Can EV Batteries be Replaced or Upgraded?

Don’t like the battery in your EV? You have options

Battery anxiety is a real thing for drivers of electric vehicles. While most EV batteries today live very long lives, it’s inevitable that some might need to be replaced or upgraded at some point. Here’s what you should know about EV battery options.

What Types of EV Batteries Exist Right Now? 

There are four main types of batteries that exist today:

  • Lithium-ion batteries (the most common),
  • Nickel-metal hydride batteries (used more often in hybrid vehicles, but also power some EV vehicles),
  • Lead-acid batteries
  • Ultracapacitors.

These batteries haven’t changed much but, fortunately, newer and faster ones are being developed that could appear on the market in the not-so-distant future. 

On the horizon

NAWA Technology’s Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode, which is like a battery booster, is said to be one of the fastest batteries in the world. It can up a battery’s power tenfold, increase energy storage, and boost the lifecycle of a battery up to five times. 

Another option in development is a lithium-ion battery that uses a hefty amount of nickel (instead of costly cobalt) for its cathode. 

Toyota is testing a solid state battery that uses sulfide superionic conductors that can completely charge or discharge in under 10 minutes (ideal for electric vehicles).

Another tech gaining traction are zinc-ion batteries, which function very similarly to lithium-ion batteries, but use water as the electrolyte. Lithium-ion uses a flammable electrolyte. Science Direct says zinc-ion batteries have been attracting attention because of their safety, environmental friendliness, and lower cost over lithium-ion batteries.

What’s the Point of Changing Out Batteries?

As the owner of an electric vehicle, it’s tempting to think that switching out the battery might amass a handful of benefits, even though an electric battery should last between 10 – 20 years before needing to be replaced (the majority of EV manufacturers have an eight-year/100,000 miles or 10 years/150,000 miles warranty on their designated battery). 

Consumer industry experts report the average EV battery pack’s lifespan is approximately 200,000 miles.

Maybe you’re looking for a more powerful battery, one made of more sustainable materials, or a battery made from safer components. But it’s not as simple—or straightforward—as you might think.

What It Takes to Replace an EV Battery 

If you think swapping out the battery in your EV is as easy as it is for handheld tech, think again. Depending on the vehicle make and model, it’s expensive and not always possible. The good news is that even older EV models don’t require battery replacements as today’s batteries can last for hundreds of thousands of miles.  

But let’s say you want to replace and upgrade your current battery for one that has more power (in EV terms, that’s known as kilowatt-hours). That might or might not be doable.

If you drive a Chevrolet Bolt EV, for example, a new battery pack will set you back more than $15,000 (not including the cost of labor). For example, if your current EV has a 7.2kWh charging limit, and you’d like to upgrade it to a 11kWh, eh, sorry. That’s not possible for most EVs on the market. That’s because the “upgrade” is a change in hardware, not just software. 

Teslas are a bit of a different story, however. Many of that carmaker’s battery packs are one size, so owners can pay for a more robust battery if they choose. When buying an EV, be sure you carefully consider your potential battery needs.

Tesla S Model Battery module up close
Tesla S Model Battery module up close.

Tesla

An EV battery is essentially a group of smaller battery modules linked together. The end result is a battery that is typically very large (Tesla S Model batteries weigh about 1200 lbs, for example). If a battery fails, it’s likely the entire thing will need to be replaced rather than one section of it.

My EV Battery Isn’t Getting the Job Done. Can I Just Upgrade It? 

The quick answer is yes…sort of, depending on the make and model of your electric vehicle. As noted, changing out a battery for a more powerful one can be done—if you own a Tesla. That’s due to Tesla’s OTA (Over The Air) updates, which can enhance features, and even add to existing ones, quickly, as it’s done via software. (Like upgrading your smartphone to the latest OS.) It is possible to make a hardware change on a Tesla, too.

As of 2021, the only other electric vehicle batteries that can be upgraded are in Nissan Leafs. EV Rides, a company in Portland, OR, offers battery swaps and upgrades for all years and trim levels of Leafs. For those who drive other types of EVs such as Hyundai Kona or Chevy Bolt, you can have the battery replaced, but not upgraded.

Something to consider: an electric vehicle’s battery should last at least a decade. While it will begin to lose its capacity to hold a full charge, it’s not likely to fail completely. That’s because battery life degrades over time (just like in handheld devices), so you shouldn’t worry about an EV dying on you while you’re zipping down the freeway during rush hour. In fact, consumer industry experts report the average EV battery pack’s lifespan is a whopping 200,000 miles.

Also, it might give you a little peace of mind knowing that the development of longer-lasting, and more powerful EV batteries is ongoing. Battery manufacturers and carmakers are investing millions into creating longer lasting, more sustainable batteries to power the next generations of electric cars. 

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