A few thoughts about buying used EVs

The 1800s and 1900s

It might come as a surprise that the first works on the electric motive power started in the early 1820s. It was the work of a Hungarian priest called Ányos Jedlik that built the first crude but viable electric motor. In the
1839Robert Anderson invented the first crude electric carriage, powered by non-rechargeable primary-cells.

In the year 1902, the American company called “Studebaker Automobile Company” entered the automotive business with electric vehicles. But, due to the limitations of battery capacity offered at the time, electric cars did not gain much popularity. Many engineers like Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison tried to solve the problem concerning the low battery capacity but have failed because of the limitations of the technology at that time. Shortly, with the advent of cheap assembly line cars by Ford, electric cars fell to the wayside.

The 1990s and early 2000s

In 1990, General Motors introduced its Electric Vehicle concept two-seater, the “Impact”, at the Los Angeles Auto Show. That September, the California Air Resources Board mandated major-automaker sales of EVs, in phases starting in 1998. From 1996 to 1998 GM produced 1117 EV1s, 800 of which were made available through three-year leases.

Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, and Toyota also produced limited numbers of EVs.

Unfortunately, the new electric movement was short lived because most of the vehicle manufacturers stopped their EV production by the year 2005. The reasons were mostly because of:

  • the auto industry’s successful federal court challenge to California’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate,
  • a federal regulation requiring GM to produce and maintain spare parts for the few thousands EV1s and
  • the success of the oil and auto industries’ media campaign to reduce public acceptance of EVs.

The big boom of comeback

With the advancements in the field of electric engines and mass usage of Lithium-ion batteries, things finally started to look better for the EVs.

In the 2008, the Chinese company called BYD was responsible for the world’s first mass-produced plug-in hybrid automobile called the F3DM. The F3DM had the electric range of about 60km and the hybrid range of 480km. It was sold during the period of 2008–2013 with the 3,284 sold units.

June 22, 2012 was the day that Tesla Motors started selling their first electric vehicle called Model S. It was the big boom the electric automobile industry needed since the Model S was fast, powerful and had a decent range.

Many companies jumped the hype train and so now we got the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Volkswagen’s e-Golf, Jaguar I-Pace and more than 40 other electric vehicles.

The best of the best

Even tho the electric vehicles are currently a bit more expensive than the regular diesel and petrol vehicles, they are selling quite well.

Actually, there are so many reasons why someone would want to buy them brand new:

  • They are really eco-friendly;
  • There are more and more charging stations each day;
  • Some of the governments provide you with benefits;
  • The battery capacity is getting better;
  • Those electric engines are quite powerful, and
  • The technology in those vehicles is just cutting edge.

The problem

As more and more brand new EVs are being bought, the question arises, how good will they be in five, ten or even fifteen years when the first owner decides to sell them. This will mainly hit the countries with weak economy and poor population that mostly buys used vehicles.

Buying the EV that’s more than ten or fifteen years old will be a hard choice. Primarily, because of the  reduced battery capacity and all the worn electronic components.

The battery

As the years go by, the warranty on the used batteries will expire. Once a mighty vehicle that could keep up with the range of 400 km or even more will now be a shadow of itself. In the period of 10 years the capacity of the battery will hardly be better than 40%-50% which means you will not be able to drive more than 100 – 200 km without having to stop and recharge it. And the range of 400 km is currently only possible on the most expensive models when they are brand new!

Imagine the situation where you are caught in the traffic jam and you can hardly move your vehicle. It could be cold or really hot so you will need to turn on your radiator or your AC. The battery will simply drain if the jam lasts for a few hours.

Or, say you need to travel more than 200 km in that vehicle in really short period of time. Maybe to deliver a really important package that can’t wait. You will probably need to charge it at least once on your trip and it will take it’s time.

Of course, there is a solution and it probably will be getting a new battery pack for your vehicle. But, new batteries will probably cost even more given that there is less and less Lithium-Ion on this planet of ours.

Technology

Another thing to mention, apart from the batteries, is also all that electronics in the modern EVs. Starting from the dashboard infotainment system, camera operated “mirrors”, sophisticated chips, etc. All those things are going to either be worn out or start to run much slower due to the constant software updates that the old hardware can not cope with. We can see it every day with older smart phones, tablets and laptops. Can your old 2005 laptop or phone display youtube videos correctly anymore? Can you play modern games on them? Well, maybe you can, but, it’s slow and painful and just not worth it.

Now, imagine the repairs on those things. More often than not, you will have to buy and install brand new components to replace your old ones. And that will be expensive for the 2nd or 3rd vehicle owners so it will hardly be worth it.

Some sort of the conclusion

With the older vehicles, it was way simpler. You find a nice looking ride that does not have much passed kilometers; check the engine; drive it to your mechanic. If your mechanic tells you that it’s fine, well, you buy it. You Do the small service (oils, filters, etc.), change a few parts here and there and you are all ready to go.

With the EVs, it just seems riskier buying a used one..

Now, only the time will tell. Maybe those batteries will be improved so they can handle more range. Maybe the technology that is being used will survive the test of time quite well. We will definitely see it in a few years.

If you have different thoughts on this subject or something to add, please, feel free to write in the comments.

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