Most Used Electric Car Buyers Have No Way To Confirm Vehicle Battery Health

from the this-could-be-a-problem dept

As we make the shift from gas to electric vehicles, there are a few issues we still haven't really paved the way for. One is the fact that, with gas taxes being the primary way we fund highway infrastructure, we need to develop alternative infrastructure funding (not a topic that tends to get priority in a hype and flash-obsessed culture, as John Oliver has been quick to remind everyone). The 18.4 cents a gallon federal gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993, and the Congressional Budget Office says that if the funding system doesn’t evolve by 2030, federal transportation funding will exceed its budget by a cool $188 billion.

The other problem, highlighted by Aaron Gordon at Wired, is that used car buyers and sellers currently have no way to confirm the battery health of a used electric car. Given the used car market is twice as big as the new car market, you can probably see how this could become a notable problem. Especially given that the battery health meter on most of these vehicles can be reset, allowing the seller of the car to effectively lie to buyers about how much life the battery has left:

"Churchill noticed something was wrong on his drive back home. When he left, the car estimated it had 80 miles of range. By the time he finished his 25-mile commute, it said it had 30 miles of range left. And in the next few days, Churchill said the battery health meter lost two bars. When he called the dealer to complain, he was shuffled between departments and ultimately ignored.

After doing some research, Churchill learned the battery health meter can be reset using a car diagnostic tool. After resetting, the meter will display all 12 bars for a short period before recalibrating after some use, just as Churchill's did. During this time, the car is essentially lying about its battery health."

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there are 17 million new cars sold in the US every year, compared to 40 million used vehicles. Currently only the Nissan Leaf even has a battery health meter customers can view. Every other electric vehicle currently on the market restricts that information to proprietary devices that typically only the sellers or dealers have access to, which will likely in time tether this whole discussion to the right to repair debate, and the obnoxious ways car makers restrict your ability to repair (or even have transparency into) things you own.

While the California Air Resources Board is cooking up a set of rules (pdf) aimed at protecting consumers from fraud on this front, the vast majority of states are... not doing that. What could possibly go wrong?

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Filed Under: car batteries, electric cars, used cards


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  1. icon
    nasch (profile), 14 Jun 2021 @ 8:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Electromobility isn't that easy after all.

    If a family just needs their car for a family excursion intercity once a year...then the switch isn't happening.

    Except that most people in a position to consider an electric car have multiple vehicles. The BEV need not be able to do everything that all of their current cars do, it just needs to be able to replace one of them.

    As for replacing one car with an EV...that's assuming a large entry-level cost is paid

    People do buy new cars, and they are expensive regardless.

    But yea, the switch won't be a major issue...for about 10-20% of the citizenry.

    I think you're being overly pessimistic, but ranges are increasing and more models are coming out all the time, including cheaper ones. My main concerns are whether there will be a viable used market for BEVs given battery degradation, and what about people who can't charge at home? If those can be solved, we'll be fine.


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