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How Long Do Electric Car Batteries Last

The one thing that always holds the prospective E-Vehicle users is the time range of these cars. The fear that it might shut down halfway through and eventually battery degradation turns most people away from owning an electric vehicle.

If you’re someone who is planning to invest in an electric vehicle, it is important for you to know how long do electric car batteries last. Because no one would want to buy any random electric car that has poor battery life. 

Last week, I had a chat with an old friend of mine who is an automobile engineer for 20 years. He helped me out by writing this guide on how long an electric car’s battery lasts, which I am now sharing with you. 

So without waiting further, let’s get started.

Types of Car Batteries

There are essentially five different types of electric car batteries. We differentiate these electric vehicle batteries based on their need and use in different types of EVs. 

Lithium-Ion Battery (Li-On)

These are the most commonly used electric cars battery pack. Its physical size and capacity are much higher than other electric car batteries, which gives it the name – Traction battery pack. 

They tend to have a high weight to battery output ratio – a common methodology to test the battery’s efficiency. In this sense, the smaller the battery size, the bigger the output. They can also be recycled quite easily, which makes them perfect for environment-conscious users.

Hybrid Nickel-Metal (NiMH) Batteries

The NiMH batteries are prominently used by hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and can also be spotted in BEV cars. These batteries do not get charged from external sources; rather, they derive the battery from wheels, engine speed, and regenerative braking. 

They tend to last longer than li-on and SLA batteries and generally are much safer to use. But because of these reasons, it is much more expensive than other batteries. 

Lead-Acid (SLA) Batteries

The SLA batteries are the oldest rechargeable batteries on the market. They, in comparison to other types, lose their capacity faster and are much heavier. But they are also cheaper and safer to use.

A new type of SLA battery with bigger capacities is currently under construction, but it will continue to be used as a secondary storage system until they are successful. 

Ultra-capacitor Batteries

These batteries do not work in the typical way that the other electric car batteries do. Quite contrarily, they tend to store the polarized liquid in between the electrodes and electrolytes.

And as the surface area of this liquid increases so do the energy storage capacity. Just like the SLA electric car batteries, these ultra-capacitors are also reserved as secondary storage devices. They are there to provide extra capacity and power while accelerating and regenerative braking.

ZEBRA Batteries

Due to their nature, the Zebra batteries are also known as temperature variants of sodium-sulfur (NaS) batteries. They were part of an exclusive development by ZEBRA (“Zero Emissions Batteries Research Activity” battery, formerly known as “Zeolite Battery Research Africa”) in 1985. Since the advent, batteries have been manufactured to be used in electric vehicles. The battery works by using a combination of NaAlCl4 with Na + -beta-alumina ceramic electrolyte. They are extremely high-temperature batteries with operation at more than 270 ° C. 

How does an Electric Car Battery Work?

All-electric vehicles use some form of electric traction motor in contrast to the internal combustion engine found in gasoline-powered cars. The exact battery type depends on the type of E-Car you are using – whether it is all-electric (AEV) or plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV).

The AEVs use a traction battery pack (typically lithium-ion battery) to charge and store electricity, which the motor then uses to make the vehicle work. It would help if you charged it regularly by plugging it into the port. And it is the battery’s efficiency that determines the car’s overall range.

Just like in AEV, the plug-in hybrid EVs use an electric traction motor powered by the traction battery pack. But what makes these two different is the presence of combustion engines in PHEVs.

Once the EVs run out of battery charge, they immediately switch to the internal combustion engine powered by fuel. PHEVs tend to use lithium-ion batteries which are powered and recharged by plugging in, regenerative braking, and through the internal combustion engine.

And since these EVs have two separate methods of working, they last longer and give better coverage than their all-electric counterparts. 

The main idea behind the lithium-ion battery is the creation of a difference between the potential in two electrodes, one positive and another negative, which leads to the circulation of electrons.

All of these electrons and electrodes are immersed inside the electrolyte, a conductive ionic liquid. The battery types vary due to electrode materials, ion types, and the associated electrolytes. The lithium-based battery uses lithium ions (Li+), through which it derives its name. 

Both of these batteries generally recharge their power through the standard connector and receptacle. The receptacle can easily work with any Level 1 (120 V AC) or Level 2 (240 V – residential/208 V – commercial) plug.

You will also find the presence of SAE receptors or CHAdeMO in some fast-charging stations, but they are yet to become the norm. But in the end, it is the vehicle and its type that helps determine which charging station you can use for charging. 

How Long Do Electric Car Batteries Last?

Batteries, however good they might be, go through a depreciation period in which the constant charge and discharge lead to a severe reduction in battery capacity.

These cycles of ‘discharge’ when driving and ‘charge’ while aloof, after a while, causes the amount of charge it can hold. This, in turn, decreases the range that the car can go and the number of times it will require charge again.

The battery manufacturers typically give a warranty of five to eight years. However, if we believe the recent trends, it suggests that it takes 10 to 20 years before you need to change the battery completely.

And as the advancements in technology occur, this range will only see an increase in car battery life, and we will end up with electric vehicles with a longer lifespan. As with the MG ZS EV battery – it now comes with a seven-year extended warranty period. 

Seven years might seem remarkable when you compare it to the lithium-ion battery used by our phones. They lose their original capacity after just two or three years.

But during that time, it might have been discharged and charged over a thousand times. And every single one of these cycles counts in the part of the life of the battery.

The same is with electric vehicles. They are not charged at the same rate as a mobile phone, hence they receive a longer warranty period, but inherently the ratio between charge cycle and years sustained remains the same.

There might be a difference by a couple of more years, given that one cannot give an entity as big and expensive as an E-vehicle just 2 years of life.

Hence, the manufacturers do try to elongate its life by going to great lengths. 

For example the MG ZS EV. The manufacturers attach a system called ‘buffering’ against the battery which means that the users cannot use the entire battery capacity stored in the battery.

This helps reduce the cycles that it goes through, which implies that it will automatically last longer. Other methods like water-cooling systems are also used to elongate life. 

You can take some steps to extend the vehicle’s life:

  • Always keep the charging between 20 to 80 percent and try not to let it fall beneath 50 percent too many times. 
  • Avoid overcharging as it leads to chemical changes inside the battery, negatively affecting the battery’s life. 
  • Keep the battery away from extreme temperatures. High cold and hot temperatures can also affect the battery life and reduce its range. 

How much does it cost to replace a battery in an electric car?

Manufacturers do provide a long warranty period of up to 8 years and over 100,000 miles. And if anything unfortunate occurs to your battery or vehicle, then it would get replaced by them, free of cost. So be sure to check and then recheck the warranty offered by them. 

But if the vehicle’s battery dies after the coverage period, you would have to give money out of your own pockets. According to McKinsey, you will be happy to know that the cost of replacing batteries has been reduced by a massive 80 percent.

It has gone from $1000 to $227/kWh in 2010  to $1000 to 40kWh in 2016. A brand new battery typically costs around $5500. If you want to save money you can go for recycled batteries which are disassembled, tweaked, and repackaged into remanufactured battery packs.

They cost $2900, almost half of what the new one would cost you. 

Conclusion

As you might have understood by now, contrary to popular belief, E-vehicles are very less susceptible to just shutting off in the middle of driving.

You just need to take proper care of your car, ensure that you follow all the measures to elongate its life, and never leave the house before ensuring that it has got a proper charger to last you the drive.

 It is the same as with fuel vehicles, where you check the amount you currently have. E-vehicles just need proper sustenance to last for a long while!

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