Invented in 1976, lithium-ion batteries are one of the most popular battery types in use today. They are widely used in electronics, electric vehicle (EV) batteries and power grid storage systems around the world. Lithium batteries have many attractive qualities, including their high energy density, ability to recharge quickly, light weight, and long life.
When hybrid electric vehicles and EVs first hit the market, there was a lot of concern about the lifespan of their lithium-ion batteries. Would EV drivers need to replace this expensive component in just a few years? Considering EV batteries can cost $10,000 or more to replace, that’s a valid concern.
How long do electric vehicle batteries last?
While lead-acid car batteries typically found in traditional cars typically last three to five years, EV batteries have a much longer lifespan. They usually last 10 to 20 years, and most EVs have long battery warranties. Many car manufacturers offer an 8 to 10 year or 100,000 mile warranty for EV batteries.
Yet the batteries of electric vehicles usually do not discharge a day and stop holding a charge. On the contrary, they gradually lose their ability to store energy, which slowly reduces the range of the vehicle, and most electric vehicles lose about a 1% to 2% range every year because of the battery. This means your car will slowly travel fewer miles on each charge.
Advances in lithium batteries have improved their energy density, thereby increasing the range of electric vehicles. For example, many electric vehicles on the market today can travel 300 miles on a full charge, including the BMW i4, Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5 Long Range AWD, Rivian R1S, GMC Hummer Pickup, and Tesla Model X Long Range. Many electric vehicle models, such as the 259-mile Chevy Bolt, have moderate ranges. However, some models still have much smaller ranges, such as the Electric Mini Cooper at 110 miles and the Nissan Leaf at 149 miles.
How does battery degradation affect electric vehicle drivers?
When an EV battery’s capacity drops to 70% or less, it’s usually time to replace it as range will be significantly reduced. However, this will depend on your driving habits and how much battery you need. For example, if you primarily drive your electric vehicle relatively short distances and it is easy to charge, the reduced range is likely to have less of an impact. However, if you have a long commute or it’s hard to find charging stations in your area, this could be a huge inconvenience.
How to Increase the Life of an EV Battery
Although many factors that cause lithium battery degradation are beyond the driver’s control, there are steps you can take to extend battery life.
Maintain the charge level between 20% and 80%
Although charging the vehicle battery to 100% allows the vehicle to travel farther, it is not ideal for optimal battery life. Many EV experts recommend keeping the battery charged between 20% and 80% because it strains the battery when it fully discharges or recharges. Smart EV charging stations can stop charging at the desired level, helping you achieve the desired level of charge.
Avoid storing your electric vehicle at 100% state of charge
If your electric vehicle is to remain idle for a long time, the battery must not be fully charged or discharged. When storing your EV, a state of charge between 25% and 75% is ideal for battery life.
Minimize exposure to extreme temperatures
Electric vehicle batteries often have a shorter lifespan in hot climates. Unfortunately, extremely high temperatures while driving, charging, and parking can put a strain on EV batteries, shortening their lifespan. Therefore, EV drivers should park and charge in the shade on hot days whenever possible.
Use DC fast charging stations sparingly
The electric vehicle industry is concerned about the common use of DC fast chargers (DCFCs), also known as level III chargers. Frequent use of fast charging may result in slight drop in battery life compared to Level II chargers. Therefore, only use DCFC when extremely practical.
Can an EV battery have life after being removed from an EV?
Once an old battery is removed from an electric vehicle, it may still have some life. There have been some interesting examples of old electric car batteries being used to provide emergency power to buildings. For example, old Nissan Leaf batteries are used to power the Amsterdam Arena and are integrated with a large solar power system. Toyota uses old electric vehicle batteries to power convenience stores in Japan in conjunction with solar panels. However, such initiatives are relatively rare and an infrastructure is needed to generalize these projects.
Although electric vehicle batteries typically last 10-20 years, it is wise to maximize their lifespan for financial and environmental the reasons. Avoiding DCFC use, parking in the shade on hot days, and maintaining charge levels between 20% and 80% are all helpful in promoting range and saving battery capacity.
This article was originally published on September 12, 2022.