Before you buy an electric vehicle (EV), you’ll no doubt want to know how long you’ll be driving it. After all, Consumers Reports says most gasoline care powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE) can make it well over 100,000 miles with proper care. Even though the technology for electric vehicles has been around since the mid-1800s, alternative fuel vehicles weren’t part of the mainstream until recently. Now, more than a dozen EV makers offer 40-plus models. And despite the pandemic and economic recession, the IEA’s Global Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021 found that a record 3 million new electric cars were registered in 2020. Sales in the first quarter of 2021 climbed still higher, running nearly 2.5 times those for the previous year.
Most automakers now plan to switch to an all-electric fleet in the next 10 to 15 years to meet the demand for zero-emissions vehicles. But as the technology improves, EVs are also expected to outlive gasoline cars. Let’s take a look at how proper maintenance, battery best practices, and warranties can all play a role in extending the life of your EV.
Fewer parts mean less to go wrong in an EV—and EVs skip about two dozen mechanical parts that you’d be servicing regularly in an ICE-powered conventional vehicle. So, you won’t find yourself taking the car in for oil changes, tune-ups, transmission service, or cooling system flushes. You also can skip replacing the drive belt, spark plug, and air filter.
But to keep your warranty in effect, you’ll still need to take in your EV for regular checks and services. Expect to rotate the tires, replace the cabin air filter and wiper blades, and top off the wiper fluid. In addition, you’ll need to take your EV in for regular inspections. Here’s what that looks like for the Nissan Leaf:
• Rotate tires every six months or 7,500 miles
• Change cabin air filter every 12 months or 15,000 miles.
• Replace brake fluid every 24 months or 30,000 miles.
• Change coolant after 15 years or 120,000 miles.
Things will wear out and go wrong, so you’ll eventually need to replace tires, service brakes, replace hoses and lights, and address the steering and suspension if you find yourself veering off the road. But the #1 component that requires special care is the battery—and it will also cost you the most if it ever degrades to the point where it needs replacement.
The battery makes the greatest difference on your EV lifespan. The lithium-ion battery that charges your EV has a higher energy density than options like lead-acid, so it takes up less space. But it’s a bit misleading to use the term “battery” at all—in truth, your EV does not have one massive unit but rather includes battery pack with hundreds of individual cells. Like the lithium-ion battery in your phone, EV battery degradation happens over time. That deterioration decreases the number of miles available through recharging. The fewer the number of kilowatt-hours your EV has—which corresponds roughly with the range—the greater the impact of battery decline.
Manufacturers actually add spare capacity to batteries that drivers can’t access. As the battery degrades, that battery capacity gets used to keep the vehicle range the same over the battery’s life. You can ensure the battery lasts as long as possible by understanding the charging process and following best practices for recharging.
The greatest stress you can put on lithium-ion batteries is to deplete them and then recharge to 100 percent. Batteries can handle this type of intense cycling only about 500 times without serious battery degradation that decreases the charge the battery can hold, according to Forbes. That’s fine for phones, because brands want you to buy a new one every year or two.
But fortunately, EV manufacturers have built-in protections to avoid short lifespans in a car that’s expected to last at least a decade. For example, the EV’s management system keeps the vehicle from fully charging or discharging to maintain the battery health and efficiency.
Cooling systems help improve the performance of batteries when the temperature outside is hot or cold. If it’s cold, the range and performance may drop, but the lifespan won’t. If it’s hot, the battery may degrade more quickly. In addition, juicing up at Level 3 fast-charging stations can affect long-term performance and battery longevity, according to Carfax. Rapid charging to more than 80% in 3 minutes can overheat the battery and, again, cause deterioration.
Best practices for charging
You can best care for your battery health and ensure a long and productive life by following the tips below:
• Keep your battery at 20% to 80% charge and never let it die completely. A permanent home charging station like the Enel X JuiceBox provides WiFi connectivity that lets you schedule charging when rates are the lowest.
• Charge your battery only when necessary to avoid stressing it.
• Charge your battery to between 25% and 75% if you’ll be away, rather than leaving it empty or full.
If you do ever need to replace an EV battery, know that the price continues to drop. Between 2010 and 2016, the cost of battery replacement fell about 80%, from $1000 to $227/kW, according to McKinsey. Estimates say cost may drop to below $100/kWh by 2030, according to Fast Company.
But price is a factor only after your battery warranty runs out. Every EV sold in the United States comes with a warranty that covers the battery for at least 8 years and 100,000 miles. Kia and Hyundai go a step farther, with 10-year, 100,000-mile warranties. And many brands, including BMW, Tesla, and Nissan will cover battery packs if capacity drops below about 60 to70 percent.
An EV should ultimately provide you with many years and thousands of miles of environmentally friendly driving pleasure. With the right charging option, like the JuiceBox smart charger, you can automatically power up your EV when your utility can supply clean energy with the least impact on grid resources. So, you’ll not only protect the most valuable component and increase the lifespan of your EV, but you’ll save money and conserve scarce resources as well.