Our friend Barry recently wrote about the necessity for battery longevity standards if people are going to adopt EVs. I concur that there should be a good standard rather than just a standard. I’d like to offer a few of my ideas to the discussion and provide some suggestions for how we can make that situation better.
WHOSE STANDARD SHOULD IT BE? Barry suggests a 15-year, about 150,000-mile warranty (I know he went metric and my estimate isn’t precise, but any US norm or law will ultimately be published in miles). Although I believe that his suggestion is close, I would change it to be more grounded in facts.
Let’s start by examining what consumers anticipate from a vehicle’s lifespan. There are many estimates of the typical vehicle lifespan (from the manufacturer to the junkyard), but they generally fall between 8 years or 150,000 miles (an outdated estimate from more than ten years ago) and 12-17 years and 200k–300k miles. What people anticipate an ICE vehicle to endure on its original engine and transmission, when maintained properly, falls somewhere in this range. In other words, this is the amount of time a vehicle should last before requiring an expensive repair (where the cost of the repair exceeds vehicle value).
Manufacturers must pledge that the most expensive component of the car, the battery, will remain functional (80% or more range) for longer than an ICE vehicle will remain functional if we want consumers to believe (correctly) that an EV is a better vehicle than an ICE car.
I would double the anticipated lifespan (12 years on the low end) by the typical driver’s annual mileage (roughly 15,000 miles). That equals 180,000 miles, which divides the gap between the more recent longevity estimates and the earlier ones. So, for such a standard (12/180k), it is my advice. The majority of automobiles last several times longer than their warranties, which is fair to automotive makers even though they truly should last longer.
FOR MANUFACTURERS, THIS ISN’T DIFFICULT No matter which recommendation we choose—15/155k/70% Barry’s or mine, 12/180k/80%—automakers shouldn’t have any trouble providing warranties.
There is a Tesla that continued to function as a taxi for 180k miles on its initial battery, followed by over 600k on a second battery , This one (used for Uber), lasted 250k on the first battery , and at least 175,000 miles on the second battery. I realize this is anecdotal (which was still going). Even my stricter 80% range recommendation would hold true because that 180,000 mile battery has only lost about 16–17% of its range.
What about EVs made by manufacturers other than Tesla? I don’t believe it’s important to take into account the Nissan LEAF’s past or the numerous compliance vehicles developed between 2010 and 2016. Why? they don’t accurately represent the quality of the products that the majority of manufacturers sell today. All of the EVs that are currently being sold in the United States are liquid-cooled, with the exception of the LEAF, and even the LEAF has enough range to prevent accumulating too many charge-discharge cycles from regular driving.
The Bolt EV was the earliest non-Tesla EV that complied with current battery specifications. Although the Bolt has several drawbacks (55 kW charging), it has proven to be extremely, extremely good at resisting degradation, even when utilized as an Uber or in other heavily-driven and frequently-charged situations. There are many “I know a guy” stories with Bolts that have traveled more over 200,000 miles with no degradation, but this is hearsay and we can’t depend on it. However, one owner who put 150,000 miles on it and recorded it on tape did so:
It’s impressive that for him, the capacity was still between 88% and 91% of the initially available capacity. It also demonstrates that it would be simple for affordable EVs to reach high mileage of 180,000 miles while still having a range of more than 80%.
DOES THE CREATION OF THIS STANDARD REQUIRE A GOVERNMENT MANdate? Barry believes that legislation mandating a longer warranty beyond the current 8-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty should be passed by the US government (and possibly other countries as well). Let’s keep in mind that the government warranty requirement simply demands that the battery work after that long and does not require a percentage of original range before discussing the options.
It’s significant to remember that not all manufacturers follow the basic minimum mandated by federal law. Some manufacturers provide 8-year battery guarantees with unlimited mileage. For certain of its EVs, Hyundai even provides an unlimited warranty with no year or mileage restrictions. Therefore, we don’t necessarily have to play the legislative card and hope that a certain statute may pass a hostile legislature or avoid being later repealed.
However, there are other options. One possibility is to encourage manufacturers and EV advocacy groups to campaign for a standard. It could even be possible to persuade the automotive media to embrace a broad notion of what a battery warranty ought to entail and to mention it in reviews and other coverage when a business provides a subpar guarantee rather than one that is adequate.
A very lengthy warranty may not even be necessary. People today still believe that hybrid vehicles are too risky from a financial standpoint. They are partially correct because getting a Prius battery changed at a Toyota dealer costs well over $3,000 when it is not covered by warranty. However, if you have a car that is out of warranty and needs work, you shouldn’t take it to a dealer, according to everyone who knows anything about them. They aren’t referred to as “stealerships” just because it rhymes.
However, the price of smaller hybrid batteries has significantly decreased from outside sources. For considerably under $1,000, you can typically find someone who will come to your home and install a reconditioned hybrid battery (sometimes with a limited guarantee). It’s also true that third party companies are beginning to work with out-of-warranty electric vehicles (EVs) to refurbish battery packs and provide other services for less money than a battery replacement from the battery manufacturer, thus this trend is continuing.
It’s possible that the situation for out-of-warranty vehicles isn’t as dire as it initially appears. By the time many EVs require out-of-warranty repair, the cost might be reasonable and might even include getting a battery with a longer lifespan and greater range.
Rivian donated the featured image.
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