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Nissan LEAF Battery More Reliable Than Conventional Engines

Nissan LEAF battery, still going strong after five years!
Nissan LEAF battery, still going strong after five years!

According to data aggregated by Warranty Direct, in the UK, the Nissan LEAF battery pack is (surprise!) more reliable than conventional engines, by how much?

Before answering that question, think for a second about the opposition. Ask any electric vehicle skeptic about electric vehicles, such as the world’s best-selling Nissan LEAF, and you’ll get responses based on two lines of thought: 1) electric vehicles aren’t really emissions-free, and 2) the battery pack won’t last forever. True, electric vehicle emissions depend totally on where you charge, and people should stop making wide-sweeping generalizations, just because Washington, DC, runs on coal doesn’t mean that Burlington, VT, electric vehicle drivers should be worried about emissions.

The Nissan LEAF battery, on the other hand, presents an interesting conundrum. Early on, it was thought that electric vehicle battery packs would fail too early to make them cost-effective. Nissan even went so far as to warranty the Nissan LEAF battery for 100,000 miles. Now, we know that rechargeable batteries have a limited lifespan, but by how much? Considering that, in about five years, Nissan LEAF has sold some 165,000 units around the world, and they have driven an astonishing 620 million miles, which gives us a good base of vehicles from which to draw.

An independent UK insurance specialist, Warranty Direct, took a look at some 50,000 cars registered in the UK, among them conventional vehicles and electric vehicles, such as the Nissan LEAF, and stumbled across an interesting data point. Whereas conventional vehicles, between 3 and 6 years of age, suffered from engine failure problems about 0.255% of the time, the Nissan LEAF battery suffered failure at a rate of less than 0.01%. So, while one-quarter of a percent of conventional vehicle drivers were suffering from engine breakdowns, 99.99% of Nissan LEAF drivers are still driving without a problem!

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  1. This is a bit stupid, because it compares the battery (which is the place where energy is stored) in an electric car to the engine (the place where energy is used) in a conventional car.

    I would suggest comparing the rate of battery failure to the rate of gas tank failure. I suspect the gas tank will win. I’ve actually never heard of gas tank failure….

    If you want to do a reliability comparison, compare the engine of a conventional car to the drive motors of an electric car. I suspect the electric motors will come out ahead in that comparison (less moving parts), but that would be more valid.

    Also, just fyi, I’ve never had to replace an entire engine at 100,000 miles. Since battery replacement is pretty much guaranteed at that point, one needs to factor that in.

    Also one should keep in mind that at the end of that 100,000 miles the capacity of the battery will be significantly reduced. I don’t know what the spec is, but I suspect perhaps 1/2 the original capacity.

    Calculations of “equivalent operating cost” need to figure that decline in battery capacity over the life of the vehicle (meaning that hybrids will use more gas because it will need to recharge more frequently), and compare the cost of buying gas over the life of the car to the cost of both recharging the battery AND replacing said battery pack at intervals….

    With that, I’m all in favor of electrics. I’m totally surprised that they aren’t more in use for short-route delivery vehicles. All the mini-cargo vans of the world (like the old Astro) could easily be replaced by plug-in electrics, and use zero gas…

  2. Burlington may be powered only by renewables, but it is still one small city of 42000 inhabitants.

    Even if every people from the city (including babies and children) had an electric car, it would only account to 42000 vehicles, a drop in a bucket compared to the 150 MILLIONS petroleum-burning ones on the road in the US.

    What I mean is that except for a very small minority (Burlington), all other electric vehicles (the majority) will contribute to emissions more or less by recharging on the grid.
    The mean carbon intensity value being 613 g CO2/kWh in the US.
    Of course, it’s a mean value and it means that there is places with less emissions but also places with worse ones too.

  3. This is not true! I had a Leaf and the battery was bad! Also, there are many people in the USA that have had their batteries replaced! The batteries lose alot of capacity and the people in the article are not looking at capacity loss. A Nissan Leaf cannot last more that 40,000 miles on its battery before it needs to be replaced. I know this from experience with the car. As far as going the distance the article is talking about batteries that have not completely failed but all of the batteries are losing capacity extremely quickly. When you look at the cost of replacing a battery every 40,000 miles in a Leaf and the range issues and the cost the Toyota Prius comes out as the better buy. The Prius is cheaper from the start, no range problems and an operating cost of 5 cents per mile with bulletproof reliability. That is why the Prius hold their value and the Leaf doesn’t. Spoken from experience with both vehicles.


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