The subject of when to replace an electric vehicle battery, as well as the associated costs, is essential, but possibly not as much as you may think. Firstly, let’s consider these two aspects:
- What are the chances that the battery will need to be replaced over the car's lifetime?
- What would the cost of a battery replacement be?
Will a battery need to be replaced during the vehicle's lifetime?
To address this question, one must consider two issues: When will the battery no longer be 'fit for purpose'? and When will the battery no longer be fit for purpose and how long does a car have a "life"?
To begin with, several manufacturers promise that their batteries will retain at least 70% of their capacity after 8 years. It's also crucial to remember that the battery will not be "dead" at the 8-year point, but rather will have a reduced driving range.
However, the smaller the battery pack, the greater the risk of loss. Early Nissan Leafs, for example, had a real-world range of barely 120 kilometers. This means that over the course of the 8-year warranty period, it could drop to 84 kilometers and require more frequent charging. In winter, and/or when utilizing the heating/air-conditioning system, the battery performance may decline even further.
Modern EV batteries (with enhanced battery chemistry and thermal management systems) do not appear to degrade as quickly as older batteries; therefore, these range reductions represent the worst-case situation. EVs are estimated to lose 2.3 percent of their capacity per year on average and to maintain excellent levels of sustained health over long periods of time.
The vast majority of batteries will outlast the vehicle's useable life provided the observed deterioration rates are maintained. Most customers who acquire current model EVs with their larger batteries will find that battery replacement will be necessary after 10 years or more.
How long does a car have a life?
So, when will an EV's electronics, suspension, steering, and interior be 'worn out' to the point where it can no longer be used? This can range between 10-20 years appears to be a reasonable expectation. As a result, an EV's battery may never need to be replaced. If it does, it will only require one battery change throughout the course of its life, and if it does, it will be at or after 10 years.
How much will a battery replacement cost?
Within the 8-year guarantee term, any batteries that degraded faster than they should have were replaced for free. Now that the 8-year warranties have expired, the cost of a dealer-installed new battery has happily dropped to roughly $10,000 for the 24-kWh battery.
As failed battery packs were returned to the factory, it was discovered that many of them only had a couple of damaged cells, with the rest of the pack functioning normally. Battery recycling programs are being implemented, which will help to lower expenses even more.
Furthermore, as these automobiles are involved in accidents, a ready supply of used batteries is becoming available for private businesses to experiment with. As a result, some companies have begun to sell aftermarket (and in some cases enhanced) battery packs.
Meanwhile, the battery, which is the most expensive component of a BEV, has been reducing in price at a rate similar to that of solar panels in the early 2000s. EV battery prices peaked about US$1100 per kWh in 2010, but have since dropped to US$137 per kWh.
So, a battery may endure the entire life of the vehicle. Tesla, for example, claims that a 'million-mile battery' (one that lasts a million miles, or 1.6 million kilometers) is not far off.
To summarize, EV batteries do not die every 8 to 10 years; new battery prices are projected to be much lower by 2030, as will reconditioned unit pricing, and it is feasible that an EV battery will never need to be changed during the car's lifetime.