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Replacement batteries to affect used EV sales

Costs to replace batteries for most-popular EVs and PHEVs vary widely

Published: November 14, 2018, 2:30 AM
Updated: November 23, 2018, 5:39 AM

2016 Chevrolet Volt - Battery Pack

Contrary to what many electric battery critics may say, the cost of replacing an EV’s or plug-in hybrid’s battery may not be such a financial burden for the new vehicle’s owner. However, the result may be that electrified vehicles end up being treated like today’s old technology.

2012 Nissan Leaf

Unlike present-day internal combustion engine cars, whose lifespan can be prolonged depending on how well their owners take care of them, electric and plug-in hybrids will eventually lose their battery power.

“These battery assemblies are similar to us humans,” says Tom Blackman, parts director at Olathe Toyota Parts Center (one of the US’s largest online retailer for Toyota Parts. “You may have been an amazing sprinter in high school, maybe you could pull all-nighters in your 20s, but these abilities are reduced as time goes by.”

Nissan LEAF battery

A Spork Marketing study focussed on the replacement batteries for three mainstream electrified vehicles — the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius.

The Leaf has the biggest battery, with the 2012 model showcased in the study housing a 24-kWh lithium ion battery to give it a range of about 130 km. However, it also boasts the least expensive replacement battery, costing $6,325 US.

Chevrolet Volt

The 2015 Chevrolet Volt uses a 17.1-kWh battery for a range of about 61 km; its replacement battery costs $6,963. The 2018 Prius Prime (Plug-in Hybrid), meanwhile, features just an 8.8-kWh battery to give it an electric-only range of 40 km, but its battery would cost $8,980 to replace.

The good news in that equation, though, is that battery electric and hybrid vehicles come with 8-year battery warranties, so the battery may not be replaced by their first owners. And if they are replaced, at no cost to the owner, the new battery will significantly enhance the trade in value when it comes time to replace the vehicle.

Toyota Prius Prime PHEV battery

But, does that mean that there’s no used market for EVs or PHEVs?

Will original owners be willing to pay the high cost for a replacement battery in order to sell it? Or will they simply get what they can for their used vehicles and leave the battery replacement for the buyer?

And who will buy the relatively low-cost used vehicle that may soon need a battery replacement? Or, will the inflated cost of a 10-year-old vehicle with a new battery draw any interest in the used car market?

2018 Toyota Prius Prime

When the Leaf was first introduced, the criticism was that the cost of a replacement battery would be significantly higher than the value of the used vehicle — predicted to be some $15,000 for a potentially sub-$10,000 used car.

Those predictions obviously didn’t materialize, but the impact of replacing the EVs or PHEVs fuel supply is still a concern.