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According to a new study by psychologists at Germany’s Chemnitz University of Technology, drivers who regularly worry about an electric vehicles’s (EV) battery level don’t maximize their vehicle’s potential. The study found that worried drivers overcharged their EVs on a regular basis. However, the study didn’t address how overcharging can lower the vehicle’s battery life and potentially strain electric grids.

Feeling like you’re about to be stranded because your car runs out of juice is known as “range anxiety” in the EV business. The study at Chemnitz found drivers experienced range anxiety about once per month, and researchers proposed that feeling could worsen if there were no nearby public charging stations. EV manufacturers have long tried to dismiss consumers’ worry about insufficient mileage between charges. Then again, when new battery-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf lose power unexpectedly, range anxiety may be well founded.

The researchers discovered most drivers needlessly recharged their vehicle with 20 percent or more power left in the battery. This finding is important because frequent charging can overwhelm the electric infrastructure, which is already threatened by electric vehicles.

Experts estimate that EVs consume about a third of the power of a house, and warn that adding electric cars to a residential area could overwhelm transformers and even cause blackouts. A public charging network would ease drivers’ nerves, but would add an additional burden to the grid. EVs draw their power from a system that is not prepared to meet the increased demand.

Overcharging can also degrade EV’s battery at a higher rate. Fast charging a Nissan Leaf, for example, can decrease the battery life much faster than slow charging at home. And, replacing a dead EV battery isn’t cheap: a recent article from the UK states that a new battery pack could cost over $30,000.

With the harm overcharging can ultimately bring to their vehicles and the electric grid infrastructure, EV drivers unfortunately have more to worry about than just their range.

Image by Salvatore Vuono

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nissanleafIf you fast charge your Nissan Leaf more than once per week, you could see a decrease in your vehicle battery life by several years.

Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning, said, “If fast charging is the primary way that a Leaf owner recharges, then the gradual capacity loss is about 10 percent more than 220-volt charging. In other words, it will bring the capacity…closer to 70 percent after 10 years.”

The same article also states that an average Lithium-Ion battery cell in an electric cycle has about 1,000 full cycles before it is classified as reaching its “end of life” (EOL).  If you fast charge your Leaf more than twice a week, however, the battery’s EOL could arrive much more quickly. Since the lifespan of the battery is determined by a fixed number of charge cycles, more frequent charging effectively ‘uses up’ battery capabilities more quickly.

According to the industry, a battery has reached its EOL after it has lost 20 percent of its original storage capacity, meaning a charging capacity of 80 percent, which occurs in about 10 years without frequently fast charging an EV.

With all the expenses of electric vehicles (and they seem to be making them more expensive over time), the cost of a replacement battery brings yet another cost into the mix if you want your EV to keep running. In fact, according to a recent British article, it could cost you up to £19,000 to purchase a new battery pack, which would be about $30,645 in U.S. dollars. Indeed, Nissan has stated the production costs for a replacement Leaf battery are around $18,000 – but has declined to say on its website how much a replacement battery would cost the consumer.

And it seems other automotive buffs are questioning the viability of the Leaf’s battery. As Daryl Siry wrote in a blog for

“It also appears that Nissan has cut corners on the most critical aspects of electric vehicle technology – the battery pack.”

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