Wednesday 7 December 2016

What happens with batteries in plug-in hybrid/electric cars

Published 06/05/2015 | 02:30

A Volkswagen XL1 hybrid car is displayed at Auto China 2014 in Beijing
A Volkswagen XL1 hybrid car is displayed at Auto China 2014 in Beijing

WE'VE had a lot of interest in the price, arrival and ability of the new Volkswagen plug-in hybrid, the GTE, which we featured last week.

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One reader, in particular, wanted to know what happens with, and to, the battery pack as the years roll on. Interesting question.

So we asked Volkswagen for some facts and figures. First off, they pointed out that there is an eight-year warranty on the battery pack in both the electric e-Golf and the GTE.

That means if the battery's capacity falls, for whatever reason, to less than 70pc within eight years, Volkswagen will replace it - or whatever part is faulty. Crucially, there is no cost to the car owner.

Remember, the 'battery' comprises many cells - people think it is just one biggie - so only one or two of them might need replacements.

Volkswagen underline this point by using the analogy of the engine: few are totally replaced but parts of them are (head gasket etc).

A Volkswagen Group spokesman told Independent Motors: "The only real situation we would see in the first eight years of ownership (which could be two to three owners) where we would need to entirely replace the battery would be in the event of a warranty claim (a major technical fault) or an insurance claim (cars gets crashed beyond repair) and in both cases this customer wouldn't be paying for this."

It is also important to point out, and Volkswagen do, that we are only seeing the start of this technology. Manufacturers are subsidising it to a significant degree to generate volume.

The more electric and plug-in hybrids they make the lower the individual cost.

But what happens after the eight-year warranty? What about buying a nine or 10-year old GTE or e-Golf? The Volkswagen spokesman says: "We would expect that battery technology will have evolved and subsequently costs will have dropped substantially (by then)." He cited the example of a DVD player costing €1,000 back in 1997 - you can buy one for less than €30 today.

Let us know what you think: ecunningham@independent.ie

Indo Motoring

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