13 Key Questions and Answers about Nissan Leaf Battery Pack and Ordering

Yesterday’s groundbreaking for Nissan’s Smyrna, Tenn. battery plant allowed us to do a deep dive with Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning for the Nissan Leaf. The new facility will thrust Nissan and the State of Tennessee into the forefront of global manufacturing of electric cars and the lithium batteries that power them.

First these facts, and then what we learned compiled into a set of Qs and As:

  • Annual battery pack production in Smyrna (starting in 2012): 200,000
  • Annual Nissan Leaf vehicle production in Smyrna: 150,000
  • Number of battery modules in a Nissan Leaf: 48
  • Number of cells per module: 4
  • Weight of pack: 300 kilograms (660 pounds)
  • Amount of lithium in the pack: 4 grams
  • Weight of the Nissan Leaf: Approx. 3,500 pounds
  • Amount of DOE loan for new facility and retooling: $1.4 billion
  • Anticipated number of jobs created: 1,300

The Nissan Leaf Battery Pack

What’s the advantage of producing the batteries in Smyrna?

The battery pack is expensive to ship. Local production reduces logistics cost, protects the company from currency fluctuations, and brings jobs to the United States. The DOE loan helped make it happen quicker.

How long will the battery pack last?

After 10 years, 70 to 80 percent of the pack’s capacity will be left. The exact amount will depend on how much (440-volt) fast charging is done—as well as environmental factors, such as extreme hot weather, which is tough on the battery.

Can customers upgrade the battery pack at that point?

Too early to tell, but the possibility exists—largely because the old battery may have a secondary use for stationary purposes, such as storing energy from solar panels. Nissan is in discussion with a number of utilities and other companies about secondary use. Yet, some customers may want to keep running their batteries even at 70 percent capacity.

Will the next-generation Leaf battery pack have much longer range?

Nissan is anticipating an improvement in capacity at about 8 to 10 percent year over year. This improvement could be applied to greater range or reducing the cost. If customers indicate that they are satisfied with 100 miles range, then future battery packs may be smaller with fewer cells, and therefore cheaper.

What’s the latest progress on DC fast chargers? [These chargers can juice up the Leaf battery pack to 80 percent in about 30 minutes.]

Nissan engineers have reduced the cost to about $17,000, based on re-engineering for simplicity, as well as scale manufacturing. The company believes it can reduce the costs further. The current Leaf DC fast charger is built to Japanese standards, and has not yet been UL certified for North America. Nissan’s lower cost on a quick charger is big news, because most rapid chargers have been priced around $50,000.

Will the DC fast chargers degrade the battery faster?

If fast charging is the primary way that a Leaf owner recharges, then the gradual capacity loss is about 10 percent more than 220-volt charging. In other words, it will bring the capacity loss closer to 70 percent after 10 years.

Will there be a driver-controlled setting to increase regenerative braking?

Yes, it’s called Eco mode. This mode will also limit acceleration to some degree. The car doesn’t offer the ability to shift to low or “B.” Eco mode will be calibrated to minimize a “grabby” feel related to regenerative braking.

Leaf Battery Modules height="350" />

The Nissan Leaf battery pack consists of 48 modules.

What’s the warranty on the Nissan Leaf battery?

It hasn’t been announced yet. Under California emissions laws, the Chevy Volt’s battery pack is regulated to have warranty coverage up to 100,000 miles. But the Leaf is a zero emission vehicle, and therefore is not subject to the same oversight. (Yet, we anticipate the Nissan will at least match competitors for warranty.)

Nissan Leaf Ordering Process

Will Nissan allow dealers to gouge Leaf customers?

The customers have the ability to choose any local dealer—and avoid dealers charging hefty mark-up feeds.

What’s the schedule for test-driving and taking delivery of the car?

Test-drives will happen this fall, during an extensive nation-wide tour. For the first two years, the Leaf will be produced in Japan. Production begins there in September. Deliveries to U.S. dealership will take place beginning in December.

Is Nissan sold out of the Leaf for the first year?

Maybe, but that’s only for the company’s fiscal year which ends in March. Nissan has the capacity to produce and deliver about 12,000 Leaf vehicles between now and the end of March 2011. Nissan continues to take orders for the Leaf.

Will Nissan allow selling or trading registrations, locally or out-of-state?

People will be discouraged from selling their reservation spot. Trading reservations to interested customers out-of-state will be allowed. Nissan will fully inform customers outside the official first markets that they will be driving without the benefit of the charging stations installed in those initial markets in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Tennessee. Therefore, those customers will need to be comfortable with relying exclusively on home charging. Service from Nissan dealers may also be an issue.

Besides the Leaf, what other future electric vehicles will be offered?

Nissan’s next electric car will be a light commercial delivery vehicle, followed by an Infiniti EV. Timing has not been announced. Nissan will produce a fourth electric car, but has not yet divulged any details—although it will not be an electric version of an existing Nissan vehicle.


  • Yegor

    Thank you for the info! I think that it is the first info on Leaf curb weight – 3,500 pounds.

  • Anonymous

    I am very excited to hear how these cars actually perform and if they meet their production expectations. Good for Nissan, 13,000 delivered before March 2011? Bravo!

  • Mark Tillman

    “Amount of lithium in the pack: 4 grams”

    Clearly this can’t be correct for a 300 kg battery pack.
    The numbers don’t work out for 4 grams per cell either since that would give 0.77 kg per pack. I would expect to see a number closer to 30kg of lithium per pack.

  • Anonymous

    Clearly you have no understanding of llithium batteries which of course neither do I or I wouldn’t be reading this article I would be writing it or even better I would be in the lab helping these people create these batteries.

    My point? Why question the amount of lithium when you have no understanding of the process? Obviously there is far more to the packs then the actual lithium itself. Tons of other metals, controls, electronics, etc. All these thousands of pieces make up the weight so don’t expect some magical calculation that equals the sum of (lithium x #cells = kg of pack)

  • Samie

    The most important part of this article is “Nissan is anticipating an improvement in capacity at about 8 to 10 percent year over year. This improvement could be applied to greater range or reducing the cost. If customers indicate that they are satisfied with 100 miles range, then future battery packs may be smaller with fewer cells, and therefore cheaper.”

    I like others would like to see the Leaf’s battery cheaper and reduced in size but given the federal subsidies, it may be smart to not reduce costs and focus on ‘upping’ the battery range. Americans love conveniences, ie look at the accessory not necessity I-Pad. Electric vehicle skeptics will point out the problem of not being able to drive 400-600mi on a charge to see grandma, and the time it takes to fast charge the battery. So the point I think should be to make EV’s more convenient and do so over a 10 year span. On the other hand if Nissan believes that reaching say the 24-45 urban market is more profitable, they may elect to reduce the overall costs while keeping the same 100mi charge. I have no clue on how they will advance this vehicle, but it should be interesting…

    Be safe driving, and enjoy this extended weekend with those you love. Later

  • Jim Hull

    It’s always the same story over and over. If you live in the western side of the country then you get to see all the benefits of the latest and greatest technology. Yes the Leaf which will be built in Tenn. and those who live in that state will benefit but, for those of us who live on the east coast are always left behind. I love the leaf but can’t buy one because of where I live, in Florida. GM did pretty close to the same thing with the EV1. Even now GM is going to try its new volt in California and washington D.C. only because the Government owns GM.

  • caffeinekid

    “Amount of lithium in the pack: 4 grams”

    :-)

    Funny.

  • tony

    Its the cost of batteries that is limiting range in electric cars not technology.

    That said the technology could always be better and the costs cheaper.

    There are a number experimental technologies in the pipeline for improving the range only mass market sales can spur that outcome.

    If you want more range up to 300miles check out the Tesla Model S

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Hmm, let’s see at 660 lbs, they say 25 kWhrs for the battery. The Tesla Roadster’s 55 kWhr battery weighs about 950 lbs or ~30% more weight for 100% more capacity. This probably means Nissan’s only going to try to get ~3/4 the capacity in order to increase cycle life. I guess this hints that Nissan may get the 100,000 lifetime miles out of their pack.

  • Capt. Concernicus

    So the Leaf has a 100 mile range with perfect weather, the perfect driver and the perfect charge.

    So in a non-perfect world the 100 miles is more like 90 miles with the non-perfect driver. Now if you live in cold or hot weather areas take that 90 miles and make it more like 80 miles. Now you charge it up at a fast charger and you take that 80 miles and make it 64 miles. Now over the course of your owning this car the battery deteriorates and doesn’t hold the same charge it had when you bought it. So now that same 100 mile range is now 80 miles max. Now do the math all the way down and your 100 mile Leaf is a 48 mile Leaf. Isn’t that sweet?

    Luckily we live in a perfect world.

  • Capt. Concernicus

    I don’t know what happened to my other post, but basically at about the 10 year mark your 100 mile range Leaf has become a 48 mile Leaf. Isn’t that sweet? :-)

  • jake

    I think he meant 4 kilograms (~9lbs). This is the figure Nissan PR has given out in other blogs.

  • jake

    @Mark Tillman
    I think he meant 4 kilograms (~9lbs). This is the figure Nissan PR has given out in other blogs.

  • jake

    @Capt. Concernicus
    That is a lot of ifs.

    Simple way to look at it is in 10 years with a lot of rapid charging, the 100 miles ideal will to turn into about 70 miles ideal. You will get higher and lower than ideal depending on how you drive (YMMV applies just like with any car).

  • Rob Stone

    Actually, GM will be simultaneously releasing the Volt in California, Michigan, and DC.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    @Capt Concernicus,
    Unfortunately, you’re a bit optimistic overall.
    Perhaps I can shed some realism so people aren’t disappointed:
    The LA-4 driving cycle (which they base the 100mile estimate on) is really tame. Realistic highway driving speeds would get closer to 60 miles per charge on that.
    Cold or hot would probably only knock you down about 5% to perhaps 56 miles/charge.
    I don’t recommend you plan to fast charge on a daily basis but since that’s only an 80% charge, you’re down to 45 miles. I’ll skip this knockdown though since I highly DON’T recommend anyone buy a Leaf if they expect to have to fast charge as their primary means of charging.
    Assuming 80% capacity is end of battery life (~10 years or 100,000 miles), you’re down to 45 miles by then.
    I (and Nissan as well) don’t recommend that anyone buy a leaf if your average commute is more than about 40 miles round trip or 1-way if you have charging at work (which I do today and you probably will in 5-10 years).

  • mark smith

    You are not going to be charging it on a fast charger each time! Firstly 400v 40amps is not domesitc. You will be charging it overnight on 220-240v which will take 8 hours. Nobody is likely to pay $20,000+ to intall a fast charger (80% in 26 minutes) when you are leaving a car in the garage for >8 hours and can charge it on domestic 220v.
    The 440V charging will happen occasionally on highways, cafes and malls – at the few locations that install this charger.
    NO in perfect weater you’d get 135 miles.
    The range Nissan quotes is anywhere from 80miles to 135miles on a full charge. The average is 100 miles. If you were sitting for 9 hours in the car with the AC on and went 48 miles you would also have discharged the battery – but nobody does that.
    80% capacity in 26 minutes… the charger automatically then switches to it’s normal trickle charge – so if you left it there for an hour you’d get 90% and 2 hours = 100% … probably. You can’t fastcharge lithium batteries safely to 100%.

  • socko

    oh man – i hate misinformation. 4 grams or 4 KILOgrams of lithium. if the article is incorrect, why hasn’t a correction been made since May?!

  • Sunny

    No, the Leaf has a 132 mile range (or 138?) with perfect weather, the perfect driver and the perfect charge. The range is like 62 – 138 miles. Average non-aggressive driving will get you 100 miles. Agressive with bad terrain and bad weather should give 60 miles. I suppose that is what the range means. They haven’t addressed the temperature though. As far as I know, if it is stinking cold like in Minnesotta, batteries can only deliver like half the kWhrs.

  • doc rose

    It is questionable how they get so much out of their Lithium battery when the new Lithium-Ion batteries for cordless drills and like tools only get two to three years use. Where is the discrepancy?

  • Ecar1

    There are different type of Li-ion batteries.
    cordless drills and like tool use Nano-Phosphate Lithium-Ion battries.
    Electric cars may be using Lithium iron phosphate battery.
    While most current highway-speed electric vehicle designs focus on lithium-ion and other lithium-based variants a variety of alternative batteries can also be used. Lithium based batteries are often chosen for their high power and energy density but have a limited shelf-life and cycle lifetime which can significantly increase the running costs of the vehicle. Variants such as Lithium iron phosphate and Lithium-titanate attempt to solve the durability issues with traditional lithium-ion batteries.

  • Pete

    Ten years… Think about what ten years did with iPods, iPads, and electric drills . Do they even sell any electric drills or phones that plug into the wall anymore. Think about the fact that technology will grow battery improvements exponentially. There are always going to be rocket ships that explode on their way to their destinations. Big expensive mistakes are the sum of man’s ambition. But the electric car is the replacement to the oil hog monopoly. Remember what Thomas Edison’s first phonograph looked like? What would he ever think if he got to see an iPod nano? The wave of the electric car future is going to hit certain industries like a tsunami. If you are in the automotive related oil business you will be retired in ten years.

  • Paul McNaughton

    Hi: I just drove the new leaf yesterday. I was impressed by it. It was smooth and had pretty good acceleration.

    I owned a Prius before.

    I live in McCormick , SC and it is about 60 miles round trip to Greenwood, SC. Doesn’t give too much power to drive much farther, since I was told it will only go about 100 miles on charge.

    Need more miles per charge

  • rdaught

    OK, so a year has gone by the numbers are in and the car is being driven for real….I drive the leaf to work daily. 30 miles both ways. All freeway miles except for maybe 5 miles. Traveling at an average speed of about 65-70. in LA, So far in mild weather. The car has no problem making it to work and back. And if I need to I can charge using a 110v outlet at work – I’ll be there for 9-10 hours anyway. There have been a few times where I didn’t come straight home but rather went WAY out of the way and I did have to get off the freeway to extend the range. ohh and you can get over 120 miles out of a charge but that is only when actually trying to see how far I can drive (keeping it under 45 in eco mode on a mild day)

  • tapra1

    The new facility will thrust Nissan and the State of Tennessee into the forefront of global manufacturing of electric cars and the lithium batteries that power them. Best Windows Hosting

  • Jin Micro

    I too have questions regarding leaf batt packs in Nissan cars. Thanks for answering most of them.
    -Forex Brokers