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Dec 20 2022

As electric vehicles (EVs) continue to be one of the hot topics for discussion in the auto industry, and more consumers consider making the switch from their traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, there are many questions that come along with EVs. Many of these questions are related to battery range and life expectancy, as well as charging infrastructure and the purchasing or leasing of EVs.

Though we were able to find many helpful resources that provide some great information on the questions included in this article, getting definitive answers has proven to be quite challenging, especially for some of the most pressing questions. In fact, researching answers to these questions has raised even more questions, which we will likely address in other articles. While we don’t have all the answers, we hope this article will help educate consumers, as well as other businesses in the industry looking to gain some EV knowledge.

1. How does EV range work?

Electric vehicle range is one of the most important decision factors for potential EV buyers and many consumers are apprehensive to make the switch due to “range anxiety.” Unfortunately, understanding EV range is quite complicated. There are several variables that play into an EV’s range. The number you see on the vehicle’s window sticker is a ballpark combined MPGe rating. And contrary to ICE vehicles that get better MPG with highway travel, this is the opposite for EVs. Car and Driver did an EV range test with highway driving exclusively, which resulted in only 3 of the 33 EV models exceeding the combined EV range, and the remaining 30 falling short. Fortunately, these vehicles tend to do much better with city driving.

Another unknown variable about EV range is how much the range will decrease as the battery starts to age. How will EV owners know the true range of their EVs over time when their EV battery is not at full health? An EV might show 100% charge, but with an older EV, the range will not be what it once was.

The company Recurrent, offers battery health and range reports by collaborating with thousands of EV drivers and introducing advanced machine learning to discover trends across EV models. While this is not a complete history report or a fool-proof solution, Recurrent is able to pull in several data points that give a pretty reliable battery health report.

2. How long does an EV battery last?

Along with range, potential EV buyers will want to know the battery life expectancy, also known as battery degradation. We’ve all seen it happen with our smartphones where the battery lasts all day, or even multiple days, and then after a year or two, the battery charge won’t make it through the morning. As a key component of an EV and one of the most expensive parts to replace, it’s a reasonable concern.

According to an InsideEVs article, while EV battery degradation is inevitable, the rate at which it degrades is an unknown variable which is determined by several factors. The key factors they’ve cited include fast charging, ambient temperatures, mileage, and time. There are a few preventative measures they suggest to slow down the degradation, including keeping the battery cool if possible and not letting the battery get below 10-20% or over 90%.

Though there is no set amount of time an EV battery will last, according to ReviewGeek, “experts suggest that EV batteries last anywhere from 10-20 years.” And most EV manufacturers warranty their batteries to have at least 70% capacity for 8 years or 100k miles.

Fortunately, according to a cars.com article, “electric car batteries are more like those in hybrids than cellular phones: They lose capacity over time, but outright failure requiring replacement is very rare.”

3. How much does it cost to replace an EV battery?

While an EV battery might not fully fail for many years, maybe even the life of the vehicle, the level of degradation over time could affect the driving range enough to the point where the EV is no longer meeting the driver’s needs. In the event the battery needs to be replaced and is not under warranty, it’s valuable to know how much a replacement would cost before purchasing an EV. 

This Recurrent article does a great job discussing the current average cost of EV batteries, as well as what they may cost 5-10 years from now as the cost of manufacturing batteries continues to decrease. In short, there is a dollar amount per kWh, which was $161/kWh in 2019. So, for example, if the EV has a 100kWh battery, the cost of a replacement in 2019 would likely be $16,100.

4. Is it better to buy or lease EVs?

The age-old buy vs. lease dilemma gets a little more complicated when dealing with EVs for a few different reasons. While EV leases may be a more affordable option than purchasing, with less cash upfront and lower monthly payments, there are a few downsides to leasing an EV. One of the major cons specific to EV leasing is that lessees will not be eligible for federal or state tax credits or rebates. Although tax credits are sometimes worked into the lease terms to help lower the monthly payments, this is typically not the norm.

Check out some of the linked articles by NerdWallet, Credit Karma, and Lifewire to help make your decision.

5. Should I buy a used EV?

Buying a used EV may be a great alternative to buying or leasing new. With the significant depreciation of EVs (learn more in this MotorBiscuit article), used EVs can be much more affordable. However, there are a couple of things to consider, such as the battery health and years left of the battery warranty – given the high cost to replace an EV battery. Additionally, EV technology is rapidly evolving, especially increased battery range with new models. So, while used EVs are much more affordable than new, the technology might be quite a bit behind. Edmunds, Cars.com, and Kelley Blue Book have all written great articles on this topic. 

Another thing worth noting is that certain buyers are now eligible for a $4000 federal tax credit for used EVs, which Recurrent details here.

6. Do EV batteries overheat?

Excessive heat is not good for EV batteries, which is why most EV manufacturers have implemented a battery cooling system in their vehicles (learn more here). However, these systems do not make batteries impervious to heat, especially if the vehicle is parked in hot weather and the cooling system isn’t active via charging. In most scenarios, extreme heat will primarily just speed up battery degradation, as well as decrease range and performance – which is also true for extreme cold (more on that in the next point). However, there are some rare cases where excessive heat (or a damaged battery case) can short-circuit the battery causing it to catch fire. The Next Web explains how this situation could unfold as well as how to avoid it.

7. How do EVs perform in cold weather?

As mentioned, not only are EVs impacted by extreme heat, but they are also impacted by extreme cold. Cold weather affects both range and performance, especially in 20° F and below temperatures according to Consumer Reports. The battery has less energy to propel the vehicle until the battery warms up to an optimal temperature, which takes longer than warming up an ICE vehicle engine. The energy used to warm up an EV battery not only reduces vehicle range, but also increases charging times as the battery temperature is maintained to protect it. Additionally, running the cabin heater, heated seats, and defroster in cold temperatures will drain the battery. The good news is that there are ways to work around the challenges of cold weather, which Recurrent does a nice job of addressing in their Winter EV Range Loss article.

8. Are EVs resistant to water?

For those that live in a flood-zone area and have considered switching to electric, you have probably asked this question. Exposing any vehicle to a significant amount of water is not good, but what about EVs where the battery and electric motor are the key components? Based on previous experiences with electronics, one might expect water exposure to be particularly harmful for EVs, as well as dangerous for the driver and passengers. According to this ZigWheels article, EVs have IP67-rated battery packs which allow them to wade through slightly flooded roads for short durations. However, it’s not recommended to drive EVs after they’ve been exposed to a significant amount of water until they’ve been inspected by a professional.

9. How do EV owners charge their vehicles without a garage?

Infrastructure has continued to be one of the greatest challenges in speeding up the adoption of EVs. While many resources argue that 80% of charging is done at home (usually overnight) rather than public charging, this isn’t an option for many US citizens. How will renters charge their EVs without chargers in their dedicated spot(s)? How about renters in the city with only street parking? This MYEV article makes some great suggestions regarding this challenge. Additionally, a relatively new solution for street parking that a city in the Greater Boston metropolitan area has started to implement is the installation of utility pole-mounted chargers.

However, while there may be some workarounds, we still have a long way to go, particularly for apartment renters.

10. Can EVs be charged wirelessly?

Wireless EV charging may seem like a technology of the future, but it’s already here. According to a Markets and Markets article, wireless EV charging is currently a $15 million business in the US, which is expected to grow to a $377 million business by 2027. There are several companies worldwide that offer wireless charging solutions to benefit both consumers and commercial clients, including WiTricity, Electreon, InductEV (formerly Momentum Dynamics), Plugless Power, and HEVO. Additionally, several OEMs are starting to develop stationary and dynamic wireless technology into their EV models, including Toyota, Stellantis, VW, and BMW to name a few.

Upgrading infrastructure to support wireless charging, while very costly, can make a huge impact on the adoption of EVs, especially for those without access to at-home charging.

There are some exciting innovations happening with EVs today. Although there are many questions and concerns around the adoption of EVs on a large scale, with proper financial resources and buy-in from major players in the industry, many of these challenges will be addressed in the coming years. We anticipate some exciting changes for the auto industry! If you business is in need of a vehicle data solution that captures key EV datapoints, DataOne would be happy to help! Request Information about our EV coverage.

Stay tuned for more blog articles addressing additional questions that arise around the topic of EVs. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your feedback or questions in the comments section below!

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