What is the true lifespan of EV batteries?

What is the true lifespan of EV batteries?

One of the biggest pieces of FUD out there about EVs, FUD, being fear, uncertainty, and doubt is that the batteries degrade really quickly and you’re going to have to replace them after two or three years. And it’s going to cost thousands of dollars because it’s the most expensive part of an EV. And therefore driving Navy is stupid, stupid EV drivers. While some of this spreading this myth is clearly intentional. It does seem to get repeated a lot, cause it’s fairly easy to believe we’ve all had the experience of a laptop or a phone or some other electronic device like losing charge over time. And eventually not being able to hold a charge at all like this iPad in mine, which is every bit as ancient as it looks and has not been turned on in years. And just won’t hold a charge to save its life.

See, okay, no, I still haven’t replaced it. I need to replace this. Okay. At least a minute ago, the little dead battery thing was popping up on here and not even that now. And we all know these batteries are lithium-ion and at the batteries and electric cars are lithium ions. So I mean, it’s an easy assumption to make,

But no, just no, either the batteries and the batteries that, you know, run your little electronic gadgets are completely different. Architectures they’ll use completely differently. And Evy batteries have been around long enough that we have pretty good data on how long they should. Last. Multiple studies have shown that even early model EVs can maintain their charge level up to about 70% for about eight to 10 years under normal driving conditions. And 70% is considered about the point when it’s time to sort of retire. The batteries are not really up to snuff anymore for the road. And uh, I mean you could keep driving with them. It’s just, your range is going to just keep going down. And battery packs have gotten a whole lot better over the years with different chemistry’s different thermal management. There, they’re basically gonna keep going. As long as you want to keep the car around. I linked to my buddy Ben’s video up here that has all the data you can handle on it, but the batteries will degrade. That is inevitable. And eventually, they’ll get to the point where they’re not really good for EVs anymore. So what, then this is a pretty big question and it’s one that Evie detractors love to bring up because they say it’s the wasteful carbon footprint and all that, but it’s not quite that simple. There are second-life applications for use DV batteries that greatly expand their lifetime and their usefulness.

I’ve before written a little bit about the ups and downs with solar power and the fact that it is intermittent. It doesn’t make power at night. So you kind of have to pair it up with massive battery installations. So you can kind of Dole that out while it’s not producing any energy. Same is true for wind energy and most renewables for that matter. Well, it turns out these degraded Evie batteries that aren’t quite up to snuff for the road anymore. Still have a lot of usefulness for that kind of big stationary storage projects. The centre for sustainable energy did an assessment on a second life application for Evie batteries. And they came up with these four use cases, PV firming demand, charge management, regulation, energy management, and primary frequency response. PV firming is basically what I was just talking about. You know, pairing up battery installations to firm up the amount of energy coming out of PV panels. It’s going to be storing it up and then doling it out at night for 24-hour production, or just kind of evening out the power throughout the of clouds pass overhead.

And that kind of demand charges are costs that utilities add to electric bills when your power consumption goes over a certain amount. If you use a very consistent amount of energy, probably won’t get a whole lot of demand charges, but businesses that have giant office buildings to air-condition and factories that have machines that turn on and off, you know, throughout the day, they can get these massive spikes and they can wind up charging them quite a bit of money over time. So demand charge management is basically using battery installations to pull energy from whenever you have these spikes, are you not pulling it from the grid and getting charged extra money and losing a lot of money that way when you’re combining intermittent sources of energy with the sort of always-on baseload power, there’s a bit of regulation that has to go on there. What do you do with all those energy spikes?

How do you compensate for any lows in relation to the baseload power, et cetera? So regulation energy management is basically using giant batteries to smooth out that sort of transition between baseload power and intermittent, renewable power and primary frequency responses along those same lines, kind of maintaining high inertia throughout the entire electrical grid, especially the more isolated communities which can run into some issues with that whole intermittency of renewable energy. They produce some seriously in-depth reports on ways that you can use these second-life batteries and those applications. I’ve got links to them down in the description below that kind of looked at the specific use cases and the degraded batteries to make sure that they could still work in the right way. That’s very technical if you like that kind of thing enjoy. But the point is after eight to 10 years, driving around in a car, they spent D batteries cause then spend another 10 to 20 years as part of the grid.

So to creating a buffer, to make the whole thing more attractive to renewable energy, Evie batteries could make renewable energy more of a thing, which is interesting because you know, Evy detractors, they love to point out that electric cars are actually powered by coal by coal energy. And of course, the counter-argument to that is that no, it’s usually a mix of many different types of energy and renewables are on the rise. Therefore, each of these is going to be cleaner as time goes on, but this actually points to the fact that EVs could actually be an accelerating factor to this and actually speed up the adoption of renewable energy on a more personal level and kind of down-home level, home battery storage is becoming more of a thing, especially paired up with solar panels. So you can kind of just get totally off the grid.

Tesla’s power wall is a good example of this, but there are a lot of other companies in the same space. One of them is called Eden and they have a system called the X storage system and Eaton last year partnered up with Nissan to use leaf batteries in their installations. So this is already a thing. In fact, Johan Cruyff arena and Amsterdam also just called the Amsterdam Marina has employed the Xstore system on a large scale to use as much power as possible from solar panels and then stabilize the power use of the stadium. These kinds of second life applications greatly extend the useful life of battery packs and totally changes the calculus around the environmental footprint of EV batteries. Now this doesn’t solve all the problems and we’re not quite ready to do this on a large scale yet, there’s going to have to be an entire re-purposing infrastructure built around these things in the coming year so that we can do this.

And it’s just doesn’t exist right now. And the same for recycling because even these second-life batteries are eventually gonna have to be scrapped and be done with. And if there’s one thing that everybody on all sides gonna agree with it’s that these Evie batteries shouldn’t just be put in the ground when we’re done with Tesla battery guru, JB Straubel has actually said that he wants to get to the point that they’re recycling so much material from only the batteries that they don’t even have to mind materials anymore. So it’s more of a, like a closed-loop system and they really could do that. Almost the entire Evie battery could be melted down and recycled and built into a new V battery that works just like new. And one more encouraging fact is that there’s a lot of precious metals in Navy batteries. So it’s always going to be worth it for somebody to take those things apart, if nothing else, just for those metals.

Although usually, the precious metals thing is not a good thing. They’re doing all they can to reduce as much cobalt as possible for environmental and ethical reasons Congo. So we do have every reason to believe that that recycling infrastructure will be there in the coming years when millions of these battery packs are coming off the road, but there is one way that this could go wrong and am a little worried about it. There are something like a dozen Gigafactory size lithium-ion factories going online in the next five years or so. In fact, Tesla is building another Gigafactory in China that should be producing stuff by the end of this year. And just a reminder of how fast this is growing. When the first Gigafactory started construction, it was planned to make more lithium-ion batteries than all the other lithium-ion battery factories in the world combined.

And pretty soon there’s going to be over a dozen of these things with that level of scale, the price of VV batteries is going to go down. That is absolutely going to happen. What I wonder though, is will the cost of producing new Evie batteries get so low that it’s actually cheaper to just make a new battery pack than to recycle an old one or that the energy required to take apart and recycle an old battery actually makes it not environmentally friendly. I mean, the truth of the matter is if the economics of something doesn’t work out, usually that thing doesn’t work out. And there’s also the possibility that battery technology might take a huge leap. And these old batteries just don’t really have any value anymore. While there’s a lot of talk about solid-state batteries and dry cell tech, those things are years down the road.

There’s not really anything is going to be replacing lithium-ion for a while and hopefully JBS idea of the closed-loop system and total recycling and everything, hopefully that works out. Hopefully, the economics of that workout because the other side of this coin is also possible. Electronic waste is already a huge problem right now and not really a surprising one. I mean, if you look back over history and how much our lives revolve around electronics devices now and stuff, I mean, it’s kind of inevitable and the waste might just be the ultimate culmination of that problem, but hopefully not. Anyway, it’s inspiring stuff. Anyway, it’s good to know that these EV batteries are going to have a good long 20, 30 years of activity and smoothing out and maybe even helping to bring more renewable energy around. That’s my thoughts on it.


Morten Pradsgaard

Morten has been working with technology, IoT and electronics for over a decade. His passion for technology is reflected into this blog to give you relevant and correct information.