Battery Life In Electric Cars

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.

NiMH Battery

NiMH Battery

19 thoughts on “Battery Life In Electric Cars

  1. Xebra

    It is quite accurate to say that EVs require practically no maintenance, and because of the fact that they cost a fraction of what an IC cars costs to drive, EVs practically pay for themselves !


    Xebra appears typical of the greensters; forever trotting out selective facts and half truths, and in this case blatant untruths. EVs acquisition costs are NOT a fraction of IC types. Now lets work on the whole story. The greensters have been forcing utilities to convert coal fired power plants to use natural gas as their fuel source for the last 30 years. This consumes trillions of cubic feet of this petroleum product which has succeeded in squandering its supply and driving up its cost 300%. Natural gas is the world’s preferred home heating fuel, and in so doing the greensters have succeeded in imposing this 300% hidden regressive tax on all Americans to further their narrow tree hugger agenda. A significant adoption of EVs will accelerate this squandering of a fabulous home heating natural resource and further drive up its costs to everyone.

  3. leerhok

    A modern diesel will give you at least 40MPG. 4 dollars a gallon equals 10 cents a mile.
    In comparison I doubt any EV-maker will guarantee a 100,000 mile lifespan on their battery packs. But even so they would have to price replacement packs at $ 10K to get the “fuel cost” down to 10 cents a mile (+ el). And then the cost of running either vehicle would be about the same (Diesel maintenance and price of electricity more or less same amount).

    You may very well buy an EV for ecological reasons, but certainly not for economic ones.

  4. Michael Lowe

    You guys are fucking stupid. Lets be cool and go against a the future way of traveling, go ahead and produce 16 + billion cubic tons of carbon each year with your gas guzzling cars. Instead of crying, fix both problems, install some solar panels or wind mills and produce your own energy. Lets stop bitching and see the big picture, our future generations need a world to live in!

  5. Christopher Post author

    And you have such a polite way of getting your point across Michael.

    I’m all for doing our part to save the environment, but I refuse to be an early adopter of rushed technology that is nowhere close to replacing what we have now in any kind of popular way.

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  7. Leland LaFray

    You people are missing the point. (Marv Greg)The idea of EV’s are to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Nice touch (Michael)but you know solar ain’t the answer to every thing. I am not a greenster by no means, but I do believe in American made, pride and enginuity. I live in the Northwest and most of our power comes from hydro and wind. Regardless, the big picture is to hell with foreign oil. Lets take one step at a time (Christopher) and deal with what we have at this time and the rest will fall into place.

  8. Timerbeltkiller

    To hell with all oil is only a question of time. Our planet is limited in size and does not have unlimited oil resources. Peak Oil is here now. Scarce Oil tomorrow and a little later No Oil.

    On the other hand the global capacity for renewal energy is at the very least 10 thousand times the present consumption. Solar energy alone can supply the energy for all our cars even when China’s 2 billion have gotten a car each.

    All it takes to switch from ecological bad energy to good one(s) is the political will to make renewal energy commercially outcompete fossil energy. A temporary system of subsidies and taxes will be needed to facilitate the transition.

  9. Christopher Post author

    The problem I see is rushing into an unproven technology. There for awhile people were throwing money and subsidies at ethanol, now we know energy wise it makes no sense to use even though it’s renewable.

    Lets take time to think with our brains about energy sources instead of our hearts or wallets.

  10. AmericanCoal

    MSRP – Chevrolet Volt: $40,280
    Rated MPG – Chevrolet Volt: 93 mi/gal

    MSRP – Chevrolet Cruze Eco: $18,425
    Rated MGP – Chevrolet Cruze Eco: 33 mi/gal
    Current Fuel Average Price in USA: $3.695/gal (July 2011)

    Cost to drive 100,000 miles – Volt: $44,253
    Cost to drive 100,000 miles – Eco: $29,621

    Cost to drive 300,000 miles – Volt: $52,200
    Cost to drive 300,000 miles – Eco: $52,015

  11. timerbeltkiller

    Take it the smaller battery pack of the Eco is cheaper to buy than the one of the Volt.

    If they do not last 300K miles, but has to be replaced after 150 or 200, that would make the competitive advantage of the Eco greater than in the American Coal example(and the cost of both autos higher).

  12. hmcidc

    I find it comical that a lot of people ride around in their little electric toy cars with their noses up in the air because they think they are doing something positive for the environment. Well think again folks because all those used batteries and chemicals have to be disposed somewhere and it definitely is NOT good for the environment. Additionally they pose an electrocution hazard to first responders not to mention the hazmat implications when their batteries rupture and spill their environmentally friendly batteries acid and chemicals on the roadways.

  13. endgame

    So, pray tell, what happens to those all-electric or hybrid cars when the battery is kaput? Who’s going to buy a used Prius that may need a $3,000 ( per Toyota ) battery in order to work? What’s the actual gas mileage of a hybrid when the battery is dead and you’re hauling around a huge weight that serves no purpose? Who’s going to buy those cars?

  14. Christopher Post author

    endgame, that’s a really good point. Right now we have an obvious market for used and even severely used cars and trucks. Moving toward an electric hybrid vehicle pretty much eliminates this.

  15. Mike

    I found this site as I was doing some research on EV battery technology and degradation and decided to read some of the comments. I am an energy industry researcher. I also owe my nice, fairly posh lifestyle to my father’s 35 plus years as a Chevron dealer.

    Marvin, you say “the greensters” have been forcing utilities to close coal-fired plants in favor of natural gas for the past 30 years, thus squandering that limited precious resource and driving its price up 300%. I see, as is typical, that you have your facts wrong.

    According to the most recent data from the natural gas industry, the US alone has enough natural gas in accessible wells to supply the country (even with projected growth) with natural gas for well over 700 years, even if we completely convert EVERY coal-fired plant to natural gas.

    Item 2: Nobody has been forcing them to do anything, except to introduce technologies that reduce their carbon footprint and the emissions of toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury.

    You’re also incorrect in stating that the technology for EV’s isn’t ready for use. The technology has been in full-scale development for the past 30 years. In fact, Jay Leno owns a 1909 EV and is still using the original batteries.

    Used batteries can (and should be recycled). In fact, there are recyclers that will pay for them,since they can be reconditioned and reused.

    Electrocution hazards are negligible, especially when compared to explosion and fire hazards from petroleum products, should they hit a hot tailpipe. As an ex-first responder, I’ve SEEN THAT HAPPEN. And seen friends go from first responder to victim in a heartbeat. I have yet to hear of a first responder becoming a victim when responding to a scene where an EV is involved.

    Stop the fear-mongering and start doing some research on your own. Quit letting your party handlers decide how you think. You were given a brain (hopefully) when you were born. It’s incumbent upon you to learn how to use it.

  16. Vilen

    If have Prius EV after 150.000 ml(240.000 km), when battery is caput in my country where 1l gasoline costs 1Euro one can economy $24000-$3000=21000 on fuel cost in 12 years!

  17. Oblama

    There are two things to consider when owning a vehicle: Cost of ownership and Resale value.

    Let’s look at the costs of ownership between a regular RAV4 and a RAV4 EV. The cost of maintaining a RAV4 is attributed to the combustion engine while the cost for a RAV4 EV is the battery, all else being equal (and ignored). And let’s assume that both vehicles hit the 200,000 mile mark. Looking at the RAV4, the cost of regular oil changes is around $2,000 (assuming regularly scheduled oil change at every 5,000 mi produces 40 oil changes @ $50/change), plus one regular tuneup of $500 at 120,000 mi, plus miscellaneous charges of $500 like belt and water pump replacement, and the total cost of gas is $28,000 (assuming 25 mpg, that’s 8,000 gal @ $3.50/gal), bringing the total of the cost of ownership to $31,000. With the RAV4 EV, the only maintenance is replacing the battery, possibly at 150,000 mi and costing $14,000, along with paying for electric charges totaling $10,000 (averge dollars-per-mile charge is $0.05/mi), bringing the cost of ownership to $24,000. So it seems that owning an EV is less costly in the long run than owning a regular vehicle. However, the feasibility of owning an EV may not be appealing. That’s because spending $14k just to replace the battery may cause consternation, forcing many owners to simply sell or trade in their EV for another vehicle, possibly a regular one. And though the overall cost of owning a regular RAV4 is higher, those costs were spread out, so an owner was able to afford incremental costs rather than having to pay all at once. This similar to buying a house: If you can afford to buy it outright, the savings in not paying interest is quite substantial; otherwise, you need to spread your payments out and pay interest, thus the overall cost is much higher. But at least the value of a house goes up over time as opposed to a vehicle whose value decreases until it becomes junk. Which brings up the next point…

    The resale value of a RAV4 is actually higher than a RAV4 EV. Let’s supposed that an EV owner hasn’t changed the battery at 200,000 mi. The resale value of that EV is substantially low because of the risk that the battery is near its end, transferring the burden of the cost of replacing the $14k battery to the next owner. And even if the owner did change the battery, finding a buyer would be very difficult because very few buyers want to pay $14k+ when they can get a new one for a few thousand dollars more. A regular RAV4 would have a better resale value because a combustion engine can still perform nicely for another 100k+ mi if scheduled maintenance has been followed. And taking into consideration that buying used also means transferring the cost of ownership, you can see that it’s more risky to own an EV than a regular.

    The bottom line is until the costs of battery replacement goes down substantially, EV’s are not really better buys over regular vehicles in the long run, even though that is one of the selling points for considering an EV.


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