My electric car ran out of electricity!

electric car turtle mode
Are you thinking of buying a used electric car? If so, the first thing you should check is the condition of the battery. My faithful electric car is almost eight years old and – let’s not beat around the bush – it has lost a fair chunk of its battery capacity since it rolled off the factory line in the Autumn of 2011.

When it was new, its 16 kWh battery pack allowed the car to travel up to 160 kilometres (99 miles) with careful driving, but that was many, many moons ago. Let’s face it, you’d be surprised if your laptop or cellphone battery lasted beyond six years, so eight years (and still going strong!) is a remarkable feat.

But how much battery capacity does my ageing electric car have? This picture tells all:
old electric car battery capacity
Well, according to the EVBattMon smartphone application, my car’s battery now has 36.3 Ah of capacity. When it was brand new in the factory it would have been around 46 Ah, give or take (although officially these cars were listed as 50 Ah). This means I’ve lost around 9.7 Ah in eight years, or 2 percent every year on average. Put into plain English, my eight year old battery has lost 21 percent of its total capacity over the last eight years.

But what does it mean? Is an older, used electric car still useful?


I got to see a lot of Slovakia on the journey.

To find out, I decided to see how far I could drive my eight year old battery pack on one charge. I decided to replicate my daily commute from my house to the city and back as many times as I could before I ran out of electricity.

The result was 122.4 kilometres (69 miles) of relatively easy driving in warm weather. I could have achieved more if I “hypermiled” and maintained a slower, more constant speed, but I wanted to recreate normal driving conditions.

I managed three commuting trips to the city and then back to the suburbs, returning with 1 bar of battery remaining on the battery gauge. Then, I decided to really push my little city car to its true limit; driving around the neighbourhood until “Turtle mode” was activated.

turtle mode after distance test Kiwi EV

Uh oh, it’s “Turtle mode”!

With Turtle mode on, the car became more and more sluggish the further I drove. At first the power was just lowered, but as the battery capacity ran out, the car limited the power to the motor very intensely. Fortunately I was very close to home, so I turned down my street… only to have it run out of power 100 metres from the gate!
electric car charging on street

A very malnourished and hungry electric car.

Fortunately I was able to coast down to my house and stopped within extension cable distance! I’ve run out of gas a few times over the last couple of decades, but this was the first time I’ve ever run out of electricity in more than four years of driving electric cars – and it was kind-of intentional. 🙂

To see this fascinating test of my old car’s limitations, click on the video below:

5 thoughts on “My electric car ran out of electricity!

  1. Hello Gav,

    I’ve been watching you since the tredia conversion, i’m glad that your factory build electric car is doing so well :).

    I recently bought a Nissan Leaf, it’s 4.5 years old and has 15% battery degradation, for my daily commute is more than enough, but i can hardly make more than 120Km’s with one full charge.
    I always charge at home(slowly) and at 80% to maximize battery life and i can get around 100Km’s this way, but my battery is 24Kw and not 16Kw like yours.
    I don’t drive “super speedy” but i do highway most of my traveling.

    I wonder how can you get this kind of range/degradation, specially in a first generation 8 year vehicle, and, as far as i can tell for your videos, you use a lot of fast charging.
    What was your average speed in this video?
    Any Highway?
    Did you use climate control?
    Do you have any secret careful with your battery?
    I usually do 12.5 to 13kWh/100, can you tell-me your average consumption during this trip?

    Sorry for all the questions, i’m loving my electric experience, but i would like to know if i can do anything to get extra range/ extra battery life, and i don’t know any one more experienced than you to ask 🙂

    Cheers, Nuno Guedes

    • Hi Nuno,
      Most of my driving is city driving; around 50 km/h and in the real world I find 100 km is my limit, but for the latest video I had less traffic and did not use the highway. This gave me an extra 20 km! The highway really sucks the range out of my car because it’s not designed for high speed. I normally use the air conditioning during the summer which takes about 10% off my range. The car is still very useful for going to work every day, but I think my next car will have a much bigger battery. I don’t have any secret tips to get more range. Just try to keep your speed down and your tyres pumped up. Also, remove any extra weight in your car, such as bags and tools and skis. 🙂
      Happy motoring!

  2. Hi Gav,

    Thanks for your responses and cool advises 🙂 i will keep that in mind, specially the skis part :):)
    I can’t wait for your next video!

    Cheers and thanks again for your help,
    Nuno Guedes

  3. Hi,

    there are rumors on the net that Mitsubishi´s battery supplier for the I-MiEV (YUASA) will offer a replacement battery for the car in 2020. It should have around 30 kWh and the price seem to be around 5000 Euros (probably adding tax and installation to that).

    But your battery seems to be still ok, so let´s hope it brings your car over 100.000 km!


  4. Maybe charging only to 80% isn’t a good idea. We can read many things about batteries, and as well as some say charging to 80% is better, some say charging at 100% and leaving it plugged on is best.

Comments are closed.