[Jay] Turns Over A New Leaf, Scores Batteries

[Jay] got a pretty good deal on a low milage Nissan Leaf battery. Unfortunately, it came wrapped in a wrecked Nissan Leaf. There are more and more electric cars on the road each year, and that means there are more cars coming off the road as well due to accidents. Electric cars are specifically designed to protect their batteries, so as we’ve seen before with Tesla vehicles,  a salvage car often will still contain a serviceable battery pack. [Jay] used this knowledge to his advantage, and walks us through his experience buying, testing, and dismantling Hoja, his very own salvage Leaf.

[Jay] set up an account on Copart, an auto salvage auction website here in the USA. “Live” online Auto auctions tend to work a bit differently than E-bay, so [Jay] walks us through the process of buying the car, and gives some tips for getting through the process. [Jay’s] particular car was delivered to him on a trailer. It had been rear ended so hard that the rear tires were not usable. The car was also electrically dead. Thankfully, the electrical problems turned out to be a discharged 12 volt accessory battery. A quick charge of the accessory battery caused the Leaf to spring to life – and display a ton of trouble codes. [Jay] cleared the codes with his trusty OBD II scanner, and the car was ready to drive, at least as much as a wrecked car can drive. It did move under its own power though – with the rear end riding on dollies.

Now that the battery was known to be good, [Jay] set about liberating it from its crushed Leaf cocoon. Nissan’s service manual assumes one would be doing this with a lift. [Jay] had no such luxuries in his driveway, so he used 3 floor jacks to lower the 600 lb battery and dollies to pull it out from under the car.

Click past the break for the rest of the story.

Finally, he could open the pack and liberate the lithium-ion cells inside. The Leaf’s battery pack lives inside a steel clam shell, which looks quite a bit like a large gas tank. Removing the numerous 10 mm bolts holding the shell together does absolutely nothing to open the battery because there is a thick bead of gasket material gluing the halves together. [Jay] went after the gasket with a putty knife, a mallet, and a lot of elbow grease, though he does note that an air chisel would be a much better tool for the job.

Once the battery was opened, [Jay] donned his 500 volt gloves, picked up his electrical tape insulated tools, and went after the bus bars. He was able to separate the cells and begin removing them from the pack. We’re not sure exactly what he has planned for these cells, but we’re guessing it’s another electric vehicle!


36 thoughts on “[Jay] Turns Over A New Leaf, Scores Batteries

  1. Wow, great deal on that leaf. Looks like all the critical systems are working. (might need a new charge connector?) I’d be REAL tempted to turn that leaf into a light track-day car. I bet those parts will haul posterior in a car with a <1,500lbs curb weight :D

    1. +1 on the track car. I can’t wait for wrecked/salvage EV’s to be common enough that I can build an electric hot rod in the driveway for cheap (as always, ‘cheap’ is relative).

    1. I was thinking the same thing, but then I saw the auction prices and for those prices, you could get a decent power system from China utilizing self assembled NiFe batteries for around $3,000. But with that comes import hassles, etc… and with the leaf you could recoup some costs auctioning off the spare parts…So i think it all depends on your tolerance for aggravation. :)

  2. Next time link to the actual article not to some guys blog…. I skimmed through post after post after post trying to find what he actually paid for the leaf, since you stated it was a “pretty good deal”…… I never did find it.

  3. I wonder when we’ll hear the first story of a guy killing himself while taking apart one of these battery packs. Hopefully it won’t happen but I fear it may only be a matter of time now, people need to stress the dangers of improperly handling and disassembling them!

        1. What? Who’s assuming that? He quite clearly has the experience and caution necessary to deal with such high current and voltage, as are many people, I can appreciate that. I’m being nit-picky here, but I’m just nervous of the fact that Jay doesn’t preface the video with a warning or necessarily explain the dangers in detail. I never said NOBODY should deal with this stuff, just that somebody who really shouldn’t do it probably eventually will.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. However, the insurance company did not see it as salvageable, which usually means the damage is significant. Most likely the frame was twisted. A misaligned frame usually means the car will spend the rest of its life driving weird, and the next time it gets into another accident the driver may not survive.

      In this case, he could purchase a Nissan leaf with a dead battery pack, usually they are fairly cheap to acquire since the battery makes a majority of the cost. He has a good battery here, as long as he doesn’t do anything stupid with it.

    2. I had a few email exchanges with him when he started this project. The batteries are going to be used as an upgrade for an existing EV with a lower voltage motor than the LEAF, so the pack must be disassembled and reconfigured.

  4. I think I would have just left the pack together and used it as a complete unit. Probably not hard to interface to it with a little poking around. since its a front wheel dive car and still moves with dollies acting as back wheels, it’s obvious the rest of it still works fine.

    1. The way the back end is smashed in would leave me to believe the insurance company determined it was more expensive to repair than to replace. Probably has severe frame damage and the body panel pieces are costly to replace as it is. Repairing the panels is an option but that looks about beyond any working repair. The entire rear-end needs to be replaced, pending the frame is straight. So naturally they scrapped it.

      1. You can get a salvage title. There are plenty of former “wrecks” on the road. As long as you don’t try to sell it under a normal title, I don’t think anyone cares.

        As for a “frame” – most cars aside from trucks are “unibody” – they don’t have a “frame”. It probably crumpled in the crumple zones since this was a tail-end hit. If the battery case is ok, I bet the bulk of the rest of the car is OK too.

        You’d be surprised what body shops fix on a daily basis…

        Insurance of the original owner may have not wanted to pay to fix it, but insurance companies don’t always go by fixability, there are a lot factors they use to decide if a car is “totaled” or not. all the trouble codes probably factored in as well, and they were probably caused by the dead battery in the first place. Clearing them sounded trivial.

        It being an EV car, it probably would require a dealer repair. I don’t think a typical body shop would want to tackle it. But I bet it could have been saved with a little elbow grease by someone who knows a little body work.

        But I meant he could have saved the drive train, ECM (EVCM?) and batteries and used them in something else. A few batteries and getting rid of everything else sounds kind of pointless.

    2. I felt a little guilty harvesting just the battery modules…but I already have an S-10 Electric pickup that is currently on it’s 2nd pack of Lead Acid golf cart batteries that I am going to upgrade to Lithium Ion using the modules.

      And the cost of the salvage leaf was less than buying cheap Chinese cells, and the module quality is probably quite a bit better.

      Integrating the leaf battery into an existing vehicle would be difficult unless it was a pickup truck and you didn’t mind losing the bed space, or a BUS, as the battery is a BIG single unit. You’d basically have to build a custom frame around it and the powertrain components up front to make them into a different vehicle.

  5. So after reading all of this i’m wondering, Are salvaged parts legal to be put into a non-salvage title vehicle? if it’s legal maybe someone could take it and make a modified version of the Luka EV

    1. Yes, it’s perfectly legal. You can get a salvage title for the entire car and drive it if you wanted. depending on where you live, some places require inspections of course.

      Think of all the old, old rusted out cars in farmers barns or fields that are more rust than car? People rebuild them all the time and title and license the end result. You just can’t take a car that’s been totaled in a wreck or flood and try to sell it on a normal “clean” or “clear” title. As that’s sort of fraud…

  6. I wish there were more hours in the day. I’d love to convert my truck I use to go to the hardware store to electric. It gets used so lightly that I’m sure a Leaf drive train could work.

  7. Just finished a project using three of these batteries to power an AGV. Working on taking the batteries that do not quite meet the quality standards to be installed in the EV but are otherwise good and use them in our Material Handling equipment. These batteries would otherwise be scrapped, so we are learning to repurpose them instead. The most challenging part is developing an intelligent solution for charging the batteries.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.