How long do electric car batteries last? It’s one of the common concerns people have when buying an EV, but you needn’t be concerned during your ownership unless you are buying something with huge mileage.
The long and short of it is that most EV batteries last around 200,000 miles before they become inefficient. We know this because manufacturers of the batteries say so, and they test the batteries to produce the figures.
For example, Tesla says the capacity retention of Tesla batteries averages ~90% after 200,000 miles of usage, and Volkswagen provides an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on the battery (which is pretty standard in the industry).
Additionally, Elon Musk says Tesla car batteries are designed to last 300,000 to 500,000 miles before requiring replacement. This equates to around 1,500 charge cycles, or between 22 and 37 years for the average car driver.
The reality is all batteries degrade, but the rate of degradation in EV batteries is so slow you are unlikely to own a car for long enough to notice any problems.
Rivian’s battery warranty is eight years or 175,000 miles, a class-leading mileage guarantee that demonstrates the quality of their battery packs.
Ultimately, the battery will probably last significantly longer than the warranty covers it for, just as engines and gearboxes do in ICE vehicles.
Of course, Musk’s words and warranty guarantees only go so far as to alleviate concerns over battery lifespan. So, what does the data tell us?
What the data tells us about battery lifespan
GEOTAB offers outstanding insight into the topic. They studied 6,000 electric vehicle batteries in 2019 and found that the vast majority of EV batteries will outlive the vehicle.
Here’s a summary of their findings:
- EV batteries exhibit high levels of sustained health, “If the observed degradation rates are maintained, the vast majority of batteries will outlast the usable life of the vehicle.”
- The average battery capacity loss across all 6,000 vehicles was 2.3% per year, but looking after the battery slashes the loss to 1.6%.
- Charging behaviour impacts degradation, with a 20-80% charge level demonstrating the best capacity maintenance over a battery’s lifespan.
Breaking down this data, EV batteries slowly lose capacity over time (around 2% per year) but good charging practices reduce range loss.
A 2023 study by Recurrent offers a few more insights into how long electric car batteries last:
- Out of over 15,000 electric vehicles in one large community, only 1.5% have had their battery replaced so far. Most replacements happened under warranty due to manufacturing defects. Beyond those cases, older Nissan Leafs and Tesla Model S vehicles saw the most replacements, which is expected since they’ve been on the road the longest.
- Battery degradation is not linear. There’s a small drop in capacity at first, but then it levels off for many years. Some older Leafs and Model S sedans have hit 100,000 miles with 80% of their original capacity.
- Heat is the enemy. Batteries last longer if kept cool. Parking in the shade and avoiding fast charging helps. New EVs have better thermal management than early models.
- Fast charging stresses batteries more than slow overnight charging. It’s fine for road trips but everyday fast charging will degrade batteries quicker.
- Depth of discharge matters too. Partial charges cause less stress than fully draining the battery each cycle.
Life cycle assessment of EV batteries: A 2022 study
As electric vehicles continue to grow in popularity, understanding how to maximise the lifespan of EV batteries is critical.
A 2022 life cycle assessment study looked at several factors that impact battery lifespan and overall EV environmental performance.
Here are the key takeaways:
Battery Efficiency Fade Matters
- As an EV battery degrades over time, its efficiency fades – meaning it takes more energy to drive the same distance. This directly increases energy consumption and CO2 emissions during the use phase.
- The study found that accounting for realistic battery fade over a 12-year lifespan increased use phase emissions by 7-8%.
- When assessing EV impacts, be sure to model battery efficiency fade over time rather than assuming constant performance.
Charging Electricity Mix Shifts Are Significant
- The emissions from charging EVs depend heavily on the carbon intensity of the electricity mix.
- This mix is getting cleaner every year as more renewables come online. Modeling these realistic changes reduced EV emissions by 9% in the study.
- For accurate results, use projected electricity mixes over the full lifetime rather than just the first year’s mix.
Recycling Provides Benefits
- Recycling EV batteries at end-of-life recovered valuable materials and avoided mining impacts. This reduced the vehicle’s overall CO2 emissions by 8% and resource depletion by 25%.
- However, current recycling methods still face challenges. There is room for improvement around collection, sorting, and material recovery.
- Most EV batteries will be reused first in less-demanding applications before being recycled. This extends their usable lifetime.
- There is an emerging battery recycling industry focused on safely extracting materials like lithium, nickel, and cobalt from spent batteries.
- Automakers, battery suppliers, and governments are investing in advanced recycling technologies to recover as much value as possible from old EV batteries.
- Closed-loop battery recycling and reuse is seen as crucial for minimising the environmental impact of EVs long-term. It reduces the need for new raw material mining.
Second-Life Batteries Offer Modest Benefits
- The study found minimal benefit (under 1% CO2 reduction) from reusing EV batteries for stationary storage before recycling.
- However, longer second-life spans (>5 years) and higher reuse rates (>50% of battery cells) improved benefits.
- While refurbishing EV batteries may not drive large reductions in environmental impacts, it can offer other sustainability benefits around material efficiency and delaying new battery production.
Key Takeaways for Maximising Lifespan
- Clearly, battery efficiency fade over time significantly impacts EV emissions and should be modeled accurately.
- The ongoing shift to cleaner electricity mixes also reduces EV impacts year-over-year.
- Recycling batteries at end-of-life provides consistent benefits across impact categories.
- While second-life use shows smaller benefits, longer reuse periods and higher reuse rates improve the value.
- Overall, being realistic about these key factors will provide the most accurate assessment of EV battery lifespan and environmental performance.
Tips To Extend Your Electric Car Battery Lifespan
Here are some tips to help extend the life of your car battery:
- Avoid fully discharging the battery – Allowing the battery to completely drain reduces its overall capacity and lifespan. Try to avoid running it down below 30% charge if possible.
- Prevent overcharging – Overcharging a battery can cause damage to the internal plates and shorten its life. Unplug the charger once it reaches full charge to avoid overcharging.
- Keep it cool – Heat is damaging to batteries. Park in the shade when possible and avoid leaving electronics plugged in that may drain the battery when not in use.
- Regular maintenance – Get the battery tested regularly and make sure the connections are clean and tight. Having the battery load tested can identify potential problems before failure.
- Drive regularly – Regular short trips help keep the battery charged. If you don’t drive often, consider using a battery tender to maintain the charge.
Why the EV battery lifecycle matters
We all know that batteries don’t last forever. Like the ones in your phone or laptop, the batteries in electric vehicles degrade over time. After a few thousand charges or more, an EV battery no longer provides the power needed to move the car.
At this point, you’d typically replace the battery pack – an expensive proposition. But what if that battery could go on to live another life? This is where the battery life cycle comes in, and it could be a game changer for the EV industry.
Extending the Life Through Repurposing
Rather than throw out a battery when it’s no longer robust enough for an EV, the battery can be repurposed. Telecom companies and utilities are already using repurposed EV batteries to optimise costs. These “second-life” batteries retain 50-70% of their original capacity – plenty of juice for less demanding tasks.
As EV sales grow exponentially, managing repurposing will be crucial. By 2025, there could be a global stockpile of 3.4 million used EV batteries. Repurposing these batteries significantly lowers costs. A new EV battery costs around $200 per kWh. A repurposed battery costs just $49 per kWh – a 76% savings!
Repurposed batteries have numerous valuable applications, including:
- Storing energy from renewable sources like solar and wind
- Stabilising the energy grid by handling peaks in demand
- Providing backup power for buildings and EV charging stations
New Business Models
Decoupling battery and vehicle ownership enables innovative business models around repurposing. Carmakers could lease you the battery separately from the vehicle. The battery could then be repurposed once you return your leased EV. The future residual value gets factored into the lease, reducing your upfront cost.
Utilities could offer “energy storage as a service” without having to build assets. Companies like yours could access energy storage on demand and generate new revenue streams. It’s a win-win!
Closing the Loop Through Recycling
Eventually, a battery reaches the end of its useful life. Responsible recycling then recovers raw materials like lithium, nickel, and cobalt for reuse in new batteries. This closes the loop, creating a circular lifecycle.
Today, only around 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled. It’s an complex and expensive process. But as the volume of spent batteries rises, large-scale recycling will become more viable. Companies are working to improve recycling technologies as well.
Key to Success: Partnerships and Collaboration
Realising the promise of battery life cycle management will take unprecedented collaboration across industries – automakers, battery manufacturers, utilities, raw material suppliers, and recyclers. Each brings capabilities and assets that are essential to developing a commercially viable circular ecosystem.
For you as a consumer, the battery life cycle means lower costs, better options, and reduced environmental impact from EVs. So when you’re shopping for that new electric car, look for companies that are leading the way in battery life cycle management. The batteries in their EVs will keep on giving well into the future.
EV batteries are designed to last as long as the vehicle itself, around 200,000 miles. For most people, this covers over fifteen years of ownership.
Fearing the battery won’t last is only natural when 12V batteries are unreliable and most smartphones give up the ghost after a few years. But EV batteries are much larger and – importantly – have much better cooling.
There are electric cars with over 100,000 miles on them that haven’t lost more than 10% capacity. Indeed, Tesla says its cars maintain 90% capacity after 200,000 miles of usage, and they are not a special case.
Whether it’s Volkswagen, Vauxhall, BMW, Rivian or Tesla, an electric car battery should last the life of the vehicle unless it is damaged.
An exception applies in special cases of extremely high mileage like this one where a taxi firm in California racked up 400,000 miles in a 2015 Tesla Model S.