Tesla Model 3 Battery

How much does a Tesla Model 3 Battery Replacement Cost?

Google’s snippets may proudly proclaim that a Tesla Model 3 battery replacement costs between $3,000 and $7,000, but that doesn’t even come close to telling the full story.

Many consumers likely have heard that battery packs are the single most expensive part in electric vehicles, but outside of manufacturing circles, few know exactly what it costs to build any given pack from scratch other than “a lot.”

The high cost is one of the reasons most automakers warranty their electric vehicle batteries for least 8 years or 100,000 miles, which is better coverage than what’s offered for most internal combustion engines. Battery pack technology is new and expensive, so customers need the confidence to know they won’t have to shell thousands of dollars out of pocket to fix their car.

It’s historically been hard to get an idea as to what exactly a battery replacement might cost on most electric vehicles, as automakers don’t always publish the costs of their parts—especially for big-ticket items like engines and batteries. Plus, manufacturers aren’t obligated to tell customers how much the warranty job they’re performing would have cost them out-of-pocket.

But we happened across a Tesla Model 3 that had a battery replacement that wasn’t covered under warranty along with the Tesla Service invoice to prove it.

What caused the battery failure, and why wasn’t it covered?

Warranties exist to cover defects in materials and manufacturing—faults and issues that can be solely pinned on the manufacturer of the product. They don’t usually cover consumable items like brake pads, and they definitely don’t cover damages caused by improper use or other outside forces.

Calimotive Battery Pack Modules Sold on Ebay

Model 3 battery pack opened up, posted by seller Calimotive on ebay. Did you know you can buy Tesla battery cells, modules, and packs online?

The Model 3 in question had an incident that falls under the “other outside forces” category.

Though we don’t have the full details of what went down, we know a large rock somehow struck the bottom of the car, causing enough physical damage to the battery to cause total failure and render the car completely unresponsive and inoperable. This is exactly the type of thing that warranties don’t usually cover—though Tesla’s warranty actually does cover battery fire damage, even if the fire was caused by user error or other forces. In other words, if this rock had set the battery on fire, it would have been covered by warranty.

It didn’t do that, though, so this damage was the type to be covered by insurance. When insurance gets involved, manufacturers need to provide detailed invoices for customers and insurance providers.

The Service Invoice

The Tesla Service invoice has three jobs listed, as the car had some other work done at the same time. The relevant line is highlighted below.

Tesla Model 3 Battery Pack Replacement Invoice

Concern: Customer states vehicle is not responsive.

Correction: HV Battery (Remove & Replace)

A long list of parts is included, since there’s more stuff needed for a battery pack replacement than the battery itself. Notable parts include wiring harnesses, the skid plate, and battery coolant.

The biggest item is still the battery itself, of course.

ASY,HVBAT,75KWH,AWD,KELVIN,1PH,M3,RMN(1 13737501-K): $13,500

Labor: $2,299.27

Parts and labor combined, it cost nearly $16,000 to replace this Tesla Model 3’s battery pack.

Breaking it down, Tesla shop rates may vary from location to location, but the location this was performed at runs $175 per hour, meaning the battery replacement job is estimated to take a little over 13 hours.

The $13,500 customer price for the battery pack isn’t exactly indicative of Tesla’s cost to build one, either—there could be a margin on the part to help cover costs or create profit. Additionally, there’s an important three-letter code present on the battery line-item: RMN, short for remanufactured.

Remanufactured Tesla Battery Packs

Electric vehicle battery packs aren’t just one single battery cell scaled up to gigantic size. Each battery is actually made up of several modules, and each module is made up of hundreds of individual cells.

Tesla Model S Battery Pack

Model S Battery Pack removed from the car—note the circular cells in the multiple rectangular modules that make up the pack. | Photo via WK057 on the Tesla Motors Club forum.

The failure of one module may be enough to disable the entire pack, even while the rest of the battery is excellent condition. Ideally, individual modules can be replaced at a somewhat lower cost, instead of replacing the entire battery pack altogether. Tesla CEO Elon Musk referred to the lower cost of replacing modules compared to a full pack in a 2019 tweet.

This is actually an approach that Tesla uses to fix battery packs, but the logistics work in a different way than how you might first think. The technicians don’t just swap bad modules for good ones at the shop—they instead replace the entire pack with a functioning one that is either brand new or remanufactured.

The earliest replacements for any given vehicle spec are done with brand new parts, since no remanufactured packs exist yet. After a new battery is installed, the broken one is sent back to the factory where technicians fix it to like-new condition. This is where broken modules would be replaced with good ones, and any other issues are addressed.

Once a pack is remanufactured to working condition, it’s placed into the parts supply chain to replace the next pack that fails, and the cycle continues. Ideally for Tesla, all replacement batteries are remanufactured.

Remanufacturing parts has virtually no downsides and a large list of benefits: It’s more cost-effective for Tesla to rebuild a pack than it is for them to build a new one. It’s also more environmentally friendly, because most of the materials are being reused instead of thrown away. It increases the supply of available replacement parts, and it increases Tesla’s production capacity for new vehicles—it doesn’t need to place nearly as many new battery packs in the parts reserve when remanufactured parts can fill that role.

This is common all across the auto industry and isn’t anything unique to Tesla. All sorts of car parts might be sent back for remanufacturing, including big ticket items like engines and transmissions on gasoline cars or smaller parts like brake calipers. Remanufactured parts are even sold by auto parts stores to home mechanics, who pay a “core charge” that is refunded when they return the old parts to encourage recycling.

When electric vehicle adoption has reached a point where home mechanics are tackling battery replacement jobs, packs could become subject to a core charge.

Bottom line: You shouldn’t normally have to pay for a battery replacement

Like an internal combustion engine, electric vehicle batteries are designed and built to last the life of the car. Most gas-powered car owners will never need to replace an engine. And in the more than two decades of combined experience our team has been working with electric vehicles at Tesla and Current Automotive, this was the first time we’ve come across a Tesla battery replacement that required the owner to cover the costs out of pocket.

While it might be fun—or terrifying—to dig into the costs of a battery replacement whether you’re a current EV owner or are thinking of buying your first electric vehicle and are doing your research on the benefits of EV ownership, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of electric vehicle drivers never need to worry about paying to replace one.

Posted in Consumer Info, Electric Vehicle Education October 2nd, 2020 by