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Good News: EV Batteries Last Longer Than Expected

Almost all of the EV batteries Nissan has ever made are still in cars.

It’s true: despite early questions about how long EV batteries would last, it looks like the real-world data isn’t just matching early predictions about longevity – it’s exceeding them!

“Almost all of the batteries we’ve made are still in cars,” Nissan UK marketing director Nic Thomas said, in an interview with Forbes. “It’s the complete opposite of what people feared when we first launched EVs (the LEAF was launched in 2010, as a 2011 model –Ed.), that the batteries would only last a short time.”

Modern hybrids have been around even longer than pure EVs, with the original Toyota Prius launching in 1998 (nearly 25 years ago), and even some of those cars are still out on the road. “At the end of the vehicle’s life—15 or 20 years down the road—you take the battery out of the car, and it’s still healthy,” reflects Thomas, “(it still has) perhaps 60 or 70% of usable charge.”

Then of course, you have guys like my friend, Fred Lambert, who’s put hundreds of thousands of miles on his personal Tesla Model S. Or this guy, Hansjörg Gemmingen, who put 1 million miles on his Tesla over in Germany.

This Concern About EV Batteries is Super Reasonable

Nissan LEAF battery; courtesy Nissan.

People who are new to electric cars often express concerns about how long they’ll last – and for good reason! The average age of cars in the US is now 12.2 years, so the question of whether or not the EV someone is looking at today will last at least that long is increasingly relevant to US car buyers, especially in the face of largely stagnant wages and record-high prices (that seem like they’re here to stay).

That trend of keeping larger vehicles longer is likely to “transfer over” to EVs, too, especially as EV buyers begin to more closely resemble the “mainstream” car buyer. “Behavior in the BEV market similar to the overall market: customers like truck and utility body styles; and manufacturers have reacted to position their portfolios to meet that preference,” explains Todd Campau, associate director of aftermarket solutions at S&P Global Mobility.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Toyota Redwood Materials

Redwood Materials; image courtesy Toyota.

If there’s a downside to the projected longevity of EV batteries, it’s that there isn’t a ready supply to start large scale recycling programs yet. That means companies like Audi, VW, and Toyota parner Redwood Materials (the company JB Straubel started after, you know, founding Tesla) may not have the huge market impact we expect them to – at least, not right away.

The good news for Straubel’s investors, though, is that Redwood Materials has already factored an 15-ish year lifespan for electric cars into his business plan. Even so, the company is currently recycling 8-10 GWh year worth of batteries, which it says is, “enough for hundreds of thousands of cars,” and, the materials keep getting better the more times they are recycled.

 

Sources | Images: Forbes; Nissan.

 
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I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and have been a part of the Important Media Network since 2008. You can find me here, working on my Volvo fansite, riding a motorcycle around Chicago, or chasing my kids around Oak Park.

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