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Tesla co-founder and former CTO JB Straubel says EV batteries should last about 15 years

JB Straubel, Tesla’s longtime Chief Technology Officer, has given some insight into how long he believes electric vehicle batteries should last — about 15 years. This is critical for Straubel’s new business.

One of the most popular questions when it comes to electric vehicles is, “How long does the battery last?” And, I am not talking about the range here. How long, how many miles or years, will a battery pack last in an electric vehicle before you need to replace it?

The truth is that we don’t have a lot of data to answer this question simply because this latest wave of electric vehicles is still quite recent, and the last generation of EVs are still on the road.

Aside from packs that had defects, most battery packs that have been replaced were in EVs that had an excessive amount of mileage. For example, I had a Model X with over 400,000 miles, and it had a battery replacement at about 325,000 miles. But, for most EV owners who use their cars normally, we have to estimate the longevity of battery packs based on battery degradation, which is fairly minimal for the most part.

Now, in a new interview, Tesla co-founder and former CTO JB Straubel says that he believes EV batteries should last 15 years, depending on utilization:

It’s a subjective thing depending on what people’s goal is for the car, but I think it’s going to easily be 15 years in most cases. I think battery life will probably track the life of the vehicle life. Personally, I think it’s less likely that people will place a new battery in an old car.

Straubel should have good insight into this he was responsible for Tesla’s battery development until 2019 and has been part of the largest deployment of battery capacity ever through Tesla’s vehicle fleet.

The engineer is tracking the end-of-life of EV batteries closely since it is critical to his new company, Redwood Materials.

Redwood is developing new processes to recycle materials with a focus on electric car batteries. The company also recently announced that it is also getting into cathode and anode production with a 100 GWh battery material factory in the United States.

Redwood, Straubel says at 13:00 in, is currently recycling 8-10GWh year which is “Enough for hundreds of thousands of cars”. And, the materials keep getting purer the more times they are recycled.

The longer an EV battery pack lasts, the better. And, even old batteries may have a second life as stationary storage. But, one of the main advantages of EVs over gas-powered cars is that once depleted, the battery pack is still extremely valuable due to the base metals in it.

Straubel’s new company is already working with Ford and Volvo to recycle packs at their end-of-life, but it’s only the beginning. Right now, only a few tens to hundreds of thousands of electric cars are coming to their end-of-life every year, but that number will go up into the millions within 15 years if we are to believe Straubel’s timeline.

Here’s the full interview:

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