Saturday, October 7, 2017

Backwards Compatibility; I'm Sorry But Why Do So Many Of Us Want To Live In The Past?

Mr Money Mustache recently posted a reflection on his one year ownership of his 2016 Nissan LEAF.  As you might expect, he was practically gushing over the usefulness, convenience and most especially the minimal cost of driving an EV.

Well, we all knew that, right?  He stated that half his transportation "cost" was free based on the free public charging (guessing partially from NCTC)  but in the interest of "balanced" reporting, he had to find something "wrong" about the LEAF. Failing to do so, he turned to the next logical target; Nissan.

  • Nissan doesn’t seem to care about its past electric car customers: The 30 kWh battery from 2016 will not fit into a 2015 Leaf, and I’m out of luck if I want to upgrade my car to any of these juicy 2018-and beyond batteries which have been improving at a rapid pace. You can upgrade to a fresh replacement of your current battery, although it’ll cost you $5500.The correct way to handle this (as Tesla does) is to make new batteries backwards-compatible whenever possible, and allow old cars to be upgraded with minimal mark-up on the battery. After all, an electric motor can run for over a million miles with zero maintenance. The rest of the car is rock-solid as well. Why not provide a path for these cars to have a healthy 30-year lifespan, getting a longer range every 10 years or so as the batteries need replacement? There’s still a chance for the company (or the aftermarket) to correct this problem, so I remain hopeful.
Again, the same old story; Complain about range simply because its hard to find "something" to complain about so here is a guy who drove 3500 miles IN A YEAR  complaining about range!

Incredible!   I drove 3500 miles IN A MONTH and I don't have any range complaints.  But then again, Mr. Money did not have the same exposure to the 2018 LEAF that I had.  So I will give him a pass. Besides his main thing is how not to spend money so obviously buying new technology no matter how cheap, is not in his wheelhouse.  Did I mention the 2018 LEAF despite better tech, better battery, etc is CHEAPER than previous MY's?

But before we digress too much into this, lets discuss range.  At least twice a year, I have to drive to Ilwaco, WA which is located at the very SW corner of the State a few miles from the Columbia River ingress to the Pacific.  Despite living in Washington and working in Washington, my only option in my LEAF is to dip into Oregon to use the fast chargers "they" have since we don't have them.  L2 while on the clock is NOT an option.

What this does is takes a 115 mile trip (one way) and makes it a 140 mile trip.  I am ok with that. Its actually a very pleasant and scenic drive and allows me to spoil myself at the Berry Patch (a restaurant with decent food with pies that are to die for!) a stop that happens to have a fast charger on the premises.

Now, the Bolt and its vaunted 238 range would work here as well, BUT and yes I know it temporary but the reality is if it ain't in place by November, its useless to me. For the Bolt to make it, it will also have to stop to charge once as well but in Woodland, WA (the only CCS in the region) which now makes it 175 miles one way.  Now, I can charge for an hour (which is about the total time I would be charging my 30 kwh LEAF) at Woodland and this "might" give me enough to go home thru SW WA but it would be over 200 miles and not really doable under any but the best of driving situations due to terrain and the thought of that happening in November?  yeah, right.  So the more likely scenario is reversing the route with 2 30 min sessions making the charging time for both vehicles nearly identical.   Obviously a pleasure trip to the area completely changes the dynamics and there is a LOT of reasons to come to the area besides work!

 As mentioned in my 2018 LEAF blog, up until I drove that car, my primary concern was price/range.  This is why I jumped on the initial 2016 S30. It was super cheap, had more range and was 10's of thousands cheaper than a Bolt with a much more mature public charging network.  But it did not take long for me to realize how beneficial a small bump in range was in addressing my needs.  And to be honest with you, I am not sure how much the free NCTC plays a part in all this because it does fit rather nicely in one of my primary pursuits in life and that is a good deal!  So yeah, I am the one who does 3 refills of bottomless fries at Red Robin while taking nearly all my entree home to eat later.  Making a meal of salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden is hardly a compromise either btw!

But my driving habits changed as well.  In the 24 kwh LEAF, it was all about planning, checking the weather reports and monitoring LEAF Spy first thing in the morning to stretch and exceed the car's expected range.  As free stations faded away, my home charging increased exceeding $40 a month frequently.  But in the early days of EVness, that was the defacto challenge; proving that we could make molehill battery packs do mountainous commutes.

But upgrading to 30 kwh did not change my work destinations. It did add more destinations that were easier to do but what it mostly did was remove all the planning.  NCTC became my Plan B.  I no longer cared about my speed or efficiency and the arrivals to home under 10 GID dropped to once a month or so verses the 3-4 days a week. My reality became gorging at the fast chargers and getting home sometimes with nearly a full 24 kwh pack's worth of range.

So in my 300 days of ownership combined with probably 20-30 days I didn't drive the LEAF, my 200+ fast charge sessions do add up to a lot of time.  But so far, its only really been inconvenient to me a small handful of times.  Frequently I was able to get work done that would have taken away from my at home time so getting a charge and getting some work done meant in a sense that I was getting paid to charge! Many times, my gorging was a result of simply not getting work tasks done quickly enough when compared to getting the charge I needed to get home but will say my shift from rolling into home with less than 3 miles of range left was simply transferred in many cases to rolling into the charging station on "_ _ _" instead.

But the one takeaway from all that was that range is adjustable. Its simply easy most of time to get more and that is getting easier every day.  Don't get me wrong. I am lucky to be in a place that started public charging early in the game and yeah, lots of missteps, poor vendor decisions and simply really questionable decisions on territorial rights means it wasn't always easy and its far from a cakewalk now but the Sun is definitely on the rise here!

But then I did the 2018 LEAF test drive in Las Vegas and realized that my focus was wrong.  Before, it was the more range the better.  But after driving the LEAF, I realized the 2018 Nissan LEAF will be a watershed event in EV adoption but it won't be because of any of its EV features.  As we all know, the car has already been eliminated prematurely by a great majority of the die hard EV community whose only goal seems to be getting 300 miles on a charge but the question becomes "Do I need that much range and if so, how much am I willing to pay for it?"  The days of taking 2nd mortgages to get a Tesla are getting short.

The 2018 promises to be a near perfect blend of affordability, range, and tech and best of all, the tech that will be the "bait" that lures the "normal" consumer and maybe we have China to thank for that. I guess the numbers do always win. The near immediate reaction by several major auto manufacturers after China's announcement of it renewed commitment to EVs was unmistakeable.  The public has been put on notice and the percentage that are now listening has ratcheted up with many first time  lookie loos.

 I would love more range...if its given to me but when I have to pay for it, I'd MUCH rather get the range when I need it.  The Bolt is great but the reality is the range of 180 to 238 miles is something I would use a few times a month and not stopping to charge means getting home and having to do the work I would have gotten done at the charging station so its pretty much a wash 90% of the time.  My cheapness has struggled to justify the cost several different ways and what it boils down to is the ONLY chance (and its a pretty slim one) is lease terms giving full credit to me for the fed tax incentive like Nissan and doing the lease at near zero interest rates, like Nissan.

But why do something in hopes that it will be "like Nissan" when its simply easier and cheaper to simply "do Nissan?"

So lets go back to Mr Money's comments.  I predict that the 2018 LEAF will become so desirable that the market for extending the range of older LEAFs will shrink to a point that not even the most ambitious of aftermarket companies will want to cater to what will become the very few.

I do get the fact that the people who bought early instead of leasing aren't going to be happy to give up their car especially when they still have payments left. In that respect, I am like most in that I have never considered getting another car until the one I was driving was paid off but I also realize that was a different time. But back then, car loans were a lot shorter. My first car loan was only 4 years long.  The difference in technology frequently was pretty minimal so the only reason to get a new car was what?  The smell?  Moving from cassette to CD?  When I think about some of my previous purchase decisions I can't help but laugh.

So will I laugh about wanting to get a 2018 LEAF barely a year into a 3 year lease on my 2016?

I am pretty sure I will not.


There has been a very active response to this blog (all online, nothing here unfortunately) claiming I am way off base. That most would want to keep their 2011-12 LEAFs if they could get a bigger battery pack.  I say there is not enough demand for that to happen.

If there was a market for this, some bright guy would have taken up the reins and done it, right?  Now we do have a company  that started advertising extended packs for LEAFs at least 2 years ago and I have yet to hear ONE person taking them up on this.  Not ONE single person has done this.

Well, I for one can't blame anyone for not doing it.  When Nissan was offering discounted out of warranty exchanges for a few thousand or less, I would have done that.  The money was insignificant when compared to the convenience and utility gained. It was a HUGE goodwill gesture on Nissan's part.

Back when Nissan first started offering replacement packs at $5500 with exchange, that was also valued under market.  Many were surprised the price was that low.  (comparing the price of the Chevy Volt battery pack at the same time at 16.9 kwh and over $11,000)  Not a stretch that Nissan offered the pack below cost as a goodwill measure and acknowledgment that they screwed up on the battery.  Requiring an exchange insured that only LEAF customers got that sweetheart price.

But $6500?  That is a different level of commitment.  This blog was an attempt to ask the question;

What would you rather have?

**Your 2011 with 40 kwh of range for what? $8,000 or maybe $7000? Obviously wouldn't be $5500. The Hybrid Industries option linked above requires sacrificing cargo space since they would adding another 24 kwh pack to what you already had.  So you would be hauling around twice the weight knowing that one pack is degraded and becoming more of a burden every day... Weird idea if you ask me.


**6.6 KW charging
heated steering wheel and seats (some cars mentioned above got them. I didn't)
Automatic Emergency Braking
4G Connectivity
Pro Pilot
Power drivers seat
Hybrid Heater
240 Volt Portable EVSE (something you could easily sell for $400 or so since you likely already have one...)

Compelling thought eh?  All of a sudden the decision isn't quite and cut and dried.

Instead of putting say $6500 into an aging car,  sell it for $6000 AFTER you get your 2018 LEAF SV with the tech and climate package added on for LESS THAN what you paid for that 2011 SL.

This gives you $12,500 to put towards that 2018 plus the $7500 Fed thing (do a lease/purchase if you can't get all that)  plus the $1000 Nissan loyalty incentive and now that $36,000 car (that much since "all" of it wouldn't be sales tax free in WA)  plus Nissan hints that there will be additional incentive for existing LEAF owners to move into the 2018 (guessing that is why they extended all those leases)  So, now you are looking at a price of less than $22,000.

So what about that incentive?   I asked and several hinted something was being discussed and that was all so ZERO confirmation its even going to happen but at the same time, the enthusiasm when they were talking about it suggests "they" had high confidence something was going to happen... sooooooo

Lets go back to the leaked configurator for clues.  Most of it was spot on except for ONE thing and that was Pro Pilot.  Nissan released a price of $2200 but the leaked configurator said $900.  So would it be too much of a leap to think our incentive would be getting Pro Pilot Assist for $900?

hmmm... ;)


  1. Dave,

    Do you have any data of Leaf drivers who charge to 80% SOC regularly as compared to those that charge to 100% SOC regularly? I'm mildly concerned about the 2018 battery degradation, and as I won't need 150 miles on a daily basis, I would plan to charging to 80% except for long 200+ mile journeys, which I make a handful of times a year. Do you have any sense of degradation vs time as compared to degradation vs charge cycles and/or how the battery is charged? Thanks!

    1. I don't simply because I never used it. Theoretically, it should help but its more important imm to stay off the bottom of the pack so its better to charge to 100% (I have been doing it for years with little if any repercussions) if it means not discharging too low.

  2. Enjoyed this read - but I'd like to point out that there's another major cost that Mr. Money Mustache didn't talk about: depreciation. I think that might be the most expensive part of owning an electric car. You may pay $30k for a new Leaf, but after a couple of years you can only get $15k for it? That's a huge cost to owning that car.

    1. The rate of depreciation is yet to be known about the 2018 but keep in mind, the 2018 also has tech that is not likely to be out of date very soon which helps and remember depreciation only matters if you don't plan to keep the car longer than 5-7 years or so.

  3. I think this issue is like the same decision to put in a replacement engine into a used car vs spending on a new one. If you are happy with the older car and see a long horizon before you give the old car up, then upgrading the old is the way to go. Although the upgrade can run you $5K, you already have the donor car, and the cost would be about the same as paying the TAX ALONE on a new one. Another benefit is your peace of mind of getting scratches, and decreasing your insurance payments and coverage. I personally will keep a car until the body is deteriorated, and drive every mile happy.