Electric car battery life

Worried about how long electric car batteries last? All car makers offer battery warranties. Keep reading to find out which protect you best

James Wilson
Feb 27, 2020

One of the biggest motoring questions in 2020 is bound to be 'how long will electric car batteries last?', as more and more used plug-in cars become available. We aren’t talking about how far they can travel per charge here, we're talking about overall lifespan - how long until a battery starts losing performance and the range drops from what was originally promised.

As electric and plug-in hybrid cars made up only 3% of new car sales in 2019, the number of used models on the market is relatively small - there are currently 740 available on BuyaCar. That said, there are examples of used electric cars that have gone way beyond 100,000 miles, some even passing 150,000 miles. Many drivers would stay well clear of a petrol or diesel car packing that kind of mileage, so its fair to say these batteries have a reasonable life expectancy.

So why is electric car battery life an important question? Cost. Battery packs are expensive to replace and thanks to years of experience with other electronic devices, such as pricey smartphones, you'll know that batteries don’t last forever. Who hasn’t used a five-year-old laptop which only has enough battery capacity to last four seconds when disconnected from the mains?

Not only does a car battery pack pose big question marks over maintenance bills, but there is also the question of residual values - which can affect your monthly payments if you go for PCP finance or how much money you could lose if you own the car and decide to sell it.

If battery capacity were to drop off dramatically at some point (not that there is any convincing evidence to suggest this will happen to new electric cars) that could mean an electric car would suddenly be worth very little when it reached a certain age. If so, what age of car is the best value to buy? And likewise, at what age do you plan to hand the car back to the finance company or sell, to avoid it suddenly being worth far less and costing you more?

It isn’t all about the bottom line, though. A deteriorating battery means a drop in capacity which means a drop in how far you car travel per charge – not something electric car owners want. Also, electric cars are supposed to be better for the environment, but if the batteries need replacing every few years, are they actually doing more damage?

The good news is that car manufacturers know buyers worry about battery life, so many offer much longer warranties on high-voltage batteries than they do on the rest of the car. Some even offer longer warranties on all of the electronics, including the likes of the motor.

As for other issues, time and resources are being ploughed into understanding the potential uses of a used electric car battery once it is finished with. For example, recycling them into other products which need batteries, such as phones.

What does an electric car battery warranty cover?

An electric car battery warranty covers the operation of a battery pack – no shocks there. Like traditional car warranties, carmakers cover electric car batteries for a set period of time or distance. Typically, this is around eight years or 100,000 miles.

Predominantly these promise that should a battery’s maximum capacity fall below a set level (usually around 70%) the manufacturer will replace or repair the unit for you. It is important to note that not all cars come with a maximum allowed degradation level (loss of capacity) so make sure you are happy with the cover provided by the manufacturer before you buy. Otherwise it's possible that how far you can travel per charge could drop and drop and the manufacturer could refuse to cover the cost of replacing the batteries.

Depending on the terms and conditions of a warranty, a drop under the degradation threshold doesn’t always mean your battery pack will be replaced with a new one – it could just be repaired to increase capacity back into the permissible range.

The method for testing your battery capacity can vary as well, but it is most common that an electric car will need to be taken to an official dealer and verified that its battery is underperforming before any work is undertaken as part of the warranty. Some car makers cover other elements of an electric vehicle as part of the same warranty. This means you get better protection should things like the electric motor go on the blink.

Electric car battery warranties

How long a battery is covered for gives buyers an impression of how confident a carmaker is in its engineering – though it is important to remember this is an impression only. The table below shows a summary of all the major electric cars on sale in the UK and the standard warranties they come with.

Where possible, each vehicle is presented with a minimum allowable battery capacity during its warranty period. Models provided with an “-” instead of a value have warranties where a maximum capacity drop is not specified – i.e. the warranty only covers other faults and failures a battery pack may experience. The standard warranty for the rest of the car is provided as well for reference.

Make and Model

Battery Warranty

Minimum Allowable Capacity During Battery Warranty

Standard Warranty

Audi e-tron

8 years/99,419 miles

3 years/60,000 miles

BMW i3

8 years/100,000 miles

70%

3 years/unlimited mileage

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

8 years/125,000 miles

70%

5 years/unlimited mileage

Hyundai Kona Electric

8 years/125,000 miles

70%

5 years/unlimited mileage

Hyundai Nexo (hydrogen)

8 years/125,000 miles

70%

5 years/unlimited mileage

Jaguar I-Pace

8 years/100,000 miles

70%

3 years/unlimited mileage

Kia e-Niro

7 years/100,000 miles

70% (65% for cars sold after July 2019)

7 years/100,000 miles

Kia Soul EV

7 years/100,000 miles

70% (65% for cars sold after July 2019)

7 years/100,000 miles

Mercedes B-Class ED

8 years/62,000 miles

70%

3 years/unlimited mileage

Mercedes EQC

8 years/100,000 miles

70% (approx.)

3 years/unlimited mileage

MG ZS EV

7 years/80,000 miles

70%

7 years/80,000 miles

Nissan e-NV200

8 years/100,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles for other electric car powertrain items, such as motor)

75% (approx.)

3 years/60,000 miles

Nissan Leaf

8 years/100,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles for other electric car powertrain items, such as motor)

75% (approx.)

3 years/60,000 miles

Renault Zoe

8 years/100,000 miles (4 years/100,000 miles for other electrical components such as motor)

66%

3 years/100,000 miles

Seat Mii Electric

8 years/100,000 miles

70%

3 years/60,000 miles

Smart EQ ForTwo

8 years/62,500 miles

3 years/unlimited mileage

Smart EQ ForFour

8 years/62,500 miles

3 years/unlimited mileage

Tesla Model S

8 years/unlimited mileage

Battery degradation not covered

4 years/50,000 miles

Tesla Model X

8 years/unlimited mileage

Battery degradation not covered

4 years/50,000 miles

Tesla Model 3

8 years/120,000 miles

70%

4 years/50,000 miles

Toyota Mirari (hydrogen)

8 years/100,000 miles, fuel cell covered for 8 years/100,000 miles

5 years/100,000 miles

Volkswagen e-Golf

8 years/99,360 miles

3 years/60,000 miles

Volkswagen e-Up

8 years/99,360 miles

3 years/60,000 miles

While a warranty with a low maximum allowable degradation is a good thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean battery packs which don’t have such attractive protection will break quicker.

For example, Tesla’s Model S doesn’t come with a degradation limit, but there is evidence to suggest Model S owners can expect around 90% of their original capacity even after 100,000 miles. At the same time, a fleet of 27 hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirais (hydrogen cars still require a relatively large battery to power their electric motors) have racked up over one million miles driving in London and are still going strong.

How do electric car battery warranties compare?

Quite well, although you aren’t exactly comparing apples with apples. Petrol and diesel cars have a standard overarching warranty. This covers everything from the engine to boot hinges for a set period of time or distance travelled. As a note, there may be separate warranties for rust and paint, too.

Electric cars have a standard overarching warranty also, which is, for the most part, identical to traditionally powered cars in terms of length and cover. Of course, as seen above the warranties manufacturers are putting on battery performance are significantly longer. While it may be hard to be impressed by a long warranty for something rival petrol and diesel cars don’t need a warranty for, it is reassuring manufacturers are covering their electric cars for so long.

If the battery warranty extends to other electric car electrickery, such as electric motors and lasts for longer than 3 years/60,000 miles (i.e. the industry standard for a petrol or diesel car warranty) it really does show a manufacturers faith in its electric car reliability.

How much to replace an electric car battery?

This is a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question as it really depends on the make and model of your car and its battery size/type – much like asking how much it would cost to replace a petrol or diesel engine. Also, it isn’t just a case of buying a new battery, there are labour costs for removal and installation which will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer as well.

Renault has historically offered buyers the option of leasing batteries. This means you purchase your electric car - potentially paying for this with a monthly payment, then pay a separate monthly fee to hire the battery from Renault. What this means is that you shouldn't need to worry about your warranty running out, capacity drops affecting resale values or even expensive repair bills, as effectively you have a warranty for as long as you pay your monthly fee (which is normally between £60 and £100 depending on predicted annual mileage).

Second-hand electric car batteries?

How well used electric cars are faring will depend on who you ask. There are reports out there of owners having replacement battery packs or motors installed under warranty, but these are few and far between.

At the same time, the fact that there are numerous electric cars out there with more than 100,000 miles on the clock (granted, these are predominantly Teslas) shows that electric car batteries and their surrounding electrical components can put up with serious use.

Sadly, it is still too early to say how more affordable mainstream electric cars perform outside of their warranties as early modern-day electric cars (such as the first-generation Nissan Leaf) are only just starting to fall out of their official manufacturer warranty period. Watching what happens to these cars over the next few years will be the biggest indicator of how modern-day electric vehicle battery packs will stand the test of time.

 

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