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Tesla batteries retain more than 90% capacity past 160,000 miles, informal study shows

By William Gayde · 42 replies
Apr 15, 2018
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  1. While traditional gasoline powered cars can more or less travel the same distance on a tank of gas over their whole lifetime, electric cars don't quite work that way. Electric batteries degrade over time and this is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when producing an effective electric vehicle. New crowd-sourced data from Tesla vehicles shows however that their batteries perform surprisingly well over time.

    The information has been gathered by a group of dedicated European Tesla owners and is publicly available online. Originally reported by Electrek, the data shows that the vehicle battery packs have roughly a 5% degradation in capacity after 30,000 miles (50,000 km). Although this is not official lab-generated data, it may in fact be more useful since it represents what real users would experience.

    Going further, the battery packs retain more than 90% of their initial capacity after more than 160,000 miles. It's not until roughly 180,000 miles that the packs start to dip below 90%.

    Despite Tesla's strict quality control measures, we can clearly see that not all batteries are the same. The owners that gathered these data tried to account for the outliers by taking into consideration how frequently the packs were charged, but came to no conclusion. Battery experts recommend charging up to 70% on normal days and only going up to 100% for long trips.

    Tesla explicitly does not cover battery degradation in their warranty for the Model S and X, but includes a 70% capacity guarantee for the upcoming Model 3. Electrek also reports that the Nissan Leaf, another fully electric car, loses roughly 20% of its capacity over the first five years. This shows that from a battery perspective, Tesla's price premium is certainly worth it.

    Permalink to story.

  2. TheGrayGhost

    TheGrayGhost TS Rookie

    The remark about the Leaf battery only applies to models before the battery upgrades of a year or so ago. The current Leaf battery will last every bit as long as any Tesla battery, so the claim made here is inaccurate, if not fraudulent. It should also be noted that Tesla batteries have a bad habit of igniting during accidents and incinerate the vehicle and are quite difficult to extinguish, while Chevy Bolt batteries are far safer. All in all, a biased, misleading and superficial article.
    Dimitrios likes this.
  3. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,992   +3,478

    How exactly do you know that the new batteries loose less than 20% after 5 years when they were only released a "year or so ago"? #logic

    You come here with incendiary remarks and no proof to back it up.
    dso24 likes this.
  4. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,546   +1,536

    Would be interesting to know what % normal car batteries maintain after X miles.... yes, I understand that the battery is basically only for starting the car.... but would be interesting to know if it's any different...
  5. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 3,437   +1,894

    The miles aren't what will degrade the normal car battery.
  6. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,546   +1,536

    They don't degrade a Tesla's either... it's the usage.... but comparing the % remaining on a "normal" car and a Tesla after the same mileage would still be useful... Because they would be "used" the same...
  7. Woah positive article about Tesla batteries.............. here comes the hate train about Elon Musk
  8. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,385   +3,775

    Well, on an average of 12,000 a year that puts you at 13.33 years with 90% capacity. I'd call that pretty reasonable, of course we'll have to see what the future actually tells us, and in the meantime the technology continues to improve, no matter how slowly ......
  9. Urgelt

    Urgelt TS Enthusiast Posts: 66   +37

    This confirms earlier studies that have been in the news over the past couple of years, if my memory hasn't completely failed me. I remember being pretty surprised the first time I heard that Tesla's batteries weren't going to have to be replaced every five years or so.

    Panasonic is probably a big reason. They appear to be the preeminent battery supplier at this point in time, quality-wise.

    But another big reason is certain to be found in Tesla's approach to battery management software. Tesla doesn't permit its vehicles to be charged to maximum capacity under usual circumstances; Tesla's vehicular ranges are calculated with this in mind. It's max charging that does the most damage to longevity. Interestingly, Tesla retains the capability to remotely fiddle with those settings, and has been known to selectively permit max charging for owners affected by natural disasters (well, hurricanes are the only natural disasters where I'm sure they've done that).
  10. Urgelt

    Urgelt TS Enthusiast Posts: 66   +37

    They're still using lead-acid battery chemistry for gas and diesel-powered vehicles, not so? The performance characteristics for lead-acid batteries bear no resemblance at all to that of L-ion batteries.
  11. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,546   +1,536

    That’s the point... are Tesla batteries outperforming the old batteries? Are “conventional” cars superior to Tesla
  12. Vulcanproject

    Vulcanproject TS Evangelist Posts: 734   +1,062

    It's the most obvious way to combat consumer complaints and concerns over the long term. As alluded to constantly full charges increase degradation. So the software management only allows charging to say 90 percent of rated maximum when new even as the gauge sits there and says 100 percent. Helps long term battery life.

    As you go along that also reduces the speed of apparent degradation to the consumer. You can release extra performance gradually from what you have reserved so the maximum available range doesn't change. It'll only be apparent that your range is dropping when the 10 percent you held back is finally eaten up by degradation over time.

    10 years or more potentially. Sensible and forward thinking, negative battery PR is so critical to avoid.
  13. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,382   +5,011

    "This shows that from a battery perspective, Tesla's price premium is certainly worth it"

    Prove to me the same money in that price premium, can't buy a new battery 5 years later with a competitor.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  14. Urgelt

    Urgelt TS Enthusiast Posts: 66   +37

    Lead-acid batteries are just an incidental part on ICE vehicles. The fact that L-ion batteries can store more energy per unit weight, and other battery comparisons, will not help you to prefer one or the other type of vehicle.

    What you need to look at are performance and cost metrics of the vehicles themselves. Cost to purchase, cost to operate and maintain over the life of the vehicle, reliability, range, acceleration, ease of refueling, styling and utility, stuff like that.

    Here's a brief summary of where EVs stand relative to ICE vehicles today:

    1. EVs tend to cost more to purchase than equivalent ICE vehicles.

    2. EVs tend to cost less to operate and maintain.

    3. EVs tend to accelerate better.

    4. EVs tend to have less range.

    5. Refueling EVs tends to take longer.

    6. There are fewer styling and utility choices for EVs (fewer available models).

    7. The environmental impact of EVs tends to be less.

    It's a dynamic situation, though. It's just a matter of time before EVs exceed ICE vehicles in every metric, including range, cost to purchase, styling and utility. ICE vehicles will be phased out. It will take decades, but it's going to happen.
  15. Greay Pommel

    Greay Pommel TS Rookie

    Tesla doesn't manufacture their own batteries yet. They source their batteries from third party suppliers like Panasonic, so I don't see why everyone is commending Tesla for this result.
  16. Urgelt

    Urgelt TS Enthusiast Posts: 66   +37

    Let's strive for accuracy here, shall we?

    Tesla does not source battery cells from third party suppliers *like* Panasonic. Tesla buys *only* from Panasonic.

    The battery cells Tesla buys from Panasonic are produced at the Tesla gigafactory, and Tesla is the only customer for battery cells produced there.

    Tesla itself assembles the cells into battery packs, including adding the circuitry and software.

    So far as they have announced, Tesla has no intention of producing battery cells by itself, so it's not a question of 'yet.'

    There are some advantages to *not* producing those cells themselves. Panasonic does research into battery chemistries; Tesla does not. Panasonic owns and applies for patents affecting battery cells; Tesla does not hold battery cell patents. Panasonic is in the hunt to improve battery cell chemistries going forward; Tesla is not.

    The two companies have a strategic partnership, in other words. The businesses are separate, but the part of Panasonic that serves Tesla operates on Tesla real estate and serves no-one else.

    No other automaker has a battery cell supplier as tightly integrated into their EV production lines.
    dms96960, CrazyDave and Flebbert like this.
  17. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,693   +438

    After X miles is one thing.
    After X miles and X years of usage, another.
    You can drive the car daily for a year and generate that 160k miles, but your average Joe will do that over span of multiple years, not just 1 or 2.
  18. fadingfool

    fadingfool TS Booster Posts: 100   +94

    A lot of points sitting above 100% - outliers or is this against some "published" range and not the actual range for a particular battery?
  19. Badvok

    Badvok TS Maniac Posts: 296   +152

    My car still has the same fuel capacity and range as when it was new 13 years ago. It also pollutes the environment less since it doesn't have to lug a tonne of batteries everywhere.

    Let's give up on all this daft EV stuff and move on with carbon-neutral petrol/gasoline.
  20. Greay Pommel

    Greay Pommel TS Rookie

    Isn't that gigafactory still under construction?
  21. Ravey

    Ravey TS Addict Posts: 156   +67

    So what is more efficient after 160,000 miles? An electric car or a conventional car?
  22. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 722   +559

    I'm not 100% for electric vehicles, but your claim is not so accurate. The "added" extra weight of batteries is offset by all of the engine and drivetrain, plus fluids, (several hundred pounds) of a combustion engine. Compare this to hybrids, and you have the worst of both worlds.

    While I believe it is still not fully disclosed in the pollution produced per mile for an electric vehicle (equipment/fuel to build the electric infrastructure, plus energy lost over power lines) compared to gas (equipment/fuel to build the oil/gasoline infrastructure, plus transporting and hazard of fuel), I would say electric is cleaner. Especially if you consider using renewable energy like wind/thermal and solar. Electric cars also convert the kinetic energy from slowing down/stopping versus combustion engines simply soak up all that energy as loss into brake pads. Then we have to consider combustion engines continuing to burn gas at every single red light/train crossing/traffic, etc etc. The vehicles that shut off the engine have to keep running to keep the a/c going, not to mention all the wear and tear of restarting every time, plus the annoyance and delay to move forward again. While there is pollution created by the batteries in some way for creation/disposal (nothing I have read by how much), the technology may end up using something that will not be(?), but that is future hopes.
  23. Urgelt

    Urgelt TS Enthusiast Posts: 66   +37


    Are you trying to imply something about EVs here, or just stating the obvious, that regardless of which type of vehicle, wear and tear is different if mileage is accumulated quickly as opposed to slowly?
  24. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,944   +3,991

    That is an apples to oranges comparison, beings as car batteries are of the lead-acid type.

    To further complicate the issue, auto batteries are ostensibly built to fail within a certain period of time. Higher price basically being the contributing factor toward longevity. Since the battery's lead plates suffering sulfation is the primary cause of their demise, more lead generally equals longer lifespan.

    One thing which I don't know, is if lithium batteries suffer from reduced capacity in the cold. The much older nickel/cadmium rechargeables, weren't worth a crap outside in the winter.

    One has to assume an electric car maker is going to optimize weather conditions when advertising every factor of the car's performance.

    Besides, I thought that the longevity performance of Li-Ion batteries was biased more toward number of charging cycles incurred, not time or distance traveled.

    Here's a listing of used Teslas for sale: https://www.autoblog.com/used-list/make1-Tesla/vcond-Used,CPO If you're up for slogging though it it might assist in drawing some conclusions about buyer habits, possibly even battery longevity. I have a sneaking suspicion that Tesla owners, facing the considerable expense of battery replacement, might opt to unload them.

    I was sport / dry shopping for a Samoyed sled dog, and sort of found out a disturbing facet of human nature in the process. A good chunk of the dogs for sale, were 10+ years of age. A Sammy's average lifespan is typically 12 to 14 years. So it seems people might be getting rid of them, just before they expected those huge vet bills related to the dog's aging to start coming in.

    And really, what is an older sled dog, other than the used car of yesteryear?
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
    ShagnWagn likes this.
  25. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,693   +438

    Stating the obvious.

    "Tesla batteries retain more than 90% capacity past 160,000 miles, informal study shows"

    Cool beans. It's irrelevant for most.

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