How to negotiate for a new Nissan Leaf battery pack: electric-car owner advises

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2011 Nissan Leaf electric car after battery-pack replacement  [by owner Tim Jacobsen, Concord, CA]

2011 Nissan Leaf electric car after battery-pack replacement [by owner Tim Jacobsen, Concord, CA]

In designing, testing, and producing the Nissan Leaf, the first modern electric car sold in volume, Nissan made a design decision that some other companies didn't.

It chose not to build an active thermal-conditioning system (otherwise known as cooling) into its battery pack.

Instead, it relies on ambient air to shed heat—which got the maker into trouble with owners in very hot climates like that of Phoenix, Arizona, where asphalt temperatures can reach 140 degrees F or more in the summer.

DON'T MISS: Lessons learned from early electric car: 2011 Nissan Leaf at 90,000 miles

Nissan later switched to a more heat-resistant battery chemistry, informally known as "lizard cells," but many earlier Leafs have experienced significant battery capacity declines.

Some of those, however, are not quite enough to hit the 70-percent mark within five years, meaning that Nissan's battery-capacity warranty is no longer in effect.

Nonetheless, owners can sometimes bargain with Nissan and their dealership to get concessions on a replacement battery pack.

Lithium-ion cell and battery pack assembly for Nissan Leaf electric car in Sunderland, U.K., plant

Lithium-ion cell and battery pack assembly for Nissan Leaf electric car in Sunderland, U.K., plant

Owner Tim Jacobsen of Concord, California, was able to get a deal on a replacement battery for his 2011 Nissan Leaf even though the car had only 33,000 miles on it.

He and his husband Steve have shared the car for more than four years, but their saga of negotiating a battery replacement carries some important lessons for all Leaf owners—especially those with the earlier, more heat-sensitive battery packs.

He shared his tips on negotiating with dealers with us, which we've edited only for style and clarity, here:

READ THIS: Nissan Leaf New Battery Cost: $5,500 For Heat-Resistant Replacement Pack (Jun 2014)

While keeping your expectations low to avoid disappointment, a few key things can greatly increase your chances of out of warranty coverage.

  • Start calling Nissan early, before you lose your fourth capacity bar, to report your disappointment.
  • Call a few times, and establish a case number.
  • Keep a positive and respectful attitude with every contact: being rude and nasty to a representative will get you nothing in the end.

2011 Nissan Leaf - battery pack cutaway

2011 Nissan Leaf - battery pack cutaway

  • Nissan's end goal is customer retention: they want to hear that you love your car, that you want to keep it for many years, and that you will recommend Nissans to your friends and relatives.
  • Loyalty counts: if you have purchased, or own, more than one Nissan vehicle, tell them! Mention that some day you want to buy a new Nissan electric car again.
  • Mention anything else positive about your car: that you haven't driven it all that many miles, that you keep it nicely maintained, or that you love to drive it.
  • Write a concise, one-page letter with all the information above, and fax it to your Nissan case manager when the time comes to apply for battery replacement assistance.

CHECK OUT: Electric-Car Buyers Expect Battery Upgrades To Be Available

Intrigued by these tips, we asked Tim for more information about his Leaf purchase and his experience with Nissan warranty claims.

He wrote us the following, which we've edited only for style and clarity.

In 2010 with rising high fuel prices we became interested in the Leaf after an indoor test drive at the San Francisco auto show. I was very impressed with the car.

We decided that we could own a Nissan Leaf, which would be secondary to our other gas vehicle for long trips.

The Leaf could be used as a ‘Bay Area car’ since its range was around 100 miles, largely depending on road usage and speed. This would cut our gasoline budget in half. 

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