Electric car battery leasing: should I lease or buy the batteries?

Thinking of buying a used Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf or Smart Fortwo EQ? If so, should you buy or lease the batteries?

James Wilson
May 31, 2022

If you're considering buying an older second-hand Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf or Smart Fortwo EQ you have a decision to make; should you pick a car where the batteries are included or one where you need to lease them?

When you finance or buy a petrol or diesel car it's pretty simple; the car will be fitted with an engine, which is included in the price. However, with electric cars there are two different formats; with some models you have a choice to finance or buy the whole car or to pay for the car and lease the batteries separately. Both Renault and Nissan used battery leasing to tempt buyers worried about the long-term life of their battery pack, though Renault ended the practice in 2019.

The idea of leasing the batteries separately came about due to some drivers' fear that old electric car batteries will fall in capacity dramatically as they get older - rather like how an old phone that used to last two days only lasts one day after a couple of years. However, this fear has now largely diminished as more consumers become accustomed to electric vehicle (EV) battery tech.

If you were leasing the batteries and their capacity fell to a low level, however, the manufacturer would replace them for you, without you having to shell out for a new set, as would be the case if you purchased the car and batteries. That could save you a substantial amount of hassle and lots of money.

While there are many benefits to leasing batteries, very few manufacturers have offered this as a choice, but a used Renault Zoe is a good potential bet. Pundits who predict more battery lease deals becoming available in future say it’s a way for manufacturers to keep new car prices low, and to help speed the development of a global battery recycling infrastructure.

For now, whether battery leasing with a used EV is the best option for you will depend on several factors, but the sections below will help guide you to the answer. Let's start with how battery leasing actually works.

How electric vehicle (EV) battery leasing works

Battery leasing involves making a monthly payment for electric car batteries rather than owning them outright (if you paid cash for the car) or financing them as part of the whole cost of the car. This means when you purchase an EV you pay a cash price or monthly figure for the car and then an additional monthly fee for the batteries.

If you are financing the car, therefore, it is important to remember that battery leasing isn’t a finance package where you eventually own what you are paying for - they are never yours. And when it's time to change the car, you simply stop paying the monthly fee and it is up to the next owner to start paying.

Once more, the leasing cost does not change over time, so whether you get a new or used car, the monthly cost will remain the same. What does change the amount, however, is how many miles you plan to cover each year. After all, the more miles you do, the greater wear and tear the battery pack will endure and the sooner it will need replacing.

On the subject of wear and tear, one of the key aspects of battery leasing is that it tends to cover battery condition and capacity. This means that should your battery pack become faulty or its performance drop below a certain level (such as no longer being able to store enough energy to get within a certain percentage of the claimed range) the manufacturer should replace it free of charge.

Which electric cars come with battery leasing?

As mentioned previously, Renault has a monopoly on recent electric car battery leasing. This means your newest options are limited to either a Zoe or a Twizy. You will need to be more than a touch eccentric to drive a two-seat Twizy every day, though it is striking and fun.

If you are less fussy about age, older EVs in the form of the first-generation Nissan Leaf and first-generation Smart ForTwo were available with battery leasing options, so these offer rock bottom purchase prices second-hand with the reassurance of batteries that offer a specified range or free replacements if you go down the battery leasing route.

But, and this is a big one, these earlier models came with relatively low ranges - limiting how far they can travel per charge - which could make them unsuitable if you're after the greatest range per charge.

Renault used to denote Zoes which came with batteries included in the price with a letter ‘i’ in their model name. Sadly, this appears to have ceased for newer models, so you'll want to double-check whether any specific models you're considering come with batteries or not, whether you're purchasing new or used.

Renault Zoe and Twizy battery lease cost

The typical monthly cost of leasing batteries for the Renault Zoe and Twizy are as follows.

Less than 4,5006,0007,5009,00010,500Unlimited
Zoe Z.E.40£59£69£79£89£99£110

Electric car battery leasing advantages

The advantages of electric car battery leasing are mainly a lower initial cost and the peace of mind that if the batteries deteriorate significantly they will be replaced for you, without you having to pay a big lump sum yourself. Starting with money, purchasing a new Renault Zoe but leasing the battery pack knocked around £6,500 off the list price new, which regardless of whether you are financing the car or paying cash, is a sizeable reduction.

There is the matter of your monthly lease, but assuming you bought a Renault Zoe R110 Z.E.40 and travelled 10,000 miles per year, you would be able to drive it for six-and-a-bit years before leasing becomes more costly than bundling in the batteries.

Plus, knowing you are covered in case your batteries give up the ghost or start underperforming offers the kind of peace of mind many drivers may be happy to pay for. The reason being, batteries are one of the most expensive parts of an electric car to replace - and they don’t last forever.

Even with the most modern battery packs, there is a question mark as to how long they will actually function at full capacity - possibly due to the stigma caused by problems many drivers have experienced with other battery-operated tech, such as smartphones.

It makes sense then for some drivers, both in terms of running costs and residual values, that not having a potential financial ticking time bomb under the cabin is a good thing. As you will see below, though, this is only half the story.

Electric car battery leasing disadvantages

The disadvantages of leasing car batteries are largely financial. While initially leasing the batteries helps make an electric car more affordable, as a new car loses value this slowly becomes less of a benefit. Purchase an inexpensive used electric car and the cost of battery lease payments could surpass the monthly cost of the car.

At the same time, some drivers do not want the hassle of multiple payments for their cars. This also affects cash buyers when it comes time to sell, as it means the pool of buyers is potentially reduced. On the flip side, there is an argument for the reverse, as some buyers will prefer the peace of mind leased batteries bring with older models.

One final note, by leasing batteries you are limiting how many miles you can do annually (excluding, of course, those who pay for unlimited miles). There are fines for surpassing your annual limit, which is normally rated at somewhere around 8-10p per mile. Plan carefully though and you shouldn't face any surprise fines.



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