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How Long Do Tesla Batteries Last?

Last updated Feb 8, 2022

We are quickly approaching a tipping point of mass electric vehicle adoption.

According to one study, electric vehicles will represent over two-thirds of passenger vehicle cells by 2040.

Tesla has been the world’s most valuable and famous brand among EV manufacturers. However, there are still people trying to defend the internal combustion engine with hopes of keeping it alive.

Some people say that you need to replace Tesla batteries every two or three years, or it will cost you a fortune to replace Tesla batteries after Tesla’s battery warranty. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. So how long do Tesla batteries last exactly until you need to replace them? How long is Tesla’s battery warranty?

This article will show you how long Tesla’s battery life is, how much it costs to replace a Tesla battery, how a Tesla electric motor and battery are far superior to the gasoline engine when it comes to vehicles, etc.

I won’t deny that the internal combustion engine has served us very well for over 100 years, but times are changing. In the 2020s, electric vehicles, such as Tesla Model 3, are more popular, affordable, and attractive than ever before. It has a lot to do with how the most expensive part of an EV, the battery, has evolved.

Ironically, the Tesla battery is one of the biggest debate points from skeptics. They claim that a Tesla battery costs too much or won’t last very long.

To debunk this, let’s know a bit about Lithium-ion batteries and Tesla batteries first.

Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium is a useful metal. Properly configured, the metal can discharge energy when needed, take in more energy, and then discharge that energy. Essentially, it can act as a battery, a lithium-ion battery.

Lithium-ion batteries are what you find in your smartphones, laptops, Tesla vehicles, etc.

When the battery is charging or discharging, an electron and ion leave one electrode and arrive at the other electrode simultaneously. This illustrates the general concept correctly because electrons and ions do shuffle back and forth between the cathode and anode.

The lithium ions drift over from the cathode side as the battery charges. Lithium, the solvent, and the additives react with the shell of the graphite particles to create a protective film on the graphite particles. The vinylene carbonate additive helps this layer form into a stable surface that extends battery life to thousands of cycles.

During discharge, the Lithium at the anode releases an electron to the graphite, which travels to the current collector, and then the wire. The electron added to the electrical pathway creates a domino effect that cascades at close to the speed of light through the open conductive pathway between the anode and cathode. Therefore, a high flow of electrons in an EV battery causes the electric motor to run.

The individual electrons in the pathway don’t move far and shuffle around in the general direction of the cathode in a kind of wave. The movement is similar to the way a wave works in the ocean. A wave in open water carries water molecules in a primarily vertical motion, with some horizontal movement. Then, the wave breaks on shore, and the water is thrown.

Tesla Batteries

Suppose you’ve ever experienced your smartphone or laptop taking a battery life hit after just a couple of years. In that case, you may think it must be the same for your Tesla vehicles because they are all lithium-ion batteries.

However, technically, phone or laptop batteries are not the same as Tesla batteries. A Tesla battery is not a bigger version of a battery in an iPhone. Actually, in a Tesla, there are tons of batteries that are not only far more durable and advanced but well maintained than what people traditionally think of as batteries.

Your electronic gadgets might be fully charged and discharged hundreds of times, and each of these charge cycles counts against the battery’s life. After hundreds of full cycles, a lithium-ion battery begins to lose a significant part of its capacity compared to when it was new.

However, that’s not ideal for Tesla designed to last hundreds of thousands of miles, so Tesla goes to great lengths to make its batteries last longer.

Tesla batteries are buffered, meaning drivers cannot use the full amount of power that they store, reducing the number of cycles that the battery goes through, together with other techniques, such as cooling systems and a recommended daily charging limit of up to 90%, which means that Tesla battery should last many years. In order to preserve the life of a Tesla battery, Tesla ensures that there is additional spare capacity to compensate for degradation over time.

Therefore, as the Tesla vehicle ages, the battery cycles, and the additional spare capacity is used up, allowing the range of the Tesla to stay very close to the same throughout the battery’s life.

Tesla batteries are designed not to die fully but slowly lose charging capacity over time. This depletion happens gradually with a minimal loss of just a few percentage points over several years.

For example, my 2018 Tesla Model 3 is almost four years old, and it still has a rated range of 301 miles which is only 9 miles less than when I got it brand new. That’s only a 2.9% total range loss after driving 100,000 miles. I fully expect my Tesla battery to stay viable for at least another six years, which will meet my goal of 10 years of ownership of the car.

How Long Is Tesla Battery Warranty?

In fact, Tesla batteries are guaranteed under warranties. Take Tesla Model 3 Long Range for example, this Tesla vehicle has a battery and drive unit warranty of 8 years or 120k miles whichever comes first with a minimum 70% retention of battery capacity over the warranty period.

Here’s a breakdown of the current battery warranty you are guaranteed, based on the model and variation of your Tesla:

Model Battery Warranty Minimum Battery Capacity Retention
Model 3 (Standard Range) 8 years / 100k miles 70%
Model 3 (Performance / Long Range) 8 years / 120k miles 70%
Model Y (Performance / Long Range) 8 years / 120k miles 70%
Model S (after 2020) 8 years / 150k miles 70%
Model X (after 2020) 8 years / 150k miles 70%

How Much Does It Cost to Replace A Tesla Battery?

Thanks to recent advancements in battery technology, batteries are not only a fraction of the cost they used to be but are also smaller and lighter. Lithium-ion battery pack prices above $1200/kWh in 2010 fell 89 to 132 dollars per kWh in 2021. This is a 6% drop from just a year ago. Prices usually fall by an average of 19% for every doubling of capacity. Even more promising is that this rate of reduction does not yet appear to be slowing down.

A recent report found that some batteries have already fallen in price to around $100/kWh. That’s the cost that some analysts expect the market to reach broadly by 2023 or 2024.

You may have seen a recent video that showed a frustrated Tesla owner blowing up his 2013 Model S with dynamite because Tesla quoted him $22,000 for an out-of-warranty battery pack replacement.

Obviously, that is a costly repair bill, but that’s not an accurate depiction of reality for most Tesla owners, especially newer vehicles.

How Long Do Tesla Batteries Last?

Since the Tesla that was blown to bits was nearly ten years old, an EV battery is actually a proven technology. Under current estimates, most EV batteries should last between 10 to 20 years before they need to be replaced. According to Elon Musk, Tesla batteries are designed to last 300k to 500k miles or 21 to 35 years.

Based on the battery and drive unit warranties that come with Tesla vehicles and technological advancements, a Tesla battery will most likely never need to be replaced during the car’s ownership.

Given the steady decline of lithium-ion battery costs, even if a battery replacement is needed in the future after the warranty expires, the price should be much lower than it is today.

How Tesla Motors Have Gas Engines Beat

Tesla Motors Are More Efficient Than Gas Engines

Tesla vehicles are more efficient, simple as that. Internal combustion engine vehicles generally run at about 20% efficiency, meaning that 80% of the energy content of their fuel is wasted, compared to Tesla which put about 80% of their input energy into turning the wheels.

An easy way to understand this is to think of it like this: a combustion engine creates heat with a side effect of motion, while Tesla electric motors create motion with a side effect of heat.

A fossil fuel engine produces motion with tiny controlled explosions. Those explosions push interlocking pieces of metal that connect to a drive shaft. All that metal rubbing together generates a lot of heat even when the parts are swimming in oil.

This energy is not being used to push a vehicle forward. When comparing that with the Tesla electric motor, the difference is huge.

In a Tesla, there’s zero contact between the motor and the driveshaft, just an air gap, and the only thing reacting is a magnetic field. With the driveshaft pushed magnetically instead of mechanically, even a running electric motor can be barely warmed to the touch eliminating major energy waste. However, the heat in a Tesla electric motor is variable and can be significant enough to rate-limit the car during aggressive driving.

While Tesla electric motors are vastly more efficient than gas engines, they do not magically generate a motion with magnetic fields. They push electrons through stator wires which generates heat and creates a magnetic field, then they rotate those magnetic fields around the rotor which via induction pushes electrons through the rotor wires, and this generates more heat while creating another magnetic field and the force difference between the stator and rotor magnetic fields turned the rotor and thus the wheels.

So the Tesla electric motor creates heat while creating motion, just like a gas engine generates heat when creating motion, but with different means and with vastly improved efficiencies. That efficiency does have a small downside in the cold, though. The waste heat from a gas engine becomes free cabin heat in the winter, while Tesla vehicles have to produce extra heat as needed.

Tesla Electric Motors Are More Powerful And Simpler Than Gas Engines

Next, Tesla electric motors are more powerful for the times that matter the most which are during acceleration. While gas engines tend to perform better at very high speeds, most legal speed limits are no more than 75 miles an hour, giving gas cars no advantage.

On the other hand, Tesla vehicles can accelerate much more quickly, which comes in handy for daily driving tasks, such as merging or passing, instead of having a useless top speed that will most likely never be used.

Quick acceleration is possible because electric motors deliver more torque at lower speeds than gas engines. Torque is what you need to get a car going, and with more of it, electrics out-accelerate comparable gas engines.

The better torque also has another advantage: Tesla electric motors are simpler than gasoline engines.

With less torque, gas engines need help from the transmission to get moving at low speeds, while Tesla electric motors don’t really need it. Instead of a single-speed transmission, multi-speed transmissions regulate the electric motor; however, this part looks and acts nothing like a transmission in a traditional gas car. Tesla electric motors can safely accelerate under a certain RPM load, so there’s no fear of stalling one.

Not having complex gears and fluids of transmission leads to better efficiency and agility for a Tesla. This also makes them easier to service. Electric drivetrains have far fewer subsystems, no transmission, no oil tank, or no catalytic converter, which means that there’s less to break down. The heart of an electric drivetrain is the motor that is much smaller and more streamlined than its gas counterpart.

Tesla vehicles also feed energy back to themselves. Every Tesla electric motor is also an electric generator, making it very simple to implement regenerative braking that recaptures forward momentum to charge the battery and improve efficiency and range. The really cool part is that this process, just like acceleration, is electrical, not mechanical. Here’s how it works.

The rotor is always spinning in the same direction, but the electrical field reverses, sending electrons streaming back into the battery while helping slow the vehicle. This leads to the last big advantage: electric drivetrains are just smarter.

Yes, today’s gasoline cars can generate very accurate data compared to years past, but Tesla vehicles allow for more and better opportunities to monitor and adjust them. Control systems are much more accurate and probably more transparent as to what’s going on.

As software updates become an increasingly regular part of car ownership, electrics will be much more flexible, better metrics, and let manufacturers detect faults in vehicles before they become a big problem. Tesla has already proven this by fixing a significant recall with an over-the-air software update.

How Do Make Tesla Batteries Last Long?

Tesla batteries indeed lose some of their power over time, called battery degradation. It manifests itself in a couple of ways.

Charging Slower

Firstly, the range will drop just like a piston engine’s efficiency drops when it ages, and it’s possible. You’ll start to charge a little slower as well battery degradation is a moving target.

EV technology is moving rapidly compared to current EVs to even two or three years ago, and you can see how quickly we’ve moved on. Compare the cars coming out this year with ten years ago, and they’re unrecognizable.

Therefore, it’s really difficult to accurately pinpoint an exact pattern of how a battery will lose its maximum charge. Still, there is a saying, you look after your battery, and your battery will look after you, which often means charging slower when you can and leaving things like DC rapid charge sessions to when you really need to, and that’s all down to heat.

Avoiding High Temperature

Extremes of temperature are the arch enemies of Lithium-ion chemistry. Charge your car fast every day which involves high power and more internal resistance in the cells, and you generate more heat repeat this hundreds of times over many years, and you’ll prematurely age your battery.

Tesla focused on keeping the battery in its optimal condition. Generally, the battery isn’t harmed when you need to charge quickly. A Tesla battery isn’t one battery. It’s hundreds or thousands of smaller cells. Even if one of those individual cells starts to wear out a little prematurely, there’s plenty more power in the pack.

Tesla Charging Options

For first-time Tesla owners, the daily driving electric car requires some forethought and planning. While you can now cruise past gas stations, you’ll need a convenient charging solution to keep your battery topped off and to keep you out of a hitchhiking-type situation. There are a handful of good options: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 charging.

You can use the Tesla Mobile Charger to connect the regular household outlet and charge your Tesla. This Level 1 charging is slow for your Tesla because it adds 3-5 miles of range per hour.

The next type of home charging is Level 2 which is much faster than Level 1. The Level 2 charger adds 10 to 52 miles of range per hour charge for your Tesla. This is the best option for you to find a faster charger.

The Mobile Charger offers up to 32 amps of power, and the Wall Connector delivers up to 48 amps of power. There are also many third-party Level 2 chargers on the market.

DC fast-charging stations provide the quickest charge, that is, DC fast charging or Level 3 charging. However, they are very expensive and require more power than the typical home can provide, which is why they aren’t used in residential installations.

In Tesla’s world, the DC fast charging is Supercharging that can add up to 1,000 miles of an hour per charge. 

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