Reader Question: EV Battery Life?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Krishna asks: I’ve heard and read stories and reports that disagree with your statements of the EV battery not lasting as long as the petroleum engines.  Can you please provide the best proof or source proving the EV Batteries don’t last as long as petroleum engines?

My reply: Discharge/charge cycling always reduces a battery’s ability to accept and retain a charge over time. (See Batteries Shack for some mores about this).

An EV lithium-ion battery is no different in this regard than any other battery – just a lot more expensive to replace.

The gist is this: Almost any modern ICE car engine (and transmission) will last the life of the vehicle, which is usually at least 15 years;  it is common for an ICE car to provide reliable service without needing major repairs – such as a new engine or transmission – for 20 years or more.

No electric car – or battery – yet produced can match that established track record.

Speaking of track records: While EVs haven’t been in service in numbers for more than about four years, hybrids have been around for 20-plus and they use batteries similar to EV batteries. And hybrids in regular service do not go 15-20 years without needing battery replacement. They usually need a new one around 10-12 years out.

And a hybrid is a part-time electric car; its battery is less taxed than a full-time electric car’s battery. So it is probable the EV battery will need to be replaced sooner. Compounding the problem is that the EV is entirely dependent on its battery – unlike a hybrid, which can at least continue to be driven even if the battery has lost say 75 percent of its original capacity. But if that happens to an electric car, you have a useless car.

If it originally (when new) could go say 200 miles on a full charge, it can now only go 50 – maybe. Remember that the touted “best case” EV range is often very different from the actual, real-world range. In any event, if the EV can only go about 50 miles before it needs to be plugged in again, the thing is no longer viable as transportation except for short trips and for an owner who has plenty of time and plenty of patience.

The bottom line is  the EV will need a hugely expensive repair long before the ICE car ever may need one.

There is a reason why EVs have to be forced onto the market via mandates and subsidies.

Several reasons, actually.

. . .

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  1. Long term (more than a week) storage is also a problem. My drone batteries will automatically discharge after 7 days at a full charge in order to prevent the tendrils from forming and prematurely shortening battery life. So there’s no real way to keep a battery charged up and ready for an impulse flight (although waiting for batteries to charge isn’t such a big deal with the drone). Imagine running an electric fire engine, or ambulance. These vehicles sit for very long times but have to be ready at a moment’s notice to perform their task. I imagine they’ll be granted an exception and be “permitted” to continue to use fossil fuels, but over time if electrics become the defacto standard transportation gasoline and diesel could get scarce, and for sure without the volume will be more expensive. So communities will get bailouts and extra jingle from Uncle to prop up their first responders. Oh, and while they’re getting their new fuel depots, might as well add on police vehicles, city maintenance vehicles, and why not the mayor and city council’s vehicles too?

    • We keep all the starting batteries on trickle chargers at our VFD fire hall just to ensure that the trucks will fire up when get a page. Even then sometimes one of them won’t start, either because of terminal corrosion or a battery just decided to die. With eight vehicles it seems like we are buying new batteries every few months.

      I can’t imagine the nightmare that electric powered emergency vehicles would be, although it would probably work better for an urban department that gets more calls and has shorter distances to respond. But how would you recharge a battery powered wildland engine out somewhere in rugged terrain? That could be fatal to the engine crew. We generally always leave the trucks idle once we get on a wildland fire scene just in case, with the possible exception of a tender staged in a safe zone.


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