Electric Car Maintenance: Almost Zip

Because an electric car has NO engine, transmission, spark plugs, valves, fuel tank, tailpipe, distributor, oil, oil filter, starter, clutch, muffler or catalytic converter, there is much less to go wrong and less cost towards upkeep compared to its gasoline counterpart.

This spot is about the difference between maintaining a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, a fuel tank and exhaust system, and maintaining one with batteries and an electric motor. The beauty of the electric motor is that it has only one moving part, unlike the internal combustion engine, which typically has over a hundred extra high precision moving parts which must be strictly maintained.1 Because an electric car has far fewer precision moving parts, there is less maintenance and more reliability in an EV.

As “Gasoline” gets his oil, muffler and clutch checked, along with a lot of other things, “Electric” is slowly changing his shoes, which represent the tires on an EV. Because an EV is heavier than its gasoline counterpart, it usually wears its tires down faster, but because an EV has no engine, transmission, spark plugs, valves, fuel tank, tailpipe, distributor, oil, oil filter, starter, clutch, muffler or catalytic converter, there is much less to go wrong and less cost towards upkeep. There is only one annual service check recommended for the new Nissan Leaf, and it consists of a battery back and brake check, topping off fluids like your window washer, and rotating the tires. Its maintenance costs are expected to be less than a third of its gasoline counterpart.2 Most RAV 4 EV drivers don’t take their cars in on an annual basis at all, and their vehicles continue run beautifully.

A big maintenance concern is batteries – how long will they last? Lithium Ion batteries, which appear in the Leaf, the Chevy Volt and most of the battery electrics coming out in the next few years, are still being tested for longevity in real world circumstances, but experts believe they are hardier than nickel metal hydride batteries, which can go over 100,000 miles with little degradation.3 Still, because the technology is new, there is much to learn about battery life, which is why both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt offer 8 year or 100,000 mile warranties on their batteries.4 One way drivers can protect themselves from battery costs is to lease their vehicles, at least in the beginning when this battery technology is new. Improvements in battery packs are happening at breakneck speed – much faster than than any changes in the combustion engine - so in a few years there will likely be a new kind of battery with more range and longer life.

Because it is truly a modern vehicle, the upfront purchase costs of a plug in car are higher than the gasoline car. But since electricity is about 1/3 the price of gasoline, and maintenance is so much less for an EV, there are immediate financial returns on your very excellent investment. 


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