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Pure Potential: EV battery packs should last 15 years, says former Tesla CTO

Houston, Texas — Electric vehicle battery packs should last about 15 years, according to former Tesla chief technology officer and co-founder JB Straubel.

In a recent interview at CERAweek 2022, Straubel was asked at what point he believes battery life reaches an end. Once responsible for Tesla’s battery development until 2019, where he led cell design, supply chain and the first Gigafactory concept through the production of the Model 3, Straubel said it’s “easily going to be 15 years, in most cases.”

“It’s a subjective thing depending on what people’s goal is for the car, but I think it’s easily going to be 15 years,” he said. “I think people will probably keep the batteries in their cars for a long time and really try to extract as much utility as they can.

“I also think battery life will probably track with the vehicle life. Personally, I think it’s probably less likely that people will replace a new battery in an old car, given how fast technology is changing and how much better a modern EV might be than a 15-year-old EV at that time.”

Most current EV battery warranties offer far less than 15 years, though a bold battery claim comes out of Toyota; that its upcoming bZ4X will retain 90 percent of its battery capacity after 10 years of ownership. Tesla’s battery warranty for the Model S and Model X, in terms of mileage, sits at 240,000 kilometres (150,000 miles) or eight years, whichever comes first.

Steve Fletcher, managing director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada, said this kind of research is key information for automotive recyclers.

“[This information] shows that the batteries will outlive the vehicle, indicating those batteries have value at the end of life of the vehicle. Many original estimates predict batteries only last eight years, at most–that’s proving not to be the case,” said Fletcher.

Straubel’s latest venture is in Redwood Materials, which he says is tracking the end-of-life of EV batteries closely and developing new processes to recycle materials, with a focus on EV batteries. The company also recently announced its plan to delve into cathode and anode production with a 100 Gwh battery material factory in the U.S.

Straubel said Redwood is currently recycling 8-10 Gwh/year, which is enough for “hundreds of thousands of cars.”

“We have to basically build an un-manufacturing infrastructure of the same scale that we had to build to make them in the first place,” said Straubel.

The full interview with Straubel can be viewed here.

 

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