Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why Nissan's Battery Purchase is a Win Win

Recently Nissan announced that 24 kwh battery packs will be available for purchase to any existing LEAF owner for $5499 after exchange.  This was welcomed by the EV community both for its very reasonable pricing and the fact that all replacement packs would be with the latest chemistry and technology available; IOW, the "Lizard" pack.

The Lizard pack is the new tweak from Nissan to combat excessive degradation due to heat.  Too many people in Arizona were seeing 2-3 lost bars in the same time frames we Northwesterners were seeing a 5% loss (the first capacity bar represents about 15%) making a long term commitment to EVs a tough thing to rationalize.

Nissan then later mentioned that the pack price was less than it cost them to replace the packs.  One might wonder why Nissan would want to lose money on this option but this was a very smart move in that it was a way of saying thank you to the early EVers who accepted that leap of faith aka as the LEAF. Plus, now a long term financial plan was possible now that one knew how much money to set aside for a replacement pack.

What we saw was people who absolutely needed the price of the pack right away, then finding out what that price was and realizing they would not need a pack replaced for at least 2 years!  Funny how much that tiny piece of the puzzle created so much calm within EV Land!  Never mind the fact that the price is likely to be different when the time comes to purchase, it was information that completed the puzzle and provided a great sense of relief for people who needs to have all the i's dotted and the t's crossed.

But that is only the beginning of the benefits.  In my EVangelical pursuits, the biggest obstacle I am seeing is still price. Range is obviously a concern but nearly everyone I talk to who is interested has a "short commuter" in the house but the price is still the big stopper.  To them I say "Well, lease then!"

And you guessed it; the next biggest stopper is the idea of leasing. It was an alien concept to me 3 years ago but now, I have to say its the way to go until the range of the LEAF goes up.  Right now there is about a 10 cent per mile difference in transportation costs between our two daily drivers the LEAF and the Yaris.  My 15,000 mile per year lease costs me $245.75 a month but I am saving roughly $125 a month in fuel (15,000 miles divided by 12 months times 10 cents)  so that brings my cost down to $120.75 a month. I am just over 11,000 miles and my total cost including the random public charging fee is running me 2.1 cents per mile. Yes, that does include some free charging sessions but why should it not? I don't go out of my way to charge for free, never do it if I don't need it, and its THERE! If there was a promotion for free gas and you could go there without 10,000 of your neighbors in the way, would you do it? Well of course you would!

Now, my lease deal is probably better than most could get because of returning loyalty cash and whatnot but its not inconceivable that one could be driving a brand new car for under $200 a month AFTER fuel costs are considered. In a gas car, you are looking at an additional $100 a month just for fuel!

But the ignorance continues. But now that batteries are available, I think the used LEAF market is set to explode. Right now they are going for a pretty cheap price in the $13,000-$14,000 range.   This allows one to get into a LEAF relatively cheap and drive it.  As we all know, this is when EV Fever hits.  We soon realize that the convenience of not going to the gas station is just the beginning.  Driving an EV is cool, smooth, quiet and just downright addicting!  Soon the car purchased for errands and short jaunts becomes the car we want to take EVERYWHERE!  This is likely to lead to a sale of a new EV or another common option; the 2 EV household!

Knowing that batteries can be purchased to replace aging packs will open up EVs to a whole new segment of the population. People attracted to the low selling prices of used LEAFs but concerned about degraded batteries now have options!  So can we call the LEAF a "gateway drug to EVness?"  I think the battery purchase program is just the "pusher" we need!


  1. Or the 3-EV car family ... as one of our EV Group members just took delivery of three Mercedes Smart ForTwo for each of his family members. At the phenomenal lease rate of $100/month on a 3-year lease deal, offered here in Toronto, Canada until Sept 31/14. You can't afford NOT to lease an EV at this price. And even the insurance is affordable. Virtually no maintenance; no gas; electricity cost is almost negligible. How can you miss? And so much fun to drive better electrically.

  2. David, please elaborate on the economics of leasing, because to me, it still seems looney. Most of the LEAF leases I see advertised still require about $5k out of pocket, even after the lessor used the $7500 tax credit to buy down capital. Over a 36 month lease, that's $139/mo on top of the $199 teaser price. $338/mo, or $12,168 is a high price to own nothing. Buying a LEAF for $22500 after the tax credit over 36 months would cost $625/mo at 0%. Factoring in a real minimal residual value of about $13k means that after 36 months, the buyer owns a late model car worth 13k, and his balance sheet is $2668 better than the lessee, who now has nothing to show for his cash, but the owner has a late model car free and clear. Yes, the lessee spent $12,168 versus the buyer's $22,500. So, I see the lessee as giving up $2,668 for the privilege of knowing he won't own something he might not want three years from now. Or are there hidden savings, like insurance included in the lease?

    1. leasing options maybe different now but my lease was zero down and $245.75 a month and the only thing I got that is not generally available was the $1000 loyalty cash. Now I got the base model with the charging package and I do see some people getting leases now for around $300 but still no down payment so good deals are still out there. In any case, I feel that you really don't make your money unless you use all of your lease mileage. I have a 15,000 mile annual limit and will easily make that.

      One thing we also need to remember is the $4,000 in additional fuel costs if we go the route of the gasoline engine.

      Now the real question becomes will I lease again in Dec 2016? I am guessing I will mostly because I will want the max tax benefit and guessing I won't have that much tax liability. But I fully expect to be getting a LEAF that will be slightly more expensive but have significantly more range. It is this car that I could own as the degradation would not be an issue for several years if the new range is 150 miles

    2. Another thing to add; my lease was essentially interest free. The total rent charge for the entire 3 years was like $25. Rent charge is essentially the same as interest on a regular loan.

  3. A zero down $246/mo lease with 15k miles would be attractive, though these things are highly subjective. I'd have to reduce my annual usage by over 3k miles, or 17% to avoid the presumably punitive rate for overage. Actual gas savings also vary a lot by owner, but in our case, we created a very positive feedback loop by getting rid of a Civic and keeping an Odyssey minivan. Each EV trip now offsets a 21 mpg hog rather than a 32 mpg sipper! So, the greater operating cost differential means that the MiEV is getting more mileage than the Civic used to, and the van's usage has fallen by about 6000/year.

  4. Another benefit to an EV is it taking all the inefficient short trips that kill a gasoline car's performance. My Corolla I use to supplement driving needs is averaging 40 mpg and can only do so because its never used for errands or short trips that kill gas mileage.