Economies of harvesting Nissan Leaf battery modules


I purchased a 2013 salvage (wrecked) Nissan Leaf from the CoPart auto auction house for $4081 (including delivery and fees). I consider this to be a very good price for a wrecked Leaf, but if you stalk a lot of auctions and bid on Leafs that have the most damage you can probably get a similar deal with enough patience.

Then I spent 439$ on the following tools that I needed to move the car around and extract the battery (the largest amount was for jacks and wheel dollies…)

Car Cover (Keep the neighbors happy) 37.1
Wheel dollies & Jacks 243
Bluetooth OBD II scanner 9.98
Leaf Spy Pro android app (to check battery) 14.99
500V gloves   (Safety first!) 21
2 Jackstands (already had 2) 25
Air Impact Wrench & Sockets 46.5
18mm wrench 12.4
13mm deep socket 8.99
21 mm combination wrench 20.69

This puts my total costs at 4520.75 ($94.18 per module) for a 24 kWh battery pack, which is less expensive than if I bought large format prismatic cells.

Of course, with a lot of time and effort, you can sell all of the other parts from the car. Over the course of six months I made back $3180.46 (including the sale of the smallest of the three jacks I had purchased and 0.46 in change I found in the car.) I’m posting this after selling the main body of the car, leaving me with just a few small items listed on ebay. I may earn a few hundred extra dollars over the course of the next several months, but the overall cost recovery is finished.

My current total out of pocket expenses (not including lots of labor!) is 1340.29 (or $27.92 per module) which is quite a significant savings over other options for purchasing large format Lithium Ion batteries.

I’ve seen Nissan Leaf modules selling on Ebay for around $130 each with shipping (in larger quantities), so my ~ $30 per module cost is around 21% of the cost of purchasing them on the used market.

To put this cost savings in perspective, purchasing 20 lead acid golf cart batteries to replace my current pack would probably cost me around $2000-$2200, so the Lithium Ion Nissan leaf battery pack was actually less expensive than a replacement lead acid pack!

However, the process of parting out the wrecked car takes a lot of time and effort. If you are just after the battery and can find one for sale at a salvage/junk yard for less than $2500 it would probably be easier to buy the battery alone without the rest of the car. The one advantage of purchasing the whole car is that you can (sometimes) find out how many miles are on the battery pack. In my case, I was able to use an OBDII scanner with the Leaf Spy Pro application to find out that my battery pack health was still at 98% before I removed it from the car.

If I were to buy a whole car again, I would try much harder to sell the entire car (minus battery) in the $2000-2500 range before parting it out and trade some money for my time.

The Nissan Leaf pack weighs about 650 lbs less than the lead acid batteries currently in my truck. They are capable of providing more amps with less voltage sag due to lower internal resistance, and more of the pack capacity is usable as they don’t suffer from the Peukert effect as much as lead acid batteries.

The overall performance of the truck should be much improved. Also the battery life should be much longer than 2 years. (Cycle life for lithium ion batteries is measured in thousands of charge cycles, instead of hundreds of charge cycles for lead acid batteries.)

However, because I am changing battery chemistries, I am also upgrading my trucks’ charging system (and home EVSE) and those costs are actually more than the battery pack, so the total upgrade cost will be more than just getting another lead acid battery pack. (I will talk more about charger upgrade costs in a later post).

4 thoughts on “Economies of harvesting Nissan Leaf battery modules

  1. jay
    do you know if the salvage leafs have come down in price since 2015? I have an electric van that will need new batteries soon…

    I live in new orleans, so ATL is probably the most likely place to get one… I have been looking a bit at copart but am still worried about hidden fees and unknowns..

    • I have not been paying attention to co-part after I purchased mine, but I have heard people say that they have seen used (non-crashed!) leaf’s going up at dealer auctions in the $5,000 range, so crashed ones may be even cheaper than when I purchased them. You may want to consider buying/paying for just the battery pack from an auto-dismantler, who can ship it to you freight for a few hundred dollars.

      If you read all the FAQ’s on the CoPart website, the fees are not hidden, and you can roughly estimate them based upon your final bid on the car. The trickiest thing is meeting their “immediate payment” requirements and being able to pickup the car quickly (or have it delivered).

  2. Hi Jay

    nice article What are using for a charge voltage, and upper/lower cut off votages for your Leaf modules?


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