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


EDIT

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! 

19 comments:

  1. Awesome! Know anyone in the southern california area who can do the same thing?

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    1. Well, hoping the article allows other shops to realize that there is a lot of sharing of the technology required to get this done. All you need now is for someone in your region to contact Simon on how to get going.

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  2. Thanks for tracking this down; my little 2010 (#225) would love to get out and see the world! ;-)

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    1. There is always the option of searching for a used 40 kwh LEAF but the market is high right now and this allows you to keep the car you are familiar with but with the added benefit of the additional range.

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  3. It's good to see another solution and installer in my neck of the woods, but I'm still hoping for something with a monthly payment system. I've already put 23k miles on my 2011 Leaf in the year I've had it, but primarily as a work vehicle it's doing it's job, albeit frustratingly.

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    1. If you are talking about Fenix, you might be waiting longer than you thought. Be aware that Fenix is based on the East Coast and will need a shop locally to do their work. Right now, EV Works is the obvious choice for that as well.

      You might want to consider visiting them and taking a test drive in theirs. The additional range is quite liberating!

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  4. I am not clear,Is Jay installing and reprogramming "working gen one LEAF with a 62 kwh pack" as what has been previously done?

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    1. 62 kwh is possible but the LEAF mentioned in the article had a 40 kwh pack installed. They have been around longer and are more plentiful. Realize Nissan is not selling these packs. You cannot buy them for any amount of money. They are ONLY available as a warranty exchange.

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    2. I have heard that a few people have found 62 packs in junk yards. If you can source a 62, will they do/try the upgrade? Or is that only Muxan?

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    3. Yes, they can do the 62 kwh upgrade. Other than slight differences in size and weight; all upgrade processes are the same. Additional brackets are required for the 62 kwh pack but the rest of the process is the exact same. Each battery has to be married to the BMS.

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    4. Simon Andres in Quebec Canada is the closest location that has done the 62 kwh upgrade and EV-Works is using Simon's process.

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  5. There is a place in San marcos, CA.
    Ev west. They do electric car conversion but I don't know if they work on leafs. YouTuber jehu García used to work there I think?

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    1. If they aren't, they should! I am sure there are customers wanting it there.

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  6. I live in Portland. According above replies there is EV RIDES LLC a local shop that can fix my Leaf 2011 battery for a decent amount of $$$ apparently. The question is, has someone done a job With this Portland company yet, that could refer them, like phone address, and/or successful job? please reply to anomake@gmail.com
    Angel.

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    1. There is a Seattle area LEAFer who got a 40 kwh pack installed. They are pretty happy with it. Pretty good price as well. Was like $6500 or so I believe

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Can 2012 leaf have extended range?

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  9. Hi Leafy neighbor, hello from NE Oly! This weekend I bought a 2011 Leaf SL+QC from a used car lot in Tumwater for under $4000. If I was more patient I could have gotten a better deal, but the car is in superb condition for 80k miles... except for the battery, which is only showing 5 bars and 40ish miles of range. I expected this and that's fine, this is a second vehicle that will be used for around town errands.

    I still think I got a deal because the car lot didn't know what they had. The salesman had to jump it to give me a test drive, and said that it is "quick to kill its 12v battery" and may need dealer service. Indeed, the battery had a 2019 date stamp but was covered in acid. After doing some research on 12v battery issues, I decided to buy, and my first stop was the auto parts store for an AGM sealed lead acid 12v battery. Since then I've taken it around Olympia and up to Tacoma Mall; it quick charged while I ate takeout in the driver's seat. All seems excellent. It's a very well put together and fun little car for the money!

    I'm wondering what setup/adapter you would recommend for LeafSpy? Or if there is a getting started blog post, please point me in the right direction.

    Also thanks for the great blog that I just stumbled upon! I am now considering a pack upgrade in 2021, this little car deserves a grand 10th birthday.

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    1. Hope you enjoy your car! there are definitely some good battery upgrade options in the area including Bainbridge Island or Portland. As far as OBD device semicolon this is what the leaf spy developer recommended

      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QJRYMFC?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share

      There are several that work in a few that are even a few bucks cheaper but I like this one because it's low power and it does not seem to affect the 12-volt battery. I've had it plugged in for 2 weeks at a time while on vacation with no issues

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