When we wrote that aftermarket battery packs would probably help save a lot of used electric cars, that was a real concern. We have not received many suggestions of companies that take care of that, wherever they are, but we always have an eye on what shows up. That was the case with EV Rides.
The company is from Portland, Oregon, and it is specialized in selling electric cars. The Fiat 500e you can see in some of the pictures are units for sale on its website, but this is not the part of the business that interests us the most. EV Rides also offers battery replacements for the Nissan Leaf.
Anton Litovchenko, the company manager, told us more about that.
“I only offer Nissan Leaf battery upgrades. I use pre-owned battery packs from newer Leaf models and install them in old Leafs. Nissan has different battery sizes: 24 kWh, 30 kWh, 40 kWh, and 62 kWh. They are interchangeable. That is not a plug-and-play process, but upgrade is possible. Other budget EVs don’t have this ability for now. That’s why I focus on Nissan Leaf upgrades.”
Litovchenko gets battery packs mostly from totaled Leafs.
“There are plenty of used or wrecked 24 kWh and 30 kWh Leaf models on salvage auctions, but limited availability of 40 kWh vehicles. The 62 kWh are even more rare. I don’t build new or refurbished battery packs because it’s very time-consuming. It is easier just to use pre-owned original Nissan battery packs in good condition and help more Leaf owners to refresh or upgrade their battery.”
EV Rides' manager told us what the difficulties in getting these batteries in older cars are. We already had a glimpse of that with EVBatteryRebuilds.com, but Litovchenko gives us more details.
“A Leaf battery replacement requires a special pairing tool (to pair the new battery and make it work in the new car) and a translator device (for 30 kWh, 40 kWh, or 62 kWh batteries installed in 24 kWh models). Then we have to fix the range estimator on the dashboard and solve compatibility issues with 40 kWh and 62 kWh batteries.”
Considering battery packs from salvaged vehicles may have issues, we asked Litovchenko how he made sure everything was ok with them.
“Donor battery packs or modules usually don’t have physical damages. They’re installed inside a strong rectangular car frame which keeps them protected even after horrible accidents. Replacing separate modules may work for hybrid batteries (because they have small size and capacity) but I don’t recommend it for big batteries for electric cars. The battery modules degrade evenly and replacing a few modules is only a temporary solution. That’s why I replace the whole battery pack with a good one.”
When it comes to prices, they depend a lot on what the owner wants in terms of capacity.
“We charge between $2,500 to $3,500 for 24 kWh pack replacements. This is the most requested upgrade. They might go down depending on the battery pack heath and go up for 40 kWh or 62 kWh upgrades, which are in high demand and are hard to get.”
The 30 kWh pack prices range from $3,500 to $4,500, while 40 kWh packs vary from $6,500 to $7,500. That's the highest price difference in these replacements. Getting a 62 kWh battery pack demands $8,500 up to $9,500.
When you consider a 2011 Nissan Leaf sold by EV Rides can be as cheap as $3,990 and the most expensive one there – a 2016 Leaf S-30 – sells for $11,490, the battery pack prices only compensate for newer vehicles. Yet, they still represent a large chunk of the car value. That's something to consider even if the increase in range is satisfying to see.
The fact is that companies like EV Rides give some of the old Leafs a chance to keep driving. If it depended solely on Nissan, it could be worse: a battery pack in the Virgin Islands costs $35,000.