Tuesday, March 10, 2020

LEAF Battery Upgrades Comes to Washington!

I have seen dozens of 2011-12 LEAFs on sale ranging in price from $3,000 to as low as $500.  Granted, they are 8 and 9 year old cars and some people are simply hard on their vehicles.  But even showroom new LEAFs were selling well below their value and the reason?  Range.  In my last blog, I detailed how Nissan is giving some of those early adopters viable options for restoring that new range to their LEAFs and this is a good thing. Many of them have a LOT of life left in them. (if not range)

But Nissan made a mistake when introducing the 24 kwh version. The first adopters were generally higher income, techies, greeners or whatever  and most tended to have high paying jobs in city centers that allowed them the luxury of living in the more desirable suburbs and its higher quality of life.

This meant the average 38 miles a day driven in America was frequently their one way commuting distance.  This was simply too much strain on the smaller pack. Tesla understood this immediately when ending their 40 kwh option. It simply wasn't enough for proper battery maintenance and longevity.

Now there are a lot of reasons early LEAF packs degraded quickly and deep cycling of the pack may not have been a chief cause but the limited range of the 24 kwh pack, no or very little public charging, and range anxiety meant many were charging to 100% in less than desirable conditions. This mean few battery management options for most.

As mentioned in the previous blog, Nissan is having a bit of a fire sale on 24 kwh packs pricing them at $4500 after exchange (yes, you MUST give up your old pack) plus labor and parts (bracket required for 2011. 2012 and Japanese made 2013 models.)   That meant a like new car for well under $10,000.   Two have done it so far but with the multitudes of 24 kwh LEAFers out there, why is there not a rush to the dealership to get this done. This is the reason I switched from buying to leasing at the last second.  I realized that 24 kwh would never work for me long term no matter how well the pack stood up. It simply wasn't enough range.  I wasn't alone.

DIYers To The Rescue!

You may have noticed that EVers have had relatively little support. Many dealers stock EVs on the lot but do everything they can to not sell them.  Even when a dealer is motivated to sell, they simply don't have the knowledge or intentionally misleads the buyer into believing something that is not true.  This has been mitigated a bit by social media where I recommend one go to get advice before making any purchase decision.   Advice; the more detailed you are in your ask, the more likely you will get information you can use. Generalize and you will get general answers you must sort thru and no one should make a purchase decision based on that!

Early on, two apps emerged quickly as the go to for the adventurous LEAFer; Plugshare and LEAF Spy Pro.  Both were basic grass roots campaigns that came into being mostly on the backs of a handful of people; most of which were simply EVers looking for some help. Instead of waiting for manufacturers to give us tools, they went out and filled the need.

As  LEAF pack capacities started to grow (while battery cases did not) the common question became "why can't I pay extra to get the bigger pack?"

Nissan's blanket answer was simply "Due to programming changes and other issues, that is not technically possible nor financially feasible."   And that was the end of it.  Thankfully, some people just can't take no for an answer.

Success!! If You Are Willing To Travel... A LONG Way

Undeterred by Nissan telling us it was impossible, tinkerers went to work. Just over a year ago, stories of progress started emerging.  New things were learned and shared and others took that knowledge, added a bit of their own.

Soon, working success stories started populating social media. Last summer,  A 24 kwh LEAF with a 18 kwh extender by Muxsan in the Netherlands.  A great solution perfectly integrated into the BMS and charging system.  But it took up space. Still something that would be useful for many. But that solution was 5,000 miles away on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean.  Yeah, Europe was happy but...

During this time, stories from New Zealand from people discovering more about how the LEAF recognizes battery packs.  Soon, they would have a way to allow different battery packs to communicate with the BMS.

Then last fall, news of a working gen one LEAF with a 62 kwh pack hit the internet! This would have been monumental news for the LEAF community in America but this time it was Canada (which is good since "Western" Canada is only 150 miles away) but this was Eastern Canada (which is bad) Granted, not Europe, but still 3,000 miles away.  So if you are near enough to Trois-Rivieres, Quebec Canada, then Simon Andres is the man to see. He has upgraded a few LEAFs now so his process is verified to work.

America's First 100,000 mile LEAF; Steve Marsh's 2011 SL  # 1561

But Simon's location was still a problem. It was simply too much of a logistical challenge. I did follow several threads on Facebook with people living near one of the international bridges (Michigan has 3) to Canada but even that "semi" close proximity had huge hurdles to negotiate.

But then I got a call to come test drive THE most famous LEAF in the Pacific Northwest. This was LEAF # 1561 driven by the Quarter Million Mile LEAFer Steve Marsh.  He put 141,000 miles on the car in just over 3 years and then passed it off to his Mother who added another 10,000 miles but by this time, its range wasn't even enough for her.

7 capacity bars at 150,000 miles. Barely a 1,000 miles later, it lost another. 

 A full charge with its remaining 6 capacity bars barely netted her 35 miles.  Despite the interior being in very good condition, Steve was unable to sell it for any reasonable amount of money. His $2,000 sale price didn't even garner a single inquiry.

Luckily someone did see the value and long time DIY EVer and SEVA (Seattle Electric Vehicle Association) member Jay Donnaway bought the car.  Immediately they put in a salvage 40 kwh pack and ran into the normal compatibility problems. The car was in limp mode unwilling to accept the interloper. But Jay reached out to the reigning battery upgrade guru, Simon Andres for some advice.

We Have A Local Source!

Yes, one still has to cross a body of water for this solution, but this time the location is closer and even better; it has a ferry terminal!

So I charged up my LEAF (needed 34 % SOC to make it there going the "long" way) and drove the 80 miles to EV Works on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Being a long time DIYer, I expected Jay to have several projects non LEAF going and was not disappointed.  He had just gotten life from an ancient NEV as I walked in. This Dynasty IT NEV is slated for duty doing local delivery for Proper Fish

***Shameless Plug Alert***

If you want a great plate of English Style Fish and Chips, Proper Fish is the place. The fish was moist, tender and delicious!

There was also a VW Bus EV... not the new one, mind you.

Complete with its 31 kwh Tesla battery pack

Now this one was in the process of being converted to a camper van, a relatively sedate one.  They had another van waiting on Tesla Model S motor and drive components that will enable launch mode.  Definitely something to see!

One of their bigger projects currently going is converting an entire van fleet to electric. Pac Westy rents vans for camping, excursions or whatever else you have a hankering to do on the Olympic Peninsula. They have full kitchen vans, simple sleepers with pop ups, (two stories!) and so on. One is done, the others are patiently waiting their turn.  Being located next door to EV Works definitely helps!

Interested in a weekend getaway?  https://pacwesty.com/ for more details.

The Drive

Although decorated, Steve's old LEAF was unmistakable and actually looking pretty good considering the miles it has seen.

Yes that is my LEAF in the lower right corner! 

I started the car and the familiarity came flooding back. Both the good;

As we all know, the LEAF BMS is slow to react to changes. After several cycles, 
the car started displaying 12 capacity bars. 

And the uhh... not so good?

Doing my usual double shift, ECO bumped the GOM to 180 miles. So far so good! Now, I will say that the car drove differently than I remembered but then again, I'm used to driving a car with double the horsepower.  But other than the quiet hum of the motor, the car was completely silent. Not a buzz, a rattle, shimmy, or clink of any kind.  The car was still rock solid. This came as a surprise to me. I quickly realized why so many people were reluctant to give up their beloved LEAFs. Even with the degraded range, they were still nice cars to drive! 

BYOB (Bring Your Own Battery) 

Right now EV Works is sourcing their LEAF packs from salvage, auctions, etc. This means each pack currently coming in has a different cost which means I cannot give you a specific price for how much this is going to cost you to do this. 

You could simply bring your own battery.  Installation, testing, and software upgrade is $1999.  They also offer all types of EV repairs, upgrades, etc. at $125 an hour.  

For more information you can contact EV Works  www.ev-works.us     or Jay by email jdonnaway@pacific-mobility.com


EV Works has completed upgrades on a few more cars and it would be more but the challenge of getting 40 kwh and 62 kwh packs has been a challenge.  EV Rides LLC in Portland, Oregon has also completed its first Gen One 40 kwh upgrade so even if you aren't in the Pacific Northwest, keep your eyes open for a local shop doing the same thing. The technology to do this is out there and spreading fast! 

Friday, March 6, 2020

February 2020 Drive Report; More LEAF Battery Options Coming!

It was a short month so only went 1055.9 miles and this signifies the beginning of regular charging expense.  I home charged 44 kwh with power at 8.44 cents/kwh for a cost of $3.72.  I lost .09% SOH which was expected since my adjustment happened last month. Technically one day of the adjustment happened on February 1st but since March 1st saw no changes in SOH from February 29th, I did some creative accounting sliding the month over a day.  This accomplishes the feat of making February look better than it was along with making January worse than it actually was. Kinda like the Federal jobs report. 😎

EVGO's $250 LEAF Charging Credit. 

For anyone getting a LEAF from November 1st, 2019 on, EVgo provides a $250 charging credit. Since my NCTC ran out February 16th, it was time to start using that perk. To get the best rate, I signed up for a monthly subscription thinking the $7.99 fee would be covered and it was not.  Right after I signed up, a $7.99 credit was applied to my account making the balance - $257.99.  A few weeks later, I received a notice that my CC was billed.   Well, I had planned to only use the EVgo credit while away from home since I had until Nov 16th to use it up.  But since $7.99 subscription fee wasn't part of the credit, it became financially wiser to use up the credit faster rather than slower since each month would increase my overall cost per kwh.

I had been tracking my charging performance and with EVgo's 25 cents per minute rate (Only 22 cents per minute after 8 PM), I was still averaging 32 to 33 cents per kwh despite not charging more than a minute or so past the knee.  IOW, I was getting the power for about as cheap as possible for the time of day and it still wasn't great.  Cheaper than Blink for sure along with others but nowhere near what EA was giving me when I was averaging 17 to 19 cents per kwh on their stations.

Now EA bills a $4 a month subscription rate but their higher charging speed along with their 18 cent per minute rates meant I only had to charge 57 minutes to overcome that $4 sub fee advantage EVgo provides (EVgo credits the first $7.99 of charging costs every month so the subscription fee is essentially zero'd out)

EVGO's Maintenance Issues

I happened upon a tech worker from the manufacturer of the DC station in DuPont and we got a chance to talk a bit about the issues both at DuPont and Chehalis.  Acheron had had a comm error message since Thanksgiving and apparently a part was ordered that was expected in two weeks which means by my reckoning, the station should be up and running this week. It is my plan to swing by there today sometime to check it out.   Chehalis had different issues and he was leaving DuPont to upgrade various components there. Apparently he had already been there several times to repair it.  I did verify it was working when returning from the Portland Auto Show a few weeks ago. Lets hope this station stays up for an extended period of time which would be the first time since it was turned on last year.

Edit; I just checked Acheron and he/she is still down. I also found a disturbing situation.

So, the stations have a proven track record of fragility and this is what we do?  Zoom in on the pix. Its raining, the handle is wet.  "Shouldn't" matter but a Bolter tried to use it and had 2 failed attempts.  I hope she knows that EA is only 8 miles down the road.

EA Expansion

Electrify America is well into phase 2 of their 5 phase penalty and this phase promises a bit of redundancy, some connections to lesser traveled corridors, along with simply beefing up metro areas.  Despite their coming soon page, we have a surprise entry to announce.  Today someone alerted me to new stations in the ground at Target Plaza in West Olympia!

This came as a complete surprise and now makes me think I need to check out the Walmart in both Aberdeen and Shelton! Both would be VERY welcome locations to EVers vacationing on the Olympic Peninsula.  If anyone living in the area happens to notice something, let me know.

Nissan Battery Pack Upgrades

Believe it or not, Nissan has done a bit of an about face and is providing relief to LEAF owners with degraded packs in two ways;

The price of the 24 kwh pack which is no longer under warranty has been dropped to $5500 minus a required $1000 exchange credit.  This puts the cost at $4500 plus installation and in some cases (2011's and 12's) parts.  Remember in WA State; anything EV is still sales tax free and that does include parts AND labor.

30 kwh LEAF owners are the ones really making out...if they qualify for a warranty claim that is. Nissan is now replacing degraded 30 kwh packs with 40 kwh packs!  Like WOW!   This is not a rumor as 4 people have confirmed the higher capacity packs were installed.  BUT... Anyone with a 30  kwh LEAF who simply wants more range cannot buy the upgrade for anything less than a ridiculously exorbitant price!

What is even more confusing is that Nissan has NOT updated the parts price list for these  packs and a few dealerships were unaware of the new price until they actually went and ordered a pack to see the price come in at the $5500 cost instead of the $7,000 catalog listing.

The same issue exists for the 40 kwh packs.  Various reports (non really confirmed since no packs have been purchased) range from $12,000 to $18,000!!  With the 24 kwh pack costing $5500 or $229 a kwh, it would make sense the 40 kwh pack would be no more than that and normally bigger means a better price per kwh but even using the low end of the reports of $12,000 that is $300 per kwh.

One possible explanation is another rumor that Nissan is only offering the discounted price on the 24 kwh packs until the current supply is exhausted. This would explain why the catalog price was not changed or why the 40 kwh pack price is "seemingly" out of sync.  If this is the case, a $300 per kwh price point won't have many takers and that is a shame because...

Another Option

Recently I celebrated a famous LEAF's 9th birthday with a drive! (build date 03/11 #1561)  It was amazing on several different levels.  For one thing; a year ago, this LEAF had a 35 mile range and 6 capacity bars.

As I settled into the "very" light cream colored microfiber seats, I quickly wondered if I swapped seats with my E Plus, if they would notice?   I started the car and took off.  Despite the age, the miles, the degrada... oh wait.  Ignore that last comment.   Anyway, I marveled at how really nice the first LEAF was.  No rattles, no vibrations. Just the quite hum of the motor. I quickly realized that other than the motor sound which is all but gone in the E Plus; this car was in every way, nicer than mine.

Part of it was simply the owner. He really knew how to take care of cars and he might have amassed over a quarter MILLION miles on his two LEAFs, but I am still more awe struck at how long his tires lasted.  By now, this person is no longer a mystery to most of you and in a few days (sorry but have a gag order til Tuesday) , much more details on how this drive was even possible will be revealed.


Or Nissan instrumentation.  Remember LEAF Spy only parrots back what it reads, right?  Since I have more than tripled my level 2 charging this past month, I have noticed that Hx seems to go up when DC charging but goes down while AC charging?  What does that means? (not a rhetorical question!)

Since the super high Hx thing started with the 40 kwh packs, now wondering if its some sort of number that may indicate a score or evaluation of charging habits?   Since Nissan isn't really on board with LEAF Spy, they are not providing any kind of help to the developer and other than Hx is acting radically different since the 40 kwh packs, all we have is conjecture.

CARB Is In The House!

Well, actually the house just passed the bill which means WA will join California and others requiring all major auto manufacturers to provide us zero emission options (which means plugs!) in the near future. Unfortunately, after it becomes law, manufacturers have two years to comply so the wait is not over yet but the light at the end of the tunnel is on!