Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fenix Power Soon to Offer LEAF Battery Leases!



The dilemma; The range started as "acceptable" but is now fading. There never was any extra so each mile lost is an ever greater degree of compromise.  But now Winter is approaching and the situation is now dire so what are your options?

Hybrid Industries

There has always been a few. Well, maybe...  Hybrid Industries offers a 24 kwh "add on" pack.  The theory is that it mounts in hatch area and connects directly to existing pack essentially doubling the capacity. It will share the charger, BMS, etc as the LEAF pack.  The cost; $4500.

Problem; I say "theory" because these guys have been around for a while and I have yet to hear of ONE person doing this and I have a LOT of ears in the EV public space.  Another issue is the added weight and the loss of the "not so ample" storage space.  If I wanted more range in a smaller space, it would be cheaper to just get a Bolt.

Nissan

The other more "official" option is simply get a new pack from Nissan. Here you have a full warranty, Nissan backing, unquestioned compatibility and (sadly) dealer pricing to match.  Recently Nissan announced that pack replacement prices would now be about $8500 which is actually $7000 for the pack plus labor.   Reports coming in are still seeing better pricing in some areas over others with some dealers simply refusing to do it. In all cases however, the cost is significantly more than the previous $5500 price tag. (which in this day and age is overpriced) What wasn't missed is the big jump in labor costs. Looks like Nissan figured out how to scratch the back of its dealers.

Problem; cost aside, doing this requires interacting with dealerships and few are "happy" to provide this option to customers. They make money by selling new cars, not extending the life of old cars so their willingness to "go the extra inch" is demonstrably lacking.

Nissan also made its motives transparent when they kicked up the capacity to 40 kwh AND kept pricing the same or even lower in some cases.  But realize that many 2011/2012 owners are still making payments or very recently finished payments so the thought of getting into another car payment was not an attractive one causing many to lose interest and revert back to the dark (and stinky) side.

Nissan is also providing another option in Japan where they are selling refurbished packs but details are lacking.  No actual information on what level of power these packs will have or what warranty would come with them. Pricing "seems" to be decent but again, that option currently does not exist here and there is only "general" speculation of when (if ever) it will be an option in North America.

Fenix Power

But news of the price jump did not go unnoticed.  Fenix Power is in the process of finalizing its product for EV conversions and as luck would have it, one of the main movers in this new startup is a Seattle area LEAFer very familiar with the 24 kwh issues.

Initially, Fenix Power wanted to wait until they were closer to having a shelf ready product but felt it was necessary to let people know what they were planning so they have started taking deposits now for a product that will be available by Fall 2019.  Initially they will provide a full range of options

1) Purchase; The pricing here won't be much of a savings according to John of Fenix Power but is offered in recognition of the fact that is simply how some people roll.  Along with a purchase would be an option to get discounted pack monitoring.   There will be finance options provided as well at a very reasonable monthly rate.

2) Leasing; Leasing will have an installation fee (estimated to be $1500) with monthly monitoring targeted at $99 a month.  Your current LEAF pack will be exchanged as well. Customers do have the option to keep their old LEAF pack for a fee.  Should you decide to turn in your pack, Fenix Power will evaluate the pack and if you decide to end the lease, it will be returned. (with equal or better capacity of course)

The Technology

Fenix Power claims their monitoring process combined with new technology will guarantee full or near full range for the entire leasing period with no time or mileage limitations. The pack will consist of Lithium polymer cells similar to Tesla tech so promises to be very robust.

Their main product push will be a battery pack leasing program but with a twist.  Each pack and module will be able to communicate its status back to Fenix Power when any issues might arise. This will allow Fenix Power to reset the module or schedule a replacement of the module with a local (to the customer) contractor to maintain capacity and range.  If needed, a module can isolate the bad cell while still maintaining the correct voltage.

I was able to talk with John about Fenix Power's vision and a lot of it is currently NDA as one would expect.  It is a very different approach from other battery leasing programs offered by Nissan and its partners in that the capacity is maintained. Now I know the first statement is "how can that be done?" since a well balanced pack will degrade evenly requiring all the cells to be replaced to regain any lost capacity and yeah, that is true in the current LEAF (and other EV) packs but Fenix Power will employ a pack with a module design where each individual module can self regulate to ensure it provides the proper level of support to overall pack demands.

Disadvantages

I will start with the bad since it is a much shorter list.  The logic of leasing needs to have the realization that you will want to stay with your car for an extended period of time and be happy with the range it has.  Like all leases, there is a startup cost and a termination cost.  Without any time limits we need to understand that monthly rates can and will rise. This is the normal way of things. Normal leases guarantees you a monthly rate for the 2 or 3 years of the lease, a luxury that is not present here.  As time goes on, maybe a renewable lease term will be instituted that at least has price stability for 1 or more years.

This also means that if you got your LEAF simply because it was one of the first EVs (first affordable) and want more range, than this is not the solution...yet.


Advantages

First off; People who bought 24 kwh LEAFs did so because the advertised ranges were what they felt would be acceptable. Yes, many bought under the misguided thought they would get 100 miles of range and that did not happen but those were generally the very early adopters. We made sure it was well known (as much as we could) that 100 miles was simply not something to bank on. 

But the rate of degradation is something no one was prepared for. We all knew batteries don't last forever since we all have cellphones but we simply did not connect the two. We also thought public charging buildout would be MUCH better than it turned out to be. IOW, our plan to mitigate our shrinking range was derailed from several fronts.  Fenix Power solves this issue and its cost is MUCH cheaper than

1) Reverting back to gas

2) Buying a new EV (with a pack that will still degrade)

3) Replacing the pack which will also degrade within a year or two.

Synergy

Fenix Power's goals are ambitious. VERY ambitious and if they can pull this off, they will at the forefront of a revolution in the EV movement. From Day One, the big knock on EVs is the lack of aftermarket revenue.  The success of their self regulated module will open up HUGE new markets for EVers allowing a flexibility we haven't even dreamed of.   Its not surprising that I actually wrote a very idyllic blog about a very similar scenario years ago. (Have fun looking!)

For more information, visit their website;  https://fenix.systems/leafbattery 

Make sure you click on the FAQ link. This will provide a lot more insight to the company's long term goals. If you are seriously thinking about doing this, right now Fenix Power is taking modest deposits that would cover initial installation costs. 

As always add your question below!


13 comments:

  1. Well Dave, I can't believe that nobody has yet commented on this post. Guess somebody needs to get the ball rolling and it might as well be me. I like the idea of seeing that useful lives of first generation Nissan Leafs prolonged. And I'd like to think there are some people out there who would be willing to spend $99 a month to maintain full capacity of their car. I do have some doubts in this regard, a lot of people have a hard enough time being convinced that leasing can be a cost-effective way to drive a vehicle and I'm not sure that people will feel like paying 1200 per year just to maintain range that is quickly becoming obsolete, though we both know that it's more than adequate for most people most of the time. It sounded like the monthly lease prices would be expected to rise. If that's true, that will also be a major turnoff 4 people. I think in order for the company to have success they're going to have to guarantee a rate for something like 3 years or even 5 years. I wish them well and hope that my worries turn out to be just that worries.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John has done a great job of intercepting responses so I didn't expect a lot of comments anyway. As far as "increasingly" obsolete range, I am thinking that the expansion of public charging options makes shorter ranges more viable than the early days. Keep in mind Fenix solution should keep your capacity well over 90% of original capacity ALL THE TIME.

      That is the key difference here and one that most seem to have lost. I have fielded comments in several online forums and not everyone is getting that message.

      But the key thing is that Fenix "seems" to be the first viable aftermarket option which means their success will breed success AND innovation. I do see original 24 kwh LEAFs getting a boost in future product lines. Its not an easy challenge (as we have seen) but I believe it can be done and as soon as one aftermarket company gets a successful product out there, they open the door to opportunities to expand on that success.

      Delete
  2. Any idea on when the Fenix battery leases will be available?

    Also I am not sure I want to toss so much money to a company that looks like it has yet to sell a single item... All I see currently is a website full of promises.

    Not one of their Corvettes has left their facility as far as I can see...

    I mean I could build that website. Fenix as a reliable company has zero credibility in my mind. Make something take a picture of it... then sell it!!

    How do they expect people to pay them when they can't build trust. I really hope it is all true I really do want a new battery for my Leaf.

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  3. Target is Q3 2019. If you have doubts (which is normal) wait and see how others fare first. Right now there is a special going for huge discount on install. This is being done to gauge interest and buoy the confidence of investors. The risk is minimal but a risk nevertheless as with any startup.

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  4. I have worked for many startups and whenever they get confused on who their target market is and divide their resources it usually ends up in disaster. Especially when a product has not even been made yet.

    High end joy riders who are corvette lovers and then the comuter looking to expand their range in their Nissan Leaf are in my opinion two separate groups of people.

    I mean shoot Elio Motors is having a hard go and they are only asking like $8k for a new 84 Mpg vehicle. That's a single car.

    I hope it works. I really would like the Battery as a Service for my car.

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  5. I just made my deposit as an early adopter, just as I was with the '12 LEAF. The reason? I just got the firm estimate for replacement of my LEAF battery that has 10 bars: $7,757.95 (plus tax!) Ten bars doesn't cut it in Minnesota, especially with cold winters and an underdeveloped charging network. The car has a practical value of about $10,000, so to add $7,700 to it is insane. So now I wait and hope . . .PS: I agree with Bart G. comment that Fenix Power should focus on a single business concept, get that right, and then branch out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keep us updated on your experience!

      Fenix is actually concentrating on a singular purpose which is creating the process to ease cell swapping and monitoring. Their goal is to be platform agnostic.

      A few things that are already well known in the LEAF World and that is replacing 24 kwh with 24 kwh is straightforward, easy and has been done before. Replacing 24 kwh with 30 kwh is not. BMS expects 24 kwh and a major reprogram is required for the BMS to recognize and assign that extra capacity.

      Obviously we could use a 24 kwh pack in a 30 kwh LEAF (BMS treats it as degraded pack) but that is backwards from where we want to go.

      But by signing up early, you reduce the only real risk of the program and that is high initial cost of the $1500 install.

      Delete
  6. I have had continuing trouble with the Fenix website. I have tried to give them $150 deposit with no success. I'm satisfied to pay $100 per month for a 30 kWh battery that actually delivers 30 kWh. Has anyone had success is connecting with them? Can they actually deliver in the San Francisco bay area?

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    Replies
    1. Best I can say is email John with the issues you are having. You are not the only one. They have changed site hosts at least once and not sure what the issue is.

      Delete
  7. We plan to keep our 2017 Leaf after the lease runs out end of 2019. However, the loss of capacity (30 KWh) is alarming. Lost one bar after 18 months in moderate climate. Doesn't get too hot in the SF-Bay area. Looking forward, the leasing option can be very interesting in a couple years time.
    Make it work and in all likelihood I will be a future customer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I assume you do know about the software update Nissan issued for LBC that was erroneously reporting higher than actual degradation, right?

      I will say my 30 kwh pack was the best one I had by a long long shot. I wish I could have had it longer

      Delete
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