Batteries in electric cars: Does it makes sense to rent or swap them?

BERLIN: The battery of an electric car is one of the most important components in the vehicle. It's also one of the most expensive. Given their cost, does it make sense to buy, rent or switch them out for another one?

In the vast majority of EVs, the battery is part of the car. It's permanently installed and included in the purchase or lease price.

"It has now been shown that rechargeable batteries are quite durable," says Matthias Vogt, an expert on electromobility and vehicle technology at German motoring organisation ADAC.

Most manufacturers offer a warranty on batteries for up to eight years and 160,000 kilometres. That fact and their durability generally makes renting batteries an unattractive option.

Mercedes, for example, offers a warranty of 10 years and 250,000 kilometres for its EQS luxury class, while Lexus and Toyota offer 10 years and 1 million kilometres for selected models. Tesla offers eight years and up to 240,000 kilometres. The warranties are based on the battery maintaining at least 70% of its original capacity.

E-cars also have intelligent battery management, which measures the temperature and voltage of each cell and ensures that they do not get too cold or too hot and thus lose performance.

Battery rental options are rare

Battery rental services from manufacturers such as Smart, Nissan and Renault emerged to relieve customers of battery anxiety. In addition to buying or leasing the e-car, customers had to sign a second contract to rent or lease the battery.

However, battery rental hasn't really caught on and there aren't many manufacturers offering the option. People generally want to own their car's battery, Vogt says.

As a rule when buying a new EV, the battery counts as part of the car. Customers only need to follow the operating instructions, adhere to service intervals and, under certain circumstances, have software updates installed, otherwise the warranty may be voided.

In the case of used cars, buyers should make sure that the battery is part of the sale. For used cars with a rental battery, this has to be arranged using a separate contract.

The resale value is lower for a vehicle with a rental battery, according to Vogt. With most manufacturers, a rental battery can be subsequently removed from the lease and the battery installed in the car can then be purchased.

Get a battery status cert

When buying a used electric car, motoring journalist Jens Dralle recommends getting a State-of-Health (SoH) certificate on the condition of the battery. The SoH of a new battery is ideally 100% and decreases with time, use, and the number of charging cycles.

"While not all certificates provide correct information about the condition of the battery, they at least represent a guideline value," he says.

Chinese carmaker Nio is the only manufacturer to offer battery replacement. In that case the car's empty battery is swapped out for a fully charged one in one of its power swap stations within five minutes.

This is an ideal solution for drivers who cover hundreds of kilometres a day. However, in Europe at least, such battery swap stations are rare — by the end of 2023, there should be around 70 of them.

By leasing the battery, the purchase of the car is reduced. A 75 kWh battery costs an extra €12,000 (RM62,000) or so and a 100 kWh battery around €21,000 (RM108,000).

Batteries getting better all the time

"Battery technology with its energy density and charging power is developing rapidly," Dralle says. "Therefore, I would advise customers not to buy e-cars, but to lease or rent them for a defined period of time."

Knowing that battery technology is improving rapidly, drivers should consider how long they want to drive the car for before signing a contract and then look for suitable offers.

Most manufacturers provide long warranties for battery and mileage. In the past, manufacturers tended to be conservative in their estimates of battery life and performance.

In reality, batteries have turned out to be more durable than originally predicted.
Autos News