Co-founder of Tesla pegs today's EV batteries good for 15 years then precious for recycling like catalytic converters
There will be a lot of value remaining in a modern electric vehicle's battery even if it falls short of the average lifespan of its car. The battery pack life cycle, according to an interview with Tesla's co-founder and former CTO JB Straubel, is now about 15 years. Not only will today's electric car batteries last for the lifespan of the vehicles they power without significant degradation, he argues, but they will retain a lot of value afterwards, too. Modern Li-ion batteries contain a lot of precious materials that can subsequently be recycled just like we now do with catalytic converters of gas-powered cars that sometimes exceed the price of the vehicle on its way to the scrap yard.
Extended-range batteries, in particular, like NIO's 150kWh pack that will propel its ET7 sedan more than 600 miles on a charge, currently contain a lot of expensive metals such as nickel or cobalt. Tesla scored with the move to iron-based LFP batteries for its standard range vehicles just when the price of nickel shoot up because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but there will be remaining value in those packs as well. Mr. Straubel, who now runs a new business venture, Redwood Materials, said they are currently capable of recycling up to 10 GWh a year. Not only is that "enough for hundreds of thousands of cars," he added, but with each cycle the materials get purified further.
As to how long would today's electric car batteries last on average, he argues that their longevity will be no less than 15 years and they may even match the lifespan of the EV they are used to power:
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.