What Tesla’s report tells us about battery wear in electric cars

As prices continue to climb, potential buyers are thinking more about its long-term value. Especially since the battery of an electric vehicle is one of the most expensive parts to replace, which makes its lifespan extremely important. Here’s why this report is important.

The battery pack of a Tesla Model S

It is difficult to have sufficient hindsight to fully understand the wear and tear of electric car batteries over time. First, modern electric cars are relatively new. In addition, there was little sales volume at the beginning, which does not allow to carry out complete statistical studies.

Tesla has nevertheless communicated a lot of data on the wear and tear of the batteries of its first models, in particular the Model S (2013) and Model X (2016). These are models that have been recently updated, but there are thousands of copies already on the roads that have traveled tens of thousands of kilometers.

Batteries always degrade as the car travels thousands of miles and over years of driving. As a reminder, Tesla is not only a designer and manufacturer of electric cars, it also designs the large batteries that power its vehicles. Each year, new advances are made and research continues. The goals are always to find ways to improve cost and efficiency without sacrificing sustainability. Recently, we were also able to discover new LFP (Lithium-Iron-Phosphate) batteries on the Model 3 Propulsion.

143 pages to browse

All this to tell you that the figures communicated by Tesla therefore relate to old vehicles which have batteries which have already evolved a lot. In short, it is time to take an interest in this 2021 impact report which details, among other things, how electric batteries degrade over the distance traveled. This information can be found on page 67 of this 143-page document.

In summary, Tesla states that the batteries used in Tesla cars are designed to last for the life of the vehicle, implying that the cost of replacing a Tesla battery might not even be relevant when estimating long-term value. In a tweet, Tesla pressed that fact even further, suggesting that the battery is designed to outlast the car.

Battery longevity is critical. Every battery we make is designed to outlast the vehicle it’s in pic.twitter.com/ZbTzQN55u4

—Tesla (@Tesla) May 6, 2022

The US manufacturer has included a graph showing the durability of the Tesla Model S and X battery capacity versus distance travelled. This graph shows a rapid drop of a few percent in peak charge level over the first few thousand miles and then a gradual, nearly linear drop as thousands of miles pass.

What Tesla's report on electric car battery wear tells us

At the 200,000 mile (about 320,000 km) mark, the graph only reveals about 10% battery capacity loss, which is quite impressive. Additionally, Tesla notes that the vehicles are scrapped after approximately 300,000 miles of use in the United States, which makes the claim that the battery outlasts the car very believable with these numbers.

The figures are however less optimistic for Europe since Tesla indicates that the cars are designed to last around 240,000 km. Finally, note that the cheaper Model 3 and Model Y are not shown on the chart, they are just too new.

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Tesla Model 3 Rear-wheel Drive (2022)

A vehicle that is little used can degrade with fewer kilometers traveled

In the fine print of Tesla’s 2021 impact report, it is noted that age also affects battery life and a car that is driven more frequently and for longer will be more likely to match those projections. A vehicle that is little used can degrade with fewer kilometers traveledsimply because of the age of the battery.

Tesla also notes that these numbers only apply to the old battery composition. Newer chemicals, such as the iron-based batteries discussed earlier in the article, will need more data before they can accurately assess their degradation.

As a reminder, Tesla offers a “standard limited warranty» for 4 years or 80,000 km, whichever comes first; and up to 8 years or 240,000 km, with a minimum retention of 70% battery capacity during the warranty period for Model S and X.

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