Electric Vehicle Batteries Could Cost Owners

Electric cars can be great because you don't have to stop at the pump, but some owners see a downside in that the battery isn't guaranteed to last and when they go bad, you can be on your own.

An Orange County man says after just five years his electric car could barely make it to work and back, and he was told he’d have to pay for a new battery himself.

John Woodlock loves almost everything about his electric 2011 Nissan Leaf. He was one of the first drivers in California to buy one.

"This is the number 311th car off the assembly line,” he says.

When it was brand new, Woodlock says he could drive his car 84 miles on a single charge.

Five years later, it could do half that if he was lucky.

Woodlock says sometimes he barely made it 30, which is the roundtrip distance between home and work.

"It gets worse as the car gets older," he says. "I don't have the flexibility of running an errand during the day or thinking about going anywhere else."

When Woodlock purchased the electric car, he signed a waiver from Nissan acknowledging "As the battery ages, capacity and range decline."

But he didn't expect the battery to lose half its mileage per charge.

With his 5-year warranty over, Woodlock says Nissan wouldn't cover a replacement battery.

"They offered absolutely no assistance whatsoever," he says.

Chris Basso, a Carfax spokesman, says just because you have an electric car doesn't mean the upkeep is any cheaper.

"As cars evolve, technology changes, the way that we buy cars is going to change as well," he says.

"With electric vehicles, you don't have to worry about oil changes anymore, but things like batteries are certainly a concern," he adds.

Woodlock says replacing the battery would cost $7,000, which is more than the car is worth.

The NBC4 I-Team contacted Nissan about Woodlock's battery, and the automaker agreed to replace his battery free of charge.

Nissan says their warranty protects against capacity loss for the first 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. They only guarantee they'll restore it to 75 percent.

With a new battery now powering his car, Woodlock has no worries about making it to work and back.

"Mechanically the car's a good car," he says.

Full statement from Nissan: The lithium-ion battery warranty applicable to Leaf vehicles in the United States will protect against capacity loss in Leaf batteries that falls below nine bars, of the available 12 bars displayed on the vehicle's battery capacity gauge, for the first 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first, for the 24 kwh battery, or for the first 8 years or 100,000 miles for the 30 kwh battery. For Leaf vehicles whose batteries have fallen below nine bars during this period, Nissan will repair or replace the battery under warranty with a new or remanufactured battery to restore capacity at or above a minimum of nine bars.

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