Expert Insights

Research Shows EV Battery Replacements Very Rare

Laurance Yap
July 9, 2023
If you've experienced how your phone's battery performs worse over time, you'll understand the concern some potential EV owners have about battery degradation and EV battery replacement. But the latest research suggests there's very little to worry about.
driver plugging in and charging their electric car

EV Batteries Lasting Longer Than Expected

One concern that many drivers have about switching to an electric car is battery life. Many of us have experienced electronic devices, such as smartphones, degrading over time, and even rendering them useless. Often the cost of replacing the battery is more than the cost of replacing the entire device. Will electric cars suffer the same issues?

According to the latest data from industry researchers Recurrent Auto, EV drivers have little to worry about. Using data from around 15,000 drivers signed up to the company’s platform, their team of scientists discovered that battery replacements were very rare, with only about 1.5 percent of EVs needing a replacement – and almost all of those replacements were under warranty. Furthermore, the study’s authors suggest that concerns about battery degradation over time – similar to how your smartphone’s ability to hold a charge deteriorates – might be largely unfounded. While EVs are still a relatively new technology, with 30 percent of the electric cars on the road having been sold in 2022 alone, the data seems to suggest that battery lifespans may be much longer than anyone imagined.

graph showing Nissan Leaf Range over time

Recalls Affect Replacement Rates

Two models tracked by Recurrent – the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV and the Hyundai Kona Electric – had high replacement rates, with the Bolt topping 35 percent. Both the Chevrolet and the Hyundai were subject to large, and well-publicized, battery replacement programs covered by their manufacturers. In both cases, the batteries were replaced at no cost to drivers, and in the case of the Bolt, owners actually received a higher-performing battery that delivered improved range. Outside of these recalled models, however, replacement rates remained very low indeed – with no more than 5 percent of EVs requiring a new battery.

Of all the models surveyed which were not subject to a recall, the Nissan Leaf had the most battery replacements, at just under 5 percent. That doesn’t come as a surprise, as the Leaf is one of the oldest mass-produced EVs, so many have been on the road for a long time. However, most of the battery replacements in early Leaf models were covered under warranty early in their life, when it was found that the original battery lost charge quickly in hot conditions. Later Leaf models have had very few issues. Recurrent’s data also showed that after an initial drop in range in the first 20,000 miles, the Leaf’s ability to hold a charge remained level for many years, with almost no drop in range up to 100,000 miles.

graph showing BMW i3 Range over time

Tesla and BMW EV Battery Performance

The Tesla Model S, which has been on sale for over a decade now, was next in the ranking. The second-oldest mass-produced EV on the market still had fewer than 5 percent of vehicles needing a battery. Early 100-kWh Model S models had the highest replacement rates, while models with smaller batteries had fewer issues. The larger battery’s ability to hold a charge deteriorated more over time, losing over 50 miles in 80,000 miles before leveling off; smaller batteries in the Model were relatively flat, and didn’t even exhibit an initial drop.

Tesla’s popular Model 3, which is closely related to the Model Y crossover, has been on the road for just five years. Its batteries exhibited a classic drop-off in projected range over the first 20,000 miles before capacity leveled off. Fewer than 1 percent of Model 3s have needed a battery replacement.

Despite a smaller battery pack and a range that is very low by modern standards, the BMW i3’s battery packs have held up well. The smallest 22-kWh model, released in the US in 2014, as well as the larger 33-kwh model, introduced in 2017, both reach 100,000 miles with around 80 percent of original battery capacity remaining. The more recent 42-kWh models released in 2019, should experience similar performance.

couple sitting at table comparing electric cars

Check Your Battery Warranty

Recurrent says they are carefully watching performance of two new, and very popular EV models – the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ford Mustang Mach-E. They’re important vehicles because they both have large batteries, are selling in large numbers, and both come with free fast charging as part of the selling price. The long-term effects of Level 3 fast charging, which is very convenient but thought to adversely affect capacity over time, are still a relative unknown. That said, the Mach-E and Ioniq 5 both come with very robust EV warranties, so owners of these vehicles should have few concerns within the first eight to 10 years of driving. Hyundai, for instance, guarantees a minimum of 70 percent capacity for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

Indeed, one way to understand the expected lifespan on major EV batteries is by seeing how long manufacturers guarantee them for. If you’re buying a new or used EV, make sure you read the warranty carefully. Many manufacturers, such as BMW, not only guarantee the battery for at least 8 years with a specific minimum capacity, but also allow the warranty to be transferred to a different owner. Tesla’s warranties are the most confusing – the Model 3 Standard Range has an 8-year/100,000-mile guarantee to 70 percent, while higher trim levels of the Model 3 and Y guarantee 70 percent to 120,000 miles. The Model S and Model X guarantee lasts 8 years or 150,000 miles. If your used electric car is warranty, you may want to consider purchasing supplemental protection from the manufacturer or from third parties.