How Well Do Electric Cars Hold Their Charge?

The biggest concern that most buyers have when it comes to buying an electric vehicle is the battery. Its capacity and lifespan determine the car’s range, and no one wants to get stuck on the road with a dead battery with nowhere to recharge.

When talking about how well electric cars hold their charge, the main thing to consider in a battery is the term kilowatt-hour (kWh). This refers to the capacity of the battery and can be equated to a car’s gas tank. That is, the bigger the better.

The more kilowatt-hour the battery has, the longer you can drive on a single charge. It’s good to note that an EV’s management system doesn’t let the battery charge or discharge all the way to 100%. This means that the car uses slightly less than what the battery can actually hold.

How long do electric cars hold a charge?

The Lucid Air Dream Edition currently holds charge the longest. It has the largest electric car battery on the market at 188 kWh. This delivers 520 miles on a single charge. According to a real-life test done by InsideEVs, the car achieves 500 miles at an average speed of 70 mph.

The first 25% of the battery’s capacity achieves 120 miles. The other three-quarters achieve 128 miles, 126 miles, and 126 miles respectively. The Mercedes EQS 450+ comes second at 422 miles on a single charge.

It is powered by a 107.8 kWh battery estimated to deliver 453 miles on paper. Edmunds took it to a real-world driving loop where it delivered 422 miles while running continuously for 12 hours. Other cars estimated to deliver more than 400 miles include Tesla Model S at 405 miles and the Rivian R1T Max Pack at 400 miles.

Most EVs can go about 250 miles on average on a single charge. As car manufacturers shift from internal combustion engines to electric motors, many have promised to deliver EVs with longer range. Tesla says it’s working on technology that will allow electric car batteries to last one million miles.

Battery Life Expectancy

Electric car batteries are estimated to last between 10 and 20 years before needing a replacement. To back this up, car manufacturers offer between 5 and 10-year warranties (+/- 62,000 miles) with the minimum requirement being 8 years or up to 100,000 miles in the U.S.

For example, Kia offers a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, Tesla offers an 8-year or 100,000 miles warranty based on whichever comes first, while Hyundai offers a lifetime warranty.

It’s good to note that some manufacturers have set conditions hidden in the fine print. They will only replace batteries that fail to hold their charge or those that are completely dead.

Others will replace a battery pack if capacity drops to 60% or 70%. The most important thing to note, however, is that all electric car batteries degrade over time. They are designed to lose their charging capacity gradually rather than die completely.

This means that over time, the battery will not hold its charge as well. It will offer less range as the years go by. This, however, is nothing to worry about as the change is minimal. Many EVs lose about 2.3% of their charging capacity on average every year.

According to data collected by Plug In America, a Tesla Model S loses about 5% of its charging capacity after the first 50,000 miles. The rate of deterioration slows down after that. Most owners report noticing just a slight drop after many years of use.

An Impact Report released in 2019 showed that Model X and S batteries retain more than 80% of their range after 200,000 miles. Estimates from Consumer Reports show that an EV battery pack will on average last 200,000 miles before range starts to diminish noticeably. If you drive about 12,000 miles a year, this translates to 17 years of usage.

There are a few best practices that EV owners can keep in mind to improve battery life and ensure their electric cars hold their charge longer.

Safety and Maintenance of Electric Car Batteries

Below are some of the factors that affect the longevity of an EV battery. Some of them include best charging practices that you can adopt as an EV owner.

Heat

In hybrid cars, the battery pack is always installed somewhere far from the engine. This is to keep it away from the heat under the hood. Extreme heat or cold can affect the performance of lithium batteries. Most are designed to thrive at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Higher temperatures typically increase the rate of degradation while lower temperatures affect range and performance. For this reason, most car batteries come with a thermal management system that helps to maintain the right temperature.

EVs located in hotter environments will typically undergo faster battery depletion. This is why a liquid-cooled battery pack is normally the best option for EVs. It helps slow down the degradation and keep the battery functional.

Level 3 Fast Charging

Level 3 fast-charging also affects how well electric cars hold their charge. Most charging stations are designed to get the battery up to 80% in about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, this tends to overheat the battery.

The EV’s ability to accept a higher charge current is based on the battery’s chemistry. The current notion is that faster charging increases the rate at which the battery capacity declines over time. This impacts longevity and long-term performance.

Research carried out by the Idaho National Laboratory showed that the effect is not as pronounced. Two Nissan Leafs were tested separately, one using a 240-volt Level 2 charger and the other using a DC Fast charger.

After 50,000 miles, the battery capacities diminished differently, but the difference accumulated to just 4%. Fast charging does take a toll on a battery’s long-term performance because the faster the battery charges, the hotter it becomes. However, this may seize to be a problem in the coming years thanks to technological development.

Charging Cycles

Another important factor to note is that a battery experiences stress every time it’s charged. The capacity, therefore, reduces by a tiny fraction each time. In addition, filling up the battery to 100% and draining it to 0% also negatively impacts its capacity over time.

As a rule of thumb, you should not charge your electric car every night or top it up to 100% when you don’t need to. You can extend the battery’s lifespan by only charging the car when you need to.

The best thing to do is to stay between 20 and 80 percent charge. Never let the battery charge fully or drain all the way. This helps to preserve its efficiency and usable life. According to Forbes, a single 0 to 100 percent charging cycle puts the battery under the most intensive use-case scenario.

Isidor Buchmann from Cadex Electronics says that the battery only needs about 500 of these cycles before it starts to deplete considerably. If you were to charge your car from 0 to 100 percent every night, the battery would barely last two years.

Driving Habits

Electric cars are rated according to their energy efficiency and the model’s average operating range on a single full charge. However, this rating does not always reflect real-life performance.

If you get less range out of your car than what the Environmental Protection Agency estimates, worry not. Your battery pack is probably still working at its normal capacity. It does not mean that it has become seriously depleted.

One thing to keep in mind is that driving at higher sustained speeds will consume more battery power. The same case applies if the car is filled with passengers and cargo. It will take more power to propel it.

Also, using the air conditioning or heater while driving sucks more juice out of the battery. Research carried out by the AAA found that with the heater on at an ambient temperature of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the range drops by 41%. At 95 degrees Farenheit with the air conditioning on, the range drops by 17%.

Maintenance

Electric motors have far less parts when compared to an internal combustion engine. In addition, they do not require fluids such as engine oil, reducing the number of things that the driver has to worry about.

This means that the maintenance required is far less. Electric car batteries also provide a higher energy density compared to other batteries. They hold charge longer even when they are not in use.

One of the few things owners should pay attention to is the optimal battery charge they maintain during long periods of storage. Leaving an EV parked for long with an empty or full battery also affects long-term performance.

If you’re going on vacation or a business trip and intend to spend a long time away from home, keep the battery charged between 25 and 75 percent. A smart home charging station can help you stay within these limits.

Final Thoughts

Electric car batteries are perhaps the most important part of an EV. On average, they cost between $5,000 and $15,000. It pays to pay attention to how much charge they can hold when buying an electric car. This is especially if you’re shopping for a used EV. A bigger battery will offer more range and last longer. This way, you don’t have to worry about losing battery capacity after a long period of use.