Electric Truck Battery Pack Status Report

I’ve been driving my electric pickup truck since February of 2011, and have almost 2.5 years on my first lead acid battery pack (twenty six-volt GC-8 golf cart batteries by Energizer/Johnson Controls/Costco). I’ve put just under 2000 miles a year on the truck (4449 miles since I got it, 16011 miles total as an electric truck) but have charged the batteries around six hundred times. My average trip is relatively short (7.43 miles) and I’m averaging around 800 watt/hours per mile driven (measured from the wall, including charger and battery inefficiencies.)

When I first got the truck I could drive 20 miles with ease, and if I pushed things and drove carefully I could get up to a 30 mile trip out of the battery pack without pushing it below 80% discharged. Over the last 2.5 years / 600 cycles the pack has degraded, and one battery basically failed. I replaced the failed battery (it had about 1/2 the capacity of the rest of the pack and was limiting my maximum range to 5-7 miles per charge) with a replacement for $100 and now the pack is performing at a reasonable rate for a 2.5 year old set of batteries.

My current max range is around 15+ miles (I’ve driven several 13-14 mile trips carefully without getting any low battery alerts), which is enough to make it to the hardware store and back with a long piece of lumber. My typical commute is a 4 mile round trip to the MARTA station, so it can very easily make this trip. I expect that in the next year I won’t be able to make it to the hardware stores, but will probably still be able to use it to get to the MARTA station for a one or two more years.

I plan on replacing the entire pack in one or two years, depending upon how things shake out. It appears that my battery costs per mile will be in the 0.30 – 0.40 range, which is under the federal mileage rate, but does not count the cost of electricity (around 0.09 a mile) or maintenance. I have actually been very happy with the cost of maintenance on the truck. I replaced the two front shocks myself, had a shop service the brakes when I purchased it, and replaced a few pieces of interior trim and a parking break lever with parts I got at a junk yard, but all told the maintenance costs have been under $300 for the last few years. Compared to the maintenance needed on our internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle this is a pittance…I could have bought two new battery packs for the truck with all the money we have spent on the family car in the shop over the last two years.

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