Modern electric vehicles (EVs) will last quite a while on their standard battery pack, but they will eventually degrade and need to be replaced. The prospect of a replacement may make you hesitant to buy an EV, so what will actually make a replacement work for you, and how can you avoid needing one?
RELATED: How much does an electric car really cost?
What it costs to replace an EV battery
Electric car battery replacement costs vary. If the battery is still under warranty, you can replace it for free. Otherwise, the average cost as of 2020 was around $137 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of battery capacity, according to a Bloomberg report.
So a vehicle like the Chevy Bolt, which has a 65 kWh battery pack, would cost about $8,905 for a new one at the average price. The price also depends on a number of other factors, including:
- what vehicle are you driving
- What the battery the EV uses is made of (if it has more expensive metals, the cost is higher)
- How big is the battery pack?
- If the battery is under warranty
Some EV batteries cost as little as $2,500 to replace, while others can cost more than $20,000, according to an analysis by Recurrent Auto. Even at the low end, that’s about as good as replacing the transmission on a gasoline vehicle. The good news is that we will likely see those costs decline in the coming years.
Electric car batteries are already cheaper to replace than when electric vehicles first became popular. According to the Bloomberg report, the average cost of a new EV battery pack in 2010 was more than $1,000/kwh. With advances in battery technology, we could see prices around $100/kWh by 2023, with further reductions as technology improves.
Average costs for electric vehicle batteries sometimes exceed projections. In 2017, for example, McKinsey published a report that projected the average EV battery price to be around $190/kWh by the end of 2020. The actual cost ended up being around $53/kWh lower at $ 137 / kWh.
Keep in mind that rather than failing catastrophically, it is much more common for an electric car battery to slowly lose capacity over time until it is unable to power the vehicle. Most of the electric vehicles made in recent years are still on the road, albeit with somewhat reduced charging capacity, so not enough have required battery replacements to collect a large amount of data on the cost of replacement.
As newer batteries are built with cheaper metals, no liquid components, and faster charge times, the cost of replacing one could change significantly. However, owners of older electric cars will probably need to replace the battery at some point if they keep them for several more years.
How to keep the battery of an electric vehicle in optimal conditions
To avoid having to replace your electric car’s battery too soon, it’s a good idea to follow a few simple guidelines to keep it in top working condition. Fast charging, for example, should be limited except in emergencies or when it cannot be avoided. It is especially important to avoid fast charging in very cold weather, as the process will consume some of the lithium metal within the battery and decrease the overall charging capacity.
Keep the battery charge between 20-80%. Letting it drop below that number or constantly keeping the battery at 100% can reduce its charging capacity and shorten its lifespan. Instead, try shorter recharge charges or a slower charge at home or work, if possible.
In cold weather, preheat the battery before charging. In hot months, take steps like parking in the shade to reduce battery heat. It’s also a good idea to preheat or cool the car’s interior while it’s still connected to a charging station to avoid draining battery power to use those systems.
Driving at high speeds and accelerating very quickly will deplete the charge faster, so keep that in mind. Battery maintenance varies by manufacturer, so check your car owner’s manual for specific tips and guidelines.
Expensive, but getting cheaper
Like most costs associated with electric vehicles, the cost of battery replacement started out high. It’s still expensive today, but we should see that cost decline in the years to come. If that happens, it would mean a reduction in one of the most significant costs of EV ownership.
To learn more about what it costs to own an electric car, check out our explainer on how far an electric vehicle charge will take you.
RELATED: How does charging an EV battery compare to a tank of gas?