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Electric car batteries can be given a second life, here’s why:

Electric car batteries can be given a second life, here's why:
Electric

One of the many Internet arguments against electric cars goes something like this: the batteries that power electric cars will be useless after a few years, and they will all end up in the landfill as a dead loss. And, like so many things on the internet, it’s utter nonsense. It’s basically double-decker nonsense, because a) batteries last a lot longer than the I-know-better will ever admit, and b) batteries this big and powerful will always find another place to be useful.

Let’s start with the first bit, then the basic misconception: batteries are useless after a few years.

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Geotab has measured the battery health (ie the ability to hold a charge) of some 6,300 electric cars. And it turned out that across those 6,300 cars — 21 different models, including the BMW i3, e-Golf, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S — the average battery capacity after five years was still 89.9 percent of new cars. And this is the average, including early EVs that didn’t have the level of battery conditioning found in newer electric cars and whose batteries deteriorate faster as a result.

An easier answer (or method for enabling a peak backfire effect, depending on your audience) is warranty. Now, these vary from country to country, but the trend with Tesla, Hyundai, Porsche, Nissan, Mercedes, Audi, Polestar and so on is to offer an eight-year battery warranty. Of course, these guarantees will undoubtedly contain all kinds of caveats and legal provisions. But for such big players, who have bet just as hard on electric cars, to cover a part that makes up about a third of the cost of a new car… well. Euclid does not need to understand exponential costs himself. For reference, Tesla guarantees a capacity of at least 70 percent after eight years, or will replace the battery with one that can hold at least that much charge.

But for the sake of argument – because what is the Internet without a fight – let’s take an extremely pessimistic view of lithium-ion batteries and suggest that after 10 years only 50 percent of their original capacity will be left, with no recourse to any form of warranty.

Now let’s apply that formula to the 93 kWh battery in the Audi e-tron GT. That’s more than 46 kWh left, or more than you get in the current base model Nissan Leaf. Supposedly the big GT will get through the juice a little faster than the more relaxed Leaf, but that’s still a lot of miles to go before you’re empty – some 250 miles of range per charge, even after a decade. And, as we experienced with our geriatric old phone, halving the battery capacity also cuts the charging time in half.

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But let’s say 250 miles is definitely not good enough, and the owner (original, second, fifth, or otherwise) wants to replace the battery and recoup the 300-mile range of a new e-tron GT. From now on, it’s eminently possible to replace the massive batteries that underpin electric cars – take it back to the dealer, ask for the battery to be replaced, shudder when you get a five-digit bill back and go from there. In the future, used car values ​​will reflect the price of this big job, just like you can get an old Range Rover cheaply because it’s just a four-wheel drive time bomb.

But in ten years’ time, batteries will be cheaper and almost certainly more energy-rich. So in 2032 you could bring a perfectly decent, well-maintained e-tron GT to Audi – or maybe even an independent mechanic – and get a battery that gives you more range for less than you’d pay today.

So what happens to your old battery? Does it just go to the landfill somewhere? Uh, not quite. Old EV batteries are already popping up everywhere. BMW works to power festivals, construction sites and the like without the need for generators. Audi is installing used batteries in Berlin’s electrical grids, putting them to work in its factories and even partnering with a non-profit organization that is trying to electrify India’s rickshaws.

Then there is the obvious: energy storage at home. A Tesla Powerwall has a capacity of 13.5 kWh; an eight-year-old battery from the cheapest Model 3 you can buy today is warranted more than three times that. So when your EV’s battery is eventually fully used up for use in your base model Tesla, you can use it in your home. Assuming broadly linear degradation, 70 percent after eight years is 35 percent after 16 years. That’s still a 21 kWh Powerwall, ready to install in the year 2038.

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So EV batteries last for centuries and have unlimited uses after being used in electric cars. But like so much that has been written on the internet, we just know someone is going to read this and think “what nonsense”.