3 key factors affecting the battery life of electric vehicles
There has been a significant trend in the number of electric vehicles being both manufactured and purchased on a daily basis. Many people were originally sceptical about electric vehicles for a variety of reasons; the high upfront costs and concerns over their safety and performance were common causes for people resisting the transition from petroleum-based vehicles to electric.
These apprehensions are now fading away as a result of greater environmental awareness and media coverage, as well as improved affordability and accessibility tied with owning an electric vehicle. Plug-in electric vehicles are becoming easier to charge thanks to more charging stations being installed across the UK and home charging becoming much more affordable. EV batteries also have larger capacities allowing for longer journeys between charging, as well as improved safety and greater lifespans.
For many, the benefits of owning an electric vehicle are now outweighing any disadvantages. They’re being purchased by individuals for personal use, by businesses providing them to employees as company vehicles and also for public transportation services such as Uber. While there are many key components involved in the performance and safety of an EV, the battery is at the core of their functionality and caring for them is important for ensuring they remain efficient. Here we discuss 3 key factors affecting the battery life of electric vehicles.
One of the main factors affecting an EV battery life is temperature, both ambient air temperature and also the effect of heat generated within the pack itself. EV batteries require a specific temperature range, or optimal temperature, to perform at their best. Temperatures outside of this range will begin to have detrimental effects on the performance of an electric vehicle and their battery life. A particularly harmful practice is charging the battery when it’s already at a high temperature, potentially occurring after long periods of use combined with hot external temperatures.
Being too cold or too hot will both impact the battery’s efficiency, which in turn leads to battery life decreasing. In a study by Rivus, which involved monitoring the miles/kWh for a variety of EV vehicles at various temperatures. The average optimal performance for the sample vehicles was found to be 2.2 m/kWh at 20°C. For both lower and higher temperatures, the m/kWh dropped rapidly, reaching a lowest point of 1.5m/kWh at 0°C. Furthermore, there was a strong positive correlation (63%) between miles/kWh and temperature.
For most, temperature isn’t much of a concern as EV batteries can cope with the majority of climates. That being said, in recent years the UK has seen record-breaking high temperatures, most notably the 40.3°C in July 2022. Freezing temperatures also occur regularly during winter, especially in the Northern parts of the country. Each year we’re seeing more extreme weather conditions and for many people, the impact of these temperatures on EV batteries may have to be considered in the near future.
2) Vehicle use & care
How individual owners use an electric vehicle will affect the overall battery life. There are numerous bad practices that can be detrimental to an EV battery, from charging them too often to storing them in unsuitable conditions. Guidance is widely available to help vehicle owners care for them properly, however there will be odd times where a mistake may occur unintentionally. Leaving a battery low on charge on a regular basis can permanently damage a battery. If a battery charge is left at <5% repeatedly, damage can occur leading to a reduction in the overall lifespan.
A fairly uncommon mistake, due to the dependency many of us have on cars these days, yet still relevant is leaving an electric vehicle immobilised for extended periods of time. The battery can experience discharge and begins to lose its previous charging capabilities, struggling to reach the same levels of efficiency. Furthermore, if the vehicle is left immobile in an unsuitable storage environment, harm to the battery may be exacerbated. For example, leaving electric vehicles outside in freezing or extremely hot weather conditions should be entirely avoided.
Another bad practice that can reduce the battery life of plug-in electric vehicles is rapidly charging them too often. This links to temperature which we’ve previously discussed, as rapid and ultra-rapid charging stations release a significant amount of heat energy which can lead to overheating and permanent damage to the battery cells if done too often. Slower charging, carried out overnight for example, is much safer and has less risk of causing harm to the battery.
The weight of an electric vehicle will directly impact the efficiency of the battery, with overly heavy weights reducing the mileage and battery life. Electric vehicles in general are heavy, more so than petroleum-based vehicles. This is predominantly due to the batteries, which often contain large amounts of lithium and lead. On average, an EV battery will weigh between 450-500kg, however some can be even larger, sometimes up to a whole ton. The weight of the batteries will also depend on the model and manufacturer, but the underlining determiner of battery weight is its power output.
When focusing on battery life, it’s the additional weight of the vehicle that is important. This can be in the form of passengers and the overall load a vehicle is carrying. Exceeding recommended weight limits will apply pressure on all aspects of the vehicle, namely the battery, leading to straining and performance issues. In order for the vehicle to perform as intended, the battery is having to overcompensate for the extra weight. When an electric vehicle is too heavy, the same power output that’d be used when under no weight strain would result in lower speed and range.
The 3 key factors affecting the battery life of electric vehicles are temperature, vehicle care and weight. Each can be controlled and modern electric vehicles have solutions to mitigate these challenges. Advanced insulation and cooling systems help to keep battery temperatures at their optimal, with improved suspension and internal structural support reducing the impact of weight on a battery’s efficiency. Of course, individual owners are responsible for correct vehicle care in relation to charging practices and storage, however EV batteries being manufactured these days are strong and becoming increasingly resilient.
At Elmelin, we develop innovative automotive insulation solutions for electric vehicle batteries that keep them performing at maximum efficiency and safety, while simultaneously extending their useful life. We work with multiple Tier 1 manufacturers to develop the best possible solutions; our Compression Pads Plus help to extend the lifespan of EV batteries, while our high temperature insulation solutions mediate the risk of thermal runaway and improve passenger safety.
If you have any questions or would like to find out more about the solutions we provide, please do get in touch. We’re more than happy to have a friendly chat and offer our ideas.