By George McCrae, VEVA Member*
With thanks to fellow EVers
*Editor's note: George McCrae was a founding member of VEVA in 1987, and prior to that was actively involved in the 1912 Detroit Electric's appearance at Expo86, and subsequent transfer to VEVA years later.
Having a favourable attitude to electric powered vehicles, a decision was made to purchase a battery electric vehicle (BEV) to meet city transportation needs and sell my gas SUV. A used EV was suggested as an economic choice for a reliable second vehicle with shorter range in city driving. An older (2015) Nissan Leaf with a 24Kwhr battery at odometer 76,000Kms became available at a reasonable price point but with limited service history and out-of-warranty. This may be a similar situation for other buyers, and therefore the experience of evaluating reliability and condition may be of value to the reader. This article will be posted in two sections: Battery and Range evaluations; Mechanical Inspections and Auxiliaries.
Battery and Range
The private Owner represented the main battery, also called the traction battery, as in good condition with a forecast range greater than 120Km, but that the vehicle front bumper and hood had been damaged in a parked incident and was classified as Salvage by ICBC. There appeared to be no damage to the interior of the engine compartment and the sale was completed without further tests. At home, charging of the traction battery with the Nissan Level 1 EVSE, sometimes referred to as the ‘wall charger’ (15A max at 120VAC or trickle charging), basically meant overnight so a higher rated power supply was advised. The common rating for Level 2 (240VAC) is 32A, but the house source was limited to 20A. Fortunately a 16A 240VAC EVSE was found and reduced the charging time for 20% to 80% of battery capacity to 2.5 hours. Charging at a Level 2 public station would be about 1.5 hour, or less by using their DC fast charger.
To evaluate the traction battery, an assessment was recommended and available from Nissan or a service garage but it was decided to procure LeafSpy Pro software and a common auto data port connector (OBD2 dongle) suitable to a cell iPhone. Even with the high odometer reading the result was positive as the battery State-of-Health (SoH) was 86.4% and the indicated 12 of 12 bars on the dash status was valid. One cell is reading slightly below the average but is manageable.
Picture below: LeafSpy Pro screenshot
Deterioration of SoH of about 2%/year is common so the battery has stood up well and credit must go to previous users. Information on Lithium-ion batteries suggests strongly that the working charge range be between 15% and 85% State-of-Charge (SoC). At a SoC of 85%, the working range with this battery is about 90Kms, adequate for city tripping but realizing that temperatures below 10C ambient will reduce this range.
Upon checking the 12V lead acid battery that is critical to the starting and functionality of accessories, it was not charging to full capacity and failed when load tested at 100A. A new 50Ahr battery was procured and installed. To guard against a future failure a digital voltmeter plugged into the cigarette lighter socket was procured to allow frequent observation of status. Some owners have reported 12V battery failures at less than three years and some have had six or more years of satisfactory service.
Mechanical Inspections and Auxiliaries
Reading various forum sources, like mynissanleaf.com, and FaceBook groups, led to a decision to replace the reduction gear box oil. This service is available from Nissan dealers but alternatively an auto repair shop was chosen to drain and replace the oil as this allowed an inspection of the brakes and tires while on the hoist. The drained oil was black from magnetic particles.
Picture below: Old vs new reduction gear box oil (76,000km)
Otherwise all was found to be in good condition and unlikely to require attention for 25,000Kms.. The brake fluid was tested for moisture content and found to be clear and dry.
All the multiple lights, instrumentation, key functions, etc., were checked and found serviceable. For personal reasons, a suitable trailer hitch was installed, a small interior space heater with a light actuator was procured for winter conditions, and a second remote key fob was purchased and programmed.
It is critical to have an Owners Manual to fully learn and use the many user friendly features, and can be sourced from Nissan on the Internet. Although the S model does not have the sophisticated Navigation package, it does have a good reverse camera. So at an attractive depreciated cost for purchase, taxes, servicing and optional equipment, a reliable and efficient emission free car for city needs, a nugget, has been acquired. Good luck on your acquisition. Photos of LeafSpy available on request.
George McCrae, VEVA Member