The prospect of owning a hybrid or electric vehicle is starting to tempt more owners of new and used cars to make the switch.
For one thing, both the motor trade and the UK government are making a great effort to encourage electric vehicles with sweeteners such as scrappage schemes, lower road tax, and a cheaper insurance policy. The other big appeal, is the range and performance of electric cars is increasing to the point where they have become a viable option for longer journeys. However, many drivers are put off by concerns about the life of an electric car’s battery.
Batteries degrade with every cycle of charging and discharging they go through, so an electric vehicle that boasts a range of several hundred miles, might only manage a quarter of that distance with a failing battery, rendering it next to useless. The battery is also one of the most expensive components of an electric car, leading to fears about the cost of a replacement. Electric cars usually come with a warranty on the battery, with eight years not an uncommon figure, protecting drivers from unexpected costly failures early in the car’s life.
Some manufacturers also offer a scheme allowing drivers to lease their car battery, reducing the cost of the initial purchase and ensuring the car’s battery is always in top condition. Proper use and care of the car battery will help to prolong its life, and it’s worth taking the trouble to look after such a big investment.
Batteries will degrade more quickly if allowed to run completely flat, then fully recharged. Ideally, the battery should be kept at 50% to 80% of its capacity all the time. A trickle charger in the garage can help keep the battery at the right level, especially if the car isn’t being used regularly. Very high and low temperatures can also damage the battery, as can overcharging, or a sudden, fast discharge caused by drawing excessive power. All batteries will reach the end of their life at some point, and the question of recycling electric car batteries is another issue for concern.
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Electric cars are viewed as environmentally friendly, but the need to dispose of used lithium batteries, which are bulky, heavy, and contain potentially harmful chemicals. Currently, just 5% of lithium batteries in the EU are recycled, with many ending up in landfill. Car batteries, however, are a different proposition. Their size makes landfill an impractical solution, and the components and chemicals contained in them means recycling is economically viable.
It is likely that car manufacturers will be responsible for collecting and disposing of spent batteries, either by extracting useful elements or by putting them to a secondary use when they are no longer fit to power cars. There are no perfect solutions to the problems of environmental pollution and diminishing resources, but electric cars are beginning to look like today’s best answer.