EV plugged in at a charging station

Invented in 1976, lithium-ion batteries are one of the most popular battery types currently in use. They are widely used in electronics, electric vehicle (EV) batteries, and power grid storage systems across the globe. Lithium batteries have many appealing qualities, including their high energy density, ability to charge quickly, light weight, and long lifespan.

When hybrid electric vehicles and EVs first hit the market, there was a lot of concern about the lifespan of their lithium-ion batteries. Would EV drivers need to replace this expensive component in just a few years? Considering EV batteries can cost $10,000 or more to replace, it is a valid concern.

How Long Do EV Batteries Last?

Whereas the lead acid car batteries generally found in traditional cars commonly last three to five years, EV batteries have a much longer lifespan. They typically last 10 to 20 years, and most EVs have long battery warranties. Many automakers offer an 8- to 10-year or 100,000-mile warranty for EV batteries.

Yet, EV batteries don’t usually just give out one day and stop holding a charge. Rather, they gradually lose their ability to store energy, which slowly reduces the driving range of the vehicle, and most EVs lose about a 1% to 2% range each year due to the battery. That means your car will slowly drive fewer miles on each charge.

Advances in lithium batteries have improved their energy density, boosting EV range. For example, numerous EVs on the market today can travel over 300 miles on a full charge, including the BMW i4, Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5 Long Range AWD, Rivian R1S, GMC Hummer pickup, and Tesla Model X Long Range. Many EV models, such as the Chevy Bolt at 259 miles, have moderate ranges. Yet some models still have much smaller ranges, like the Mini Cooper Electric at 110 miles and the Nissan Leaf at 149 miles.

How Does Battery Degradation Impact EV Drivers?

When the capacity of an EV battery drops to 70% or less, it’s typically time to replace it because the range will be greatly reduced. However, this will depend on your driving habits and how much you need full battery capacity. For example, if you mostly drive your EV relatively short distances and it’s easy to charge, the reduced range will likely have less of an impact. However, if you have a long commute, or it is hard to find charging locations in your area, it could be a considerable inconvenience.

How To Increase the Lifespan of an EV Battery

Although many of the factors that cause lithium battery degradation are outside of the control of the driver, there are some actions that you can take to extend battery life.

Maintain Charge Level Between 20% and 80%

While charging the vehicle battery to 100% allows the vehicle to travel further, it isn’t ideal for optimum battery life. Many EV experts recommend keeping the battery charged between 20% and 80% because it strains the battery when it completely discharges or fully charges. Smart EV charging stations can cease charging at the desired level, helping you achieve the desired level of charge.

Avoid Storing Your EV at 100% State of Charge

If your EV is going to sit for a long time without use, the battery shouldn’t be completely charged or discharged. When storing your EV, a state of charge between 25% and 75% is ideal for the longevity of the battery.

Minimize Exposure to Extreme Temperatures

EV batteries often have a shorter lifespan in hot climates. Unfortunately, extremely high temperatures while driving, charging, and parking can strain EV batteries, shortening their lifespan. Therefore, EV drivers should park and charge in the shade in hot weather whenever possible.

Use DC Fast Charging Stations Sparingly

There is a concern in the EV industry regarding the habitual use of DC Fast Chargers (DCFC), also known as Level III chargers. Frequent use of rapid charging can cause a slight decline in the battery’s lifespan compared to Level II chargers. Therefore, only use DCFC chargers when it is extremely convenient.

Can an EV Battery Have Life After It’s Removed From an EV?

After an old battery is removed from an EV, it may still have some life in it. There have been some interesting examples of old electric car batteries being used to provide backup power to buildings. For example, old Nissan Leaf batteries are being used to power the Amsterdam Arena and are integrated with a large solar energy system. Toyota is using old EV batteries to power convenience stores in Japan in conjunction with solar panels. However, such initiatives are relatively rare, and infrastructure is needed to make such projects mainstream.

Although EV batteries commonly last 10 to 20 years, it is wise to maximize their lifespan for financial and environmental reasons. Avoiding the use of DCFC, parking in the shade on hot days, and maintaining charge levels between 20% and 80% are all helpful in promoting driving range and conserving battery capacity.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.