Since the national average lifespan of an internal combustion engine (ICE) is estimated at 10 years or 200,000 miles, we’ve come to expect our cars to last at least a decade before needing a major overhaul. With this expectation in mind, it’s only fair that most consumers want an electric car’s battery lifespan to extend at least as long as its fossil-fueled predecessor.
However, with the lithium-ion batteries in our phones and other technologies often not holding up for more than a few years, consumers are understandably nervous about the ability of electric vehicle batteries to live up to our expectations.
In today’s blog post, we’ll look at some of the EV industry’s claims about why EV batteries will last long enough to make them worth using. Then, we’ll discuss how long some of the oldest EV batteries have lasted, what electric battery warranty terms are offered on the most popular EVs, what habits help an EV battery last longer, and how to look for a used EV with good battery life.
EV Battery Lifespan: How Long Should They Last?
Current battery technologies vary in material content but have relatively similar degradation behavior over time (degradation: a reduction in usable battery capacity). Most automakers assure us that their battery technology will last beyond the warranty period (in the US, this is no less than 8 years or 100,000 miles). So what does the average electric car battery life look like?
Lithium-ion battery types make up the majority of modern EV battery packs. Most have a lifespan of between 1,500-2,500 charging cycles, which is the total number of times the battery can withstand being fully charged and discharged before the battery is no longer “useful.” This doesn’t mean an EV will experience a sudden loss of function after it hits its charging cycle limit, but at this point the battery capacity will be past peak performance and will have a reduced charging capacity.
What really matters from a battery lifespan perspective is how well the battery is managed. Current EV battery management systems can monitor the health of the battery and help keep it optimized for driving, charging, and sitting idle. These systems are far more sophisticated and extensive than the ones that govern battery life in a cell phone, and they maintain the condition of the electric car battery on a continual basis.
With these systems in place, electric car batteries are expected to last 15 to 20 years. Tesla in particular remains confident that their batteries, properly cared for, will last beyond the typical 200,000 mile lifetime of the average car. In 2019, Elon even went so far as to claim that the Model 3 battery packs are designed to last up to 500,000 miles.
The future of electric vehicle battery technology looks even brighter: late last year (2022), engineers at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences announced that they have developed solid-state battery technology that can last 10,000 charging cycles and withstand incredibly fast charging rates. The application for EVs is clear: solid-state batteries could provide the EV sector with long-lasting, fast-charging batteries that have an even higher safety rating than the packs currently in use today.
Backtracking a bit to today’s electric vehicle battery packs, let’s look at some real-world examples of EV battery life in some of the oldest EVs on the road:
Examples of Battery Life in Electric Cars: The Nissan LEAF and The Tesla Model X
Starting in 2010, the US has had many examples of EV batteries that have lived longer than the experts predicted. We’ll talk briefly about two of them: the earliest production EV, the Nissan LEAF, and Tesla’s famous falcon-wing SUV, the Model X.
The original LEAF batteries were not designed with an adequate cooling system (only air-cooled, without any extra fans or liquid cooling in place), and they got a reputation for losing capacity prematurely. With these early battery pack issues making the news, many firmly believed that the EV batteries wouldn’t last long enough to be worth it. The most pessimistic critics claimed that the battery would need to be replaced before 5 years was up.
While the negative publicity EVs gained for Nissan’s potential costly battery failures has lingered, we can thank Nissan’s early mishaps with battery design for the improvements the LEAF (and the rest of the EV industry) enjoys today.
The redesigned battery management systems in the LEAF have left us with EV batteries that may outlast the car itself—potentially being pulled out of cars 15 to 22 years later with capacity still at 60%-70%. This is 5-12 years longer than experts originally predicted for the usable life of the Leaf’s battery. To illustrate this point, most Nissan LEAFs are still using their original battery packs. Furthermore, the absence of the anticipated wave of dead LEAF batteries has even caused problems for the battery recycling industry, with some programs still waiting for their share of out-of-service battery packs.
Reducing battery degradation has always been a major engineering concern for EV manufacturers, especially Tesla. However, data kept on Tesla’s Model X shows that even with long use, battery degradation over 200,000 miles may not even reach 20%. This data suggests that with the Federal Highway Administration’s estimated yearly average drive of 13,500 miles, a Model X battery pack could go 15 years before even hitting the 70% battery capacity retention rate that would have been unacceptable during the warranty period.
EV Battery Warranty: How Long are High Voltage Car Batteries Covered?
Electric cars sold in the US are required by law to ensure their electric battery for at least 8 years and 100,000 miles. This basic coverage is offered in a similar way by all manufacturers of EVs in the US, though some like Tesla, Rivian, and Hyundai have extended coverage.
There are two types of battery issue that are covered by warranty in EVs.The first, a manufacturing defect, is covered by the general terms of the battery warranty.
The second battery issue is degradation, and this is covered with a battery capacity retention clause. For example, Tesla will honor a battery warranty for replacement or repair if the battery drops below 70% of its original capacity within the terms of the battery warranty period. The battery retention clause is not regulated, so manufacturers do have some leeway in the coverage they offer here.
To help you get an idea of what warranty terms to expect, we’ve compiled a quick reference table for the high voltage battery warranty of the most popular EVs in the US (determined by units sold in 2022) here:
Battery Components Warranty
Battery Capacity Retention (Over Warranty Period)
|Tesla||Model S||8 years / 150,000 miles||70%|
|Tesla||Model 3||8 years / 120,000 miles
8 years / 100,000 miles (RWD)
|Tesla||Model X||8 years / 150,000 miles||70%|
|Tesla||Model Y||8 years / 120,000 miles||70%|
|Ford||Mustang Mach-E||8 years / 100,000 miles||70%|
|Ford||Lightning F-150||8 years / 100,000 miles||65%|
|Chevrolet||Bolt||8 years / 100,000 miles||60%|
|Hyundai||IONIQ 5||10 years / 100,000 miles||70%|
|VW||ID.4||8 years / 100,000 miles||70%|
|Kia||EV6||10 years / 100,000 miles||70%|
|Rivian||R1T||8 years / 175,000 miles||70%|
|Nissan||LEAF||8 years / 100,000 miles||9/12 Battery Capacity Segments (approximately 75%)|
How Much Does It Cost to Replace an EV Battery?
We’ve already published a post about EV battery replacement costs, so we won’t go over it at length here. However, in general, we’ve found that out-of-warranty replacement costs for EV batteries average about $10,000-$15,000, though this is highly dependent on the manufacturer and the size of the EV battery pack.
Extending the Lifespan of an Electric Battery: Best Practices
Here are a few practical ways you can help keep your EV’s battery in good condition:
- Charge your battery at home or on a Level 2 charger when possible; avoid frequent DC fast charging
- Keep your charge from going under 20% when possible, and set your upper charging limit to 80%-90%
- Avoid high temperatures when charging or sitting idle by parking in a shaded area or a garage
- Warm up the battery before use in cold weather
- If your EV is going to be in storage for a long time, keep the state of charge low (20%-30%) while stored; charge all the way to full when putting the EV back into service
What Battery Issues Should You Watch Out for on a Used EV?
While we believe that most EV batteries will last as long as the experts claim, battery degradation should be on your list of concerns when shopping for an older used EV, especially one out of warranty.
The number one concern you should have regarding electric car batteries is whether or not the used EV you are considering has a recall listed for the high voltage battery. The Chevy Bolt (2017-2022) and the Hyundai Kona Electric (2019-2020) both have an open recall for a full replacement of the electric battery. If you are considering one of these vehicles, be aware that if the EV hasn’t already gone in for recall work, it will need to do so before you can really use it safely. The upside of this situation is that you’d be getting a new, redesigned battery pack with little to no degradation.
Another battery issue to look for is significant degradation (more than 30% of battery capacity). Here are a few questions to ask the owner:
- What climate was your EV used in? Was it exposed to extreme heat or cold? (Extra stress on the battery, especially from heat, can cause faster degradation)
- How often did you use a fast charger or Supercharger? (Level 3 fast charging can cause accelerated degradation due to the extreme temperature it causes)
- Did you regularly charge to 100% or drain the batter past 10%? (Charging up to 100% or letting the state of charge drop below 10% can accelerate degradation)
If these questions aren’t enough to tell you why the EV has degraded past the 30% threshold (especially if the EV has less than 100,000 miles on it), it might be wise to cross it off your list of prospects and keep looking.
Ready to start your search for a used EV, but not looking forward to clicking through the mess of unnecessary vehicle suggestions and irrelevant options on traditional car listing sites? We built Find My Electric for you!
Our used EV listings are easily searched with the most intuitive filters in the business. You can narrow down your ideal EV by battery size, year, make, features, colors, and even Full Self-Driving software (did we mention that we really love Teslas?).
The best part? No distractions! Unlike other used car websites, we keep your EV search clean of “suggested” gas cars and ads. You’ll only see EVs here, and only the ones you’ve filtered for.
Check out our pre-owned EV listings and get started on your EV journey today!