How long do electric car batteries last?

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Electric vehicle (EV) batteries have a limited lifespan, gradually losing their ability to hold a charge over time. The rate at which this happens depends on various factors such as driving behaviour, temperature, and charging habits.

Some EV manufacturers offer warranties for the battery, which typically guarantee a minimum of 8 years or 160,000 km of use with at least 70% of the original capacity remaining. However, some EV batteries may last up to 20 years with proper care and maintenance.

EV batteries that fall below 60-70% capacity may need to be replaced, which can be costly. Therefore, it is important to consider the age and remaining capacity of the battery when purchasing a used EV.

What is the lifespan of EV batteries?

Everyone talks about the future of the automobile will be the electric vehicle, and some countries have already set dates in less than a decade when conventional combustion engine vehicles will be banned.

While EV engines have been designed to run many hundred of thousand km, they have a specific weakness: the battery. So what’s wrong with the battery, I hear you ask?

There is a degrading factor for EV batteries, meaning every time one charges the battery, a small amount of the original capacity will be lost. So each year of driving, the battery will perform a little less, meaning the distance we can cover with a full charge will reduce.

By the time an EV battery reaches only 60% to 70% capacity of the initial capacity, meaning initially, a full battery would let you drive 500 km. Still, now you can only undertake 300km between full charges; it is time to change the electric car battery.

Modern EVs are designed to have batteries replaced, but as these batteries are a major component of the EV, such a replacement will not come cheap.

Then you also have to ask, is it worth replacing the battery and paying a significant amount to keep a decade-old vehicle on the road for another decade? This will be a tricky question in the future.

How many years it will take to reach this critical 60% to 70% threshold on your electric vehicle battery depends on many factors, such as driving behaviour and environmental conditions.

Extreme temperatures can degrade EVs

EV batteries will begin to degrade if the temperature falls below zero degrees Celsius or above 26 degrees Celsius, so anything between that range is preferable.

If the vehicle is exposed to temperature extremes like a very hot climate, then this can have a negative long-term effect on the battery life.

For example, suppose you live in regional South Australia, where temperatures on the ground can sometimes get up to 49 degrees Celsius in peak summer, and you park your electric car outside every summer day. In that case, your electric vehicle battery potentially will not last as long as if you park the EV daily in a cool underground car park in the middle of Hobart.

Continuous full discharge can degrade batteries.

If you discharge the battery to the maximum every time, this will affect the battery life span. Batteries prefer life cycles that do not discharge the battery fully every time.

As electric car batteries do not like to be drained every time to the last drop of energy, the life of your electric car battery should start charging when let’s say, 50 % of the electric vehicle battery capacity is still available.

Overall it’s a good idea to aim to have your EV charged somewhere between 20% and 80% under normal circumstances and try not to go below 20% of battery capacity.

DC rapid chargers can affect battery life.

While a DC rapid charger is preferred when you are in a rush, it isn’t suitable for the long battery life. Do so regularly, as a quick charge that gives you approximately 80% capacity in around 20 to 30 minutes creates a lot of heat, which can cause battery degradation.

With the current technology, many EV car manufacturers like Kia, Tesla, Lexus, Hyundai, or Mercedes warrant 160,000 km or around eight years as the minimum life of an EV battery.

These warranties claim that the battery will still contain 70% of its original capacity after eight years. So an initially 500km range vehicle must be recharged every 350km.

Suppose one looks after the battery by not fully discharging the unit and limiting temperature extremes. In that case, common wisdom sees EV batteries last between 10 to 15 years, with some claims even 20 20-year lifespan would be possible. The reality in future years will teach us if these claims are realistic.

electric vehicle (EV) being charged
Electric vehicle batteries lose 30% of their storage over 8 years

Lower maintenance costs for EVs

It is overall accepted that the maintenance costs for running an electric car are lower than a conventional composition engine car, as there is no need for oil filters and combustion engine maintenance work, as the EV engine is a fully sealed unit.

Given the high replacement cost of an EV  battery and given that we know we will have to replace it after, let’s say, a decade,  it is advisable to put aside every year some of the fuel and maintenance savings, so when the new battery is required, one has put aside enough savings to afford the battery replacement cost easily.

How do you know when your EV battery is on the way out?

Like an older phone or iPad does not hold the charge as it used to, an EV battery may struggle to give you a safe long-distance drive, as it will hold less charge. So you will then have to recharge the EV more frequently, and those charges won’t last for as long as they used to.

While a lot of people might choose to buy themselves a new car after holding onto one for a decade or so, your car dealer should have the necessary qualifications to replace EV batteries. Replacement prices vary depending on the size of the batteries, the car brand, and ease of battery access. Whichever brand it is, it will not be cheap and could reach a 5-figure sum for luxury vehicles.

EV battery recycling is vital

A whole new battery recycling industry will have to be created, and it is suggested that car manufacturers create incentives for their old batteries to be returned to them as part of a swap out. Hopefully, the Federal Government will develop a framework to ensure EV battery recycling becomes mandatory.

It is expected that battery technology will develop over the next decade so that a 10, 15-year or even 20-year battery warranty will be possible, and EV batteries will become more sustainable overall and take longer to replace.

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