Electric Vehicle Battery Life May Be Longer Than We Previously Thought

Electric Vehicle Battery Life May Be Longer Than We Previously Thought

For many prospective electric vehicle (EV) buyers, the fear of having to shell out thousands of dollars for a battery replacement in the future has been a significant deterrent. However, a recent study conducted by Recurrent, a Seattle-based company specializing in analyzing discarded EV batteries, reveals that these concerns may be greatly exaggerated. The research, based on real-world data from 15,000 EVs of various makes and models, suggests that the lifespan of EV batteries far exceeds what many people imagine. This article delves into the findings of this study and sheds light on the longevity and sustainability of EV batteries.

Analyzing Real-World Data

Recurrent's study involved the analysis of telemetry data from 15,000 EVs representing various brands and models. On a daily basis, they monitored charging activities, battery percentages, and estimated driving ranges as these vehicles traversed different regions of the United States.

How Long Do EV Batteries Last?

Among the 15,000 vehicles studied, a mere 1.5% had undergone battery replacements, not including high-profile incidents like the Chevrolet Bolt and Hyundai Kona battery recalls. The study asserts that, up to this point, the longevity of EV batteries appears to be much greater than expected since only a small fraction requires replacement.

The models with the highest normal replacement rates are the Nissan Leaf (around 5%) and the Tesla Model S (less than 5%). This isn't surprising, as they are among the oldest models on the market and within Recurrent's test fleet.

Most EVs come with a standard battery warranty, typically spanning 8 to 12 years, coupled with a specified mileage limit. Recurrent found that even after these warranties expire, most drivers do not rush to replace their batteries.

According to the study, the older the vehicle, the higher the battery replacement rate. For EVs that have been on the road for nine to twelve years, this rate hovers around 5%. By contrast, the average lifespan of gasoline-powered vehicles in the United States is 12 years, according to Progressive data.

This indicates that when considering purchasing a new vehicle or replacing their current one, EV owners might naturally factor in battery replacement rather than being surprised by an unfortunate turn of events a few years down the line.

However, the study also found an unusual surge in battery replacements unrelated to recalls, suggesting this might be linked to unique technologies employed in each model:

- 2013 Tesla Model S (8.5%)
- 2014 Tesla Model S (7.3%)
- 2015 Tesla Model S (3.5%)
- 2011 Nissan LEAF (8.3%)
- 2012 Nissan LEAF (3.5%)

Do EV Range Decrease Over Time?

Over time, the efficiency of battery storage and energy release tends to decrease, resulting in reduced driving range. The rate of this decline depends on drivers' habits, weather conditions, and various other factors unique to each vehicle.

For Tesla Model S, the degradation of the expensive 100-kWh battery is faster than the less costly 85-kWh and 70-kWh options.

The BMW i3's batteries have shown exceptional performance, with Recurrent's research stating that, "Both the smallest 22-kWh battery pack released in 2014 and the 33-kWh pack introduced in 2017 have averaged about 100,000 miles and still retained roughly 80% of their original capacity."

Although it may take several decades to fully understand the behavior of EV batteries across different models and regions, these initial data suggest that the future of EV batteries looks promising. Moreover, a battery's journey doesn't necessarily end when it leaves the original vehicle. It can be recycled, and the minerals within it can be used to manufacture new batteries, with no loss of performance.

Some people even use EV batteries to power their homes as mobile generators. General Motors has even ventured into this sector, effectively transforming itself into an energy company.

However, for now, this research indicates that the majority of EV batteries continue to perform admirably.

In conclusion, the apprehension surrounding the longevity of EV batteries appears to be unfounded, with most batteries showing remarkable endurance and even the potential for a second life in various applications, making the transition to electric vehicles an even more appealing and sustainable choice.

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