Environmental Leadership
November 20, 2018

Used electric vehicles: surprisingly affordable and selling fast

An attractive alternative for car shoppers

Did you realize electric vehicle (EV) sales from 2017 rose nearly 80 percent in 2018 to 361,307 units? Plus, sales projections are encouraging for the future.

Thanks to this new generation of EVs, there is now a growing inventory of used electric vehicles, many coming off of three- or four-year leases. And these used cars are proving to be attractive. If you look at local dealers, Autotrader® or Craigslist® ads, you can find Nissan® Leaf® EVs from 2015 and 2016 now selling around $10,000. These vehicles had suggested retail prices of $34-40,000. Remember the original owner got the $7,500 tax credit, so that’s part of the depreciation equation. Which makes buying used a perfect EV option if you’re not carrying a large tax burden. But don’t delay, used EVs are often selling at a brisker pace than their conventional, internal combustion engine (ICE) colleagues.[i]

The biggest question, battery-life
It’s the elephant in the room because battery life greatly determines the value of a used electric vehicle. And this is still a bit of an unknown. Until we’ve seen a substantial number of EVs run 10-15 years and beyond, it’s tough to make accurate estimates.

But the look forward is optimistic. Battery experts at the Journal of Power Sources are showing that EV batteries meet driver needs well beyond the 70–80 percent2 remaining capacity end-of-life threshold. Automotive News tells us the shelf life of a lithium-ion battery in an EV is around 10 years.3

Battery life also depends on where you live and when you recharge
CleanTechnica, a leading clean technology–focused digital news brand points out that high temperatures can shorten battery life4. So it’s worth knowing if the previous owner was in an extreme weather region such as Arizona or Alaska.

Also, Battery University explains that after 300 to 500 charge cycles at 100 percent discharge, a lithium-ion cell’s capacity will drop to 70 percent5 But partial discharge reduces stress and prolongs battery life. Drain the batteries consistently to only 50 percent, as is often the case with electric cars that get plugged in frequently, and life expectancy of a healthy battery zooms up to 1,200 to 1,500 charge cycles. That adds up to 366,000 miles, but don’t expect numbers like that on your odometer. Other factors such as frequency of fast recharge can also affect long-term battery life.

Other benefits of used electric vehicles
Beyond the possibility that batteries may last longer than originally forecasted, a used EV may be an option as an extra car for your kids. High school-age kids tend to cart themselves to and from local athletic, music or school activities or a part-time job near home. An EV’s range should work well for these needs. Also because there are no oil or spark plugs to change and no gas to fill, maintenance and upkeep costs tend to be notably lower than ICE cars.

Used EVs may just be a surprising bargain that fits your needs. When shopping for a used electric vehicle, be sure to test drive and research. But don’t take too long to decide since good EVs seem to be selling fast.

2 The Journal of Power Sources is the journal for researchers and technologists interested in all aspects of the science, technology, and applications of sources of electrochemical power, published by Elsevier B.V.
3 Automotive News the nation’s pre-eminent news organization covering the automotive industry published by Crain Communications.
4 CleanTechnica is a leading clean technology–focused digital brand.
5 Battery University is a service of Cadex, recognized as a world leader in battery testing.
[i] Autotrader is a registered trademark of TPI Holdings, Inc. CraigsList is a registered trademark of Craig Newmark. Nissan and Leaf are registered trademarks of Nissan Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha TA Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.