A lot of people are understandably wary about being early adopters of new technology. For the privilege, buyers often have to pay more and deal with unexpected problems. In the case of electric vehicles, the dynamic is the same, with many consumers worried about how long the batteries will last and what it will cost to replace them.
It’s hard to blame them. Reports from buyers of the first Nissan LEAF indicate that some batteries are failing pretty rapidly, sparking a class-action lawsuit. And some dealers of the Chevy Volt are quoting a whopping $34,000 for a full “drive motor battery replacement,” as Autoblog reports. Tesla, meanwhile, just unveiled a $29,000 replacement battery for their Roadster model, promising an additional 75 miles of range or so.
Autoblog performed a comprehensive look at what it might take to replace or repair a bad Chevy Volt battery, and the results are encouraging. For starters, after looking at the individual parts, the website found that while all three modules that make up the Volt battery add up to a fairly large $11,121.66 total, in most cases these battery cell modules do not need to be replaced:
There are many other individual pieces mounted on the battery pack that are serviceable, such as the Battery Energy Control Modules (BECM) and the Battery Interface Control Modules (BICM). These modules control and monitor the battery packs and charging system and have been known to fail while the lithium-ion battery cells are not at fault. Some have been replaced under warranty, but if you are stuck buying one they run about $255 a piece for the part. Getting a module replaced will cost you around $2,100 for parts, labor, and programming; labor can be a big hit since dropping the battery pack is required in order to service these modules.
If you are looking to replace the entire pack, the outlook has gotten better based on recent reports of refurbished battery packs becoming available for around $4,000. In these cases your entire battery pack is exchanged for one that comes from a refurbishing facility. These facilities do not produce any new parts but instead take packs that come in on exchange and combine the harvested pieces that are within spec from multiple packs to assemble refurbished packs.
Bottom line: fear of battery repair or replacement may not be such a big issue, particularly as we get more experience dealing with these used batteries coming out of the vehicles. Not to mention that there could and should be a robust market for buying these inexpensive used batteries, which would offer tremendous benefits for cleaning the grid and saving ratepayers money.