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2011 Nissan Leaf. Photo: Nissan

Recurrent, a new Seattle-based startup, aims to answer the most commonly asked question by people considering a used electric vehicle: "How much battery life is left?"

Why it matters: You can get a decent idea of how long a traditional used car will last by knowing how many miles are on the odometer. But longevity in an electric vehicle is harder to predict and depends on many factors, including how and where the vehicle was driven and the battery's charging history.

  • Frequent fast-charging, for example, causes an electric vehicle's battery to degrade faster, notes Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid.
  • Environmental factors also play a role, says Recurrent co-founder and CEO Scott Case.

The good news: Electric vehicle batteries, in general, are holding up better than experts predicted in the early days, Case said. Yet there's still a lot of variability, even among the same makes and models.

The uncertainty about battery life is one reason electric vehicles generally have lower resale values than traditional used cars.

  • By offering a reliable prediction of how long a used electric vehicle will last, Recurrent hopes to give people more comfort about their purchase.

How it works: Recurrent solicits detailed data on range and battery conditions from a nationwide fleet of volunteer electric vehicle drivers.

  • The data includes information on thousands of cars from different manufacturers, with different battery pack configurations, and different operating environments, ages and odometer readings.
  • The company's algorithms can then predict future battery life and range, by vehicle identification number, for nearly every used electric vehicle offered for sale, Case says.
  • Vehicle reports are available through participating car dealers and through the company's website.

Recurrent is a recent spinout of Pioneer Square Labs, the Seattle-based startup studio.

Go deeper

Dec 4, 2020 - Economy & Business

Clean trucks are paving the road to the electric vehicle era

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The electric vehicle revolution is underway, led by the un-sexiest of plug-in models: the commercial truck.

Why it matters: Growing demand for cleaner trucks means 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles — just not the kind you might have expected.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Dec 19, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Electric vehicles are coming, but no one is sure how fast

Data: Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new study helps to show that experts are all over the map when it comes to gaming out the rise of electric vehicles in the global marketplace.

Why it matters: The speed at which EVs become truly mainstream is one variable affecting the future of oil demand and carbon emissions. Passenger cars account for roughly a fourth of world oil demand.

Aug 14, 2020 - Economy & Business

Elon Musk is channeling Henry Ford in auto manufacturing

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has spent more than a decade trying to disrupt the traditional auto industry, is sounding more and more like the man most closely associated with it: Henry Ford.

Why it matters: In his quest to build affordable electric cars for the masses, Musk is starting to embrace many of the ideas pioneered by Ford's founder — things like vertical supply chains and an obsession with manufacturing efficiency. A century ago that approach helped to popularize the American automobile by lowering the cost of the Model T.