Nissan Leaf Electric Motor from Junk Yard

by Ben N on February 19, 2020

Mandatory motor selfie.

Pretty excited that I just picked up a Nissan Leaf Motor!

Yesterday, I drove to Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin to Diamond Auto parts to pick up not just a motor, but also the gearbox and inverter for a Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf motor packs quite a bit of power into a small package, and they are readily available due to the large total number of cars sold. I took a look at to find one. The auto salvage search engine showed a few in my state. By chance, the closest one also happened to be the least expensive, with the retail price listed as $550. (2013 Leaf Motor, part EM57, electric traction motor.) I called and ordered the part. In the end I called back after deciding I wanted the gearbox and inverter as well.

The entire unit could be used together, but just the gearbox itself would also provide a template to build an adapter plate to match the electric motor.

I hit the road for about an hour drive or so to get to the salvage yard. Once I had paid, I was directed to the shipping area, where I would show my invoice and get the motor loaded up.

The motor was “crated” – that is to say it was on a small custom piece of wood. The upside of that is it wasn’t very wide. A typical wooden pallet is 40 inches wide – the EXACT width of the rear interior of my 2012 Chevy Volt!

The downside is that the motor with all the other components attached is rather TALL! We used the forklift to get the motor right to the back of the car, and then had to lift the motor off the wood crating, into the car, and scoot it far enough forward to close the hatch.

I also didn’t have anything with me to tie down the motor. We had a big snowstorm the night before. All my ratchet straps are in my old pickup truck cab, which was now buried on the other side of several tons of snow…

There was a Menards home improvement store right across the street from the salvage yard. So, I reached into the back of the car, held onto the top of the motor, while gunning the car across the heavily trafficked state highway. NOT the sort of thing I would want to do for an entire ride home!

I headed inside the store, bought a new pair of ratchet straps, tied down the motor, and headed home.

Once I was back, I got out my engine hoist.
Lifting the motor from the back of the car did present a few challenges. For one, the Volt is a rather low car. The legs of the engine hoist could only slide so far under the car before they started hitting the wheel supports.

The motor itself didn’t have any great mounting points on it. I ran a couple of straps THROUGH the assembly and tied them in place. That gave me something to hook to the hoist.

I also found that the Leaf driveline was tall enough that I had to remove, shorten, and reinstall the chain on my hoist. Only then did I have just enough room to clear both the hatch at the top and the car body at the bottom.

I managed to push the engine hoist and motor into the garage, navigating around miscellaneous tractor parts, and finally lowering to the concrete floor.

I really hope this motor will work out to power the electric tractor conversion. The drive-shaft on the Leaf motor isn’t ideally suited for it, as it’s a tad short, and I’m sure the bearing was never intended to hold the weight of a tractor flywheel! That’s part of the reason why I also got the transmission (single speed gear reducer.) I would be able to take that apart and examine the connection and bearing inside it.

All told, the motor assembly was not cheap, but it was reasonably priced compared to the same components at other salvage yards, and it was definitely less expensive than the same components on eBay!

The motor was listed as $550, the transmission at $250, and the Inverter at $300. Beyond that were “core-charges” of $35, $18, and $30, and of course, sales taxes.
(A core-charge is a fee you pay for NOT bringing in the old part you are replacing. Core-charges are meant to encourage recycling and work very well for items like automotive batteries.)
Total financial cost was $1,248.07. If you buy parts like these at a salvage yard, make sure to check on core-charges and other fees before you buy. Sometimes they are reasonable, sometimes NOT.

I’m looking forward to disassembling the motor from the other components. I’ll be sure to shoot a video about it as I do.

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeff Virgin February 20, 2020 at 9:24 pm

Thank you for sending me the link. I have now subscribed to your Youtube channel, and will be following your progress. It will probably never happen, but one day, I would like to find a Corvair and convert it. I would even be happy with a 4 door.

2 Arthur March 7, 2020 at 8:24 pm

Hi Ben,
how high is the entire assembly?


3 admin March 8, 2020 at 5:07 pm

Ha! I just got this message right AFTER taking the entire assembly apart!
Hmmm. I guess I can just measure the parts and add them up.
OK. Measured them and added it up. Looks like the whole assembly is about 27 inches tall.

4 Ryan March 23, 2020 at 9:27 pm

Hi Ben,

Love the video, something I’ve wondered is how many splines and what diameter is the shaft on the leaf motor?

It might be identical to an old Daihatsu/ Toyota layout


5 Ben N March 24, 2020 at 12:02 pm

Hi Ryan.
I measured the EM57 motor driveshaft. It has 20 splines. The outside diameter is about 0.86 inches.
I measured 20mm exactly as the measurement at the valleys of the splines and 21.7mm at the peaks of the splines.

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