The first question most electric car shoppers ask when they’re considering an EV is, “How far can I drive?” Certainly, in the top five questions, though, is “How long do electric car batteries last?” It’s an important question, as an electric vehicle’s battery pack is the most expensive single component of an EV.
Buyers of gas-powered cars don’t typically ask, “How long will the engine last?” But the electric car industry is still in its infancy, and most shoppers come with long lists of questions before they’re convinced that an electric car is the right car for them.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to the question of electric vehicle battery life. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, though, today’s batteries may last 12 to 15 years in moderate climates. That means they’ll potentially outlive the cars they’re installed in. Many experts peg the lifespan of an EV battery at between 100,000 and 200,000 miles.
If your EV’s battery fails before that, it will likely be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. The US government mandates at least eight years or 100,000 miles of battery coverage, though some automakers give you more, and some states require longer coverage.
The Basics of Batteries
Today’s electric cars are propelled by between one and four electric motors, depending on the model. Those motors are fed with electricity stored in large, heavy lithium-ion (Li-ION) battery packs, which are usually installed under the cabin floor of an EV. The batteries are recharged by external power sources, ranging from household power outlets to public DC fast-charging stations.
More like the batteries in your cell phone than the ones you’ll find in gasoline-powered vehicles, lithium-ion batteries have a higher energy density, meaning they’ll hold more energy per pound than other battery types. They don’t require maintenance like other batteries, and they provide a somewhat steady level of power, regardless of how much charge they contain.
Lithium-ion batteries are also costly to produce, with raw material supply chains that span the globe. The mining and refinement of materials used in lithium-ion batteries is being performed in some countries with problematic human rights, environmental and political track records.
Battery Degradation 101
Electric car batteries don’t just stop working unless there’s a serious product defect or another rare failure. Instead, their ability to charge fully declines over time.
According to Geotab, a transportation connectivity services company, an average EV loses 2.3% of its battery capacity each year that it’s in service. An EV that has a 300-mile range would have a 293-mile range after a year. After five years on the road, you could expect a range of 266 miles on a single charge. Many EV drivers have noted that the decline isn’t always linear, with more degradation experienced in the first few years than in the next few years of a vehicle’s life.
The rate of range reduction can be affected by how and when you charge and the environment in which you operate, store and charge the car.
Not all EVs contain batteries that degrade at the same rate, with newer designs suffering far less annual degradation than early models, such as the original Nissan Leaf.
How Long Do Batteries Last?
The reason it’s hard to place a specific number on the life span of EV batteries is that it can vary greatly based on factors an EV owner can control and several factors they can’t. In general, you can expect the lifespan of an EV’s battery pack to be at least 10 years or 100,000 miles. Most will go much longer and further if you treat them right.
Here are some of the factors that control the lifespan of an electric car battery:
Age of the Battery Pack
Simply put, as an electric vehicle battery pack ages, its ability to hold a charge equal to its capacity when it was new goes down. How much varies from vehicle to vehicle, with more recent models featuring the latest battery management technology to minimize the effects of battery age.
Number of Charging Cycles
Electric car battery life can also be affected by the number of times the battery pack is charged and depleted. The more cycles, the faster the battery will degrade.
Fortunately, automakers are constantly improving their battery management technologies to make charging more gentle on the battery and limit the effects of discharging the battery.
Level of Minimum and Maximum Charge
An electric car battery constantly depleted to near zero charge and charged to 100% of its capacity will have a shorter usable life than one with better charge management. That means charging it before it approaches empty and not filling it to 100% capacity, unless recommended by the manufacturer. It’s like keeping the gas tank in a traditional car filled between a quarter and three-quarters full at all times.
Most EV drivers don’t consume the full capacity of their car’s battery pack every day. Most only use a fraction of the capacity for commuting and daily errands. By limiting your charging to, perhaps, 80% and working not to let it dip below 20%, you can maximize your EV battery life. Many new EVs can automatically limit charging to a certain percentage of battery capacity, so you don’t have to monitor charging.
Electric vehicles have technology that prevents you from dangerously discharging their batteries. Even if you’ve reached zero miles of range and the car won’t go any further, there will still be a protective residual charge in the battery.
While cold temperatures can limit the speed that EVs can charge and reduce the distance they can travel, the real enemy of electric car batteries is heat. The more you operate and charge your EV at higher temperatures, the more quickly your battery’s ability to retain a charge will decline.
Even storing an electric vehicle at high temperatures can reduce its battery life.
If you’re an EV owner, you can maximize the life of your battery by keeping your car in a garage and charging it in the coolest parts of the day.
To combat the effects of heat on battery life and performance, today’s EVs feature sophisticated thermal management systems designed to keep the battery pack at an optimal temperature. Most lithium-ion battery packs are designed to perform at their best between about 50 and 85 degrees.
Frequency of Fast-Charging
While using DC fast-charging stations is crucial when taking long road trips in an EV, you should use them sparingly at other times. Using a fast charger too often will reduce the life of your battery.
To minimize the wear of DC fast charging, most EVs will dramatically reduce the speed at which they can charge once they hit 80% of charge. It can take longer to charge the final 20% of the way than the first 80%.
What Happens If Your Battery Doesn’t Last As Long As It Should?
If your EV’s battery doesn’t last as long as it should, it will likely be covered by the manufacturer’s battery warranty. The shortest warranties in the industry match the government-mandated eight years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first). You can expect mandatory coverage for 10 years or 150,000 miles in California.
2022 Rivian R1TThe Associated Press
Some automakers offer much better coverage than required. Rivian, for example, covers the battery in the Rivian R1T pickup for eight years or 175,000 miles. Depending on the Tesla model you choose, you can expect warranty coverage that far exceeds federal and state mandates.
It’s important to note that an electric vehicle battery warranty does not guarantee that you’ll have 100% of its original range over the car’s life. Rivian’s warranty, like many, states that you can expect 70% of your original range by the end of the warranty. It will only cover repairs or replacements if your range dips below that level before the warranty expires.
Should you require the replacement of a battery pack that’s not covered by a warranty, you can expect a massive repair bill that may exceed the value of your car. A new EV battery pack can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
What Happens to My Battery at the End of Its Life?
Just because a battery pack can’t power your EV, it doesn’t mean its life is over. There are growing markets for end-of-life EV batteries to be employed as energy storage devices for homes, power generation facilities and businesses.
For example, you can link a used EV power pack to your home’s solar panel array. It can charge all day, then provide power to your home after the sun sets. It can also provide a source of backup power when a storm knocks out the power to your home.
When a battery pack is completely used without a power source, its components can be separated for reuse. While EV battery recyclers aren’t common yet, a robust ecosystem of recyclers is expected to emerge as more EV battery packs reach the end of their service life.
More EV Shopping Tools From US News & World Report
To help you navigate the rapidly expanding electric car marketplace, the experts at US News & World Report have developed a library of resources for EV shoppers. It all starts with our electric vehicle rankings.
Our EV shopping guides include the following:
When you’re ready to buy or lease your electric vehicle, you can save money by using the US News Best Price Program to find the dealer in your area offering the best pre-negotiated prices. The program makes it easy to get in touch with local dealers, and it offers online options and home delivery.