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Mechanics are repairing broken EV batteries for a fraction of the cost: ‘There’s a lot of batteries in the recycle bin that could be repaired’

“You’d be playing with fire if you didn’t know what you were doing.”

"You’d be playing with fire if you didn’t know what you were doing."

Photo Credit: iStock

The complicated chemistry happening inside electric vehicle batteries makes them difficult to repair, according to experts interviewed by Grist. 

But that doesn’t mean repairing them is a doomed concept. In fact, specialized mechanics are fixing power packs, extending their lifespans. If the concept can be made more common, it could help the industry reduce the amount of rare and expensive materials that are pulled from the ground to manufacture new batteries. 

It’s also part of the way we can better use or recycle the vast amount of products we make. When talking EVs, that’s about 10 million a year (in sales), a number likely to grow, per the International Energy Agency. 

Grist interviewed Rich Benoit, owner of The Electrified Garage. He has shops in Florida and Massachusetts that work on Teslas. He told the news site that extensive training is needed to safely repair EV batteries. As a result, the bill can be $10,000. A new battery costs around $15,000 or more, according to the Grist report. 

He is seeing many EV owners opting for a new vehicle, rather than repairs, per the story. 

“It’s getting to the point where [the car] is almost like a consumable, like a TV,” Benoit said to Grist. 

Large EV batteries contain many cells, which are meant to last for years. Grist noted that a long battery life helps to offset air pollution made when the battery is created. 

Reneos, a European company that helps find second lives for power packs, reports on its website that repairs typically include two key phases. First, the batteries are tested and diagnosed. Then, “high-voltage specialists” make repairs, which could include replacing cells or modules. 

“Often only one of the modules is defective and not the whole battery,” BatteriRetur’s Per-Magnus Karlsson said, as quoted on Reneos’s website. The Norwegian company recycles batteries. 

Atlanta-based Cox Automotive has been fixing EV batteries that are still under warranty since 2014, saving enough batteries to power 17,000 new EVs from an early landing in the scrap heap, per Grist. Cox employee Tyler Helps told the news site that a refurbished power pack on average costs half the price of a new one. 

“There’s a myriad of different reasons repair is vastly [more] beneficial than replacement,” Helps said in the Grist story.

The experts make it clear that battery repairs are not DIY projects that can be undertaken in your garage. Short circuits can be explosive. Without the right gloves, an amateur EV technician could be electrocuted, all per Grist. 

“You’d be playing with fire if you didn’t know what you were doing,” e-bike repair shop owner John Mathna told Grist. The Chattanooga Electric Bike Co. operator said that even some e-bike batteries contain “enough current to kill someone.” 

Other hurdles for repair come from the manufacturer. Grist reported that some models make it easier to fix batteries than others, if they can be worked on at all. 

“There’s a lot of batteries in the recycle bin that could be repaired,” Belgian e-bike repairman Timoté Rouffignac said to Grist. But “because they are not made to be repaired, it’s quite hard to propose a good price.”

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