With the soaring demand for electric vehicles come many questions. Unknowing consumers are rightly wary of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a car that they aren’t certain will last. Battery technology is usually one of the most discussed concerns amongst consumers, but a new study quells some of the fear surrounding how long EV batteries last.
The battery really is the heart of an electric vehicle because it is not only the vehicle’s only source of power but is also the most expensive component to replace.
Both public and private sectors across the globe are in the process of conducting in-depth research on EVs and their batteries. Let’s take an in-depth look at one of these recently published studies and what it means for the future of EVs.
Fear of EV Batteries
Many consumers have an innate fear of the unknown, meaning they are more likely to stick to what they do know. This is why many drivers are quick to defend their gas-powered vehicles and disparage EVs.
With that in mind, EVs are not perfect, and certainly won’t work for every driver. Range remains a large concern, despite the fact that most EVs can go over 200 miles on a single charge.
Of course, there are also other problems, like the growing number of EV fires which are hard to extinguish. Similarly, you can’t charge an EV during a power outage.
But, perhaps, the most significant concern is how long the batteries will last. Because the battery comprises most of the cost of an EV, the rest of the car is essentially scrap metal once the battery dies.
How Long Do EV Batteries Last?
The batteries in an EV are different from the battery in your gas-powered car. Most gas-powered vehicles use an acid-filled battery, where the acid reacts with lead plates to store energy. These batteries are only used to start the vehicle until the alternator starts spinning and recharges the battery. The downside is that acid-filled batteries will only last about 3-5 years.
EVs use an entirely different type of battery technology known as lithium-ion. Lithium-ion batteries are used in many electronic devices, such as cell phones and laptops. In an EV, a large battery pack is located underneath the car but is comprised of many smaller cells. The lithium-ion technology in EVs is designed to last 15-20 years but can vary with use.
Another factor that complicates the useful life of EV batteries is how the vehicle is used. For instance, the batteries in a mid-size sedan that is used for daily commutes should last longer than ones in a pickup truck that tows trailers. This extra demand causes batteries to drain faster, requiring more frequent charges, which reduces the battery’s life.
It is a good idea to compare data between an EV and a gasoline car to get an actual comparison. This is important because Americans are keeping their cars longer than ever before. EVs are expected to last between 10 and 20 years with 100,000 to 200,000 miles, but there still isn’t enough real-world data. Meanwhile, gas cars have an average life of 12 years and 200,000 miles.
Electric vs Gas Vehicle Lifespan
|Life in Years||10-20 Years||10-20 Years|
|Life in Mileage||200,000-300,000 Miles||150,000-200,000 Miles|
|Range||403 Miles (for cars sold in 2021)||234 Miles (for cars sold in 2021)|
|Average Price||$46,329 (2021)||$56,437 (2021)|
|Minimum Warranty||3 Year/36,000 Miles (bumper to bumper)||8 Year/100,000 Mile (battery)|
Replacement of EV Batteries
Now, you may be wondering about just replacing a battery when it dies like you would in a traditional vehicle. It is possible to replace EV batteries, but because the batteries alone cost a significant percentage of the vehicle’s value, it will almost never be worth it to replace the battery pack on a used electric vehicle.
A significant reason for the expenses is also the amount of labor involved. The batteries are heavily integrated into the vehicle, which makes them difficult to remove for repair or replacement. The study also has a lot to say about the replacement of EV batteries and how frequently it happens, not to mention who pays the exorbitant cost.
By far, warranty repairs constitute the overwhelming majority of EV battery replacements. There’s a federal mandate on how long EV manufacturers must guarantee a warranty for their vehicles. The minimum is eight years, or 100,000 miles. But many dealers offer longer warranties, and some manufacturers have even recalled vehicles to replace their batteries.
Best and Worst EV Batteries
Looking at the best and worst EV batteries is a bit confusing because there are a couple of metrics to look at. Going off the Recurrent Auto study on vehicles with battery replacements, the Chevy Bolt would be by far the worst, followed by the Hyundai Kona. However, the reason for the high number of replacements is that manufacturer recalls were issued.
In contrast, the Nissan Leaf has the higher percentage of battery replacements, followed by the Tesla Model S. Though these two vehicle models have also been around longer than some of the others on the list. When using battery replacements as a metric, you should also consider that some batteries may be failing but aren’t worth replacing.
Therefore, it is a good idea to also look at how range and battery life diminish over time. Like with all batteries, those in an EV start to lose their storage capacity as time goes on. Tesla Model S batteries are some of the worst in the study, whereas the Chevy Volt’s range over time was very sporadic. In comparison, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 drops steeply in the first 20,000 miles, but then plateaus.
Ensuring a Longer-Lasting Battery
The Recurrent Auto study provides plenty of insight into how long batteries last, and it rightly indicates many factors that affect a battery’s longevity. One of these factors is temperature, which drastically impacts the life and usability of batteries. Cold and hot weather can both be detrimental to an EV battery.
People in temperate climates won’t have too much of a problem, but those living in the north will see a noticeable drop in range. Additionally, batteries kept in extreme temperatures will see a drastic drop in performance as the vehicle ages. Now, you may be wondering what you can do to keep your battery in optimal shape.
Keeping the vehicle in a climate-controlled building yields the best results, but it is not practical for most people. However, parking in a covered area during the hottest part of the day also helps substantially.
Another factor for ensuring a long-lasting battery is to prevent over or under-charging. To do this, you should use a slow charger and avoid charging the car to 100% and draining it; unless absolutely necessary.
Lastly, you should ensure that you purchase a vehicle with a good warranty. EV batteries can and do fail prematurely, which could leave you with repair bills in the tens of thousands of dollars and a worthless car.
Rivian, for example, warranties all of their battery packs for 8 years, or 175,000 miles. Hopefully, you will never need to use the warranty for an EV battery, but if there is a problem, at least you are covered.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com.