Researchers from iSeeCars have recently concluded a study that was designed to rank vehicles by longest potential lifespan. One surprising fact from the study is that the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicles seem to have less than half the expected potential lifespan of many Toyota hybrid models.
Toyota Dominates the List of Electrified Vehicles With the Longest Potential Lifespan
The study’s data set included over two million vehicles. All of the models considered had to have been produced and sold for at least 10 of the past 20 model years. iSeeCars then ranked each model by its highest mileage-achieving cars. Toyota models dominated the top 10 and the top 20 rankings. Among the top 10 models, six are Toyotas, including two Toyota hybrids. Among the top 20 models with the greatest potential lifespan, 10 are Toyota models and three are hybrids. No battery-electric models made the top 20 listing (hang in there, we will explain this).
Longest Potential Lifespan Battery-Electric Vehicle Models - Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf
Since the study required as a qualifier that the models must have been sold for at least 10 years, only two battery-electric models qualify; The pricey Tesla Model S, on sale since June of 2012, and the affordable Nissan Leaf, on sale since December 2010. Both of these models have been relatively low in volume over the more than a decade they have been in continuous production. Neither has been able to maintain a delivery rate of more than 2,000 units per month. This low production rate puts them into a grouping with some of the lowest-produced models in the U.S. over this span of time. Like all but two EVs ever sold in America, these EVs barely sell. But sell they have, for more than a decade.
According to the data iSeeCars.com was able to uncover, the Model S from Tesla has a potential lifespan expectancy of around 135,000 miles. The Nissan Leaf has a much lower expected potential lifespan of around 100,000 miles. We have listed the values from the iSeeCars.com study in our chart. Note that the Hybrids have double that expected lifespan.
Be Aware Of Small Sample Sizes
Any study is only as good as its data. In the case of the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf, perhaps the data were unkind to these models due to their low delivery rates. However, that same factor didn’t hurt the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and Ford Fusion Hybrid, which we are confident were sold (produced, delivered, use the term of your choosing) in equally very low volumes.
Bold Claims By Tesla and Its Fans About Model S Longevity
When Tesla’s Model S was new, its manufacturer and fans were very confident that it had the potential to be one of the longest-lasting vehicles ever produced. The logic went sort of like this; Since the EV motor is “simpler” than an internal combustion engine, has fewer moving parts, and since the body was made from corrosion-resistant aluminum (mostly), what could possibly go wrong and cause it to fail? Lots of things, as it turned out.
In 2015, a study by Plug-In America found that as many as 2/3s of Tesla Model S vehicles may suffer powertrain failure. Here is how Green Car Reports covered that.
Battery Life Does Not Equal Vehicle Life
Although many vehicle fans might assume that the battery may be the limiting factor in an EVs lifespan, that may not prove to be true. In 2020, Consumer Reports found that the Tesla Model S, then a model in its eighth year of production, suffered from air suspension failures, touchscreen failures, and main computer failures. Here is how Inside EVs covers Consumer Reports' low ranking of Tesla. Among all vehicle brands, Tesla ranked second to last in the 2020 Consumer Reports reliability study.
Tesla Model S - A History of Poor Reliability Contrasted With The Prius Perfect Record
According to owner surveys conducted by Consumer Reports, the Tesla Model S has had two years with a ⅕ reliability rating (2013 and 2020). The Model S has never had a year with a 5/5 rating. By contrast, the Toyota Prius has earned a perfect 5/5 reliability rating from Consumer Reports every single year since 2011.
Based on the evidence presented by iSeeCars and the many other sources cited in this story, do you think that battery-electric vehicles will prove to be as long-lasting as hybrids? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Image of 2004 Toyota Prius with 537,004 miles courtesy of owner John Wasilko, member of the Toyota Prius Owners Club on Facebook.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
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