Battery costs, stickers, and a winter road trip.

“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.

How much would a new electric car battery pack cost

How much would a new battery pack cost?

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?

I love my electric car but how long can it last?

I love my electric car but how long can it last?

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…

Mitsubishi i-MiEV replacement battery price

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV replacement battery price is…

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?

EVBatMon application

You can get the EVBatMon application from Google Play.

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.

Electric car battery degradation

Battery degradation in my electric car

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. :)

electric car vinyl sticker idea

Time to get creative…

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!

Electric vehicle - enjoy the silence sticker

Electric vehicle – enjoy the silence

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.

Electric Vehicle - Enjoy the silence - sticker with transparent background

Electric Vehicle – Enjoy the silence: right-click and save this file.

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).

Enjoy the silence - electric vehicle sticker

Enjoy the silence: the ultimate electric car sticker

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.

skis inside the electric car

The skis fit inside the electric car… just.

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!

 

Electric car charging slowly in the cold

Winter sucks: even quick charging takes longer.

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.

Gavin Shoebridge and Veronika Shoebridge

The electric car is recharging and so are we (with coffee).

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.

Piestany nabijanie Greenway

Stop number 2: Piešťany

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.

Kiwi EV Slovakia map

Our destination: Vratna in northern Slovakia.

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.

Nabijanie pre elektromobilov - Nová Dubnica

We found a free quick-charger in the middle of nowhere!

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.

Taking the electric car skiing in the mountains

We made it! We took our electric car to the mountains!

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!

Vratna skifield Slovakia

Our reward: skiing in the mountains.

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.

electric car window sticker

That’s the coolest electric car rear window sticker!

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!

Winter!

Rangitoto Island in Auckland City

Well… that’s the opposite of winter

To be fair, the above picture isn’t actually winter. It was taken while Veronika and I enjoyed a trip to New Zealand in December 2015 in order to experience Christmas time in the summer once again – the way Christmas should be.

BMW i3

The BMW i3: just like my car – but with an engine

I also had the opportunity to test-drive a brand new BMW i3 with a range-extended petrol engine built in. It was a comfortable if unremarkable electric car, but it sure has some good acceleration. I wouldn’t mind one if they were more realistically priced and if they came with a bigger battery instead of an old-fashioned internal combustion engine installed. I guess BMW aren’t ready to follow Tesla just yet.

Before long, it was time to leave the warmth and sunshine and head back to Slovakia, which meant learning to drive my electric car in winter.

electric car in the snow

My electric car recharging in the snow.

The cold winter weather meant that I had to effectively learn the characteristics of my car all over again. There wasn’t that much of a difference to be honest, but I’d be lying if I said there was no difference at all. I learned that the car gave me less range in the colder temperatures, though not a huge reduction.

I quickly learned however that using the heater takes a massive chunk out of the range. I mean that little electric heater uses heaps of electricity. So much so, that I think next winter I’ll copy the brilliant idea from Ben Nelson, and install a tiny fuel-sipping “parking heater”. He did a really tidy, professional install of an tap-in heating system which costs almost nothing to run yet heats the cabin of the car brilliantly while using no more electricity than just running the fan. Cool huh?

Another idea to create more space under the tiny hood in the Peugeot iOn / Mitsubishi iMiEV / Citroen C-Zero in order to install a parking heater system is to move the big lead-acid “starter” battery to a different location. And, while you’re at it, get rid of it and put a lightweight lithium battery in it’s place, as Jarkko Santala did here! He also installed a fuel heater in his electric car, along with heaps of other modifications. Both the aforementioned blogs are great reading with lots of pictures. If you like tinkering, then grap a cuppa and check them out!

electric car

Get the cameras ready! It’s time to make a video!

There are endless blogs and research info on the internet about winter affecting electric cars, but as we all know, the best way to learn is through hands-on experience. So I did a few warm weather versus cold weather comparisons which I included in the video at the bottom of this page.

electric assist bike

I’ve wanted one of these for YEARS!

As you can see in the above picture, I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a plug-in hybrid (secret code for an electric-assist bicycle) which is something I wanted for years. Thank you, Christmas bonus!

electric bike

A brand new e-bike!

The only problem was that it was the middle of winter so I couldn’t exactly take it for a spin.

Well, thanks to a planet full of gas cars and coal power stations I only had to wait a couple of days for winter to temporarily end as a freak mid-winter heatwave arrived.

electric bike speedo

Thankfully, our ruined climate meant I could take it for a mid-winter ride!

This meant I was able to go for a nice long ride in a sunny 11°C (52°F) when it should have been -11°C (12°F). Very, very strange indeed.

On one hand I loved being able to ride my bike in the middle of the Slovak winter, but on the other it made me sad because we all know this shouldn’t be happening. We’re really pulling our delicate climate apart.

On a more positive note, I noticed my electric bike’s battery comes with a USB socket. This means I can charge my phone on the go. Kinda cool.

battery with USB plug

My bike’s battery has a USB port!

Overall it’s been a real adventure this winter, learning the eccentricities of my little city electric car, but I’ve had no unpleasant surprises because the range difference wasn’t staggering (as long as you don’t touch the heater).

Another thing I discovered about my electric car was the button that turned off the stability and traction control. This meant that when the snow began falling, I was able to use this button to devolve into a fully-grown manchild, sliding my electric car around an empty street!

doing donuts electric car snow

Clean fun: electric car doughnuts are smarter doughnuts.

I experienced and learned a lot more than what I’ve just explained in text however, so to see the rest, including cold weather comparisons, my brief TV appearance, and even a cameo by Hitler wearing ridiculous socks, click on the video below!

Drive safe, and of course, drive electric!