Home / Car News / We Can’t Stop Arguing Over A Vietnamese Electric Carmaker’s Battery-Lease Plan

We Can’t Stop Arguing Over A Vietnamese Electric Carmaker’s Battery-Lease Plan

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Compared to complex internal combustion engines, electric motors are remarkably simple, with really just one main moving part. Overall, an EV should require less maintenance than an ICE car, though they do have one big, heavy Achilles’ Heel: the battery pack. Battery packs, even advanced as modern ones are, are best thought of as a consumable since theyw degrade over time. They’re also cripplingly expensive to replace, and are the main limiting factor if you’re considering buying a used EV: How much life does this battery pack have left? I’d never really want to own an EV’s battery, and there’s now one company that’s planning to offer an alternative idea: Vietnam’s first major automaker, VinFast.

VinFast was started in 2017 by Vietnam’s first billionaire, Phạm_Nhật_Vượng. Phạm (that’s his surname; I didn’t realize this before, but Vietnamese convention has the surname first) made his fortune by starting an instant noodle company in the Ukrainian market, and then sold that company to Nestlé. This may be the first car company to be started with instant noodle money, though Sakichi Toyoda started out making weaving looms, and what is a thread but a textile noodle, right? No? Okay, fine.

For its EV projects, VinFast is getting engineering help from BMW; in fact, the Vietnamese company’s first two gasoline cars, the LUX A2.0 and LUX SA2.0 (which came out for the 2018 model year), were based on the BMW 5 series and X5, respectively. MagnaSteyr is providing manufacturing assistance, and the EVs are styled by Italian design house Pininfarina, so this new EV company certainly has help from established and respected sources.

VinFast’s two new EVs, the VF8 two-row crossover and VF9 three-row SUV are the ones I want to talk about today, because they offer the battery solution I’m interested in. While I think easily swappable, standardized batteries are the ideal solution, at least from a consumer standpoint, what VinFast is proposing may be the next best thing: battery leasing.

VinFast is planning on moving ahead with its battery leasing plan for these two models in the United States, a plan expected to start in June of this year. VinFast is also building a factory for these vehicles right here in my home state of North Carolina, so soon these will be available with the same commitment to quality that other North Carolina high tech manufactured items offer — items like like the confusingly-named Texas Pete hot sauce.

It’ll Cost The Average Driver $110 or $160 A Month To Lease Their Own Car’s Battery

The plan will work like this: You can buy a VF8 (starting at $40,700) or a VF9 (starting at $55,500) and then you pick a battery lease plan. There’s a lower-mileage plan (up to 310 miles/month) which is $35/month for the VF8 and $44 for the VF9, but if you go over the 310 miles, then it’s 11 cents per mile for the smaller crossover and 15 cents per mile for the bigger one.

Okay, so the 310-mile plan is pretty damn limiting. If you pick this one, you’re driving occasionally, at most. Maybe that would make sense for people who work at home or only use their car for a couple of short road trips per month.

The range of the battery packs for the two vehicles is 250 to 300 miles for the VF8 or 262 to 369 for the VF9 (the range is based on battery size selected for each car). Those are decent numbers, not anything really remarkable, but certainly on par with most mainstream EVs on the market today.

If you don’t want to be bound by some mile limit,  then you can get an unlimited miles plan for your VF8 for $110/month or $160/month for your VF9. For orders this year, that cost will be frozen for the life of the vehicle, and, significantly, the price will transfer to the next owner if the car is sold used.

The company explains their thinking about this plan like this:

“By separating the price of the battery from the acquisition value of the automobile, VinFast takes on all the risks related to the vehicle’s battery and ensures a reasonable price for its products. VinFast also commits to provide a lifetime battery warranty covering all maintenance and repair costs, and will replace the battery for free when charging capacity dips below 70 percent.”

So, instead of factoring the cost of the battery pack into the car when you buy it, you pay for it each month, at prices that range from a mid-tier Hulu subscription to a fancier wine-of-the-month club subscription. They replace the battery for free when capacity drops below 70%, which is similar to what companies like Tesla offer on their battery warranties, but those are only for eight years or 100,000 to 150,000 miles (depending on model).

Now, $40 and $50 grand aren’t exactly dirt cheap cars, but as of February 2022, the average price of an EV is over $60,000, so it does appear that buyers will realize at least some savings if they forego “owning” a battery. You are, of course, still paying for that battery, but in monthly payments of $110 instead of an extra $10,000 on the price or so — though I’m just making this assumption that the car would otherwise cost $10 grand more (you’d have to cross-shop this with competitors).

Like all lease arrangements, you’re going to pay more for the same thing, and that may not make sense to some buyers, but if you think the initial cost reduction versus the competition is reasonable (I can’t say I think that for sure, not having seen the cars) then I can see it making sense.

If you plan on keeping the car a long time, and think of this method as almost a sort of battery pack insurance, then I think paying for the use of a battery piecemeal over the life of the car is a good idea, because not having to worry about the looming threat of a massive battery replacement fee is something that will appeal to many buyers.

I’m not someone who would ever want to lease a car, but I also wouldn’t want to own a battery pack, because the fundamental nature of them does mean they decay, as a normal result of time and use. And, sure, everything on any car takes wear and is more likely to break with time and use, but there’s nothing really equivalent to a monolithic component that can cost roughly between $10,000 to $20,000 to replace.

If you don’t plan on owning the car more than eight years then no, this solution does not make sense, because federal law requires a minimum 8 year/100,000 mile warranty for batteries.

Where I think this really changes the game is on the used car market, which otherwise is pretty bleak for EVs. By modern standards, an eight-year old car with 100,000 miles isn’t even that used, but if you knew there was a potential $13,000 to $22,000 repair looming on the horizon to replace a worn battery pack, why the hell would you risk it?

The VinFast lease model solves this problem: The used car buyer gets an EV with a battery pack they don’t have to worry about devastating them financially, and VinFast has a revenue stream continuing from sales of their used cars. All in all, it’s a pretty clever win-win solution, I think.

Still, will enough people think the plan makes sense to buy these new so there’s enough to end up on the used car market? I’m not sure.

In the interest of full disclosure, David does not like this plan at all. In fact, we’ve been discuss-arguing about it off and on for the past day or so, so we may as well give everyone a say, because I think this is an interesting situation, and likely not the last time we’ll encounter it.

I’m going to let David give his take on this first, because, dammit, you have a right to know:

[David’s thoughts: Hi Autopians, David here. For me to really make a sound assessment on this concept, I’m going to have to look at the numbers, which I just don’t have right now. First things first, I’ll need to see how the Vinfast’s pricing compares to that of the competition once the Vietnamese company’s cars launch. Are buyers actually realizing savings up front by leasing the batteries? How much, and after how many months of payments do those savings disappear? 

I have to say: If I went to a dealership today and they sold me a car and said: “Hey, do you want to pay $110 a month in case, in 15 years, your engine blows up?” I’d answer: “Why the hell is my engine going to blow up? Screw this.” I’m still not cool with accepting that a battery will be significantly compromised so soon. And honestly, I’m not convinced it necessarily will be.

One concern I have with this leasing plan is that there’s just too much happening in the EV R&D space right now. Imagine I buy a Vinfast and plunk down $110 a month for the battery. Fifteen years in, I’ve dropped $19,800, and my battery dies. Vinfast will replace it: Great! Or not, because by then who knows if my car is worth a damn; its battery technology could be so outdated that nobody wants it, and my dumb arse just dropped $19,800 (over time) on a car that’s worth pennies (imaging dropping $19,800 to put old tech into your 2007 car). Maybe Vinfast will put an updated battery in at that time? Who knows. And again, if I’m saving a bunch up front, then that $19,800 figure drops; I just don’t have that information.

I’m sure the resale value would go up should I sell the car after 8 or 9 years, as the buyers would know that, so long as they keep paying $110 a month, they’ll be getting a free battery from Vinfast when it fails. But whether those resale numbers justify the expense of all those payments, I’d just have to run the numbers. Honestly, I just don’t know enough at this point, but I remain skeptical of this strategy.

-DT]

Our brilliant news writer Thomas Hundal has opinions and thoughts, too, so let’s hear him out:

If I’m being honest, VinFast’s battery lease program is much cheaper than I expected. The unlimited-mileage plan on their VF 8 compact luxury crossover comes out to $110 a month, $1,320 a year, or $19,800 over a 15 year period. While that sounds bad when it’s added up, a gas-powered car also eats a lot of money in powertrain maintenance and repairs over a 15-year time span.

Timing belts, valve adjustments, ignition coils, synthetic oil changes, oxygen sensors, none of this stuff is cheap. If you’re not the sort of person to get your hands greasy and like to sit in a dealership chair and drink dealership coffee and eat dealership muffins while your car receives dealership maintenance, it’s not hard to spend somewhere in the ballpark of $1,320 a year keeping an older car’s engine running.

Honestly, that’s really the key here. Battery leasing makes the most sense for people who are in it for the long-haul. People who want a hassle-free experience. The sort of people who’ve owned Toyota after Toyota after Toyota because they appreciate stuff that’s built to last. In all honesty, electric cars aren’t built to last quite as well as gas-powered cars. Lithium-ion batteries degrade with every discharge cycle, that’s just their nature.

If you want to keep a car forever, $110 a month to lease a battery genuinely isn’t half bad. In fact, it gets better over time for the people who agree to a locked-in leasing plan. In fifteen years, $110 should have less buying power than it does now, so battery leasing costs will get cheaper as inflation rises.Of course, long-haulers aren’t the only people who could see benefits. A battery lease system could also be a boon to small businesses and freelancers should battery leases get classified as vehicle maintenance come tax time. Imagine being able to completely write-off the cost of the battery in your business vehicle. Pretty sweet, right?

It’s also worth considering the mindset of the average consumer. Monthly payments are typically easier to budget than varying expenses, and peace of mind plays a huge role in making big financial decisions.Truth be told, all of these potential benefits hinge on one very important question. Will OEM parts support still exist in 13, 14, 15 years? VinFast seems to think so, but business plans can change. Besides, we’re living in an era where electric cars are almost like personal computers were in the 2000s – you’re almost afraid to buy one knowing that something even better may be just around the corner. What’s around the corner in 13 years?

Perhaps we’ll see similar tech to what we have now, but perhaps solid state batteries will become cheap and plentiful. It’s hard to say. Still, if parts support continues for 15 years, long-haulers and used shoppers are in for a delight.

 

While it’s not quite the consumer-first solution that standardized, easily swappable EV batteries would provide, this does make EV ownership more appealing for those, like me, that have no interest in actually owning an EV battery pack. It also dramatically changes the game for future EV used car sales, too, which is important, especially since new cars are so expensive, and likely will remain so.

I’m curious to see how this all plays out.

 

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44 Responses

  1. Battery swapping seems like a good idea on the surface but ends up being a nightmare to make happen with quality. Tesla had provisioned the first Model S for it but then abandoned it. To make it work you actually need many more batteries which there is not an abundant supply of. Also the battery to vehicle high voltage/current connections are really crucial. Engineering them today without the added noise factor of 1000+ swaps would be a nightmare.

      1. That analogy really doesn’t track. You still have to charge the car just like you’d have to fill an ICE with gas. It’s more like buying an ICE car without the gas tank. The car is utterly useless without the leasing plan. No one would buy a car off the dealership lot that didn’t come with a gas tank.

        So the real question is can the car be sold close to the $40k price tag with the battery and still be profitable for the company? I don’t know anything about the quality of this company’s products or whether they’re building cars that are actually $40k cars.

  2. They’re not the first to do this. Renault has been selling the Zoe in Europe for years with this option. It seems reasonably successful because it lowers the vehicle price substantially and it’s the up front costs that are the barrier for most buyers.

  3. Let’s call this what it really is – battery insurance. I think VINFast’s cost is probably a little bit on the high side for what it provides, but I like the concept. Realistically, most well-designed car batteries should last ~10 years without significant degradation in capacity, unless… you live in a mountainous area that has really cold winters like, say, Colorado, where I live. As more BEVs are sold and more data are available to make the statisticians and actuarial magicians more confident in their predictions, perhaps we’ll see a lower monthly “battery insurance” cost (assuming this idea takes off in the industry). I personally think that’s the way to sell the idea – as insurance rather than as a lease. The whole idea of “leasing” a significant portion of the vehicle while “owning” the rest of it is just too weird (e.g. – Fix It Again Tony’s comment about resale). Besides range anxiety, the battery and the unknown factors of how long it will last and how much it will cost to replace (SIGNIFICANTLY more than an ICE engine) are significant impediments to the idea of BEV ownership. I personally think this idea addresses those barriers pretty well.

  4. No offense, Torch, but I hate this idea. I’m tired of paying for subscriptions for everything. I don’t want to have to pay a monthly fee to drive a car I already own, and I don’t think it is a good deal for consumers.

    My daily driver is a Nissan Leaf. My Leaf is 6 years old and has 60,000 miles. Per Leaf Spy, my battery capacity is around 81% (this seems right given the vehicle’s current range). I bought the Leaf used (3 years old with 28,000 miles) and the majority of that degradation was the result of the previous owner keeping the battery charged at 100% nearly all the time. Since I’ve owned it, capacity has dropped by only about 4%. If the battery were leased at $160 per month, I would have paid $11,520 (and counting, since my battery is still in good condition) in lease fees for a battery that can be replaced for $5,500. This is clearly not a good deal for me.

    I’m not that concerned about the cost of battery replacement. Sure, batteries are expensive, but if you treat your batteries well (i.e. keep the state of charge between 20 and 80% as much as possible and use Level 1 or 2 charging for routine charging), they will last a long time. Also, it seems like a battery subscription service would remove any incentive to properly care for your battery. If you can replace it after 3 years for no cost, why make any effort to properly care for your battery? It seems like this could be wasteful.

    I do like the idea of standardized, swappable batteries. As the owner of a first generation Leaf, it would be easy to find a used battery in the event mine fails. However, I also own a Livewire, which hasn’t exactly been a sales success. If my Livewire’s battery failed, my only option would be to buy a new one from the dealer. I presume that would be expensive. If batteries were standardized, I could scavenge one from a wrecked bike from another manufacturer for presumably less money. Standardized batteries would make rarer used EVs much more appealing.

    1. I think what you’re saying is important, part of the concern with EVs is that most of us don’t have enough real-world experience with them to really gauge what matters. You hear scary stuff about how “the battery WILL degrade” and “battery replacement is super-damn-expensive” and it makes people nervous. Meanwhile, ICE cars have a thousand moving parts, most of which eventually need to be replaced, and usually on a much, much smaller time-frame than 15 years.
      As you point out, better/smarter charging management can mitigate a LOT of the issues people are worried about, and if those settings can be automated, so much the better.
      I don’t see myself getting an EV for a long time (my driving habits are exactly wrong for an EV, I only drive a few miles per week, except for trips of 500+ miles two or three times per year) but I can’t wait for them to become the norm, rather than the exception.

      1. Another thing that I forgot to mention is how rare catastrophic battery failures are. Everyone focuses on the possibility that their battery will fail suddenly, like a typical 12 volt automotive battery. This is exceptionally rare, and some of these failures can be repaired without having to replace the entire battery.

        Slow degradation is a bigger problem, but again, that can be mitigated by caring for the battery properly. A lot of new EVs can be set to not charge over a certain percentage. As ranges increase, you will use less of your battery capacity to meet your daily driving needs, so the battery can be maintained at an ideal state of charge more often (i.e. if you only use 20% capacity daily, you can always keep your battery between 30 and 70% state of charge). As range increases and battery technology improves, future batteries should experience less degradation than current batteries.

        I can see where people are nervous about EV batteries given the high price tag, but the majority of EV drivers will never have to replace the battery. Used batteries will also become more common as EV adoption increases, which will provide other options to replace a battery in the rare event it catastrophically fails. Overall, from my experience, a lot of the concern about EV batteries is overblown.

  5. This is a new brand, from a country with no track record producing cars, bringing two new vehicles, to a new market, using relatively new technology, within months.

    And we are questioning… the pricing options?

    I doubt they just use the original ICE BMW platform and drop in some batteries, otherwise BMW would be doing that already. Is this a brand new platform? Did they even have literal time to do any serious testing? Where are they sourcing the batteries from? How do they plan on servicing them without a network in place?

    Props to them if they pull it off, but I am getting some serious Yugo vibes here, at best.

  6. 1. Vinfast is a weird name and seems like some sort of wine club.

    2. I’m a big EV fan, but stuff like this really makes it seem like it’s a market waiting on the tech to catch up. I know that’s not the case in some cases, but either the battery lives up to automotive grade standards, or it doesn’t…this just feels like something that will be looked at as silly in a few years.

    3. As an aside to this talk of EVs, I think there are use cases for them right now, but the size of these batteries just seems unsustainable to me. Really wish there was more of a focus on hybrids and PHEV’s until charging infrastructure and battery energy density get to where they need to be.

    To the last point, we use 75-100% of the RAV4 Prime’s EV range nearly every day, and our neighbor’s Mach-E drives about the same distance, but has a battery 4-5x bigger. Each situation is different, but more often than not that’s just a lot of wasted energy storage / cost / precious rare-earth minerals.

  7. My difficulty lies in the fact that this is so much like the insurance system. You might use it, but you might not. I also would be more okay with this idea if the price was lower for the initial purchase.

    1. It says in the article that the lease is transferrable. If vinfast can stay alive as a company, and keep the rest of the car relatively reliable with good build quality, it might place them as a “Toyota” of the EV world. Where 10 year old EV’s hold 75% of their value.

  8. I feel like this is flagrantly taking advantage of people who want to own a BEV, but simply lack the fiscal discipline to save for planned maintenance. It’s not that hard to just set aside this amount of money each month. Use it if you need it, sit on it if you don’t.

  9. The Chevy Bolt is often described as a $20,000.00 car with a $15,000.00 battery, selling for $35,000.00.

    The VF8 looks like a $25,000.00 car with a $20,000.00 Battery, selling for $41,000.00. So, You’re paying the first $16,000.00 of the battery cost up front, and paying $110.00 per month to rent the remaining $4000.00 worth?

    Crack Pipe.

    Battery leasing could make sense, but only if it makes the initial purchase significantly cheaper than it would be otherwise. Renault used to do it but stopped. Soon enough batteries will be so cheap there will be no point.

  10. Doesn’t make sense either way, if you were leasing the car short term then you shouldn’t need a replacement battery, if you buy to own then over an approx. 10yr battery life period you are paying more than double the cost of a replacement battery…even if you own for the life of a 60/mo loan you still shouldn’t be replacing the battery in that amount of time. I’ll call this what it is, a subscription model, revenue generating price gouge for those unable to pay out of pocket for a major repair/replacement. EV’s have to come a much longer way before I will consider them over ICE, maybe 5-10yrs of technology improvements along with cost reductions.

  11. I’d like to see an option the battery is modular and changeable like a cordless drill. The owner of the car has a battery subscription and pays monthly to rent the battery. These batteries would be stored at a charging station where things of batteries are all being trickle charged by solar.
    So when one needs a charge they go to the battery swap location and some sort of machine takes their battery out, places it to charge and puts a fully charged one in.
    So the owner of the car pays for this service in a monthly subscription and that subscription covers the cost of a battery dies on the customer or is damaged

  12. I’m mixed on this, honestly. The mileage thing on the flex plan just seems way too low for the US, I don’t see that being very popular. The fixed plan looks way more realistic, but at the same time… Can’t I just buy the car outright and be covered under that 10yr/125k warranty that I assume covers battery degradation like every other EV? Because honesty at 110/mo or 160/mo for the VF9… I just think that’s too much, and doesn’t make much sense (to me) if the battery is covered under that long factory warranty anyway, which is longer than most people/first owners will keep the car. If you don’t plan on owning the vehicle for longer than 8-10 years, this doesn’t really make sense. Not to mention, with how fast battery tech and EVs are progressing, who is to say that your 10 year old Vinfast will have any value or worth 10-15 years from now, it’ll still have 10 year old infotainment and suspension and motors and etc.

    And with the vehicle pricing. Am I… The only one who thinks this isn’t going to work out that great? It’s a ~4 grand cheaper than a Mach E or something similar, and it’s only getting more competitive by the day. Combine that with the fact that I have to lease the battery for minimum of 110/mo and… It’s making less sense with the pricing they have, it’s too close to the competitors with it being a new brand and not coming with the battery. Even if you take into account the 4K lower price than the Mach E, at 110 a month, you’re going to outpace that Mach E in price in under 4 years. The battery in the Ford is still covered under the degradation warranty (8yr/100k/70%) so… I don’t know I just don’t really see the cost benefit of buying a Vinfast, an unproven brand with no infrastructure yet or anything, personally. My opinion on the battery lease would change if, let’s say, the VF8 cost 30k; If the entry price of the vehicle was significantly lower than the competition, this would actually make sense.

  13. Okay to start this sounds more like a timeshare than anything else or maybe renting to own a home in a HOA. Pay to buy it but don’t own it. Responsible if it breaks but no benefits if it doesn’t. Get about half the use out of it than you pay for. Sorry I love reading anything Jason writes but like David Tracy I ain’t taking financial advice.

  14. Absolutely no risk in buying a Vinfast, right? Leasing the battery might take out some of the risk on the battery, but what about the rest of the car? Do you get a replacement battery that you have to plug into the rustpile that used to be a Vinfast? I would have to see how this performs in the hands of automotive consumers first before parting company with the money for a battery lease.

  15. My wife and I leased our Mach E (the whole vehicle, mind you) specifically because I view EVs the same way I view any new technology (I’m dating myself here, but does anyone remember how expensive VCRs were when they first came out?), knowing it’ll improve over time. The likelihood that battery technology (weight, composition, range, etc.) DOESN’T change in a meaningful way over the next four years is very low, in my opinion.

    Getting a federal tax credit didn’t hurt, either.

  16. Years ago I wrote an article about a guy in Milwaukee who converted a Geo Metro into an EV (and converted a motorcycle before that). Did all the work himself and belonged to a makers space group of fellow EV “conversionists” that shared tools and expertise. I bring this up because in the interview he said something really interesting: “If you aren’t able to fix your own car do you ever really own it?”

    I was reminded of what he said when I first read of Vinfast’s battery leasing plan. It can never be fully your car, can it? The battery belongs to someone else and if you fail to make the lease payments the car turns into a paper weight. If that’s the case it only makes sense if you lease the whole car, battery and all. You’re never going to really own it anyway so it makes no sense to “purchase” it.

  17. “If you don’t plan on owning the car more than eight years then no, this solution does not make sense.” Depends, but it might make the most sense short-term. If the car is cheaper for not paying upfront for the battery, you might be better with short-term ownership. $110/month is 1320/yr. If you are doing a three year lease, you might be better off, assuming they don’t decide depreciation is going to be excessive with this model and overcharge on the lease (and depreciation could be excessive on a car in which you don’t own the battery).

    That said, I think a better model would be owning whatever battery is in your car and having a subscription to hot-swappable batteries. Or just owning your battery and having a significant subsidy when it needs to be replaced, since they can reuse or recycle the old battery.

  18. As an EV owner with a battery that is at 80% after 8 years I find this lease proposition to be ridiculous. Especially when you are paying upfront what would be the cost (essentially) if you owned the battery yourself. When my battery comes to end-of-life, I have 2 options: Bite the bullet and pay $10k+ to replace the battery or part the car out. Unlimited miles in this lease scenario is $10k over 8 years. For me, I buy it, I own it.
    Beyond all that, my fuel savings right now are unreal. Gas is at $4/gal and my Kwh rate is $0.1313 – effectively $1.06/gal. Drive an ICE 1,000 miles each month, at 25MPG you are spending $160. Mine costs $40.

  19. Quite a few years ago when working in strategy for a competing OEM I was tasked with analysing Renault’s battery leasing. Basically it’s a disaster in the second hand market. Dealers won’t take cars in trade with a payment, and 2nd hand customers won’t pay an extra cost per month on their cheap knackered 2nd hand BEV…and actually tracking people down to sign up to take on the lease etc is a nightmare…imagine trying to sell a phone and transfer the plan to a new owner…but worse. Oh and if you called Renault’s bluff to come take their battery back…they gave up

  20. Not a fan. I drive a lot, and project holding onto my car for 10+ years. Seeing how the VinFast EV’s aren’t much cheaper than their competitors, I’ll hedge myself against needing a replacement battery. Which at that point there will likely be working batteries available from otherwise totaled cars. So there really won’t be a need, unless the battery has to be brand new. Which a new battery in a 10 year old car doesn’t make a lot of sense for a run of the mill CUV.

  21. So, you’re getting a car with a battery, and you essentially start making layaway payments on your second battery. This assumes you keep the car long enough to need it-I’m betting the dollar amount of payments more than covers the replacement cost by the time the battery dies.
    I want to be the guy who buys one used and gets a new battery a few months later. Jackpot!

  22. Everyone here seems to be comparing the battery to the engine. You wouldn’t lease the engine in your ICE, so why lease the battery, right? Well, hear me out…

    The battery isn’t the engine, it’s the fuel (ok, a better analogy is that it’s the fuel tank and the electrons are the fuel, but bear with me here). If you think of it that way, this makes a lot more sense. How much does an average person spend on gasoline in a month? If someone were to sell you an unlimited gasoline subscription for $110-160/month, would that be a good deal? I think a lot of people would say yes.

    Let’s assume that the cost of electricity is negligible, which, compared to the lease cost, it is, or at least close to it. So if you’re buying an EV to save fuel costs, this isn’t your answer. But if you bought it for some other reason*, this plan might interest you. Add in the fact that you never have to worry about the cost of replacing the battery, and now it becomes very interesting indeed.

    *environmental consciousness, becoming less dependent on foreign oil from countries that hate us or human rights, etc…

  23. Here’s a simple test – ask those who actually bought electric cars as their DD if this would have been a benefit for them.

    This wouldn’t have interested me in 2014, when I went electric, it wouldn’t have interested me in 2018, when the whole household went electric, and it even more so does not make sense today. If I buy a car, I want to buy it. If I lease a car, I want to lease it. If I finance the car over X years, that’s what I want. The battery is a robust part of the car. It’s not a problem–if a model is having teething pains (Bolt is the most extreme example), they’ll figure them out in that 8-year warranty period.

    Generally batteries will keep getting cheaper and better, modulo the pandemic and ramp-up supply spikes. By 2030, when VinFast’s “battery hedging” would have an effect, batteries are going to be far cheaper, more robust, and faster charging.

    I’ve had a Model S as my DD for 7.5 years. We picked up a Model 3 3.5 years ago and are now electric-only. For me, the S battery has been good. With 120K on the odo, 100% charge has dropped from 253 to 229 miles; this loss started steep and is now practically flat. The 3 has a much better chemistry, and both charges faster and seems even more stable (currently at 40K miles).

    And regarding the battery swap–don’t even get me started. I was invited to join the Harris Ranch battery swap program back in 2015, and I hard declined, despite this being perfectly positioned on the LA-to-Silicon Valley route I frequently traveled. The swap was cheaper than filling up an equivalent car with gas, but it was so much more expensive than the 50-min charge I needed that it more than paid for my restful Harris Ranch lunch to charge instead of swap.

  24. When I bought my 2013 Leaf in 2015, Nissan dealers were practically giving them away. I calculated that just the fuel savings over 5 years would allow me to theoretically throw away the Leaf at the end of the battery’s warranty, and still break even with the total ownership cost of an ICE car. I was right. Battery life never figured into the calculation because the cost of EV ownership is so much lower.

  25. I’d actually be in favor of some modified version of this. Maybe one where you have this as an option vs. owning the battery, or where you get the first 3-5 years included in the cost.

    I just traded in my 2014 Volt last year because of fear of the battery replacement costs. It was paid off, but the 8 year battery warranty was nearly up, and if the battery died the car was a brick and would require a $10,000-12,000 replacement with a used battery (3 year warranty) from an aftermarket shop. Other than that hanging over my head, the only issue the car had during 8 years was a window regulator, oil changes every 2 years, tires, and 1 coolant change.

    At least if companies are thinking about having to replace batteries in the future, they may plan to make it an easier process during the engineering of the car.

    I’d be OK with this kind of subscription service, but only if it was reflected in a discount off the battery in the initial price of the car.

  26. Do not normalize this. It’s a slippery slope, especially in light of how every car manufacturer is trying to make every single thing in the car a subscription service.
    This concept can die in a lithium fueled fire.

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