Updated: Jun 22
Tesla batteries, just like everything else on the planet, degrade over time. The average gas-powered car gets scrapped after 200,000 miles in the United States and 150,000 miles. That is almost 15 years' worth of miles. A Tesla battery, though, can last up to 500,000 miles; that’s 37 years of driving before the battery needs to be replaced. After 200,000 miles, the battery only degrades a whopping 12%. Much of this degradation occurs within the first 10,000 miles. We talk a lot about how Tesla is one of the top companies saving our planet in this blog.
What Leads to Faster Battery Degradation
There are many factors that lead to more rapid battery degradation. The first is extreme temperatures. Extreme heat can cause chemical reactions in the battery making it deteriorate more rapidly. The same will happen in extreme cold. A Tesla’s charge can decrease by 28% in the cold, but this number can vary significantly.
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Another factor that can degrade a car battery is high mileage. Constant usage will degrade the vehicle, and every technology, faster. This can be a problem for people who love to road trip or have to commute long distances for their jobs.
Fast charging can put more stress on the battery cells, thus reducing their capacity and lifespan. This could be a larger problem going into the future because electric vehicle consumers want faster chargers; many companies, including Tesla, are trying to charge an EV as fast as it would take to fill up a gas tank. There is a large portion of EV owners who have an EV charger at home that charges their car over the course of 12 hours or more, so this issue can be fixed.
A fourth thing that can lead to quicker battery degradation is improper maintenance. 50-90% is the optimal range for charging a Tesla. Furthermore, letting the battery completely discharge can also stress the battery by making it work harder for that last juice. Tesla has “built-in battery management systems that help to optimize charging and prolong battery life.”
The last factor that can deteriorate a car battery is age. Even if the car is not being used, the battery will diminish over time. This won’t have a large effect, but can still reduce a Tesla’s mileage a few miles per full charge.
Many gasoline-powered cars can have the same problem of a shorter lifespan. Temperature will have less of an effect because burning gasoline creates a lot of heat. High mileage and age can cause the engine to wear down faster just like an electric vehicle. And improper maintenance can cause a fossil fuel car to break down, which can cost thousands of dollars. Electric vehicles have fewer parts, so repairs will be less frequent and severe for them.
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Why Tesla’s Batteries Are So Important
People would rather choose a car that lasts for hundreds of thousand miles longer, just like a Tesla or other electric vehicles do. Making this choice easier for consumers will increase EV uptake, and help both states and the federal government hit their zero-emission vehicle goals. California hit its goal of 1.5 million electric vehicles sold two years before its target of 2025, which we go into depth about in this article.
It’s also important when it comes to mining non-renewable resources. According to Statista, 130,000 tons of lithium were mined in 2022. 8 billion tons of coal were mined last year, 60,000 times more weight than lithium. People go crazy when they see pictures of lithium mines that ruin the landscape, which is understandable. But they should be looking at the thousands and thousands of coal mines that cause significantly more environmental damage than lithium ever will. Lithium has helped renewable energy expand rapidly, and our world will run mostly on renewable energy within our lifetimes.
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Lithium batteries can also be recycled, unlike coal and other fossil fuels. We have very little lithium recycling right now due to the small amounts of lithium being used, and also because few companies recycle lithium. Ecobat is the largest battery recycler in the world, and they are building their first recycling facility in North America. The facility will be built in Casa Grande, Arizona, and will recycle 10,000 tons of batteries every single year. They’ve already helped the Earth so much by fully recycling 70 million car batteries. Tesla is building so many batteries for energy storage that they can power entire countries, and they are growing exponentially in this sector. We wrote an entire article about Tesla’s Megapacks and how they can cut global emissions by a very large amount.
Unfortunately, almost everything can not be used forever. And yes, not using any car would be better for the environment than using an electric car. But that is not realistic in much of the world where one town can be an hour away from the next; cars are an absolute necessity like in rural Montana. In cities like New York City, public transportation is mostly good enough to get around the city, so cars are not needed. A majority of people living there do not even own a car.
Everything can not be used forever, which we said in the paragraph above. We as humans have a responsibility to protect the Earth as much as possible. Lithium mines are not good for the environment but are a much better alternative. Humans will never go back to a zero-waste lifestyle, so we need to reduce our consumption as much as possible. Lithium is key to accomplishing this.
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To Sum It Up
Tesla’s batteries can help cut not only our greenhouse gas emissions but also our amount of waste. A Tesla will last for hundreds of thousands of miles more than a fossil fuel vehicle, thus cutting emissions for decades and cutting waste in half. There are several ways to slow down the degradation of electric vehicle batteries, including proper maintenance, lower mileage, and less exposure to extreme temperatures.
Lithium will stop much of the Earth from being carved up for resources because it is essential for getting humanity off coal and fossil fuels in general. Lithium-ion batteries can be recycled, but more facilities need to be opened to reach demand in the future. There needs to be more access to public transportation so we don’t even need so many cars, but that can take decades to fix - especially in the United States. This will be a win for everyone, including environmentalists and people who need transportation to get to their destinations. We have the solutions, we just need to implement them - and quickly.