Electric Vehicles: Do You Know the Lifespan of Your Battery?

As the electric vehicle (EV) market continues to grow, the market for second hand EVs is growing right alongside it.  And when it comes to used EVs, there is one thing to consider above all others when weighing your purchase: the performance of the car’s battery. Austria’s Aviloo is built on the basis of this rapidly growing market, developing a much-needed test for batteries in used electric cars that takes the uncertainty out of the used EV market. The test lets you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of battery state of health, allowing customers to make an informed purchase.

The registration of battery-electric vehicles grew by more than 50% in 2019 and that growth rate is expected to not just remain steady but to grow exponentially over the next decade. With that kind of growth, it’s unsurprising that the second hand EV market is growing as well.

Now, we all know that smart phone batteries degrade over time. When your phone is new you can get through a whole day without having to recharge it, but two years later and you barely have enough juice to get you through to lunch. While this doesn’t happen nearly as fast with electric vehicle batteries, there is still degradation over time.

In light of this, it makes sense that when buying a used EV you would not only check the brakes, the suspension, and other things, but that you’d also want to know the performance of the most important component in an EV, the battery. But until quite recently, there wasn’t any testing system on the market that allowed you to test the battery, so you had no way of knowing the level of degradation or how much capacity was still available when considering a purchase.

Why the testing system was developed

This is where Austria’s Aviloo saw the chance to fill a critical need in the market, developing an independent testing system for batteries in electric vehicles.

“When you buy a used EV, the battery equals about half the value of the car,” says Wolfgang Berger, CEO and co-founder of Aviloo. “So, if you’re paying, just say, 20 thousand Euros in total for the car, you can figure about 10 thousand of that is for the battery alone. Knowing the state of the battery means the difference between a good investment and a bad one.”

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The independent Aviloo test calculates the remaining capacity of the battery, which is more complex than it sounds.

Wolfgang Berger, CEO and co-founder of Aviloo

While some car manufacturers give an information about the state of health of the battery, it is not clear to the consumer what this number actually means.

“Just say car manufacturer X says the battery is at 80%,” explains Wolfgang Berger. “That 80% might mean something very different to car manufacturer Y, which is why it’s vital to have a standardized and independent testing system when it comes to the second hand EV market. Creating an independent industry standard that can only be done by an independent company guarantees that all the different models are tested the same way, and that all the underlying calculations and algorithms are working in the exact same way.”

Why the test is needed

There is a big difference in the degradation between batteries in different models of cars, and even differences between the same model – which is why the Aviloo test is an important addition to the market.

“Generally speaking, you can roughly judge a combustion engine car by the year of the model, the make, the mileage and other common factors. By looking at those you more or less know the value of the car,” says Berger. “When it comes to an EV, though, the degradation of the battery depends on a lot of different parameters, such as how the car has been treated by the previous owner.

“For example, high charging speed is not good for the battery, nor is high or extreme acceleration, so if the previous owner did some racing on the weekends, the battery life will be very different from the same car and model that was carefully driven around on quiet suburban streets.

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Basically, you don’t know how the car has been treated by the previous owner so testing the battery gives you a window into that, allowing you to make an informed decision.

Additionally, the degradation of the battery depends on the way the battery had been built, especially when it comes to thermal management. You don’t want the battery in too cold or too hot conditions. Some EVs have a very sophisticated thermal management so as soon as the battery gets hot the cooling system kicks in and cools it down to a reasonable temperature – it’s called active battery cooling. Less expensive EVs won’t have the cooling system so if the battery gets hot that leads to it charging less quickly and faster degradation.

“Battery life really depends on the use case,” explains Berger. “So, if you’re only driving short distances and don’t need to go on the highway much or charge fast, the cheaper car without the sophisticated cooling system will be a fine choice. On the other hand, if you plan on driving at high speeds or for long distances and need fast charging, you’re going to want a different kind of battery.”

How the test works

Currently, when it comes to EVs, there is no battery standard out there and there is little chance car manufacturers will come together to agree on a standardized battery test, so an independent and standardized test is the obvious solution for the consumer. Wolfgang Berger explains how it works.

“You have a lot of data from the car that you want to test, so we developed hardware that plugs into the vehicle during the test. There is a diagnostic port in the vehicle – the OBD port – and the hardware carries a Tele2 IoT SIM card, allowing us to send data in real time to our backend, where we do our analysis. Once we do that, we give the customer the rating and a certificate in real time.

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You plug in the hardware, you go for a test drive, and the hardware with the SIM sends the data, which we analyze and give you the rating.

Without that independent rating, consumers will not be able to make a considered purchase because one car company cannot test a car from another company with any kind of veracity. Creating an independent industry standard that guarantees all models are testing the same way and that all underlying calculations and algorithms are working in the exact same way.

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