Although many of us are used to the routine maintenance involved with a regular car, an EV (electric vehicle) is in many ways much simpler to keep in good condition. The benefits of regenerative braking, fewer moving parts and less fluids than a traditional vehicle mean that a green car generally comes with a much lower maintenance burden. To a certain extent, the same is true for hybrid vehicles, which benefit from part of the EV infrastructure. So, what do you need to know about how to maintain an EV?
The concept behind electric powered cars is a very simple one. Electricity is stored in an electric car battery pack – this electricity is used to power the car’s motor and drive it into motion. As the electric car relies on a battery, one of the key differences for owners is that you will need to regularly charge your car. “How do I charge my car?” is one of the most frequent questions asked by those interested in owning an electric vehicle. The answer is simple: an increasingly broad network of public charging points are accessible across the UK and you can also charge your EV at home or at work. As battery range gets longer and charging points multiply, EV cars are becoming much more comparable with ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles in terms of distance and range.
When it comes to maintenance, there are some notable differences between electric cars and their traditional counterparts.
Simplicity. When considering the pros and cons of electric cars, the simplicity of the structure is a major plus point. Whereas a traditional vehicle has a whole different range of parts that will need to be maintained (e.g. oil, cooling systems, spark plugs, fuel pumps), most EV cars have three main elements. The electric car engine, the inverter and the on-board charger are where the most investment in maintenance is required.
Costs. As there are fewer elements to maintain with EV cars, the maintenance costs can be a lot lower. This will depend on the model, to a certain extent, as those that are less mainstream might be more expensive when it comes to spare parts.
Regenerative braking. Thanks to regenerative braking, EV cars tend to require half the brake maintenance that a regular car would need.
Fewer fluids. EV cars have far fewer fluids to maintain than a regular car and (other than the fluids mentioned below) these are generally sealed inside the infrastructure of the car and cannot be accessed.
Incentives. Currently, the only incentives of maintaining a regular car are avoiding the costs of emergency repair and the penalties that can be incurred for infrequent maintenance. For EV cars there are additional incentives for drivers, such as financial credit for swapping an old battery pack for a new one.
If we break down the elements of an EV vs ICE into individual vehicle components, there are still key differences between the two.
The brake pads. With an EV car, you will still need to ensure that you maintain the brake pads. However, thanks to regenerative braking, this is generally much easier to do. Regenerative braking helps to avoid the energy loss that takes place when a regular car brakes. Instead, when the brake pedal is pressed in an EV car, the motor reverses, which slows down the wheels of the car but at the same time generates energy that is transferred to the car’s batteries for later use. This is the same for both electric and hybrid vehicles.
The windscreen wipers. Electric vehicles have standard windscreen wipers and so these need to be maintained in the same way as for a traditional car. It’s usually a good idea to replace wiper blades twice a year – at the start of winter and the start of summer. However, if they become worn down in the meantime they may need to be replaced sooner.
The fluids. EV cars generally only have three key fluids that need to be topped up regularly: coolant fluid, brake fluid and windshield washer fluid. This is the case for most green cars, but some do differ for example, the Tesla Model S gearbox contains transmission fluid that also needs regular replacement. Coolant fluid is also required for the EV car’s thermal management system and will need to be topped up from time to time.
The battery. The EV battery will become less efficient over time and may eventually need to be replaced. However, this isn’t categorized as “regular maintenance,” as they can last for at least a decade. In fact, many manufacturers provide a battery drivetrain components warranty for 8-10 years or 100,000 – 150,000 miles.
While both types of cars require regular maintenance by the owner, electric cars are typically simpler, less demanding and generally more convenient to maintain. Why not lessen the burden of traditional maintenance and drive green?