The last decade brought with it something truly sweet. Something that had been looked forward to for decades, and is now finally a reality. We are talking about electric cars. Finally, humanity can phase out the gas guzzlers of yesterday and usher in a new era of clean energy usage. Soon, schools will not teach children of the pollution caused by billions of cars on the roads around the world. Soon, electric charging stations will be more of a norm than gas stations.
Electric cars have improved drastically in the past decade. From performance, to power consumption, to other features that were long considered hallmarks of conventional gas-powered automobiles. Many big names in the auto manufacturing industry have thrown their hat in, and now multiple brands proudly advertise their own take on an electric car. And many countries have even set deadlines for completely replacing all gas-powered vehicles. But, just how viable are these electric cars? And how long can you as a consumer expect them to last?
How Exactly are Electric Cars Powered?
Electric cars are of course, powered by batteries. But this battery technology itself has seen massive improvements in its design. In many ways this battery technology resembles those found in many hybrid vehicles on the market today. In other ways, it differs. For starters, there is of course no engine in an all-electric car. What this means is that the car cannot simply recharge itself using its combustion engine if the battery runs low. All-electric cars do need to be plugged into a power source to be able to recharge themselves.
This doesn’t mean that their battery architecture and efficiency doesn’t share some of the “greener” features of their hybrid counterparts. For starters, charging the battery through regenerative braking is still a thing a in electric cars. So, when you brake, you charge your car’s battery a very small amount too. Furthermore, electric cars tend to turn off most of their power-intensive systems when idling. This helps immensely in conserving battery charge, and thus prolongs the car’s operation until a recharge is required. Fun fact, electric cars feel much more responsive to drive than gasoline cars because batteries provide faster torque than combustion engines.
Most electric cars try to feature one of the most useful features in electric cars ever designed; the ability to charge the car through an ordinary power outlet. What this ensures is that unlike gas-powered vehicles, electric cars don’t necessarily have to be topped up at a “filling” station. If you only drive around the city every day for basic tasks (heading to and from the office, picking up the kids, getting the groceries), an overnight charge at your house will be more than sufficient at keeping your car running throughout the day. And of course, if your car’s battery does run dry, the nearby charging station will have you on your way in no time.
So, How Long Do These Batteries Last?
Electric cars are designed to be a long-term investment for people. However, it must be kept in mind that this technology is still improving and, at the moment, is not as good as it can potentially be in the future. As it stands, batteries in electric cars suffer from the same problem batteries in every other battery-powered device do; degradation.
Batteries in electric cars, over time, begin to hold a less potent charge. They take longer to charge, and they drain quicker than they’re supposed to. Car manufacturers have been trying to improve these batteries’ lifespans as much as they can, but they’re still not perfect. These manufacturers even provide warranties for cases where a battery has degraded more in a specified time frame than was expected. Which means it is expected that these batteries will degrade over time. There’s just no way around this.
And as direct charging – a method of fast charging likely to be employed at public charging stations – is known to also be a battery-killer, the chances of your battery degrading faster than you’d like are not entirely unwarranted. As it stands nowadays, modern electric car batteries normally have a lifespan predicted around 8-12 years, depending on brand, manufacturer, and type of battery.
Does this mean that your electric car’s battery will be completely dead in 8-12 years? Not necessarily. This quoted figure is merely a representation of the amount of time a new battery is expected to deliver acceptable performance. That means that it won’t be delivering the same charge duration and operation time it did at launch, but it will be performing inside certain parameters the manufacturer deemed acceptable.
Though electric car batteries can continue to function past this time frame, it is highly likely that they will provide continually diminishing returns. Perhaps even falling so far as to leave just as much of a carbon footprint on the world as a normal gasoline-powered vehicle. It is recommended that when this stated time period (or equivalent charge cycles) has elapsed for your battery that you replace it with a new one.
But Why Is This a Problem?
So, this might leave you wondering, why exactly is this an issue? Surely you can just replace the battery in your car once the current battery is past its use date? While yes, you can, the biggest issue regarding this comes down to cost. New batteries aren’t exactly cheap. If your electric car’s battery dies, you’re looking at an expenditure of very likely over a dozen thousand Dollars. And this expenditure is just for the battery itself. Factor in installation charges and you can add some more to the total sum. And if your car is a rather fancy one, well just go ahead and add another zero to the cheque while you’re at it.
Now, granted, it isn’t all as doom and gloom as we might have made it out to be. More extensive research into this matter showed that the fears of electric car batteries dying out were a little exaggerated. However, that does not nullify a lot of the cons discussed above. It’s just a fact that, at their current stage in technological advancement, electric car batteries have a relatively short lifespan and are quite heavy on the wallet for newer replacements.
But perhaps that isn’t enough to dissuade you, in which case, good for you! Obviously, we would like nothing better than to see worldwide domination of electric vehicles over gasoline ones. But perhaps keep in mind a potential replacement in the future, and prepare for it financially by starting to save up money as soon as you can. In the same vein as this article, we have a fascinating read that looks into the make-up of an electric car in depth that you might find worth a read. Or, for an article focused more on the costs we were talking about above, consider looking at our post on the costs of owning an electric car in the year of 2021.