Electric vehicles are breaking new ground in terms of new car sales, which means that soon the market will be flooded with a flurry of used electric vehicles. But, of course, shopping for a used electric vehicle is much different from shopping for a used gasoline car.
In fact, it’s actually even different from shopping for a new electric car. When inspecting a conventional vehicle, prospective buyers usually take a mechanic. But, with EVs, the process is a bit different. Read on to find out how to inspect a used EV before purchase.
1. Check the Battery
Regular cars rely on the engine being in top shape to function properly. Regular oil changes and maintenance allow the engine life to extend to thousands of miles. On the other hand, when we’re talking EVs, the battery is the life and soul of the car. Checking an EV’s battery is critical, especially because if the battery has been neglected and is about to fail, you will have a very bad (and expensive) time of ownership.
It would be ideal if you could hire a chemist and open up the battery in order to inspect it physically, but that’s a bit too involved. The first thing you’ll want to do when shopping for a new EV is to check the mileage on the vehicle. This will give you a rough estimate of how much battery life you have left.
The mileage you can get from a battery varies by manufacturer and also from car to car. Regardless, it’s safe to say that a battery with 500,000 miles on the clock will probably be closer to the recycling heap than a battery that’s only run 50,000 miles. Another thing you can check is the total available range after a full charge. This metric will give you a rough understanding of the battery’s degradation throughout its lifetime.
When the vehicle is new, the battery’s range will be in line with what the manufacturer suggests is the standard range for the car. But, as the vehicle ages, you can expect degradation of the battery’s capacity. According to a report by EDF Energy, EV batteries should last anywhere from 10-20 years. Of course, this estimate is great when buying a new car but somewhat leaves second-hand EV owners in the dark.
Most manufacturers have a five to eight-year warranty on their battery. However, the current prediction is that an electric car battery will last from 10 – 20 years before they need to be replaced.
There are more rigorous methods to verify your used EV’s battery, such as hooking up the car to an OBD2 scanner which shows the battery diagnostics. Through the manufacturer-specific app, you’ll be able to look at more robust data relating to the battery. Some apps, like Leaf Spy for the Nissan Leaf, show tons of useful information that can reveal any issues the EV battery you’re looking at may have.
The Leaf Spy app reveals the battery’s operating temperature, which you should monitor to ensure the battery isn’t overheating. The app also shows the battery’s total capacity in kWh, which also provides an important framework for the buyer to compare to what the vehicle originally produced.
If you’re less technologically inclined, the app will also show you a percentage called SOH (State of Health), which basically tells you the life of the battery in an easy-to-read number. Checking the vitals is essential in getting a good deal versus potentially shooting yourself in the foot by purchasing an EV with a bad battery. This is especially important if you’re buying a used performance EV, which might have been abused more than normal.
Download: LeafSpy Pro for iOS ($19.99)
Download: LeafSpy Pro for Android ($14.99)
2. Verify How It Charges
Checking the health of the battery is super important. But, verifying that the battery can actually take a charge is just as important. Imagine a scenario where you buy an electric vehicle on the spot, only to take it home and have it overheat when you connect it to the charger.
Or worse, imagine hooking it up to your newly installed L2 charger, only to find out after eight hours that the battery isn’t charging at the appropriate pace. These are true doomsday scenarios and underscore why it’s extremely important to hook up the EV to a charger, maybe even a public DC fast charger, before purchasing it.
Another thing that you should watch out for is how fast the battery is charging. On an L1 charger, the battery should replenish enough to give you approximately 50 miles of range after a full night’s charge. This translates to roughly five miles of range added for every hour of charging, so verifying that this number is accurate is a great place to start. If the owner doesn’t mind, it would be ideal to leave the car charging at your home overnight and see how the battery performs. This might be too much to ask, but it’s worth a try.
3. Verify Normal Car Stuff
EVs have batteries and electric motors, which obviously make them different from gas cars, but they’re also cars at the end of the day. As such, you should check the normal things you would inspect before buying a car. Verify that the overall car is in good physical integrity, and watch out for signs of abuse like misaligned body panels and leaks of any kind (yes, EVs use coolant as well).
You should also check that the brakes are functioning correctly, without any squealing, and inspect that they aren’t leaking brake fluid all over the place. You should also verify how the car steers and watch out for any problems related to the steering rack. Lastly, make sure that the vehicle accelerates properly, even flooring the accelerator a few times to make sure everything is ok.
An EV Is Still a Car
At the end of the day, an EV is still a car. While it is super important to verify the integrity of the battery and ensure that the electric motors supply adequate power to the vehicle, it’s just as important to check that everything else is working as it should. Purchasing the correct used EV will get you many more years of service life, but an abused EV battery will just bring headaches.
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