A small blue electric car on charge against a grey background, next to a grey charging station with a glowing white lighting bolt on the front.

Electric car battery maintenance

If you’ve ever used the same laptop or smartphone for more than a year or two, you likely noticed its battery’s ability to hold charge began to drop, meaning you needed to recharge more often.

Battery life and longevity are critical concerns in mobile electronics — this includes electric cars, which rely on their very high-capacity batteries to offer maximum range from a single charge.

Early electric vehicles operated on a battery leasing basis, whereby you periodically exchanged your vehicle’s batteries for new ones supplied by the manufacturer. Of the top makes and models of electric cars now on the market, the batteries are designed to outlast the vehicle’s usable lifespan.

However, that’s not to say that there aren’t some best-practice guidelines to follow to keep your car’s battery working at its best. This guide will look at some top tips for electric car battery maintenance.

A Word Of Warning

Before we begin, a safety notice: unless you are a qualified EV mechanic, do not attempt to service the high-voltage parts of your vehicle’s drivetrain yourself. These are usually shielded behind bright orange plastic, so they’re hard to miss and tricky to access.

The high-voltage parts of an EV are not serviceable by the driver. You could damage the sensitive electronics involved in powering your car, and, in the worst-case scenario, you could be severely injured by an electric shock. You may also invalidate the vehicle’s warranty.

That said, you can adopt some good habits that will help you keep your battery in good condition without having to access the electronics directly. Let’s look at what they are.

Good EV Driving Habits

How you drive your electric car can help keep the battery healthy. Like an internal combustion engine’s 12-volt battery, your EV’s battery will benefit from regular vehicle use.

Driving your car regularly, even over short distances, will help to prevent flat spots on the tyres, which can introduce unwelcome vibrations and juddering, and cause your vehicle to use excess charge on future journeys.

An alternative way to look at this is to avoid leaving your vehicle parked in the same place for too long. Short, frequent drives help to prevent moving parts from seizing up, circulate any hydraulic fluids, and keep the batteries charged.

Remember, EVs still have a 12-volt battery to start the motor and power onboard systems like air conditioning and entertainment, so you must keep that battery healthy too.

Good EV Charging Habits

When it comes to recharging your car, there are some relatively simple rules you can follow to reduce degradation over the long term:

1. Charge slowly

Ultra-rapid chargers have made ‘flash and dash’ stops at public charging stations a reality, and are designed to be used as part of a longer journey to get you back on the road as quickly as possible. Domestic charging points 7kW are designed to be used frequently, on an ongoing basis, and are therefore much more gentle on the hardware, and keep the battery healthy as its charged overnight in your driveway or garage.

According to Kia, if you use standard-speed charging for eight years on the same vehicle, you’ll preserve an extra 10% of the battery’s capacity, compared with the same car after eight years of rapid charging only.

2. Don’t hit max power

Charging the battery to 100% might offer the maximum range, but, like a phone, it usually takes more power to get from 80% to 100% Aim to keep your battery around the 80% level, as it will take longer to charge the vehicle from a low electric range level than to keep it regularly topped up. As a rule of thumb, you’ll keep your battery healthy for longer by avoiding the extremes.

If you frequently charge your car overnight, you can set your charger or smartphone app to allow charging to complete at a set time for when you require it the next day (to ensure that the vehicle charges when demand on the national grid is at its lowest) and to stop at a certain percentage. This ensures you have enough range for tomorrow’s commute without putting excess strain on the battery cells or using too much electricity.

3. Charge fully for long drives

Despite tip two above, it’s still OK to charge to 100% if you think you will need maximum range from your car. Occasional charging to 100% should not degrade the battery life— you only risk damaging the battery over the much longer-term if you try to keep your car topped up to full charge at all times. Your car’s built-in range estimate should help you decide whether you can cover your full distance on a single charge.

There’s always a trade-off — you may need to choose between charging to 100% or using a rapid charging point halfway through your journey to top up your range. Always remember that these are just some best-practice guidelines, but they shouldn’t stop you from using your vehicle to get where you need to be.

What Happens To EV Batteries When They Die?

Electric car batteries have surprising longevity and can typically power their original vehicle for 8-10 years. But what happens to them after that?

If the battery is in relatively good condition, it will often be directly reused. An increasing number of home energy storage systems are built using end-of-life EV batteries to store charge from renewable sources or as an alternative/backup to the mains grid.

Better battery design means it’s getting easier to separate the different materials used in EV batteries too, making them more economical to recycle. In any case, the value of the materials means that it does not make good financial sense to send them to a landfill.

Final Thoughts

Keeping electric car batteries at their best is all about moderation:

  • Drive regularly, even if only over short distances.
  • Slowly charge when you can.
  • Avoid extremely full or empty charge levels.

Like so many other top driving tips, smoothly does it. Be gentle with your batteries when you can — they’ll serve you well on those longer road trips when you need every last mile of maximum range.