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Used electric cars show minimal range loss at the 100,000-mile warranty mark as battery health issues are rare

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While electric vehicle owners in the US are basking in the longest average range on a charge that new EV models here offer, it may still be pleasant to hear that the used electric car market is not as fraught with range lemons as generally considered. Such is the conclusion from a new study by Recurrent Auto that involves some 15,000 electric cars from Tesla, Chevy, Hyundai, Nissan, and others.

The long-term observations showed that EV battery recalls are a rare phenomenon, and they are mostly of older models without active cooling, or concentrated in certain batches. Even rarer are replacements due to battery health issues – about 1.5% of the total vehicles surveyed – that are not connected with recalls or fall outside of warranty maintenance.

There is some concentration in makes and models that have experienced above average non-recall battery replacements, though, as can be expected:

  • 2013 Tesla Model S (8.5%)
  • 2014 Tesla Model S (7.3%)
  • 2015 Tesla Model S (3.5%)
  • 2011 Nissan LEAF (8.3%)
  • 2012 Nissan LEAF (3.5%)

One of the biggest concerns of future used EV owners – battery health – is thus rendered somewhat moot in practice. The other big issue when considering a pre-owned electric vehicle, the prices of which have fallen drastically after Tesla lowered its tags in January, is their remaining range on a charge in an otherwise healthy battery.

According to the Recurrent Auto survey of 15,000 EV owners, there has indeed been some range reduction after the initial 10,000-20,000 miles covered with a new electric car. Afterwards, however, the range on a charge plateaued and remained fairly constant even past the typical 8-year, 100,000 miles warranty mark.

This phenomenon is seemingly valid across brands and models with most of them apparently losing no more than 20 miles of range on a charge from the purchase of a new electric car to the 100,000-mile threshold. The notable exception here seems to be the oldie Tesla Model S in its 100 kWh battery pack variant that has undergone more battery replacements and suffered higher average range loss in the process. 

The non-linear battery degradation in the real world of active EV owners would be a welcome news for anyone considering the purchase of a second-hand electric car in the US market, as the battery health state is their chief value retention determinant.

According to Recurrent’s study, the majority of original electric vehicle batteries are still on them, while manufacturers and recyclers say that today’s EV batteries can in fact last double their warranty period and beyond before significant degradation occurs.

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