There are now more than 5.6 million electric vehicles on the road worldwide, with China and the U.S. leading the world in electric vehicle (EV) registrations.
It’s a well-known fact that all lithium-ion batteries (including the ones used in EVs) will degrade over time and eventually lose some charge capacity.
But is there any way to extend the lifespan of EV batteries, and slow-down the battery aging and degradation process?
In this article, we’ll go over 9 proven tips that you can use to extend the lifespan of your EV’s battery. But first, let’s start with a greater understanding of how lithium-ion batteries operate and how they degrade over time.
How Do EV Batteries Work?
The heart of an electric car consists of three main parts — the electric motor, a controller and the batteries. The controller draws power from the batteries and delivers it to the motor.
Within the batteries, lithium’s positively charged ions do most of the work. These positive ions attract electrons and some anode molecules to which they attach themselves.
Then, as the controller draws out power, the electrons leave as well. Meanwhile, the lithium ions travel through a separator and attach to cathode molecules and the electrons used to power your car.
What is EV Battery Degradation?
Batteries degrade when electrodes deteriorate, reducing the number of places for lithium ions to attach themselves. In other words, as a battery is charged and drained, the materials that make up the battery will slowly deteriorate.
This process occurs naturally over time, therein reducing the amount of energy the battery is capable of storing.
The important concept to understand is that battery degradation results in capacity fade, reducing your mileage range little by little. Across all vehicles, batteries decline at a rate of 2.3% per year, which certainly adds up.
However, your EV’s battery may degrade at a higher or lower rater depending on how you treat the vehicle. Ultimately, how long the battery lasts is up to you.
Here are a few ways to extend your battery’s lifespan and save yourself the time and money involved in purchasing a new battery or replacing the vehicle altogether.
Be Mindful of Your Charging Habits
The cost of charging your EV at home is roughly half the price of fueling it with gasoline. However, you can’t juice your EV all the way up like you would a conventional vehicle. Nor should you roll into a charging station with barely any battery power left — at least not if you want to extend your battery’s lifespan.
1. Avoid a Full Charge
Charging an EV battery to 100% every time you plug it in will greatly reduce its lifespan. Bringing the battery to such full capacity on a frequent basis will corrode the aluminum collector and cause gasses to form within the batter, resulting in internal mechanical stress. Eventually, this leads to battery degradation.
To prolong its life, only plug your vehicle in until it reaches 80% capacity. The extra 20% of empty space will prevent you from putting too much stress on your EV. Plus, it’ll allow for regenerative breaking that can convert kinetic energy into useable energy. Often, if the battery is fuller than 80%, the vehicle will automatically disable this helpful feature.
2. Quit Deep Discharging
Likewise, you shouldn’t drain the battery until it reaches 0%, either. Deep discharging your battery pack in such a way will result in excessive wear and degrade the copper current collector and transition metals. Once your EV battery drops to 10% to 20% capacity, plug it in so it doesn’t sit with a low charge for an extended period of time.
3. Don’t Fast Charge
If you need to juice up your EV for a quick run to the grocery store, you’ve likely used the DC fast charge option. Depending on your driving range, fast charging can allow your battery to reach 80% capacity in 20 to 60 minutes.
However, using this feature often can degrade your battery and shorten its lifespan by repeatedly stressing the vehicle’s mechanical components.
Stay Ahead of the Weather
Extreme weather and temperatures can also shorten the lifespan of your EV batteries. As a general rule of thumb, a climate that’s uncomfortable for you is probably just as stressful on your car. It’s a good idea to try and control the climate in which you park, store and charge your EV.
4. Find Shade
Excessive sun exposure and the heat of summer can take a major toll on your EV’s battery. As temperatures climb into the 90°F (32°C) range, the heat will threaten to melt the separator, dissolve cathode metals and decompose the electrolyte. If you must park your car for a longer period of time, try to park in the shade to minimize damage.
You might also store your EV in your garage when you aren’t riding around town to prevent it from overheating. Still, the temperature inside your garage can quickly rise during the summer, so it’s smart to improve insulation or install a ceiling fan to maintain a comfortable temperature.
5. Avoid Extreme Cold
Extreme cold can also affect your EV batteries in much the same way as extreme heat. In fact, an especially brutal cold front can temporarily reduce battery range by more than 40% when running interior heaters.
Therefore, it’s best to store vehicles in a temperature-regulated area during winter months or plug them in to charge during a chilly polar vortex.
6. Utilize the Thermal Management System
To better control the climate of your EV and prolong its battery life, many manufacturers included a thermal management system. Of course, allowing this to run for hours whilst leaving your car in a parking lot will drain the battery. However, if you simultaneously charge the EV, the system will run continually at no expense to the batteries. Thus, the safest place for your EV during inclement weather is with its charger in your garage.
Manage Speed and Settings
Both uphill drives and excessive speeds will put unnecessary strain on your EV batteries. If you want to extend their lifespan, you probably won’t be doing any off-roading or street racing in the near future.
7. Use Mountain Mode (For Chevy Volts)
All vehicles work harder while driving uphill. However, EVs using battery power to climb steep hills can result in deep discharge which, as you know, doesn’t bode well for the battery’s lifespan.
If you drive a Chevrolet Volt or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), turn your vehicle to mountain mode or EV mode before tackling an incline. Doing so will use gasoline instead of battery power for fuel, thereby minimizing strain.
Note that this tip does not fully apply to full electric vehicles, only to plug-in hybrids.
8. Slow Down
Racing your EV around like you’re competing in the Indianapolis 500 isn’t going to do your batteries any favors, either.
While it’s completely acceptable — and safe — to cruise down the highway in an EV, exceeding 70 miles per hour could deplete your batteries faster. Take the road less travelled, ride in the slow lane and take in the scenery to best conserve the EV’s battery.
9. Plan Your Route
One of the best ways to manage your speed and settings is to plan your driving route before leaving your home. Doing so may help you avoid hilly terrain or roadways with a higher maximum speed limit. Moreover, you can find charging stations along your route and plan where you’ll refuel ahead of time. Then, the drive will be less stressful for both you and your vehicle.
The Benefits of Driving an EV
While it may be a few more years before these battery-powered cars become mainstream, EVs are certainly gaining momentum in the automotive industry. What makes these vehicles so great, though? Well, to start, they produce fewer emissions than a conventional gas-guzzler. Electronic vehicles emit an average of 5,414 pounds of CO2 per year. Meanwhile, cars that run on gasoline produce more than twice as much carbon dioxide.
Plug-in vehicles also have motors that are more reactive than internal combustion engine vehicles. Subsequently, they are more responsive to driver decisions and tend to have better torque. Additionally, since EVs have fewer moving parts, they generally require less maintenance and fewer repairs, saving you more time and money in the long run. Depending on whether or not you use renewable energy to refuel your EV, you might save money on “fuel,” too.
Of course, every rose has its thorns. EVs aren’t perfect, and their main selling point is also their biggest downfall at the moment. Over time, that eco-friendly lithium-ion battery will lose its capacity. To understand how and why they degrade, you must first understand how they work.
The Future of EV Batteries
Reducing EV costs and spurring a mass adoption of these kinds of vehicles are certainly goals the auto industry is looking to achieve within the next few years. Already, some companies like General Motors and Tesla are improving battery technology and extending their lifespans. Over the next decade, lithium-ion batteries — which rely on costly cobalt — will give way to more affordable lithium-iron phosphate batteries. This technology would cut costs, increase battery range and promote EVs as a mainstream option.
If automakers can, in fact, accomplish this feat, the future of EV will be blindingly bright.
About the Author: Dylan Bartlett
Dylan Bartlett, aka, “The Regular Guide,” writes about a range of topics on his blog. Check out his site,Just a Regular Guide, for more, or follow Dylan on Twitter @theregularguide for frequent updates.
Edited By: Hugh