While electric cars are the future of transportation, battery life still poses the most significant challenge. Battery anxiety is now a thing where a driver isn’t sure how soon the battery will run out and leave them stranded somewhere.
There are developments in battery technology, and the latest units are much better than their predecessors. But exactly how long should you expect your electric vehicle (EV) batteries to last?
The EV Battery Technology
EV batteries are similar to your phone batteries but larger and come in a pack with thousands of Li-ion cells. The EV batteries feed to the electric motors which are connected to the wheels of your vehicle. Pressing the accelerator connects the battery power to the motors acting as generators. This converts the energy to forward motion.
The batteries in your electric vehicle go through cycles of charge and discharge, where the batteries charge when you plug them in and discharge when driving. The process of repeated charge and discharge eventually affects the battery capacity, and the much charge it can hold goes down over time.
So, how much time are we talking about before you need to replace the battery?
The Lifespan of Your Electric Car Battery
The typical lifespan of an electric vehicle battery is between 8 and 10 years. Nissan and Tesla guarantee at least 8 years of battery life or a range of 100,000 miles.
But predictions suggest that EV batteries have the potential to last as much as 10-20 years.
Manufacturers use various tactics to extend the life of the battery. For example, the EV makers ensure the vehicles are “buffered,” meaning that you cannot use the battery power to zero. This tactic reduces the number of charge cycles.
The automakers also use clever cooling systems to reduce heating and battery degradation. They also ensure an additional spare battery capacity, compensating for any degradation and maintaining the same range for a long time.
Lithium-ion EV Battery
A Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery is the most common type of electric car battery because of its higher energy density than nickel-cadmium or lead acid. That means Li-ion batteries can save space by reducing the overall dimensions of the battery pack.
While lithium is also one of the lightest metals, the Li-ion batteries do not contain any of this metal, but rather, ions. Ions are molecules or atoms that hold an electric charge when they gain or lose electrons.
Li-ion batteries are the safest and, therefore, the best to protect consumers in case of battery failure. However, vehicle manufacturers still install other safeguards to protect the batteries from the risks associated with repeated and fast battery recharging.
The Factors that Affect the EV Battery Capacity
Age is the most significant factor determining how long your battery lasts. As your EV’s battery ages, it loses the ability to hold as much electrical current as it used to when it was relatively new. This also affects how far you can drive on a single charge. That means your old battery may need to be charged several times to cover the same distance it used to on a single charge.
Battery type: Lithium-ion batteries are the most common ones used in electric cars because they have a high energy density and last longer. On the other hand, nickel-metal Hydride (NiMH) is safer and more eco-friendly but less common.
Driving habits: your driving style can shorten or prolong the life of your battery. Drivers that are not easy on the accelerator or are fond of using air conditioning will find that the battery drains faster and may not last long. Avoid charging the battery too often or at every chance that you get. People with range anxiety will be tempted to charge up at every EV charging station they come across.
Range: electric vehicle batteries are not made equal, some will have a more extended range than others. Vehicles with a longer range can drive long distances on a single charge. The difference in the range depends on the battery and car type. Whatever the case, the range of most modern cars is between 100 and 300 miles. Consider the range when choosing an electric vehicle.
The good thing is that EV batteries are replaceable. That means you can buy another battery when the current one starts to act up by not holding enough charge. You don’t have to replace the whole vehicle.
Battery replacement does not affect any other part of the vehicle. However, the replacement can be pretty costly. Therefore, determine the cost of replacing the battery when shopping for an electric car.
Manufacturers guarantee 100,000 miles or 8 years of battery usage. That means if something should happen and a battery replacement is needed, the manufacturer will replace it without any cost to you.
If it’s beyond the warranty, you can take comfort in knowing that the battery costs are going down. Between 2010 and 2016, EV batteries fell by a whopping 80%, according to McKinsey. The battery price is expected to go below $100/kWh.
What do You do with an EV Battery that Loses its Ability to Power a Vehicle?
There are a few options on what to do with an electric car battery if it can no longer power your vehicle. The best option is as a battery storage system for a home that uses renewable energy, such as solar or wind. Typically, the battery storage system collects the energy during the day for solar or windy moments for wind energy so that you can use it to power your home.
As part of the battery storage system, the used-up EV battery can help save thousands in energy bills and provide backup when there’s an outage with the grid system.
What if the batteries reach the end of their life and can no longer be used, even as a battery storage system for a home? In that case, the EV batteries can be recycled for copper, stainless steel, lithium and cobalt salts, plastic, and aluminum. The various auto manufacturers currently plan to recycle more materials from EV batteries.