battery’s capacity compared to when it was new.
  2. QC – Quick Charges
    Should be called Number of DC Fast Charges.
    Lots of DC charging can mean a lot of heat for the Leaf battery.

The same 2014 24 kWh Leaf

This vehicle is 8 years old. Despite having many QCs (all in Japan before import), the battery has held up quite well.

Leaf Spy Pro example

What are all the red bars? Something bad? 📊

The graph shows the voltage level of each cell pair in the battery.

Red bars show cell pairs actively transferring energy to balance the battery.

It’s not something to worry about.

Battery removal and replacement

There are no large-scale systems exist for LEAF battery replacement in New Zealand.

Enough vehicles are being scrapped (i.e. written off by insurers) to ensure a steady supply of batteries that can be installed into other vehicles.

Contact one of the companies listed below that can do the installation.

DIY? Dala’s EV repair (European) has open-sourced a lot of info about battery upgrades. See the wiki here, videos here – including an upgrade to a 62 kWh battery.

How much does an EV battery replacement cost?

It depends on the battery you are buying, but installation costs should be around $500.

Used Leaf batteries

NissinKing Partsworld – Secondhand Leaf batteries range in price from $2,000 – $13,000 (for 2018- models). They also advertise some batteries on Trademe.

New Zealand businesses that change Leaf batteries

  • iTech Automotive (Auckland) – focused predominantly on servicing batteries in hybrids. Although there is mention of Leaf replacement.
  • EV Parts NZ (Auckland).
  • Blue Cars (Auckland) can provide new modules.
  • EV Parts Guy (Hamilton) – actively bringing in batteries.
  • EVs Enhanced (Christchurch) do battery swaps.
    EVs enhanced designed a new 40 kWh LFP battery for the Leaf – called the 16 Blade. Unfortunately, it was uneconomic to bring it to market.
  • EV-lution (Dunedin) offers solar, custom-made batteries for home and Nissan Leaf battery replacements. They also do EV car conversions.
  • Control Focus (Dunedin)

Case study: How some owners have upgraded their battery

  1. Speak to a local auto electrician or repairer (see list above) or find someone else local. Ask them if they can change an EV battery, and an estimate of cost.
  2. Source a battery – See the NissinKing link above. Find a battery pack that suits price.
  3. Speak with NissinKing and get the battery delivered to the repairer.
  4. Once the battery is delivered, get the car to the repairer – the changeover should take hours.
  5. The old battery: Sell to a buyer for storage.

In the above example, the owner sourced a battery (24 kWh at 78% SoH) for $3,300 delivered (this was a very good price!). Installation was $500, and the old battery pack was sold for $300 to someone for storage (Jun 2024).

Thinking of importing a battery?

BUYER BEWARE ⚠️

Several Chinese distributors offer to export Leaf batteries to New Zealand. Even if these companies are legitimate (and not scams), there are major issues with after-sales support.

The Consumer Guarantees Act would not cover the purchase, and even if the company offers a ‘warranty’, this would be extremely difficult to enact.

If faulty cells were discovered in the battery pack, it would be at the consumer’s cost to get the battery dismantled and replacement cells fitted (even if the company did actually ship over any replacement parts).

Will insurers cover a replacement battery?

This is a grey area. If $10,000 is spent on a new battery – will insurers increase their cover by that much?

Speak to your insurer BEFORE replacing the battery.

Second-life of used Leaf batteries

There is a healthy aftermarket for used Leaf battery modules (repurposed as home storage). This appears to be in the domain of the DIY hobbyist.

There is also at least one commercial operation in NZ:

  • Counties Energy now has a functioning 240 kWh (made from 18 Nissan Leaf batteries). The battery charges during low-demand off-peak times. It then powers the two EV chargers at the site.

And plenty of others:

Scrapping and end-of-life of Leaf batteries

A full product stewardship system for batteries is under development in NZ. It will be like a battery ‘passport’ that tracks the battery throughout its life.

It is unlikely that a lithium-ion recycling facility will ever exist in NZ, so all end-of-life batteries must be sent offshore. Renewable Metals in Australia is working toward a Lithium recycling facility in NSW.

New Zealand’s Phoenix Recycling can handle end-of-life Nissan Leaf batteries. They take the whole pack and ship it via one of their export hubs (Auckland or Christchurch), which is, in turn, sent to Japan or South Korea for recycling. Expect the cost to be around $700 (last checked Jun 2024).

New Zealand battery recycling

  • Upcycle (Auckland) accept battery waste.
  • Echo (formerly Computer Recycling and iTrecycla) are doing the bulk of e-waste recycling in NZ.
  • Phoenix Recycling has nationwide pickup points for batteries (and will recycle solar panels).
  • InfinitEV is implementing a full lifecycle solution for EV batteries.

Australia

  • Brisbane company SL Batteries specialises in custom builds and reuse of old EV batteries.
  • Perth startup Renewable Metals mission is to recover “the valuable materials in lithium batteries including lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese and graphite.”

Elsewhere

  • Redwood Materials is actively recycling Li-ion batteries (see trial results).
  • Ascend Elements with a patented hydro-to-cathode process.
  • Nth-cycle uses new technology to make battery recycling part of any recycling program.
  • Li-cycle has plants in Europe and North America: “up to 95% recycling efficiency rate to return valuable materials in lithium-ion batteries back to the supply chain”.
  • Norway now has the Hydrovolt factory up and running – capable of recycling that country’s entire end-of-life battery market.
  • Volvo has partnered with CATL to recycle all old batteries used in Volvo cars.
  • Brunp handles recycling of CATL batteries in China.

Getting the facts on battery health

There is a need in NZ for a comprehensive battery health service, that covers all makes and models.

Companies like Altelium in the UK provide this service. Every EV sold secondhand should come with a certificate showing the State of Health of the battery.

References

See more at Forbes and further reading at MIT Review.

* 24 and 30 kWh LEAFs have no WLTP range, as they predate the WLTP cycle. However, an estimate using the US EPA range of the 24 kWh is 84 miles (135 km). A rough estimation of WLTP gives a 151 km range.

Original Leaf battery chemistry is a Ni-Mn (2010+), then Ni-Co-Mn (2017+).

The challenges of a circular battery economy – Latitude Media

McKinsey – Battery recycling takes the driver’s seat

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