Electric Cars
More trouble than they are worth?
Some electric car owners, especially those with earlier models, have been shocked to find out how much it costs to replace their batteries.

"I don't understand why they make the battery so expensive when you have to change it," Scarborough resident Phyllis Lau said, who owns a 2018 KIA Soul all-electric vehicle.

Lau's electric SUV came with a warranty for the battery that covers 160,000 km, or eight years, whichever comes first.

The family said this year their vehicle clocked in more than 170,000 kilometres, which put them outside the warranty period when the battery failed.

When the vehicle wouldn't work, Lau took it to her local dealership and was told it needed a battery replacement. With the new battery, labour and taxes, she said it would cost about $23,000.

Even though the vehicle was outside the warranty period, KIA agreed to pay for half the cost of a replacement battery.

"They won't fully cover the cost. They say the best they can do is half and half - I pay 50 per cent and they pay 50 per cent," said Lau.

Ken Edwardson of St. Catharines, Ont. bought a used 2011 Lincoln MKZ hybrid four years ago, and when the battery failed, he was shocked to be told to replace it; with labour and taxes, it would cost about $20,000.

"At the dealership, he looked it up online and said you're not going to like this. It was about $15,000 for the battery plus labour and taxes," he said.

Edwardson feels it's not worth it to invest $20,000 in a car that is now over ten years old.

"I just wasn't expecting that kind of price to replace the battery," he said.

At the University of Toronto Electric Vehicle Research Centre, Director Olivier Trescases said complete battery failure is rare, and should not deter anyone from buying an electric vehicle as it is normal to have some batteries fail when a product is mass produced.

Trescases adds the EV batteries being manufactured now are far superior to batteries that were made a decade ago.

However, Trescases does say anyone considering a used electric vehicle, or has an aging one, has to take into consideration the age of the battery and whether or not it is still under warranty.

"Those very unfortunate owners of EVs that have to have their batteries replaced, yes it will be very expensive. It all comes down to whether the degradation of the battery is within the warranty clause or not."

In Lau's case, she decided not to go ahead with the battery replacement and returned the car to her finance company. Lau said she had been told by the company that it will be auctioned off, and she may be responsible for any difference owing.

CTV News Toronto reached out to KIA Canada regarding Lau's case, and a spokesperson said: "Kia Canada's files indicate that on July 7, 2022, a Kia Canada Support Technician formally requested from the dealership, a copy of the results of its inspection and resulting diagnosis from the inspection of Ms. Lau's vehicle. Unfortunately, a response was not received from the dealership, indicating that the issue of disrepair had been resolved by the dealership, without the need [for] intervention by Kia Canada."

"It is now apparent that Ms. Lau's vehicle was not repaired. Further, we are advised that Ms. Lau has relinquished the vehicle. Unfortunately, without access to the vehicle, Kia Canada is unable to comment on the diagnosis of the vehicle or status of the battery at the time of alleged failure."

Ford of Canada directed Edwardson to work with his dealership on his battery issue, but Edwardson decided not to proceed with paying $20,000 to replace the battery. Edwardson is still able to drive his hybrid vehicle using just gasoline power.

There is a new electric car company starting up in Canada called VinFast, which is a Vietnamese car brand headquartered in Singapore taking a different approach to EV ownership.

According to the company's website, when customers purchase VinFast EVs, the battery cost is excluded from the vehicle purchase price, and customers pay monthly subscription fees to lease a battery.

With a battery subscription, the company said it bears responsibility for battery repairs, maintenance, and replacement costs resulting from technical defects to provide customers with a worry-free experience for the life of the vehicle.