The used electric car timebomb: Tens of thousands of EVs could soon become impossible to sell on because their batteries won’t last – find out if you are affected

Money Mail can today reveal a time bomb looming in the second-hand electric vehicle (EV) market.

Our research has shown that it is becoming almost impossible to resell many electric vehicles due to limited battery life.

Experts say the average warranty on EV batteries is just eight years. After this time, the battery may lose power more quickly, reducing the mileage between charges.

Many electric cars will lose up to 12 percent of their charging capacity within six years. Some may lose even more.

Yet the costs of replacing an EV battery are surprisingly high, our research shows.

A five-year-old Renault Zoe costs £9,100, but a new battery costs £24,124

In some cases, the cost of a replacement battery is as much as €40,000. For certain EVs, the cost of replacing the battery can be ten times the value of the vehicle itself on the second-hand market.

This means that used electric vehicles have a limited lifespan, making them an increasing risk as the years go by.

Research into EV batteries has yet to be decisive and the used EV market is new, as the first popular EVs rolled off the production line in 2009.

Last night a car expert said customers should be wary of buying a used electric car outside its warranty period (typically eight years) because after that period there is no easy way to measure how much the battery will deteriorate before it needs to be replaced. will be replaced.

This may mean you end up having to pay for an expensive new battery.

Motor expert Shahzad Sheikh, who runs the YouTube channel Brown Car Guy, said: ‘With a rotting battery, the range will be poor and it may become increasingly difficult to resell the car after eight years.

Buyers will know that they are only getting a little bit of life out of the car and therefore pay only a small amount, or nothing at all.’

This problem is compounded by the fact that all new cars launched on the market by 2035 will be electric and motorists will have to get used to paying around £10,000 more than the petrol equivalent for a vehicle that is not built to be so to last a long time.

Take a new Renault Clio with a petrol engine: it costs around £20,000, while its all-electric counterpart, the Renault Zoe, costs closer to £30,000.

While a traditional petrol or diesel car can get you around 200,000 miles in 14 years before the engine needs to be repaired or replaced, a new electric car typically comes with a warranty of 100,000 miles in eight years.

If your petrol engine needs to be replaced, you can expect to pay around €5,000, but if you replace the battery of your EV out of warranty, you will be looking at an eye-watering amount of €13,000 to €40,000, depending on the brand. of your car. fit a manufacturer’s new unit.

The used electric car timebomb Tens of thousands of EVs

And there are external factors that play a role in battery deterioration, including the use of fast chargers and even colder climate.

The high cost of EV batteries is due to the difficulty of extracting metals such as nickel, cobalt, lithium and manganese used in lithium-ion batteries.

They are also in demand for the production of other electronics, including mobile phones and laptops.

In the most extreme cases, such as a 12-year-old Nissan Leaf that cost £2,000 to buy, you can pay as much as £24,000 for a brand new 24kWh replacement battery.

However, most owners would upgrade to a newer 40kWh Nissan battery costing £12,780, before the garage installation cost of around £2,000. This later battery has a larger capacity but can still be installed in older models.

The high cost of maintaining an electric car does not bode well for a fledgling second-hand market, believes Shahzad Sheikh, who notes: ‘Early adopters have already bought electric cars, while the next wave of buyers are looking for value for money – and struggling to find it.

‘The second-hand market may seem like a natural place to look for an electric car, but unfortunately it is fraught with dangers because the batteries are worth more than the car. If the battery stops working, the vehicle becomes virtually worthless.”

Vehicle trading website AA Cars agrees, saying almost half of all potential buyers of used EVs are put off by concerns about battery life.

1714542866 577 The used electric car timebomb Tens of thousands of EVs

Replacing the battery of your EV out of warranty will cost between €13,000 and €40,000 depending on the make of your car if you fit a new unit from the manufacturer

Rightly so, according to the RAC. It calls the Nissan Leaf one of the most popular used electric cars, which by the time it is eight years old may have lost 20 percent of the range it had when new.

This is because the battery loses efficiency, reaching a distance of 150 kilometers between charges instead of the theoretical 200 kilometers.

This may be fine for local driving, but impractical for long highway journeys. The RAC adds that motorists can expect the battery to lose perhaps 2 per cent of its power every year due to such degradation.

Although drivers may try to save time by using a fast charger at a gas station, these generate more heat, which speeds up a chemical reaction in the lithium-ion battery that can lead to a loss of the battery’s capacity over time. can hold.

To extend the life of the battery, it may be better to charge your car on a slower home charger that is connected to the mains.

The weather also plays a role in how long your battery lasts and EV batteries work best at temperatures between 25-45 degrees Celsius.

If you live in a place where winter temperatures are below freezing, this slows down the chemical reactions in EV batteries, which can also reduce the charge over time – reducing a car’s overall range.

To extend the life of the battery it may be better to charge your car on a slower home charger connected to the mains

To extend the life of the battery it may be better to charge your car on a slower home charger connected to the mains

So it is better to charge your EV car in a garage than outside during the cold winter months.

Tom Barnard, of EV experts, advises motorists to buy a second-hand car with a battery still under warranty. This typically covers the first eight years of driving or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

He says: ‘If you buy an EV that is older than eight years and has more kilometers on the odometer, you are betting that the battery will last. You can’t just look at the odometer like you can with a traditional car.

“There is a broad combination of other variables to consider with an electric car battery.

‘Degradation of the battery may also become a more important consideration in the future – now that we are trying to be more sustainable – and may perhaps be included in an MOT.

So our advice for those concerned about battery life is to buy a car that is still under warranty.’

Concerns about battery costs are not being alleviated by a lack of transparency within the industry – with the prices of a new battery not being advertised.

Money Mail requested prices directly from Nissan and no definitive answer was given. Purchasing a battery for your second-hand electric car is also not an isolated issue.

You also need to consider the labor costs of replacing it, says David Smith, director at car dealer and garage Cleevely Electric Vehicles, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

‘As a general rule of thumb, you could set aside €2,000 for a specialist to carry out the task. Batteries are usually placed flat across the length and width of the car, just above the floorboard, and are usually not too difficult to reach.

‘But it’s specialist work, and you also need to understand the wiring properly and you may need to reset the vehicle’s computer to accept a replaced battery. Some companies, like Tesla, will only let their own dealers do this work.”

And what about the fate of an old EV battery that can no longer be used in a car? They typically fetch £1,500 and can be used for energy storage for solar panels, but many fear they will end up in landfill.

Now a host of new startups are racing against time to find a way to recycle car batteries that are past their prime, including JB Straubel, former Chief Technical Officer of Tesla, who launched Redwood Materials.

Mr Barnard said: ‘The old batteries have an intrinsic value because of the valuable metals they contain – and even if they are no longer practical for storing electricity, they still have a scrap value.

“It is still a relatively new market and we can expect it to grow further as we move towards a more renewable future.”

The used electric car timebomb Tens of thousands of EVs

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow a commercial relationship to compromise our editorial independence.