What’s the cost of replacing an electric vehicle battery? “Staggeringly high”

In 2021, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz unilaterally instructed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to adopt California’s Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) mandate, which will require automakers to stock around 14,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in Minnesota starting in Model Year (MY) 2025.

Since then, California has formally adopted a ban on the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered engines after 2035. While the Walz administration has stated they are not currently planning to adopt California’s ban on gas and diesel-powered engines, Governor Walz also refuses to rule it out.

Given the Walz administration’s mandates for EVs, it makes sense to examine how much it costs to replace the batteries in electric cars. An article from The Drive describes it as “staggeringly high:”

The long-term costs of owning EVs are often misunderstood. Even if they’re powered by batteries, electric cars still need brakes, tires, and suspension. And because of the complex chemistry of lithium-ion batteries, these cars have a specific shelf life and degradation compared to internal combustion. Trouble is, engines get cheaper on a long enough timeline and generally can sit around indefinitely. Batteries are in constant decline.

Chevrolet Bolt

The Bolt is one of the most affordable and usable EVs anyone can buy. For around $20,000, a used pre-facelift bolt with over 200 miles of range makes for a great medium-distance car and has enough range to cover most daily commutes in the United States. 

The first Bolts were delivered in 2016, so they’re six years old at their oldest. Batteries have a generally agreed-upon lifespan of 10 years, depending on usage and charging habits, meaning that older Bolts are getting close to needing new battery packs. 

Chevrolet decided to split the Bolt battery pack into 10 individual battery stacks in a common housing, meaning bad packs can be swapped for less money than an entire pack. However, this won’t be a great solution for worn out batteries. If one pack goes bad, the rest aren’t far behind it. Each pack costs $990.81, making a total parts cost for a totally fresh battery $9,908 before tax and labor.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

The first model of Ioniq Electric was delivered in 2017, so they are five years old at their oldest. These batteries are at least at their half lives, and with their relatively small capacity, range will drop substantially. 

Hyundai deployed a single integrated pack strategy for the Ioniq EV, meaning the whole pack has to be replaced if there is a fault. The cost is $17,845, almost as much as the car itself.

BMW i3

The BMW i3 started production in 2013 when BMW. With these cars being almost 10 years old, batteries on older models might be very degraded. BMW split the pack into eight battery modules, each retailing for $3,054 for a total of $24,432 in battery cost. This far outstrips the value of the car if a new battery pack is used to fix an old i3.

Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf began production in 2010 for the 2011 model year. The Leaf is the most affordable EV on this list, available for less than $10,000 for early examples. Unfortunately, it suffers from severe battery degradation in its age.

Finding a new Leaf battery is difficult, but the part number 295B0-3NF0B comes back to a list price of $10,000. According to Antelope Valley Nissan, the labor cost is $1,320 and the battery cost is often below list price. 

Volkswagen e-Golf

The e-Golf is reasonably old, introduced in 2015 and facelifted in 2018 with more range. The earliest e-Golfs go for $15,000 to $20,000, which feels steep for the EPA-estimated 83 miles of range. 

This car has the most expensive battery on our list at $27,000 as listed by VW. Though, that price might be dubious, as the much newer and ground-up Volkswagen ID.4’s battery is listed at the exact same $27,000. It’s possible that dealers get discounts on the price or that Volkswagen has no availability, thereby setting a placeholder price. Either way, it isn’t cheap to replace a battery in either EV Volkswagen.

The Upside

Though these numbers look bleak, the chance of batteries continually getting cheaper as new technologies emerge is fairly high. The real risk is old batteries becoming obsolete, going out of production, and leaving cars without replacement parts.