They represent the future of the automotive industry, but there are still plenty of questions surrounding electric vehicles (EVs) and whether they’re the right choice in the immediate term.
Many of those concerns focus on the batteries – the all-important power units that determine how far you can travel without worrying about finding the nearest charging point. Some of the queries raised about the batteries centre on their lifespan, cost and environmental impact.
So, just how long do electric car batteries last? How expensive are they? What are they made of? And what happens to them once they’ve been discarded? Read on to find out more.
The average battery in an EV will usually last for around 10 years, although you may find some with a lifespan of close to double that. Their longevity will depend on several factors, however.
For example, if your battery is consistently exposed to extreme temperatures or is routinely overcharged, you may find its efficiency and shelf life is dramatically reduced. It’s believed that you can extend your battery’s life by keeping it charged at somewhere between 20-80% and trying not to let it fall below 50%.
The answer to this question will depend on various things – primarily the make and model of your EV. For example, the BMW i3 boasts a range of around 150 miles, whereas something like the Audi Q4 e-tron claims to be able to cover approximately 315 miles between charges.
Of course, recharging may be required more frequently if your car has been driven at higher speeds for longer periods. For example, driving on the motorway is bound to use up a greater amount of power than a short journey to take the kids to school.
You may have the option to lease your battery, although this could be a choice reserved largely for those scouring the used electric car market. With technological advances being made with each passing year, most manufacturers no longer lease their power units when it comes to sales of new EVs.
There is no set price for batteries – it depends on their power and range. However, the good news is that costs have been falling over the past few years and look set to continue to do so.
Electric cars use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which have a greater energy density than lead-acid or nickel-metal alternatives. They’re also safer, lighter and take up less space, so they offer plenty of advantages to drivers and manufacturers alike.
Some brands are also in the process of developing solid-state batteries, which are claimed to offer improved range and faster charging times. It’s also thought these alternatives could be relatively cheap, although mass production is unlikely to be a realistic achievement for a couple of years yet.
EV batteries are made of lithium ions, metal oxides and other elements such as carbon and graphite. The ions are passed through the electrolyte between the positive and negative electrodes. This movement creates an electrical current, which powers the battery and causes the wheels to turn.
Some well-known manufacturers such as Nissan and Tesla produce EV batteries, as do the likes of Panasonic and Sanyo. But other companies might not be such household names – for example, LG Chem produces batteries for Volvo, Renault, Hyundai and more.
There’s no doubt that in terms of emissions electric cars compare favourably to petrol and diesel models. However, there is still progress to be made when it comes to the recycling of batteries.
In the United States, for example, it’s estimated that only 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled. It’s also predicted that around 12 million tons of power units will come to the end of their shelf life over the next decade, which will leave a colossal amount of electronic waste.
When you take into account the raw materials that need to be mined for their production, it’s clear that the zero-emission qualities of an EV battery are offset to a certain degree during the manufacturing process.
It is not easy to dispose of EV batteries without impacting the environment. The lithium-ion cells contain hazardous substances and must be dismantled carefully to avoid the risk of explosion. Meanwhile, some of the other raw materials can be ground down to be used in future production.
With electric vehicles set to become increasingly commonplace on our roads over the next few years – especially given the impending ban on new petrol and diesel models – manufacturers are committed to finding ways to put old batteries to good use.
For example, the likes of Renault, Volkswagen and Nissan have all launched wide-scale recycling projects, while the latter two brands are reusing old power units in their factory machinery. The aim is to reduce the amount of waste that gets sent to landfill.
Hopefully, you’ve now got a better understanding of how long electric car batteries last, how much they cost and what steps are being taken to further limit their environmental impact. So, if you’re thinking about joining the electric revolution, why not get in touch with a member of the Jardine Motors team today?
Alternatively, you can always pop down to your local dealership where one of our experts will be able to talk you through your options and even take you out for a test drive.
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