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  • Dec 8, 2022

  • 6 min read


All you need to know about electric car batteries

What’s the main difference between an electric and a fuel-powered car? You guessed it – the electric car battery! On the surface, an electric vehicle looks and feels very much like a traditional petrol or diesel one, but take a closer look and you’ll find that an electric car works very differently.

The electric battery is the defining feature that makes a car an electric one. It’s a completely different way of using energy to move your car forward. Most of us know that electric cars are less polluting, but do we know just how the batteries work, how long they last and what happens to old electric car batteries when they come to the end of their useful life? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

How do electric car batteries work?

Instead of burning petrol or diesel to power the car, electric cars get their power from a lithium-ion battery pack. An electric car battery might look like one giant battery, but it’s actually a pack of thousands of individual rechargeable lithium-ion cells that work together to power the electric motor.

When you drive, the battery discharges as electrons move from one electrode to the other. This generates an electric current that powers the motor and drives the wheels of the car. When you recharge the battery by plugging it into a home, work or public charging point, the electrons flow in the opposite direction and the battery charges.

Although a car battery will last a long time, it’s this continuous cycle of discharge and recharge that eventually causes the car battery capacity to reduce over time, much like a mobile phone.

What’s the average battery capacity of electric cars?

Electric car battery capacity is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). The average electric vehicle has a battery capacity of around 40 kWh, but it varies greatly between different car models and can be anything from around 20 kWh to 100 kWh.

Why does battery capacity matter for electric vehicles? Generally, the more kilowatts your battery holds, the longer the driving range and the further you can travel on a single charge. Take the Mini Cooper Electric, for example. It has a battery capacity of 28 kWh and comfortably travels around 115 miles on a single charge. Compare this to the Mercedes-Benz EQS with its whopping 107 kWh battery capacity that will take you an impressive 395 miles per charge, and it’s clear to see the difference that the size of the battery has on the range.

Of course, the bigger the battery, the more expensive the car tends to be. If you haven’t yet made the switch to electric it's worth considering what battery capacity and driving range you’ll need. Most of us don’t travel more than 25 miles on an average journey, so a 100-mile range car could be more than enough.

How long do electric car batteries last?

You might be wondering how long an electric car battery lasts. We get it - you don’t want to spend money on a shiny new electric car to then find out you need to fork out money for a new battery every couple of years.

The great news is that electric car batteries have an impressively long life. Typically a lithium-ion battery should last about 10 years, but some will last up to 20 before they need to be replaced. Most car manufacturers are so confident in the durability and reliability of their batteries that they’ll also offer guarantees of 8-plus years (or 100,000 miles). So you can rest assured that your electric car battery is made to last and is unlikely to need replacing any time soon.

Like any battery, your car battery will degrade slightly over time. Towards the end of its lifespan, you might find that your driving range isn’t quite what it used to be. You might see a small year on year reduction in range, but not to the extent that it’d have an impact on your day to day driving. But, with advancements in technology, battery life is improving all the time.

If you haven’t already got your electric car, it’s worth thinking about getting one on a personal car lease. You’ll be able to trade up your vehicle every few years without worrying about the battery life or having to sell the car on, so you’ll always have the highest-spec models with the most technologically-advanced batteries on the market.

Can electric car batteries be recycled?

Most of us want to know what happens to our stuff once we’re done with it – including our cars. Can car parts be reused? Can electric batteries be recycled? Or does it all just end up in a landfill somewhere?

Thankfully, the repurposing and recycling of electric car batteries is a major focus for car manufacturers. As electric car sales surge, it makes business and environmental sense for companies to find ways to reuse and recycle car battery materials.

Electric vehicle batteries can already be repurposed to power homes or commercial buildings and can be used for energy storage in the electricity network. Valuable materials in batteries can also be recycled, such as nickel, copper, lithium and plastic. Some manufacturers, like Volkswagen, are even piloting new recycling processes that could see 97% of all raw materials recycled and made into new car batteries. Projects like this are great news for reducing our carbon footprint and we’re likely to see more of these positive green initiatives in the coming years as more drivers switch to electric.

Keen to get started on your electric car journey? A personal car lease with Octopus Electric Vehicles gives you the ultimate EV package. The low monthly payments and option to upgrade your car to the latest model on the market makes it an affordable and flexible choice.

Want even more bang for your buck? With our ultimate EV package, you’ll also get a free home charger with 4,000 free miles when you switch to our Intelligent Octopus Go EV tariff (or 4,000 free miles of public charge on Electroverse), access to our exclusive discounted EV Saver tariff (saving you an extra 1p on off-peak rates), tyre replacement, with free servicing and breakdown cover thrown in, too.

What's not to love? Speak to one of our EV Experts to make the switch to electric.