How long do electric car batteries last? Nissan says almost all their LEAF batteries are still out there, plugging away!
It’s a common question from EV doubters, to be sure – and for good reason. The average age of of an American car is now 12.2 years, so the question of whether or not an electric car will last at least that long is incredibly relevant to US car buyers.
“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 our friend, Fred Lambert, over at Electrek, who has driven hundreds of thousands of miles on his personal Tesla Model S.
Battery Recycling Gets Back-burnered
If there’s a downside to the unexpected (by people who don’t know how batteries work, probably) longevity of EV batteries, it’s that there isn’t a ready supply to start recycling yet. That means companies like Redwood Materials (the company JB Straubel started after, you know, founding Tesla) may have to push back their goals of delivering new batteries made from recycled materials to automakers.
The good news for Straubel’s investors is that he definitely knows how EV batteries work, and he’s 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.
And they can be recycled. That’s the angle that a lot of people who point to the carbon cost of mining lithium, cobalt, and other battery materials conveniently forget: once you pull that stuff out of the ground, you can use and re-use it for pretty much ever, in what’s called a “closed loop.” Gas? Oil? When you burn it, it’s gone – and you have to go looking for more.