When Tesla owner Thomas Katainen of Finland learned last year that his 2013 Model S needed a new battery pack that cost $22,000, he didn’t blow his top—he blew up his Tesla, along with an Elon Musk effigy. (Search for “Tesla Explosion Finland” on YouTube for a video of the spectacle.)
Indeed, battery packs can be expensive. Like the engine of a conventional gasoline vehicle, the battery pack is the heart of an electric vehicle (EV). Though the packs are generally long-lasting, and automakers typically warrant them for 8 to 10 years or 100,000 miles, over time they provide fewer miles between charges.
It may be possible to save money by replacing individual modules within a battery pack or by buying a refurbished battery pack. Otherwise, pack replacement can start at around $5,000 for a Nissan Leaf battery, rising to perhaps more than $20,000 for a Tesla.
Fortunately, EV owners have some control over their battery pack’s health. EV lithium-ion batteries produce energy when the ions inside move from a negative electrode to a positive electrode. If the tiny devils move too forcefully between states of charge and discharge, the battery may degrade more quickly.
How batteries are used, charged, and stored affects the amount of degradation. Recurrent, a Seattle-based company, produces monthly battery-pack health reports for EV owners and onetime reports for sellers and prospective buyers of used EVs. How many miles an EV can travel on a single charge—its range—is a good indication of a battery’s health, says company spokesperson Liz Najman.