New life for old Nissan Leaf electric car: battery replacement and what it took Page 2

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Rick and Linda SantAngelo with the 2011 Nissan Leaf at 96,000 miles

Rick and Linda SantAngelo with the 2011 Nissan Leaf at 96,000 miles

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The reserve capacity of our new pack is about 3.5 kwh, according to Leaf Spy Pro (more on that later).

Since the reserve capacity of any pack is a fixed number, the percentage of total capacity it represents rises as capacity decreases.

Then there's this: we live on a hill, so the last leg of any trip we take includes an 800-foot climb. I think this is very bad for an electric car, for a few reasons:

  • First, for every trip the last few miles take three or four times the energy as they would in level driving, which adds to range anxiety.
  • Second, and more importantly, when you charge to 100 percent and start off heading downhill, the battery level fluctuates between 98 and 100 percent—which is hard on any battery. (I believe this factor may have contributed to my shortened battery life. When I charge to 80 percent, I pick up 3 to 4 percent more capacity on the descent, but if I head down the hill with a full charge, I pick up no additional charge and possibly degrade my battery.)
  • Third, the Nissan trip computer’s range-estimating algorithm factors in unrealistic efficiency because of those first few downhill miles. This throws the remaining-range estimate way off, as much as 50 percent higher than my actual range. If there were some way to reset the estimate at the bottom of the hill, it might be more accurate. But better yet, Nissan should modify that algorithm to take downhill travel (based on data from the car's inclinometer) into account.

2017 Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan Leaf

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New Leaf vs battery replacement

Mechanically, the Leaf is a very sound car. At 94,000 miles, we are still on our original brakes and the wheel alignment is perfect.

There is basically nothing in the drivetrain beyond the battery and the electronics that could go wrong, and I have never heard of the electronics failing.

With a new battery, our 2011 Leaf is even better than it was new—and I expect to put another 100,000 miles on the car.

How to monitor your battery in real time

I don’t know why Nissan gives us so little information on battery condition, but I believe it's hugely helpful to monitor your battery condition in real-time.

The Leaf Spy smartphone app with an inexpensive Bluetooth On Board Diagnostics (OBD) Bluetooth connector does the job.

The following diagram points out statistics that are available in the Leaf Spy free edition.

Old and new battery condition, 2011 Nissan Leaf electric car, per Leaf Spy [images: Rick SantAngelo]

Old and new battery condition, 2011 Nissan Leaf electric car, per Leaf Spy [images: Rick SantAngelo]

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The two figures illustrate the differences between a new battery and a deficient battery. The red lines indicate cell pairs that have been shunted, which I assume is to keep the power evenly distributed over the cells. The most important statistics are:

  • State of Health (SOH): current battery capacity as a percentage of original capacity
  • Amperage Hours (AHr): current power level
  • State of Charge (SOC): current level of charge

For $14.99, you can purchase Leaf Spy Pro, which adds several features that I found worth spending the money.


 
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