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A Guide to Second Hand Electric Cars

When we see electric and traditional vehicles driving side-by-side on our roads, it can be easy to forget that the technology that is powering these machines inside is vastly different. Their exteriors are often very similar, albeit the electric models do sometimes have a more space-aged shape. When purchasing an electric vehicle, we are drawn to important information like its range, charge time and its performance. However, when buying an electric vehicle second-hand, there are several extra things to consider. One such factor is life of the EV’s battery.  

Battery Life

When we talk about battery life, we are not talking about range. Range is governed by the distance your car can travel on one charge. Battery life is the length of time that the battery will continue to perform at a sufficient level to sustain the performance of the car, charge after charge. Batteries, for several reasons, are not infinite beings. Despite huge investment into battery technology, the batteries used in EVs right now still have a shelf life that must be considered when purchasing these vehicles. For example, the battery in the Nissan Leaf, one of the earliest mainstream EV models, will lose around 2-3% charging capacity each year. This means that any of these models purchase in the year of launch, 2011, could have lost as much as 27% of their range by 2020. The Leaf has a range of 168 miles when brand new. That’s 45 miles less range each charge now, compared to when it was first purchased. 

For someone purchasing a new electric vehicle, this is likely not a concern. The average person owns or uses their car for 4 years in the UK. In this time, the impact of battery degradation would be negligible for most car owners. However, for those looking to purchase an EV second-hand, it becomes an increasingly interesting conundrum.

There are many factors which can also speed up this battery loss. Excessively using rapid chargers, repeatedly charging the battery to full, allowing charge to fall below 20% and even regular small charging sessions can all create an environment for sub-optimal battery performance. For example, we have seen cases of abnormally fast battery degradation where owners have low-mileage and charge their car too often.

How to Assess Battery Health

Anyone can check the health of a battery using the vehicle’s range indicator. Charge up the vehicle to full and see what the range is. Compare this to the range when new and this should be an indicator of how much the battery has deteriorated. 

What else can I do to reduce risk?

A key part of buying any car, electric or not, is to look for a full service history. In a similar way to traditional cars, EVs should be checked regularly to ensure that any issues are fixed in a timely manner. Part of these checks will also examine battery life and should have notes on the rate of deterioration of the battery. Moreover, the service history is essential in order to make sure that software updates continue to be received.

It is important to check warranties on the battery; many will come with multiple years as standard and the warranty may pass on to the new owner. You should also make sure that all hardware is present, including any charging leads. Buying replacement leads can be expensive, especially if you want a specific type. In some early EVs, the battery was leased separately to the car. It is not always obvious whether the battery is included in the price of the vehicle and so it is essential that you ask this question.

The second-hand EV market remains somewhat unchartered territory. We appreciate this may add even more uncertainty to something that is already very new to most customers. If you are thinking of switching to electric, either new or second-hand, and you have questions about the models on the market, life with an electric car or anything else on your mind, please get in touch. A member of our technical team will happily answer any questions that you have. Call us on 0141 280 8890 or drop us an email at info@britetechnicalservices.co.uk.

We also have a variety of platforms available with extensive information about electric vehicles (brite-ev.com), EV chargepoints (evchargepoints.com) and EV accessories (briteaccessories.com).

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