Cheap Electric Vehicle Shock: Expensive Batteries
Jakub Stach posted on November 05, 2020 |
Consumers switch to EVs to save money thwarted but replacement batteries cost
The performance of the EV is closely related to the design of the battery pack that powers the vehicle’s engine and must be able to provide enough current for the motor over an extended time. (Image courtesy of the driven.io.)
The performance of an EV is closely related to the design of the battery pack that powers the vehicle’s engine. (Image courtesy of the driven.io.)

Buying a vehicle is considered a long-term purchase by most individuals, with the average length of time that a driver keeps a new vehicle being around 6 years. We spend an average of about 18 days driving per year, so when the time comes to purchase our next vehicle, we spend many hours thinking about what features and options we would like in our new rides. 

Many environmentally minded individuals, like Clayton Brander of Powell River, B.C., opt for an electric vehicle (EV). The salespeople and promotional materials promised gas savings, lower maintenance costs, and moral high ground over air-polluting vehicles with internal combustion engines.

Many EV skeptics point out that although these vehicles are touted as being environmentally friendly, their batteries (most commonly lithium-ion) need to be replaced as they lose charge capacity over time, which affects the vehicle’s performance. 

The Nissan Leaf was the world’s best-selling EV since its launch in 2010—it offered a low price point, an acceptable travel range, as well as Nissan’s reputation for manufacturing quality vehicles. Its sales were surpassed by Tesla’s Model S in early 2020, but the Leaf still holds a strong position on the market.

Brander’s 2013 Leaf’s driving range dropped to 80 km on a full charge, down from the 120 km range that the vehicle was originally shipped with. With a third of his car’s range gone, Brander went looking for a replacement battery. When he heard back from the dealerships he contacted, they quoted him a cost of at least CAD$15,000—if they could even source the battery. 

According to Nissan Canada, the cost to replace the battery in this 2013 Nissan Leaf is $15,000—more than the vehicle’s current value. (Image credit: Martin Diotte/CBC.)
According to Nissan Canada, the cost to replace the battery in this 2013 Nissan Leaf is $15,000—more than the vehicle’s current value. (Image credit: Martin Diotte/CBC.)

The replacement price of the battery was more than Brander paid for the vehicle when he purchased it three years ago. In fact, the battery price was three times the amount that the dealership quoted him when he first purchased the vehicle. 

“The dealership where I bought the car said that in a few years, you can replace the battery for about $5,000,” recalled Brander. He has been stuck in a communication loop between Nissan Canada and his local car dealerships. Nissan Canada’s representative suggested that he contact his local dealerships, while the local dealerships recommended that he deal with Nissan Canada directly. 

Brander’s local dealership suggested that purchasing a brand-new model of the car will eliminate the issue. The base model of the 2020 Nissan Leaf starts at $42,000—not exactly a sustainable solution when the car needs replacing after roughly 7 years on the road.

Brander’s Nissan Leaf battery issue is not unique—Leaf owners in the southwest launched a class-action lawsuit in which they claimed that the company misled customers about the vehicle’s range. Nissan settled the suit, extending the battery capacity warranty to five years for models manufactured from 2013 onward, and 8 years for models made after 2016.

Brander has finally heard back from Nissan Canada, but the company says that his vehicle first needs to be tested, although he has already paid for a battery test at his local dealership. There are nearly 3,500 pre-2015 Leafs on Canadian roads, and many others may also be struggling with the same battery issues that Brander’s has. 

Recommended For You