What happens if you buy an electric car and, at some point in your ownership, have to replace the battery?
This question is often asked by those curious about electrified vehicles. and it’s one of the things keeping the general public skeptical about EVs and plug-in hybrids, according to surveys. But as SAE members and Automotive Engineering readers know, the batteries in electrified vehicles have proven to be very robust and reliable, overall. Vehicle owners shouldn’t have to replace them.
So, what does it cost to replace an EV battery at the retail level? For a BMW i3 a new battery will set owners back about $16,000, according to Dr. Christian Cozzarini, BMW Department Head, Environmental Engineering, who spoke at the 2016 CAR Management Briefing Seminars.
Dr. Cozzarini was part of an Advanced Powertrain Forum at the conference that discussed, among many topics, consumer acceptance of new vehicle fuel efficiency technologies including electrification. He noted that while “the industry needs 20% of new vehicles to be electrified in order to meet the 2025 regulations,” various entry barriers exist. The audience found Dr. Cozzarini’s i3 battery remarks to be open and frank, according to those Automotive Engineering spoke with at the event. While the cost number was already in the public domain, many in the MBS audience were unaware of it.
The $16,000 replacement cost is for the “early” i3 pack used on 2013-2016 models. The 2017 car gets a higher-energy-density pack rated at 94 Ah with a 33 kW·h (gross) capacity—50% greater capacity than the previous-generation battery that was rated at 60 Ah and 22 kW·h. The new lithium-ion pack, with its Samsung-SDI cells arranged in eight 12-cell modules, will be used in both the i3 range extender and i3 battery electric. The latter offers up to 114-mi (183-km) range in moderate thermal conditions, BMW claims.
OEMs rarely state costs for any area of a vehicle and battery costs are guarded closely. Although it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison with the $16,000 BMW battery pack, a new GM LS3 “crate motor”—essentially a brand-new SAE-rated 430 hp (320 kW) V8 that is popular for Corvette restorations and performance engine swaps—costs about $6000.