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Got Questions About Electric Vehicle Batteries?

Get answers to frequently asked questions from an industry expert.

Charger plugged into electric vehicleIf you’re considering buying or leasing an electric vehicle (EV), you may have questions about the lithium-ion batteries that power EVs. How long do the batteries last? Are they safe? How much do they cost to replace?

I recently spoke with Genevieve Cullen, President of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, a trade group that promotes EVs. She answered some of the most commonly asked battery questions.

Debbie: How long will the battery in a typical electric vehicle last?
Genevieve: The average battery is warrantied for 8 years or 100,000 miles. Depending on use, the average battery may degrade from 10% to 40% of capacity over the warranty period. These warranties are transferable to the next owner of this vehicle. A dealer service technician can determine the health of a battery and whether the vehicle is within warranty parameters.

Debbie: Is there anything I can do to extend the life of the battery?
Genevieve: Automakers recommend that drivers avoid allowing the vehicle to remain in temperature extremes for long periods of time without being driven or plugged in. Specifically, it is recommended that the vehicle be plugged in when temperatures are below 0°C (32°F) and above 32°C (90°F) to maximize high voltage battery life.

Debbie: How much does it cost to replace the battery?
Genevieve: The price to replace the first EV batteries “aging” out of their warranties will vary based on the size and age of the battery. For instance, the cost of replacing a 40 kilowatt-hour (kWh) Nissan LEAF battery today is approximately $5,400 plus labor (a three-hour installation fee). Larger batteries are currently more costly; however, battery costs are aggressively being reduced and we would expect even lower prices for replacement when current 8 to 10 year battery warranties expire.

Debbie: Can I recycle the battery?
Genevieve: Since several different types of batteries beyond lithium-ion are now being used in electric drive vehicles, the answer depends on the type of battery and the driver’s location. A growing number of facilities that recycle traditional car batteries, such as lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride, are now equipped to handle lithium-ion and other types of rechargeable batteries. According to the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 50% or more of the lithium in a battery can be recycled.

We also suggest that drivers talk with their local dealership because there is likely to be a trade-in program in place. Additionally, the electric drive industry not only expects to reclaim the valuable materials in batteries but also increase the use of post-automotive batteries for secondary uses.

The Mini Cooper S E ALL4 plug-in electric hybrid vehicle has a 7.6-kWh battery.

The Mini Cooper S E ALL4 plug-in electric hybrid vehicle has a 7.6-kWh battery.

Debbie: I heard electric vehicle batteries are coming down in price. Is that true?
Genevieve: Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reports a 79% decrease in lithium-ion battery costs since 2010. In fact, “BNEF’s lithium-ion battery price index shows a fall from $1,000 per kWh in 2010 to $209 per kWh in 2017.” We expect this downward trend to continue as research, development and deployment of battery technologies advance.

Debbie: Will there be more reductions in the amount of time it takes to charge an EV battery?
Genevieve: EV drivers can plug into “DC Fast Charge” networks where they are available. DC fast charging provides power at high speed to the vehicle, ranging between 50 kW and 120 kW, and bypasses any onboard charging conversion equipment. This means the electricity directly reaches the battery and can provide a quicker charge. Today, vehicles charging at “DC Fast Charge” networks can provide about 80% of a vehicle’s potential battery power in roughly 15 minutes. Exact times vary by vehicle and battery sizes, so drivers need to consult with their dealers or specific manufacturers for more details. 

Right now, electric vehicle and infrastructure manufacturers and stakeholders are developing and launching ultra-fast charging, which includes speeds of 350 kW and above. This means drivers with the newest EV models that can accept this rate of charge are able to fill their battery at ultra-fast charging stations in 10 minutes or less. New EV models with this capability are hitting the market and ultra-fast charging infrastructure is set to expand, giving more EV drivers access to faster charging options.  

Debbie: One final question—are the batteries in electric vehicles safe? 
Genevieve: Electric vehicles are a safe and efficient option for American drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Transportation Administration. All new vehicle technology entering the market must meet rigorous safety standards. For instance, some electric drive vehicles automatically disable the battery in the event of an accident. In addition to built-in safety mechanisms, emergency responders are being trained on protocols for responding to accidents involving plug-in vehicles. 

Debbie: Thank you, Genevieve, for unlocking some of the mysteries surrounding EV batteries. Electric batteries are safe, reliable and can be quickly charged at DC fast chargers—there are nine stations in Dane County. And with declining prices, EVs are an affordable option to gasoline vehicles.

Be sure to visit the EV Rider section of energy2030together.com for additional news and features on EVs!

published: Dec-07-2018

Debbie Branson

Until next time,

Debbie Branson

MGE Manager
of Electrification

EV Rider