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How to Buy a Second-Hand Electric Car

We’ve all done it — you kick the tyres, rev the engine, check the body panels, and take it for a drive. If you are really knowledgeable, you might listen for piston slap or do a compression test. But, what if the car is electric? How do you know if it is worth the money? How do you know if it will go the distance?

EVs are an entirely new trick, as determining the value of an EV is mainly about determining the life expectancy of the battery. With gas or diesel vehicles, we have all sorts of tools and skillsets to gauge the wellness of an engine. EVs are different — you need new tools to accurately and reliably measure a battery’s conditions.

second hand electric car

Battery Health Score

Enter Spiers New Technologies, a leader in this space with the tools to do this under the Cox Automotive Mobility brand. Spiers is working on new diagnostic systems that can be used by dealers and at auctions — tools to help buyers understand what they are buying, because with batteries and EVs, vehicle mileage is not a good measure of life.

I recently got the chance to ask some questions of Stephanie Valdez-Streaty, Director of Research & Development, Cox Automotive Mobility. Here are her answers:


How does Spiers New Technologies help second-hand car buyers?

Later this year, Cox Automotive Mobility is launching battery health pilots with dealers, fleets and independent auctions. The purpose of this is to get feedback on the tool for operational efficiency, current functionality and future use cases and feature needs. This will also help give consumers a battery health score that provides trust and confidence in the used EV marketplace.

Why and how was Spiers New Technology (SNT) developed?

SNT was founded in 2014 by Dirk Spiers to provide EV battery life cycle management and Cox Automotive acquired SNT seven years later in September 2021. Cox Mobility and SNT are building out a network of EV battery services, considering EV battery lifecycle services are going to be key to support market growth. Currently, Cox Mobility already has end-to-end EV battery service centers in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Ede, Netherlands, and we recently announced new EV battery service centers in Belleville, Michigan, and Las Vegas. These service centers will offer a variety of storage, logistics, diagnostics, and repair and remanufacturing services to support manufacturers, dealers, and fleet operators.

These EV battery lifecycle services help extend the EV battery lifecycle through a closed-loop system. Services include:

  • Battery Health: Guide to servicing recommendations
  • Remanufacturing: Battery remanufacturing or refurbishment per OEM standards
  • Logistics: Forward and reverse transport of packs between partners for servicing
  • Pretreatment Recycling: End-of-life treatment of packs
  • Storage: Monitored, climate-controlled pack storage
  • Tracking: Digital chain of custody for each EV battery

Closed-loop systems reduce the environmental impact of metals mining and supports the extension of EV battery first lives and end-of-life reuse and recovery treatments. It is important to keep in mind that optimizing the first life of the vehicle’s battery pack is essential for good economics and preserving the environment and pretreatment recycling plays an important role in the ecosystem to minimize mining.

second hand electric car

CAM EV battery service network.

We see the EV battery lifecycle as a closed loop system fueled by things like regulation, OEM commitments and client partnerships, and battery health. Lastly, a digital record and certificate of the EV battery — which includes key data such as battery chemistry, birth date, service dates, health and valuation — is needed to support the closed loop ecosystem.

How can customers trust the information from the dealers?

Based on research and analysis, we know consumers lack confidence in used EV batteries. According to our research:

  • 83% of consumers (BEV Non-Considerers) are skeptical about battery value and remaining useful life
  • 42% of consumers (BEV Non-Considerers) are concerned about the battery not holding its charge
  • 6.9 years is the expected battery life by consumers (BEV Non-Considerers)

Cox Automotive Mobility is committed to being the best battery-health innovator to provide trust and transparency in the EV marketplace. An independent, third-party battery-health score will be a critical enabler to used EV adoption and growth, driving transparency and confidence in used EV transactions. We are building the industry standard for battery health and valuation to empower our customers, clients and communities to win in electrification.

EV Battery Vitals is our patented, multifaceted approach to battery-health testing that is helping build the transparency needed to scale the EV market. Our EV battery health score enables buyer confidence, driving residual value retention and supporting new and used EV adoption.

We also have our latest innovation, ACE Lite, that will bring the battery ‘lab’ to the vehicle by collecting specific BMS data from the vehicle that are known to leave an imprint on battery health. This data includes anything that has to do with the speed, temperature and amount of energy a battery experiences. A battery health score appears as part of our condition report much like we are presenting other diagnostic information about the vehicle in the condition report. This real-time report serves to support buying decisions on an asset whose condition can’t be fully assessed by a visual inspection — and it’s working.

How can a battery health score support more accurate used-vehicle values, and ultimately drive confidence and transparency with both consumers and dealerships?

Battery concerns, real or perceived, are a big factor for used EVs showing a higher rate of depreciation. The battery pack makes up about 30–40% of the cost of an EV and it is critical to know the health of the battery to support more accurate used vehicle values and drive confidence and transparency.

We piloted the battery health tool at Manheim auctions to gain feedback on the tool and gather insights on the impact of a battery health score. For this, we tested about 1,000 vehicles at our pilot Manheim locations. These results showed that the batteries are performing well with less than 4% of vehicles receiving scores lower than a three, on a scale of 1–5. Results also showed an increase in EV bidding. Overall, EVs with a health score were bought at a higher price compared to those without.

Second Hand Cars

CAM EV battery service network.

As the market matures and leases expire, more electric vehicles will become available on the second-hand market. It is great to see tools like those provided by SNT available for the new, second-hand buyer.

 
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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

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