“You’ll have to replace your battery every three years in an electric car,” screamed the naysayers. “The batteries will be thrown in a landfill,” they yelled, pretending to care about the environment in an attempt help their pro-coal, pro-oil arguments.
Fast forward a few years and we’re all laughing at how crazy those anti-electric car guys sounded, now that electric cars have won. But the thing is, we still don’t know how long electric car batteries should really last.
New electric cars like the Hyundai Ioniq have “Lifetime” guarantees on their battery packs (covering battery failure, not normal battery degradation) but my 2011 Peugeot Ion is quite a bit older, with an older battery chemistry.
When new, my electric car was given a 5 year/50 000 km battery warranty. Obviously that has expired now, which means if I have any battery problems, I’m on my own. This made me wonder: how much is a replacement battery pack for a Mitsubishi iMiEV / Peugeot iOn / Citreon C-Zero?
My 2011 car cost me €7000 back in the summer of 2015. For a modern, nimble electric car with all the options, that was a bargain price. Actually, it’s still a good price. But there’s always been the curious question in the back of my mind: how much does a replacement battery pack really cost?
To find out, I emailed my local Peugeot dealer. Now, keep in mind they quoted me €600 for a replacement carpet, so I was expecting the worst!
Naturally, when the email came back with the answer, I held my breath…
Crikey. That’s ridiculous. Peugeot say that a replacement battery pack for my electric car would cost me €18,510 ($19,577 US). A massive sum for a small car. Of course there are other options, such as trying other dealers or buying straight from Mitsubishi, or buying a used/wrecked car and taking out its battery, so I’m not too worried.
But this ordeal led me to my next question: what is the real condition of my electric car’s battery?
The best way to find this out is to download the mobile phone application EVBattMon and connect it to your car’s OBDII socket under the dashboard.
In the above picture there are two screenshots of the battery. The left picture is the condition of my battery in August 2016. On the right is now, February 2017. If you look at the Amp hours (Ah) rating of the pack (top left) of each screenshot, you can see the real condition of the battery.
When new, the battery pack would have shown somewhere around 46 Ah on the application. In those five and a half years, it’s therefore lost about a fifth of it’s capacity. In six months you can actually see the battery has reduced a tiny fraction, comparing the two charts.
Personally I haven’t noticed any loss of battery capacity because I received the car when it already four years old. Also, its range is still much more than what I need for my daily driving, so I have no range anxiety in my daily life, and thanks to the installation of a diesel heater, no “heat anxiety” either!
Despite its age, my electric car is doing just fine. It’s just a better form of transport in any city. It’s clean, cheap, and in our noisy world, wonderfully quiet. And this got me thinking of a cool new design for a rear window sticker, saying Electric vehicle – Enjoy the silence.
So I got busy creating it on my computer and sent it to my trusty screen-printer in the city to be made into a self-adhesive vinyl cut-out. Less than a day later, it was ready to pick up and chuck on the car!
I don’t like blowing my own trumpet, but that looks freaking awesome.
If you want to download the sticker design, you can do so by right-clicking this picture below, and selecting “Save as”. Save it to your computer and then email it to a local print shop.
The image is a .png file which has a transparent background, so your local print shop will have no problem reproducing it.
Mine cost €6 each and I had two made, just in case I screwed one up during the application. I recommend you make two for this reason. The size of mine is 50 cm wide x 30 cm high (20 x 12 inches).
So, armed with my new window sticker, and knowing all too well about my battery’s natural degradation, we did the illogical thing: we jumped in the car for winter road trip and headed to the mountains.
We loaded up the car with skis and hit the road early on a Saturday morning, departing at 5:30 AM. The reason we left so early is because we decided to play the day on “hard mode”. Getting to the ski field in the mid-morning, doing a day’s worth of skiing, then driving home in the evening.
This meant it was going to be a very long and tiring day, but we wanted to see if it was possible. With money as tight as ever, we also wanted to save money by not having to pay for accommodation!
Our first stop of many was in the city of Trnava, 69 kilometres (48 miles) away. Now, normally this stretch of highway leaves me with with a little bit of charge left in the battery, maybe 3 or 4 bars.
In winter however, we arrived to the charger with only 1 bar remaining. A troubling sign of things to come.
We recharged with coffee while the car recharged with electrons, all while the sun began to rise behind the grey clouds. Meanwhile, my little diesel heater was still running in the car, keeping it toasty for when we returned – all without making a dent in the car’s range.
The next stop in the journey was in the town of Piešťany. In summer we probably could have skipped this stop, but in winter I quickly learned that we had about 20% less range at our disposal.
After stopping at a quick-charger located in a truck stop, we made use of a charger in a town called Nová Dubnica. Now, technically we didn’t need to stop here, but because this was really uncharted territory and because the charger was listed as free to use (and because I was curious) we pulled off the highway and hunted for the charger.
From here on, things were pretty routine. We drove, we recharged, we drove, we recharged, and after many, many hours we made it to Žilina, 218 kilometres (135 miles) from home.
Unfortunately… from this point on, things didn’t go so well. In fact, our GPS caused us another hour of delays, our diesel heater ran out of fuel and we grew more grey hair. The video at the bottom of the page gives you a better sense of what happened more than I could ever describe with words.
But… after (too) many hours we eventually climbed up the mountain road to the skifield in Vrátna dolina, northern Slovakia, and we squeezed in some skiing.
In a long-range EV this particular journey would have taken a couple of hours, instead of the six it took us. But I knew it would be harder so I was prepared for more effort.
There’s also a pioneering enjoyment factor to such a journey, that many motorists may not be able to understand. I mean, it’s so much more satisfying to drive a city EV a long way than it is to drive a long-range EV or internal combustion car the same distance, in exactly the same way that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car fast!
We only managed to squeeze in two hours of skiing because of our unplanned GPS problem and overly conservative charging schedule, but it was still a great adventure. We arrived home late at night, exhausted but happy.
Now, of course this car wasn’t suitable for this journey, but I already knew that before I left. Also, some may think that this journey paints a negative light on our lower-range electric cars, but it’s not true. I think it shows how much is actually possible in an older EV, even in the worst possible conditions.
We covered 564 kilometres (350 miles) of the harshest, heaviest, coldest driving we’ve ever put the poor car through and it came out shining. I’m immensely proud of my little city EV for allowing us another awesome journey.
Now, what I’m really looking forward to is that increased summer range because I have some (much more fun) trips planned. Most importantly, trips that don’t involve diesel heaters!
Watch this space.
Click the play button below to watch the entire saga on video!