Both came from New Zealand, probably because a battery pack for $83,163 is quite scary.
Shocking news usually helps trigger necessary changes to improve things. This is something the press is proud of doing: watch Spotlight, and you’ll know what we’re talking about. Fair Go must be feeling that after telling us the story of Zoe Alford and, more importantly, part of the story of Blue Cars. Alford received a world-record estimate for a Nissan Leaf battery pack replacement: NZD121,000. Blue Cars plans to fix that.
Before we tell you what we know about Blue Cars, let’s focus on Alford’s story. She bought her 2011 Nissan Leaf for NZD13,000, with only 39,000 km (24,233 miles) on the clock. Fair Go did not say when that took place, but it seems to have been in 2020. What it said was that, after a few months of driving her EV, she started experiencing range anxiety.
From the 115 km (72 miles) she could get as soon as she picked up her car, the range rapidly dropped to 76 km (47 miles). Concerned about that, she asked her Nissan dealer how much a brand new battery pack would cost. That was when Alford received the estimate we already told you.
Those NZD121,000 are equivalent to $83,163. With that kind of money, she could buy a brand new Tesla Model 3 Performance – which costs NZD101,900 in her country – and another used Nissan Leaf with the change.
Alford got in touch with Nissan New Zealand and did not receive an answer for months. That was when she decided to contact the Fair Go team. To the press, Nissan said that it was a mistake. The Japanese automaker failed to tell Fair Go what the real price was or how the error happened.
At this point, the New Zealander Leaf owner story crossed with Bill Alexander, Blue Cars' managing director. He and Fair Go told Alford the range drop was not caused solely by battery issues but also by the way she drives it. Regardless, the speed at which it lost capacity is a serious warning about air-cooled battery packs.
When Alford bought her Leaf, its battery pack had 69.48 percent of its original capacity, which was already low. In a matter of months – we wish we knew how many – it dropped to 63.36 percent. Alexander told Fair Go that was nothing to worry about, probably because that is the way Leaf battery packs usually behave.
The good news came when Blue Cars revealed it is working on an aftermarket solution for old Leafs to keep running. The idea is to recover used batteries for an affordable price. Blue Cars even managed to pack more juice inside it than it originally could hold.
The project started back in 2017. Currently, the battery pack prototype achieved a capacity of 38 kWh instead of 24 kWh. The company mentions there are some technical issues to solve but that its battery pack has a 200 km (124 miles) range. With more work, Blue Cars believes it will be able to offer 240 km (149 miles).
The Kiwi company made a crowdfunding campaign to develop the alternative battery pack, but it was closed without meeting its goal. The solution could be adapted to other battery packs apart from the Nissan Leaf, which may help other owners keep their EVs running regardless of the brand.
Blue Cars plans to sell these new battery packs for NZD15,000, or $10,310 with the current exchange rate. With higher production volumes, it plans to make the price be lower, which would probably save many Leaf units.
Unfortunately, that would not be the case for Alford’s car, which cost her a lot less than that. At least Blue Cars will not charge NZD121,000 for it...