The Nissan Leaf Experiment

In September 2016 I bought a brand-new Nissan Leaf SV with the new 25% bigger battery (30 kWh) This page will keep track of ongoing data, modifications, observations, and such.


A Brief History of the Leaf

As of 2018, the Nissan Leaf is currently in its fourth revision, although mine is a third generation. If you find yourself interested in acquiring one, the right choice depends on your driving requirements and your financial situation. Here’s a quick summary of what happened in each model year:

  • 2011-2012: The first generation came out. Battery capacity was 24 kWh, but this first version was known to very delicate. Heat, age, and heavy use mean that the batteries in this generation are a mixed lot. The battery came with a 5 year/60,000 mile warranty, and you’ll find some on the market that have been upgraded with new batteries. The EPA range estimate was only 73 miles, early drivers reported 80-90. At this point, you can probably expect 60-70 miles per charge on an original generation Leaf (less at speeds over 60 MPH)
  • 2013: The car received about 100 upgrades for the model year. Most notable for me were some battery improvements, a more efficient heating/cooling system, and more trunk space since they cleaned up the layout somewhat. EPA range jumped to 87 miles.
  • 2015: A new battery chemistry known as “the lizard battery” comes out – designed to be more resistant to heat. This should be significant, because many of the earlier Leaf battery problems occurred in places like Phoenix, Arizona with extremely hot weather, or in drivers who had a particularly intense driving cycle (long, high-speed drives and rapid charging tend to heat up the battery).
  • 2016: a new 30kWh battery was added for the more upscale SV and SL trims. The 25% larger capacity should improve both range and lifespan, since you are now using a smaller percentage of the battery’s energy for any given drive. As of Late 2016, you can also get the bigger battery in the S model – an ideal change if your goal is to minimize cost.
  • 2018: A much bigger upgrade! The car got new styling inside and out, the standard battery jumped to 40 kWh (about 150 miles) of capacity, acceleration was upgraded, and miraculously the list price actually dropped slightly. This is the miracle of advancing technology – since batteries are a big part of this car’s price, advancement in batteries goes right down to the price tag.

Current Status and Stories:

April 2023: After almost seven years of nearly perfect experience of owning this car, I am selling it to a local friend. Resale value of the car is about $10.5k right now, which is great given the fact that I paid under $14k for it brand new after all the discounts.

Miles accumulated: about 18,500
Estimated battery health remaining: about 80% (mostly due to age rather than mileage)
Problems, maintenance or repairs with the car: Zero

Overall thoughts: the Leaf is still the perfect car for anybody who does errands, kid shuttling, or commuting with a round-trip distance of less than 60 miles (further if you have access to any sort of charger or even a standard power outlet at work).

I am shocked that this car didn’t catch on more than it did, because it’s absolutely the ultimate vehicle for 95% of typical car use. It’s fast, quiet, handles well, and holds lots of people and stuff.

Nowadays, if you can find a 2016 or newer Leaf for this price range, or a used Chevrolet Bolt with 250 miles of range for under $15k, or get your hands on a new one (under $20k after tax credits), it’s still the best deal in electric car driving if the range meets your needs.

December 2016: As the fall and winter came, I started seeing lower range on my car, which is normal in cold temperatures.

But I wondered if mine was worse than average, because in summer it could easily do 110 miles on the highway,  whereas at 15 degrees F I ran out of juice after only 78 miles (I stubbornly ignored the low battery warning and actually ran flat while waiting at an intersection. Had to call the slow-but-free Nissan towing service to get the remaining 8 miles home.)

On top of that, my car’s estimate of its own battery health was dropping much faster than expected. After 18 months of ownership, it had already lost 15% of its capacity, even with only 4500 miles on the odometer!

So I did a bunch of testing at different temperatures, comparisons to other new Leafs, etc.

Final Diagnosis: Initially, it looked grim: I presented my charts and graphs data to Nissan, but it’s such a big and bureaucratic company that I got nowhere.

While they had a good heart in trying to support me in the investigation, I found that very few people higher up in the company know anything about electric cars. Even with the high profile of this blog and frequent reposting of my earlier article by the MarketWatch newspaper, I wasn’t able to talk to a single Nissan engineer to find my technical answers.

This is a notable contrast to Tesla, where people who work on the cars and the Supercharger network actually read these articles and send me emails proactively. A great practice for reaching your true fans – hint, hint. 

The Nissan Leaf is still the bargain of the electric car world and has a great, practical cargo and passenger space, so it’s hard not to like it. But it’s hard to like Nissan itself.  I’d feel much better about supporting Tesla, if I were willing to burn that much money on a car!

But here’s the good news:

My car turned out to be fine after all. A year after ignoring my reports to them (and even unnecessarily replacing some brand-new packs under warranty!) Nissan discovered a software bug in their battery management system and issued a warranty recall. I got it reprogrammed at the local dealer at no charge, and this was the result.

Figure 1: My Leaf battery seemed to degrade by about 15% just the first 4500 miles (18 months). But in retrospect, it was just a software bug. Really, it might be declining about 2.5% per year and it’s age rather than mileage. This figure wouldn’t change much under more normal use patterns (like 12000 miles per year instead of my 2500)

Still, the car really should have a battery heater like GM and Tesla electric cars do, which would boost winter range drastically.

On the other hand, used Leafs are incredibly affordable and they are everywhere. Still a great car year-round and if you have a gas-powered commute, you owe it to yourself to test drive one of these things.

It’s a night and day difference in how pleasant and fun the driving experience can be. Gas cars are so doomed.

  • Barry McMahon May 18, 2018, 8:18 am

    Hi Guys
    I’ve a 2011 Leaf with about 60,000 on it. I bought a 2015 battery from a crashed Leaf and want to swap it myself. Do you have any info or direction on this B

  • Jesse March 25, 2019, 6:28 pm

    Moved to western Montana last fall and am using solar for all my power needs. Can someone help me with what I need to hook-up my 48 volt solar to charge an electric vehicle without using it after converting to ac.

  • James Todd May 11, 2019, 6:00 pm

    Any recent success stories on renewing a LEAF lease? I was paying less than $200 a month for a 2015 and would keep that deal forever. I’m being told I have to return it for a new one or pay at lease termination fee. The first price they gave me on a short range 2019 was $551 a month with a $2,000 down payment. I negotiated that down to $367 a month with a $2,000 down payment. That still doesn’t reach my price threshold. Talking with folks on Facebook, I’m hearing speculation that the LEAFs might be going away. They only sold 14,000 of them total last year vs. 140,000 Tesla Model 3’s.

  • bill williams June 23, 2019, 2:36 pm

    Has anyone heard anything further about the refurbished batteries from Nissan being brought to the US? Is there any further news on anybody making an aftermarket rebuild/fix um up for the older batteries? Ours is a 2012

  • Hany Tawadrous September 15, 2019, 10:28 am

    What a great blog! I’m buying a used Leaf today!
    I’ve settled on a used 2016, and in my area (San Francisco/Peninsula) the prices seem to be 10-12K, for an S with 20-36K miles. Does this sound about right? Should I be considering new? Is the 10K rebate still available?
    And is there a significant spend to get a 240 charger in my garage? I have a regular 120 there already.

    I put solar panels on my roof almost 10 years ago, and have been a net zero user ever since. Looking forward to using some of that subsidized electricity with my Leaf!
    Thanks in advance, Hany

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 15, 2019, 10:37 am

      Hi Hany, congratulations!

      Seems like a reasonable price to me for such a new car. I’ll leave you to do your own Googling on available rebates, although I can say that the federal $7500 rebate is still available for Nissans, since the haven’t sold as many EVs here in the US as Tesla or even Chevrolet.

      As long as the car will be parked overnight and you drive less than 70 miles a day on average, 120V charging is just fine. 240 is convenient if you need to do multiple big trips in a single day, however.

  • Thomas September 23, 2019, 9:17 am

    Just thought i would mention that I have a 2012
    Leaf since new. Sat on dealers lot for a year and had 503 miles on it. Looking at 15-18% battery loss in 6+ years at 50,000 miles. A plus is the door shells and hood and trunk are aluminum on 2011-2012 models. I have driven it in -25f all the way to 100f. Still love the car and only maintenance has been a set of tires, wiper blades and rear brake pads. Here in WI it drives great in the snow due to battery in the middle for weight balance. Installing solar in the spring, so it’s a win-win for us!

  • Rebecca December 19, 2019, 8:16 am

    Good Morning MMM Followers,
    I am new to the forum and usually follow the Frugalwoods since we are hard core urban gardeners. Also a Denver citizen. I have read some of the MMM posts but am super interested in the Leaf experiment. Looking for feedback on purchasing a 2019 leaf model s with 40 kw battery and 2019 Colorado incentives which include the $5000 state credit and $3500 Xcel energy credit. I was able to sell my moderate age subaru impreza for 10k on CL this week in the hopes of purchasing a new or used ev since I really have low car needs. I usually bike or run most places (even with my newborn and 2 year old toddler) with more run and bike strollers in my garage than I care to admit. I sometimes bike commute to work as well (highly variable 20 mile to 60 mile round trip) of off hours ie sometimes return home late at night or early in the morning. In all, have averaged about 300-400 miles per month on my old car but sometimes need to pull a back to back 60 mile commute on the rare occasion every month or other month. No charging station at work and work in health care so can’t run around during my shift to try to find or remove the car from a charging station.

    Here is what I have found:
    Dealers seem to be offering the 2019 nissan leaf 40kw s trim for about 23000k after applying the colorado and xcel credit at 8.5k but requires financing with no special benefits. Minimal financing is 7.5k at about 4% for 3 months with nissan. I like this model since it will be covered in cheerios in 2 years and don’t need anything fancy on the car. I just need to fit my family in it and occasionally our 50 lb dog, run stroller, or really small bike (I ride a 50cm frame…super tiny bike when I need rescued at work:)
    Base 2019 nissan leaf 40k s model range 120 miles per charge or less
    price after incentives: $23000
    extra dealer feeds: varies…sometimes up to 700 per dealer?
    extra stuff?: mats ($280) and high speed charger ($1700)….has anyone been successful in not getting these?
    taxes: $1875 if financed or more if not (balance paying 4% on 7.5k for 3 months versus 7.5% upfront on 5k and pay the rest of the car off)
    federal credit: -$7500 (will qualify)
    minus money from previous car: -$10000
    total difference: $9355 + interest if financed for 3 months of includes reduction of state credit at tax time

    I wasn’t planning on spending this on a car. I don’t like new cars or bells or fancy things. I just want to make it to work and am worried about purchasing a used ev with limited range that can make a back to back 60 mile commute even at lower speeds and minimal heat/ac with only 8 hours of 110 charging between commutes. Could consider installing a 220V charger which might be the other option here.

    We looked at the 2016 Kia Soul EV with 12-25k miles selling for about 10k with 100%soh on the battery. Not as efficient but a great car for my family since it seems bigger in the front for my 6.4 husband and fits two car seats in the back with a properly positioned mom trying to act as flight stewardess for milk and cheerios in the back to avoid excessive crying. Again the range is maybe 70 miles in the cold which would make the 2×60 mile commutes not possible when needed unless I installed a 220v charger. But, if I installed a 220v charger at home for about 2k this might be an option.

    2016 kia soul ev: $10000
    tax: $750
    total: $10750 if I can get them to remove dealer handling fee
    minus money for old car: $750 for car 4 years younger with still 5-6 years on the warranty for the battery since kia does a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty
    Add in the 220v charger: $2750 (looking at prices of these and waiting on my quote for install but think it would be about $1200 for install and $800 for charger)

    Net difference
    option 1 $ 9355
    option 2 $2750
    Maybe incentives are not as good as they used to be but considering option 2 more since the charger might be worth more than the car in the end. Option 1 is a great option to reduce some range anxiety but not what I was planning on spending this year since I am really close to paying off student loans and trying to fill all our retirement solo 401k before April 2020 or other financial goals while on maternity leave till Jan 2020. We did install solar panels this past year so will be getting a credit for that as well and am not sure if besides the total number of ev car credit + solar credit if I have anything else to consider.

    Any better deals on year end 2019 nissan leafs? Thoughts on other incentives? 2019 nissan leaf 40kw thoughts? Used kia soul ev thoughts? 220 v charger thoughts? Trying to do my research but have a newborn and toddler and am certainly missing things in my sleep deprived state.

  • Rebecca Blatt December 27, 2019, 1:57 pm

    If anyone is interested in the pricing of the 2019 nissan leaf versus a used lower mileage electric car this is how things worked out for me. After trying for weeks to evaluate the SOH of a used ev battery after the BMS had been reset in the kia soul ev, I ended up pulling the plug and going with the nissan leaf. Since I am located in colorado I qualify for the 3500 xcel rebate, the 5000 colorado state rebate, and the 7500 federal tax rebate as well. Nissan also has a 1000 rebate if you finance through nissan the minimum amount of 7500 for the first 4 months as well. That ended up with about 17000 in rebates and putting the 2019 40 kw nissan leaf in a price range similar to the used kia soul ev if I added an at home 240 volt charger to make up for the lower range. BTW, Greeley Nissan was amazing and offered me an unbeatable price and was way more upfront than some of the local Denver dealers.

  • Brett December 27, 2019, 10:03 pm

    Anyone have any luck replacing a 2012 leaf battery? Sounds like Nissan has not come up with a reasonably priced replacement. Cost has actually risen from 5500 to 8500. Japan has an alternative for under 3000 but EPA standards will not allow this in the US.

  • Johan January 3, 2020, 8:11 pm


    I bought a used 2016 LEAF S 30KWh last month @ 12k. It had 11/12 bars of capacity. Have you done any research on aftermarket battery replacements? Someone on LEAF reddit swapped in a 40KWh battery on a 2015. The now larger 62KWh on the Plus seems to also be compatible on older LEAFs. Let us know your findings. This is an amazing car!

    • Rad January 8, 2020, 9:29 am

      Check out From what I’ve read, the newer, larger capacity battery might fit, but the computer is not compatable. A few after market companies might be able to do it, but not an OEM replacement. Nissan will not do it. Some commenters have stated that Nissan raised the price for a replacement 24 kWh battery from $5500 to $10,000 + labor which is silly for a $6000 car. They want you to buy a new vehicle. Don’t know about the 30 kWh battery. Call several dealers.

  • Michael Washer March 9, 2021, 10:55 am

    Now that 2016 Leafs (Leaves?) are getting pretty inexpensive, I’m thinking of jumping in and getting one. Question for MMM….did you make any modifications (e.g. roof rack) to expand the carrying capacity? I test drove one last weekend and was astonished to find I can get my windsurfing gear inside it (obviously with all seats folded down). It’s much bigger than it appears from the outside.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 11, 2021, 9:31 pm

      Hi Michael, glad to hear it. I agree that the Leaf is more like a small crossover utility vehicle than a regular car – super useful. For example, I can fit 10-foot plumbing pipes in there (one end on dashboard, other end diagonally into the wayback) and still close the rear hatch!

      Roof racks could work, although they hurt your high-speed range numbers a lot. A better idea is a trailer hitch, and a cargo trailer for local hauling of super big stuff. Several friends already have their leafs set up like this – one of them towed 3000 pounds of rock home from the landscaping store with no trouble at all, and this was in a 2013!


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