Fast Charging Hurts the LEAF’s Battery Range

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It stands to reason that trickle charging the LEAF’s 24 kWh battery over 8-22 hours would be less harmful than say, charging it in 30 mins…but was not known was how much of a detrimental effect it would have.

Now, Mark Perry, who is Nissan’s director of product planning, has weighed in on the subject while at the ground breaking event in Tennessee last week.

While discussing fast charge technology, and the fact that Nissan engineers, through the benefit of scale (and reportedly being very smart), have reduced the cost from around $50,000 to $17,000 to produce these level 3 chargers, he mentions the effect these fast chargers will have on the battery itself, while speaking to Hybridcars.com.

Perry says, “If fast charging is the primary way that a Leaf owner recharges, then the gradual capacity loss is about 10 percent more than 220-volt charging. In other words, it will bring the capacity loss closer to 70 percent after 10 years.”

The question is whether the trade off is worth it? Do you really need to fast charge?

If a overnight charge that gives you 100 miles of range is not enough to satisfy your daily driving needs, is it better to just be driving the other gas car in your driveway, rather that hitting up your local fast charge station for a quickie? Of if you are a one car household and/or a driver that alwats needs fast charging, maybe the LEAF isn’t for you.

Myself, I would argue that fast charging is not worth it. However, my reasoning is not just because you are looking at 15% less range when your battery hits Nissan’s ‘end of life’ estimates, but rather how fast the quick charge gets you to that point.

Nissan states for the average driver of the LEAF using a standard charger, you will see ‘end of life’ around year 10, leaving you with only about 80% of the battery’s capacity left, and at about 70% if you frequent the fast charging station.

The problem with that (80% vs 70%) is the assumption that the driving habits/frequency of charge is identical…it is not.

If you are a fast charge client, then that means one of two things; A) you drive a lot or B) you are lazy/forgetful and don’t plug in at home overnight (or you live in a tent and have no access to power) . You could argue apartment (tent) or inaccessibility to a plug…but Nissan isn’t willing to sell you at LEAF at this point without already having a place for a 220V charger.

I’m going to focus on reason A-‘you drive a lot, you need a fast charger to complete your day.’ Here it is quite simply — you are not going to have 70% after 10 years, because you don’t live in a vacuum, or a lab…it is not apples vs apples here.

Your typical Lithium-Ion cell in a automotive application gets about a 1,000 full cycles before it is classed as ‘end of life.’ This means that if you are Johnny Two-Charge, your end of life is coming twice as fast. You can expect your 70% after 5 years at best. If you live in a super hot climate, like Arizona, you could be seeing the end of your car’s battery in under three years if you don’t shelter it from the elements.

This means in the end your $33,000 LEAF is toast very quickly, and you have driven the value out of your. Now you are left with one of two choices; either you have to buy a new pack very early in the game, which means big lithium premiums are still in play ($10-000 to $15,000 to replace?), or you have to try to sell a high mileage, 3-5 year old electric car…which means big capital losses. Either way, it is going to cost you.

For me, I will stick to overnight 220V charging until the day comes that the range is extended significantly further that I can live with getting less than 70% of the battery packs juice, or when new technologies improve the life cycle of the battery itself.

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