18 Jan 22

The higher gain of lower maintenance costs

The good news with EVs is that a lot can be taken off the cost of the car’s upkeep. But how much softer on the wallet are these favourable maintenance costs? And how do they compare to traditional ICE models?  

Because of the higher cost of the battery cells, an EV is still significantly more expensive to purchase than a comparable car with a diesel or a petrol engine - the gap with a plug-in hybrid is getting smaller all the time -, if it were not for incentives. 

However, once an electric car becomes part of a fleet and its operating costs take over, the coin flips. Built up around much less complex technology, hassle-free mechanics and by eliminating a dozen components, EVs visit a workshop not quite as often for maintenance as a conventional car. And with fewer standard inspection points the benefit becomes even more attractive.  

Notable differences

But which mechanical parts of an EV make the difference?

  • Brake wear

Electric cars make good use of regenerative braking, i.e. reversing the electric motor which not only slows down the car, but also charges the battery. As a consequence the stress on the traditional braking system reduces, making it less prone to wear and replacement. 

  • Transmission

Gearboxes can’t fail in EVs, because the big majority doesn’t have one. They’re direct drive.  

  • Number of parts

The electric motor hardly uses any wear parts. Unlike an ICE, there’s no cylinder head gasket, timing belt nor coolant system to be taken care of. Frictional parts are kept to a minimum.

  • Consumables

With so few moving parts, EVs don’t need lubricants. Oil and filter replacements are a thing of the past. And, indeed, as zero-emission vehicles exhaust system changes are hardly a headache.

Replacing brake pads, filters for the airconditioning and checking battery status is about so much the mechanic of an EV must worry about. Still, there are downsides. For example, not every garage is qualified nor authorised to cope with the high voltage of the electric system, which might stipulate some additional appointment planning. 

Also, some checks remain unaltered. Think about the monitoring of tyre pressure and their wear, influencing energy consumption by quite a margin, or checking screen washer fluid. A familiar replacement is the 12-volt battery, which is still present in an EV for powering door locks, electronics, lighting and other ancillary systems. But these small interventions are easily carried out. 

A quarter less expensive

While not everything changes, the positive impact on the periodic service invoice can’t be denied. Several studies have concluded that for EVs servicing costs can amount up to a benefit of 20-35% over a three-year period in comparison to a conventional vehicle. That’s more than a quarter. It’s a pleasant side-effect of not having to cope with major engine repairs nor the maintenance of a big number of frictional parts.

This avail is only more tangible for fleets comprising cars covering a high annual mileage. Where conventionally powered models become more prone to tear and wear, EVs withstand the test of time better.

Intervals differ from OEM to OEM and can amount up to 30,000 kilometres, but as a rule of thumb an EV is suspended from visiting a workshop for its first two years on the road. In a lot of cases, the frequency of time-consuming appointments is halved during an electric car’s corporate cycle.

Since maintenance represents a value of between 7-12% of Total Cost of Ownership, depending on use, vehicle category and so on, these lower maintenance costs can exercise a notable difference for most fleet managers. And while future battery technology will further optimize the procurement cost of all-electric fleets, the considerable savings of a much less stringent maintenance schedule is already in place. And it won’t wither away.   

Pictures : With the courtesy of Tesla and Bosch

Authored by: Bart Vandervelde