Monday, May 2, 2011

Batteries are biggest concern for future of EVs

Hybrid electric vehicle technology is good to read about occasionally to get a feel for what's next with plug-in electric vehicles. There are some differences -- the fact that hybrids haven't absorbed lithium ion batteries being a big one. However, the future of battery systems might be the most important part of the future of plug-in electric vehicles, and whatever revamped versions of hybrids are in the pipeline. 

  • The hybrid battery packs are designed to last for the lifetime of the vehicle, somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 miles, probably a whole lot longer. The warranty covers the batteries for between eight and 10 years, depending on the carmaker and the location.
  • Battery toxicity is a concern, although today's hybrids use NiMH batteries, not the environmentally problematic rechargeable nickel cadmium. "Nickel metal hydride batteries are benign. They can be fully recycled," says Ron Cogan, editor of the Green Car Journal. Toyota and Honda say that they will recycle dead batteries and that disposal will pose no toxic hazards.
  • There's no definitive word on replacement costs because they are almost never replaced. We have seen anecdotal reports of total battery replacements costing about $3,000.
That's much better than hybrid battery systems were known for delivering not that many years ago. You might have bought a hybrid with battery life of 50,000 to 60,000 miles and weak warranty coverage. There was also controversy over the enviro-landfill problems of big batteries being pulled out of Priuses and other competitors and dumped somewhere. Things look much better these days.