Electric vehicles generally need less service than their gas-powered counterparts. Read on for an EV maintenance guide, and to learn more about potential repairs.
A gas-powered engine has more than 1,000 moving parts. Your electric motor has just three. With fewer parts to go wrong, it’s no wonder many find maintaining an electric vehicle to be much easier than servicing a gas-powered car.
When UBS analysts recently tore apart a Chevy Bolt to see how it’s made, the fewer parts led them to a surprising conclusion. They predict the total cost of owning an EV will match that of owning a gas-powered car by 2018, figuring in car ownership costs such as maintenance, fuel and insurance. And, they see the spare car parts business shrinking by 60% in the end-game of a 100% EV world, which admittedly could be decades away.
With EVs you have fewer fluids. There’s no oil to change or spark plugs to replace. But EVs are still machines with parts that will ultimately wear out or break down. You’ll eventually need suspension work after wear and tear on ball joints and shocks. Buttons break, windows jam. And, just like with a gas-powered car, regular maintenance—like rotating your tires—will help your car run more smoothly.
Each vehicle will have its own specific maintenance schedule in its the owners’ manual. For example, Nissan recommends rotating the Leaf’s tires twice a year and replacing the brake fluid every few years. One Nissan Leaf owner recently posting on the company’s customer site reports “zero maintenance so far.” Another owner reports the dealer where he bought his EV threw in free tire rotations with the lease.
EVs have a regenerative braking system, which helps brake pads last longer. This system can recapture a good deal of your car’s kinetic energy and change it into electricity so it can be used to recharge your EVs battery. Many owners find that with an EV, they need to maintain their brakes around half as often as they did with a conventional car.
Windshield wiper blades on an EV and a conventional car are no different. You’ll need to replace these once they’ve worn down, or about two times a year. Many owners replace them right before summer and before winter hits. Blades, including installation, could cost $15 to $40.
Electric vehicles will need their tires rotated on a regular schedule, just like gas-powered vehicles. Most manufacturer’s guidelines call for tire rotation every 7,500 miles, which usually works out to around twice a year. If that’s the case, you’ll have 13 scheduled trips to your mechanic in the first 100,000 miles. The cost will vary depending on where you go and where you live, but could average $25 per rotation.
You’ll need to keep tabs on your brake fluid and windshield washer fluid. You should have your brake fluid checked and replaced according to the instructions in your owner’s manual. Nissan recommends replacing the brake fluid in the 2017 Leaf starting at 24 months, and then next at 48 months. Replacing brake fluid could cost as little as $100 to a few hundred dollars. You should add windshield fluid as needed, using a winter blend in cold weather. A gallon bottle of windshield fluid costs around $2-4. Electric cars that have a thermal management system also use coolant, which you may occasionally need to add.
EVs use a nickel-metal-hydride, lithium-ion or similar battery, and their lifespans are limited. Just like your phone or iPad, EV batteries gradually lose their ability to hold a charge over time. You’ll eventually find you’re recharging your EV too often. At 100,000 miles your battery may have lost as much as 20% of its range. Studies, however, from the American Chemical Society, predict that well maintained batteries could last for as many as 20 years. If your battery does go out, it won’t be cheap. Replacing an EV battery will cost you several thousand dollars. However, costs are coming down. According to an analysis of the electric-vehicle market by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), battery prices fell 35% in 2015, and they continue to drop.
You won’t have to worry about regular oil changes or replacing spark plugs with an electric vehicle. EVs also don’t have exhaust systems, so no need to worry about anything going wrong with a muffler.
Collision costs. Getting into an accident in an EV could get expensive, depending on the type of damage. Insurance will pick up the tab, but that could translate into higher rates. That’s because EVs include many fragile battery packs in spots that could easily be crushed in a crash. Replacing those packs could get pricey.
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