How Long Do Electric Car Batteries Last For?

In the world of batteries, the invention of the lithium-ion battery changed everything. Such batteries – initially used in laptops and other portable electronic devices – have allowed for rechargeable batteries to finally look like a viable alternative to disposables in nearly all situations. Providing a much higher energy density and lower discharge rate, li-ion batteries simply have more juice – and use it more efficiently. Originally finding a relatively limited set of uses, the technology is now available inside batteries of all kinds, from small AA rechargeable batteries all the way up to the behemoths that power modern fully electric (EV) vehicles. 

Although they were first marketed over thirty years ago, it is perhaps the rise of the EV car that will see li-ion batteries more widely distributed than ever before. As it is actually possible now to power a vehicle to acceptable standards using batteries alone, a massive new market has opened up. 

Containing many kilograms weight of the electrolyte and other substances, EV car batteries take up most of the space at the base of an electric car. The old car batteries, and even the batteries from hybrid cars, pale in size compared to an EV battery. After all, they have so much more work to do when there is no fuel engine present to pick up the slack.

Thus, as efficient as modern li-ion batteries are, they need to be large in order to provide the same level of power to match traditional fuel engine vehicles. And being large makes them one of the most expensive parts of an EV. This then raises a very pressing question – how long do they last?

Replacing an EV Battery 

Although we seem to get closer all the time, a rechargeable battery that can sustain an infinite number of charge cycles and thereby last forever is still a technology of the future. The electrolyte inside all rechargeable batteries will eventually degrade to the point where it can no longer hold or transfer a charge and, at this point, the battery must be replaced. With huge EV li-ion batteries, this is no small (or cheap) task.

Replacing an EV battery could cost as much as $6,000, however it is estimated that this is not something that would have to be done very often. In fact, it is estimated that an EV battery will have to be replaced only once a decade under normal driving conditions. As this is longer than most people keep a single car, lifespan would not appear to be a particularly urgent worry for EV car owners. 

Yet of course, there is a general decline in performance that precedes the eventual degradation of a battery. It is estimated that a battery will lose around 2.3 % of its capacity annually, which means fewer driving hours between each charge. 

Environmental Concerns

Pale Blue Earth, a company supplying USB rechargeable batteries, summed up the concern of all battery manufacturers well in their company motto – “The battery company that wants you to use fewer batteries.” Rechargeable batteries are fundamentally an environmentally friendly product, and this is what incentivizes their development. But when it comes to cars, there arises the real concern that manufacturing the huge batteries needed will use up a good deal of recourses, specifically the materials that have to be mined.

This then also raises concerns over what will happen to all those degraded EV batteries after they have been removed. It would seem at this stage that the rise of the electric car will bring with it a whole host of new environmental challenges.