From My Garage founder & CEO Chris Dekker
Anyone who browses the news has undoubtedly read about electric vehicles over the past year, including stories of $50,000 battery replacements or those pesky electric vehicle fires. EV fires never fail to make the news despite the fact that a gasoline vehicle catches fire every five minutes in North America and this is never reported. (A gasoline vehicle is actually almost three times more likely to catch fire than an electric one.) North American mainstream media is fraught with anti-EV sentiment, especially when it comes to their battery packs and the cost of replacing them.
There’s no doubt that the high voltage battery is the most expensive component of an electric vehicle, so it’s natural to worry about its longevity and eventual replacement cost. How long can you expect your EV battery to last? How much does a replacement truly cost? If your battery fails, what are your options? With real world experience repairing electric vehicles every day, we feel qualified to provide pragmatic answers to these questions.
How likely is an electric vehicle battery failure?
In short, not very likely.
Most manufacturers back their EV batteries with an 8-10 year warranty and even after that, breakdowns aren’t very common. It has been our experience that after 300,000 kilometers of driving, you’re actually less likely to experience a battery failure in an EV than an engine failure in a traditional combustion vehicle. As battery technology continues to advance while engine reliability declines, we expect this disparity to grow in the future. (More on that later.)
It’s also worth noting that EV batteries typically don’t fail outright; they usually degrade over time. Just like the lithium battery in your cell phone, laptop or cordless drill, every charge cycle reduces the capacity slightly. In our cooler Canadian climate, we’re observing an average range loss of around 1% for every year that passes or 25,000 kilometres driven.
Real world examples: the cost of replacing an EV battery.
In the table below, we’ve taken the time to provide cost estimates for replacement of several popular electric vehicle batteries. These are real world prices that we have offered, or would be willing to offer at our facility in Airdrie, Alberta. For perspective, we’ll also detail the cost of replacing the most expensive component – the engine – of a comparable gasoline vehicle. Engine replacements have become much more costly over the past decade and sadly, also more common. In the pursuit of fuel economy, automakers are squeezing more and more horsepower out of ever smaller powerplants with technologies like turbochargers, variable valve timing and direct injection. This has brought about a noticeable uptick in engine failures.
It’s worth mentioning that we’re comparing the cost of new components here. In the same way that some drivers might opt for a used engine, we can install a used battery pack too – and we’ll elaborate on that further into this feature.
|Battery Pack Replacement Cost
|Engine Replacement (Comparable Vehicle)
|2014 Tesla Model S (90 kWh Battery)
|2014 Lexus GS (3.5L V6 Engine)
|2018 Ford Focus Electric (33.5 kWh Battery)
|2018 Ford Focus SE (2.0L 4 Cylinder Engine)
|2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV (66 kWh Battery)
|2022 Chevrolet Trax (1.4L 4 Cylinder Engine)
|2022 Tesla Model 3 LR (75 kWh Battery, AWD)
|2022 BMW 330i XDrive (2.0L Engine, AWD)
|2019 Kia Soul EV (32 kWh Battery)
|2019 Kia Soul (2.0L Engine)
|2015 Nissan LEAF (24 kWh Battery)
|2015 Nissan Rogue FWD (2.5L Engine)
|2022 Ford E-Transit (67 kWh Battery)
|2022 Ford Transit RWD (3.5L Engine)
All figures in Canadian dollars. Prices are as of November 2023 and include GST. Engine estimates include ancillary components required for warranty such as a new water pump, spark plugs, oil and filter, etc.
Electric vehicle batteries can be repaired.
A problem within your electric vehicle battery doesn’t necessarily mean you require a whole new one. Just like we can repair the engine in a combustion vehicle, My Garage is trained and equipped to repair the battery pack in your EV. Most battery packs are comprised of 10-20 separate “modules” that can be replaced individually in the event of a failure. In some battery packs, such as Tesla, we can even identify and isolate a single faulty cell from the other 7000+ good cells.
Many other components inside the battery pack can be replaced/repaired, too! While most automakers don’t sell these components separately, the automotive aftermarket has stepped up to provide contactors, bus bars, precharge resistors and other common failure parts. We replace these components on a regular basis.
This month alone, our skilled team has repaired three Tesla battery packs that would have been deemed unrepairable (and required a full replacement) just a few years ago. The clients’ total repair costs were between 80% and 88% less than the cost of replacing the entire pack. The work included:
- 2013 Model S: Diagnosed and replaced contactors, precharge resistor and a bus bar.
- 2014 Model S: Diagnosed and replaced one faulty module and pyrotechnic fuse.
- 2014 Model S: Diagnosed and replaced a circuit board on one of the modules.
Is a new EV battery too expensive? We can provide a used one.
After an engine failure of a gasoline vehicle, many of our clients cannot afford to purchase a new engine. When rebuilding/repairing their old engine isn’t possible, another option is to install a good used engine; usually with lower mileage than the old one. This generally costs about half of what a brand new powerplant would. In the same vein, we can often supply and install a used battery pack for less than half the outlay of a new one. While the pre-owned battery won’t be as efficient (or carry the same warranty) as a new one, both those statements are certainly true with regard to the used engine as well.
As an example, let’s take a closer look at the 2015 Nissan LEAF in the table above. A new battery pack, when they are available, comes to just under $16,000 installed after GST. We can also provide a used battery with 85-90% state of health for around $7,000 installed.
In summary, and looking ahead:
An electric vehicle battery replacement can be prohibitively expensive in some cases, and we can’t fault drivers for shying away from EVs as a result. It’s also a true that electric vehicles are far from maintenance-free, as some proponents might lead you to believe. That being said, we’re optimistic that this post will help dispel some of the unfounded doom and gloom in the media today and paint a more realistic picture of what EV ownership might look like over time.
In the years ahead, we expect the cost of traditional (gasoline/diesel) components to rise and engine reliability to continue declining. At the same time, electric vehicle batteries are expected to keep getting cheaper. While all of this happens, future-focused service businesses like ours are making huge investments in tooling and training in order to provide repair options for EV owners. Speaking of these options, it’s worth mentioning that even the Ford E-Transit battery above – an example we included because of its monstrous cost – is made of multiple separate (and separately replaceable) modules, plus contains dozens of other serviceable parts too. These parts often aren’t available through the original manufacturer, but innovators in the aftermarket will continue to find solutions. The auto service industry employs over 110,000 people in Canada including an abundance of driven, talented individuals who genuinely care about our clients. We have no doubt that we’ll succeed in making the next generation of vehicles as painless to own as the last.