There's been a lot of talk recently about the longevity, and in particular, the replacement cost, of batteries in electric vehicles. Nissan UK vice president, Andy Palmer, recently spoke about some of the variables involved.
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Some may have heard about a recent Top Gear episode (yet to air in Australia) which tried to demonstrate how useful and usable electric cars are in the real world. Jeremy Clarkson - in a Nissan LEAF - and James May - in a Peugeot iOn - tested fully electric vehicles by taking them for a drive to the beach. Jeremy Clarkson then ran out of juice before reaching the destination and concluded that electric cars "are not the future".

Nissan says the episode was misleading in a number of ways. The LEAF is fitted with a sat-nav system that will warn the driver if a designated journey cannot be reached, according to the available battery charge, before setting off.

The Japanese company also said car wasn't completely charged before the presenter set off on the particular journey. Nissan said that the LEAF Clarkson was driving was fitted with telematics and that Nissan could see Clarkson's journey began while the LEAF was only at 40 per cent charge. He also never engaged the car's 'eco mode', which provides a longer range.

Understandably, Nissan was not happy with the show's efforts to represent the Nissan LEAF's range and reliability. Despite this, Clarkson also concluded that the batteries in electric cars need to be changed every five to 10 years, costing thousand of dollars.

In a recent Auto Express report, Nissan UK's vice president said the LEAF's powertrain system consists of 48 separate lithium-ion modules, and each one would cost an owner £404 ($634) to replace - totalling £19,392 (AU$30,436) for all of them.

Nissan has also said the battery range of the current Nissan LEAF will drop by at least a fifth in around five years,

"Our tests suggest that the battery will be at 80 per cent capacity after five years, depending on charging and usage."

However, a spokesman for Nissan said,

"It’s unlikely all 48 modules would need to be replaced. The cost of a conventional engine and transmission built up from individually sourced parts would be similarly high."

So even though a complete battery pack would cost close to the price of an entirely new car, it seems it would be a rare case if all of the modules needed replacing at the same time.

The Nissan LEAF - in the UK at least - comes with a five-year warranty but it does not cover battery deterioration. The EV will go on sale in Australia next year, with official local pricing and warranty details to be revealed closer to its arrival.

Read CarAdvice's review of the Nissan LEAF.