Tell me more about electric car batteries

A What Car? reader who's considering buying an electric car asks for more information about batteries...

Jaguar I-Pace

As a prospective electric car buyer, I've found your guide to electric cars very interesting. However, I’d like to know about electric cars’ batteries in greater detail. Could you answer the following questions to help me narrow down my choice of vehicle:

  • Which car makers sell the batteries outright with the cars and which lease them?
  • If they are sold, what is their life expectancy and how much will they cost to replace?
  • If they are leased, what is the charge for this, over what period is the lease and what is the procedure if you buy one of these cars?
  • Are the batteries covered by a warranty?
  • If a battery pack fails, does it have to be replaced, or can individual cells be replaced?

David Smith

What Car? says… 

Although leasing the battery pack helps to keep purchase prices down, virtually every maker of electric cars, from Volkswagen to BMW to Jaguar, only sells them outright. Nissan used to offer a leasing option for the battery on the original Leaf but dropped this when the new model was launched in early 2018, leaving Renault as the only brand offering the choice of leasing or outright purchase.

New Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe vs Volkswagen e-Golf

The cost of leasing the batteries for a Renault Zoe varies according to its mileage. A Zoe ZE40 doing 6000 miles a year costs £59 per month, while it’s £99 per month for a car doing 10,500 miles. Excess mileage is charged at 8p per mile and the lease period is generally three years.

The lifespan of a battery depends on how much it’s charged. It’s unlikely to simply stop working, but it will lose some of its capacity over time, just like mobile phone batteries. Some independent surveys have shown that the majority retain 90% of capacity after six years and that many cars still work well after passing the 150,000-mile mark.

If you buy a Zoe with a leased battery, the entire pack will be replaced for free if its capacity drops below 75%. You can protect capacity by not letting charge drop below 50% too often nor exceed 80%.

Find out more about how long EV batteries last

Battery warranties range from five years or 60,000 miles (Renault Zoe) to eight years or 100,000 miles (Jaguar I-Pace, Nissan LeafTesla Model S and Tesla Model X). Not all cover small losses in capacity, though; Nissan’s only kicks in when the battery drops to 25% of its original capacity, although Tesla’s on the Model 3 applies if this falls below 70%. If you’re buying a used electric car, it’s therefore vital to get its battery capacity scanned.

If you want to buy a used car with leased batteries, you can either renew the lease or buy the batteries outright; we’ve seen reports of people paying around £3500 extra to buy the batteries for a four-year-old Leaf or Zoe.

As for battery replacement, Nissan charges £4920 for a new battery pack, and it has started producing refurbished packs, which should cost around £2500. In theory, you could get some of the cells replaced individually, but no company yet offers such a service in the UK.

Real Range; find out which EV can go the farthest between charges

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