Tesla Model 3 Battery

How much does a Tesla Model 3 Battery Replacement Cost?

October 2nd, 2020 by

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

To start, it’s not reflective of the actual cost a customer would pay for an out-of-pocket battery replacement today. Battery packs are the single most expensive part in electric vehicles after all, and no outsiders 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. The tech 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.

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

Luckily, we happened across a Model 3 that had a battery replacement that wasn’t covered under warranty and 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 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 struck the bottom of the car, causing enough physical damage to the battery to cause total failure. The car became 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. So, 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, and manufacturers do need to provide detailed invoices for customers and insurance companies.

The Service Invoice

The Tesla Service invoice has three jobs listed, since the car had some other work done at the same time. The relevant one is listed as job number 2.

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 costs almost $16,000 to replace a Tesla Model 3 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.

For the battery pack, the $13,500 customer price isn’t exactly indicative of the 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, 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 makeup 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. This is what Elon is referring to in his tweet. Ideally, individual modules can be replaced at a somewhat lower cost, instead of replacing the entire battery pack altogether.

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 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 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 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 their production capacity for new vehicles – they don’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 engines and transmissions on gasoline cars, and 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 is such that home mechanics are tackling battery replacement jobs, the packs could be subject to a core charge.

You shouldn’t normally have to pay for a battery replacement.

While it’s fun to dig into the costs of a battery replacement, the fact of the matter is that the vast, vast majority of electric vehicle drivers never need one. Asking “how much does a battery replacement cost?” is kind of like asking “how much does an engine replacement cost?”

It’s not something most people ask when considering a vehicle purchase, because it’s not something you’re likely to experience.

Electric vehicle batteries are designed and built to last the life of the car. It might be fun to consider how much a replacement battery costs, but it’s not something prospective EV drivers should worry about.