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How long do electric car batteries last?

December 21, 2021 | Wesley van Barlingen and Callum Biggins

Electric mobility movement is gaining momentum—so much so that experts generally agree that electric cars are close to the “tipping point” of rapid mass adoption. In fact, according to Bloomberg, more than two-thirds of new cars will be electric by 2040.

So, what is behind the rapid uptake of electric cars? Put simply, electric cars are more accessible, more affordable, and more attractive than ever before. And these advances are partly due to the development of the most expensive part of an electric car, the battery.

Thanks to the rapid advancements of battery technology in recent years, prices have fallen by 89 percent since 2010. And, just like the batteries found in mobile phones and laptops, the batteries in electric cars are also tougher than you think. Plus, with proper care, you can extend the life expectancy of your battery long into the future.

So, how long does the battery of an electric car last and how can you extend it? Read on to learn everything you need to know about battery life and the best practices you can follow to ensure you get the most out of your electric car for years to come.

An electric vehicle charging via a charging cable that is equipped with modern lighting.

Electric car batteries require less maintenance

The battery, as well as many other components of an electric car, requires far less maintenance than their fuel driven counterparts. As there are far less moving parts in electric motors compared to that of an internal combustion engine (ICE), there are fewer parts that could eventually fail or need replacing.

Plus, with fewer fluids, such as engine oil, as well as regenerative braking technology that reduces brake wear, there is simply less which electric car drivers have to worry about.

This fact alone has got dealers and mechanics worried about shrinking margins on electric cars. Servicing and maintenance provide almost half of the average dealership’s income and electric cars are also expected to outlive fuel vehicles, so many of their clients won’t be upgrading them as often. However, whilst some are worried, Lawrence Burns, the ex-vice president of R&D at General Motors Co says that “fundamentally, this is just a better way to design and engineer a car.”

A man holding a laptop next to an EV, seemingly checking the status of the battery

How long do electric car batteries last?

Under current estimates, most electric car batteries will last somewhere between 10-20 years before they need to be replaced.

However, as with many other components of older cars, the battery will eventually begin to degrade. Batteries are designed to not die fully, but to slowly lose charge capacity over time.

Practice shows that this is only a small percentage over several years, and when looking at the average decline of the battery across all cars, the loss is arguably minor at 2.3 percent per year. This means that if you purchase an electric car today with a 150 miles range, you’ll have only lost about 17 mile of accessible range after five years.

According to a survey by Cox Automotive however, many potential electric car drivers have concerns about batteries and the cost associated with battery replacement. Nearly half of the people who consider buying an electric car assume that the average battery life will last less than 65,000 miles.

Despite this, the majority of car manufacturers offer a 5 to 10 year warranty on their batteries or a warranty up to 62,000 miles driven.

How much does an electric car battery cost?

The aforementioned fears are understandable: the battery of an electric car is by far the most expensive part of the vehicle and can cost £4,560 on average.

However, it is important to note here that battery prices have fallen dramatically over the last decade. The average price for one kilowatt hour (kWh)—the standard measure of a battery’s price—dropped from £875 per kWh in 2010 to just £105 over the past decade.

The expectation is that this price per kWh will fall below £75 within the next three years; universally considered the point at which the total production cost of an electric car will be much as a petrol car.

An EV driving on a road in the middle of a forest

Does charging affect the life of my battery?

In short, yes. Charging has an effect on the life of your battery.

The invention of lithium-ion batteries contributed to the breakthrough of the electric car. Most batteries were originally made with lead and sulfuric acid, where the car engine was started by means of short current pulse. The battery was then recharged as the vehicle drove by an on-board alternator. However, this was far from ideal as the lead-acid battery could not discharge more than a few percent of their capacity. These batteries are nowadays only used for starting and lighting a car.

Comparatively, lithium-ion batteries are designed to handle a much higher density of energy. Both your smartphone and laptop contain a lithium-ion battery, and just like the improvements in the batteries of those devices, the same has happened with the batteries of electric cars. And this technological growth is still in full swing.

However, while an electric car's battery will lose its ability to fully charge over time, it is unlikely that it will stop altogether. Here are some tips that can help your battery life last longer.

car-recharges-its-electric-batteries-inside-private-garage-with-its-own-charging-station-detail-connected-plug

Tips for charging your electric car battery

Lithium-ion batteries have improved massively in recent decades. Their lifespan has been extended, they have become safer, and the weight and price have reduced. But, as with any piece of engineering, proper maintenance will extend its life.

Don’t charge your electric car every night

Regardless of whether you’re only charging the battery by a few percent or from 0 to 100, every time you charge you put stress on the battery. As a result, the capacity of the battery is reduced little by little. To avoid this compounding over time, it is recommended not to charge your electric car every night. Charging your car only when necessary, rather than charging every time you get home, you can extend the life of your battery.

Stay between 20 and 80 percent charge

Just like you shouldn’t plug your car in every night, it is also not necessary to charge your car to 100 percent when you don’t need to. Lithium-ion batteries are designed to store large amounts of energy, but frequently draining the cells too often or fully charging them can, over time, reduce the battery’s capacity as a whole. To avoid this, the common advice is to stay between 20 and 80 percent charge and to never let the battery die completely.

Control the optimal battery percentage during long storage

Lastly, leaving your electric car parked for too long with a full (or empty) battery also contributes to degradation. To avoid this, ideally charge your car between 25 and 75 percent if you are going to spend a significant amount of time away from your vehicle. There are smart charging stations that can help you keep the battery percentage within these limits. 

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