By Eamon Stack and Barry McMahon – October 9th, 2020
Disclaimer – Range Therapy is an EV Project, initiated by a member of IEVOA, that is in the process of becoming a CLG [the legal personality used by Social Enterprises, Nonprofits and Charities]. We are not a commercial organisation. We are a full-time Social Enterprise promoting the adoption of EVs in Ireland as part of our response to Climate Change. We hope our service is of huge interest to early adopters of EVs in Ireland including IEVOA members.
Friday, September 25, 5pm. Having upgraded my Leaf (Gen 1) with my colleague Barry McMahon, under the close supervision of Emile Nijssan of Muxsan, the moment of truth had arrived. The last time I had read the car’s range it was 110km. I depressed the brake pedal and pushed the power button … 3 clicks, some Nissan Leaf music, and Wow… 238km.
Barry and myself, both very experienced engineers, were impressed by the Muxsan strategy to integrate the extender kit into the native software and hardware of the Nissan Leaf – there is a minimum amount of disruption of the Nissan electronics. By design, these kits meet the high vehicle registration standard in The Netherlands. No wonder my car is the 86th to get the Muxsan magic.
Two days earlier, Barry had tested the car trailer by mounting his own Leaf and driving around the backroads of Kildare. After the test, he drove to my house in Dublin. We loaded my Leaf and headed for Dublin port. Despite the gale warnings in the West, we had a gentle crossing. We arrived in Hollyhead at 5am and drove across North Wales, then down the M6 past Birmingham and M25 around London. We arrived in Folkestone with two hours to spare – it was a ghost port (Covid has reduced passenger traffic to a trickle and all the restaurants and shops were closed).
The Eurotunnel is a delight, even for our van and trailer. Before we knew it, we were driving past Dunkirk, across Belgium, around Rotterdam and arrived in Delft, on the outskirts of The Hague, by midnight.
We went to the Muxsan workshop Friday morning to be greeted by Emile Nijssen and Sjaak Bloemberg. Four leaf extender packs were lined up, with all the parts, bolts, cable ties and bright orange electrical tape (Holland joke!) – everything needed for 4 Irish Leaf upgrades.
We started our induction as Muxsan certified installers [we are the first] with a safety talk- 400v DC is very dangerous and battery packs are heavy (160kg). This was all consistent with the Muxsan Extension Kit manual.
Then to the actual upgrade of my Leaf. This happened in 6 stages during the following 5 hours.
[For those interested I have listed the steps at the end of the article.] As a result of the upgrade the car now understands it has a 40kWh battery. It charges and discharges like normal. The range is extended by 120km and the charge time increases proportionally. It is a seamless integration.
Barry and I appreciated the quality of all the components of the Muxsan’s extension kit and the smart design and carefully executed upgrade steps to ensure installation success. The extension pack consists of many Lithium-ion cells [NMC], which are of the highest quality, bound by aluminum casing into modules and each module comes with a German built Battery Management System [BMS].
There were literally hundreds of bolts and clips to be opened and reinstalled as part of the upgrade. At each stage Emile checked our work and taught us how to check and close out each step. And yes, I made some mistakes! I broke 7 clips on the plastic battery cover under the car – I had misread the instruction in the manual. Emile smiled at me and produced 7 new clips – clearly, I was not the first to make this mistake but the lesson was learned! Barry photographed every action and annotated the manual. With the right equipment, we are now confident we can repeat this process for Irish Leaf owners.
We have brought back three Muxsan kits for installation in Ireland. The first will be for Barry’s own car. Eamon will return to Muxsan for further training on the Leaf Gen 2 upgrades. The Gen 2 upgrade is slightly easier than Gen 1, due to improved wiring by Nissan. And there is more room in the Gen 2 boot to fit the extension battery more snugly.
[Our friend, Sean O’Callaghan, has already done the module-swap training with Muxsan and has upgraded his own Leaf. It has a range of 220km. The challenge for that option is to source a 40kWh battery pack from a crashed Leaf.]
Our Leaf’s are transformed with these range extensions. For example, my wife Anne is more range anxious than I and would not bring the Leaf to Wexford for our staycation in early September. That anxiety is now past tense. Our Leaf will go anywhere in Ireland within two hours of our home in Dublin, anywhere else (except Kerry) with one 20 minute charge. As I am a Kerryman, I will need one 40 minute charge to get home with zero range anxiety.
As range is one of the biggest blocks to EV adoption, as a community we need to demonstrate that this can be easily resolved. Barry and I therefore call our new service Range Therapy. This starts with conversations on range, identifies the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions and offers real options including battery extensions. And, any investment in a battery extension is a long term investment as the battery lasts in the car for many years and, after that, have the potential to be used in a second life. In fact, the tea I am drinking as I write this article was made with renewal energy stored in a battery pack from my Vectrix motorbike – I call it DC tea. Leaf modules from a 40kWh pack now power my Vectrix.
Our Range Therapy project has a multilayered, muti-annual positive environmental impact. Lets share this good-news message in order to facilitate and accelerate the inevitable transition to sustainable transport in Ireland.
How big is the pack?
The pack is 18cm for Gen2 but 36cm for Gen 1 [double row of batteries due to smaller boot]. See images.
How much does this cost?
+120km (18kWh) extension pack costs €7500. This includes: Muxsan kit, extension battery pack, installation and warranty (VAT included);
A smaller 9kw extension pack is available but we would not recommend this option.
A module swap is also possible, swapping the modeles from a 24kWh pack with modules from a 40kWh pack. But obtaining a 40kWh pack from a crashed Nissan Leaf is very difficult.
Upgrades are possible on Leafs Gen 1 [24kWh], Gen 2 [24kWh], Gen 3 [30kWh], Gen 4[40kWh] and even Gen 5[60kWh] as well as Nissan Van based on the Leaf – the eNV200.
Does the upgrade have any implications for insurance?
No, under Irish law this upgrade does not constitute a formal modification to a vehicle – it is an enhancement similar to adding an expensive sound system. The car is clearly more valuable as a result of the upgrade but it is not clear your insurance company would pay out the full value in the case of a write-off.
Is the car any different for charging?
No, you charge the same way as before using either slow [granny], AC [3 to 7kW] or DC [50kW] chargers. Obviously, it takes twice as long to charge from zero to full at the same charge rate. Both batteries charge at the same rate. There is no way to monitor the charge in each battery separately.
How long will the batteries last?
There is a 2 year warranty on the new pack. In practice the new pack shares the load with the main battery pack, and extends the life of the old pack. You should get 5-10 years life with over 80% capacity remaining. [80% of 240km ranges is still OK]
Does the extension pack change the performance of the car?
There is an increased weight of the battery pack. It is the same as carrying your large cousin in the back seat.
Six Steps involved in the Leaf Upgrade
- Installation of the wiring harnesses for both the High Voltage [HV] lines and the electronic signal cable, removing car trim in the boot, passenger side and glove box.
- Lift the car and remove the main battery pack, connect the HV cables for the extension pack, and replace the main battery.
- Install the extension pack in the boot, loading it with a forklift [due to its weight].
- Connect the electronic signal cable to the car’s computer and plug in Muxsan’s mini-computer (CAN bridge);
- Connect the HV lines to the extension pack relay switch. Test voltages and polarity of all connections.
- Replace all the car trim, and place the cover on the extension battery,
The moment of truth .. Leaf music, three clicks and Wow – 238km range.