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Electric Car Batteries Last 5 to 20 Years

2012 Toyota Prius at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Image: Ralf Roletschek, Wikimedia2012 Toyota Prius at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Image: Ralf Roletschek, WikimediaScientists today answered a question that worries millions of owners and potential owners of electric and hybrid vehicles using lithium-ion batteries: how long before the battery pack dies, leaving a sticker-shock bill for a fresh pack or a car ready for the junk heap? Their answer, presented at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), may surprise skeptics.

“The battery pack could be used during a quite reasonable period of time ranging from five to 20 years depending on many factors,” says Mikael Cugnet. “That’s good news when you consider that some estimates put the average life expectancy of a new car at about eight years.”

Cugnet explains that the lifespan depends mainly on the battery’s temperature, state of charge and charge protocol. Battery performance begins to suffer as soon as the temperature climbs above 86 F. “The higher the temperature, the lower the battery service life,” he says. “A temperature above 86 F affects the battery pack performance instantly and even permanently if it lasts many months like in Middle East countries.”

Cugnet also recommends that electric vehicle (EV) owners pay attention to how much their battery is charged, another factor in a battery’s longevity. He reported that a fully-charged battery is more vulnerable to losing power at temperatures above 86 F.

To test the limits of lithium-ion EV batteries, Cugnet’s team reconstructed the experience of a typical EV battery in the laboratory. Using data gleaned from a real five-mile trip in an EV, they put EV battery packs and cells through simulated lifetimes of driving with cycles of draining and recharging. The researchers considered a battery to be beyond its useful lifespan when it had lost 20 percent of its full power.
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