The average lifespan of a battery in a new electric car might surprise you, it did me. I suspected the usable life of a battery pack in todays electric cars would not be significant enough to necessitate the larger sticker price and it turns out I was wrong. Furthermore, taking into consideration the cost of regular maintenance on a typical combustion engine, even when you do have to replace an electric car battery you may still be way ahead.
Testing Usable Life Span
There have been specific cases of electric cars like the Toyota Rav 4 EV reaching 100,00 miles on it’s original battery with no significant loss of battery life. The battery in question is the Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery, which is composed of cells, otherwise known commonly as the rechargable batteries you buy in the store. In electric cars however instead of say a AAA or D battery, the NiMH battery in your electric car utilizes cells on a much larger scale.
Testing on the NiMH Electric Car battery life was done by the Southern California Edison, Electric Vehicle Technical Center(pdf). They state that the likely hood of your typical electric car cell battery life to be anywhere in the 130,000 to 150,000 mile range. Considering you don’t have to perform regular maintenance like oil and air filter changes, over the life of the vehicle the cost of replacing the battery would be far under gas engine maintenance costs.
Cost Of Replacing Electric Car Batteries
The cost of replacing the battery in a Toyota Rav 4 EV, in the example above, may be the exception to the maintenance cost comparison rule. Recent figures put the RAV 4 EV NiMH battery replacement cost at $14,000. This would be for a custom pack that would provide 2000 usable cycles, compared to 1000, which translates into about 8 years of normal driving. The NiMH for this particular vehicle seems high, but smaller vehicles like the new Toyota Prius have battery replacement costs of uner $3,000.
In closing, before jumping on the bandwagon and becoming an early adopter, check out what the replacement cost for the battery will be. However, as years pass and electric cars become more popular, the price of these NiMH replacements will be dropping dramatically just like any technology that becomes old hat.