What is the battery life of an electric car?

First time EV buyers are often worried about range anxiety – that feeling of being caught short on flat batteries miles from a charging point. Yet also of concern is the actual life of the battery pack. Experience with mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers has taught consumers that, over time, the batteries powering them can lose efficiency, resulting in the need for more frequent charging. So should you be worried? Well the good news is EV cells are more resilient than you’d think, plus there are ways to make sure your car’s batteries will survive better than most.

Electric car battery life

After range anxiety, battery life is one of the most common concerns for people making the jump from internal combustion-engined cars to EVs. All batteries degrade over time and with use, meaning they become less efficient as they age and, ultimately, the range of your car is reduced. Furthermore, battery technology doesn’t come cheap, and by the time the cells are in need of replacement they will cost far more to buy than the car will likely be worth – which is why we tend to replace mobile phones in their entirety rather than replace the battery pack. Yet it’s not all bad news, because there are ways to increase the lifespan of your car’s battery, keeping it healthier and more efficient for longer. More importantly, while performance may degrade over time, ultimately the cells should still be providing at least 70 percent of their capacity even after 200,000 miles.

Why does an electric car battery lose charge or degrade?

Continual advances in battery technology mean that issues surrounding degradation of performance are being reduced all the time. However, even the latest lithium-ion cells aren’t completely immune to losing performance over time, with a number of factors playing a role. Perhaps the biggest single contributor to the decline in efficiency is the cycle of use and charging. Frequent draining of the cells followed by a full charge can, over time, damage the battery’s ability to maintain its optimum energy storage – it’s why manufacturer’s typically recommend charging only to 80 percent and never letting the range drop to zero miles.

Rapid charging also plays a part, because channeling so much electrical energy and so quickly generates much higher temperatures in the battery pack. Liquid cooling of the cells helps mitigate this, but use a rapid charger frequently and over time these extreme heat cycles will cause damage to the lithium ion packs. In a similar but less extreme way, cars that are used in hotter climates tend to suffer a subtly greater reduction in performance than those in cooler conditions.

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Most car warranties are around three years and 60,000 miles, but this is increased for the battery element in EVs. For instance, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Nissan and Renault cover the cells for 8 years and 100,000 miles, while Hyundai ups the mileage limit to 125,000. Tesla has the same 8 year timeframe but no mileage ceiling (apart from the Model 3, which is set at 120,000 miles). And apart from Audi and Tesla, most include a maximum allowable capacity (between 70 and 75 percent) for the battery, which will trigger a replacement if it dips below this figure during the warranty period.