Today I completed the annual maintenance on my 3.5 year old electric car. I topped up the washer fluid and put some air in the tires. That’s it. Aside from two other things, that’s all I’ve done on the car’s life, although one of those things was a chump.
(You can also watch a video on this topic with visual illustrations.)
The promise of the electric car is that it is almost maintenance-free. There are no oil changes or small, regular and large service appointments. There are far fewer parts and fewer things to go wrong. Over time I’ll need new wiper blades and a few other little things. Many drivers report that their brake pads have not worn out after 200,000 miles because driving EVs almost never uses the brakes.
I replaced the internal air filter to add a HEPA filter for today’s wildfire and covid issues. This took about $40 and a bit of time and will probably have to be redone 3 years later.
The Doozy needed new tires at around 28,000 miles. That was too early, well ahead of their rated lifespan. Part of the reason for this was a silly mistake on my part. In the past I’ve taken my gas cars in for regular service and they rotated my tires as needed during that service. Since I didn’t bring my EV for service, I never did the rotation. Not only did this cause my car’s drive tires to wear out faster, but it also meant I couldn’t make a warranty claim on them. Lesson learned.
The result is that you pay a lot less for regular maintenance with an electric vehicle than you do with your petrol cars, but you pay more for your tires, although the grid is still an asset.
There’s more to cost than that. EV tires cost more than tires on similar cars and can wear out quicker than expected for three reasons:
- EVs are humble heavier than the comparable car. That means you need tires in a higher weight class that wear out a little quicker.
- With electric vehicles, you care more energy efficient Tires. Even if wasted energy costs you less money than with a petrol car, you care more because more efficient tires mean more range. The factory tires on most EVs tend to be very energy efficient, allowing the company to advertise a longer range.
- EV motors run pretty quietly, so you care even more about getting it little noise tires and pay more for it.
Some EV tires may also be treaded for high power acceleration, although you don’t need to buy them – although you do need to buy a tire that will support your vehicle’s weight. Additionally, some EV drivers are taking advantage of their electric vehicle’s incredible abilities for sporty driving, thus using rubber faster.
Servicing traditional gasoline cars is estimated at around 5 cents/mile, with tires adding another cent/mile. With electric vehicles, expect the other costs to go very low and the tires to go a bit higher.
Some cars recommend checking and lubricating the calipers regularly because you are not using the brakes. Booking a service appointment just for that can cost you money, but it’s an easy addition to everything else, like changing your tires, that you should be doing. and Most tire centers offer a free lifetime rotation on tires they mount – but they do so in the hope that when you arrive you will need a different service, a hope that electric vehicles may not work. Today, the service industry is streamlined for the world of oil changes and minor maintenance, and soon there will be streamlined paths for electric vehicles as well.
Reports suggest Tesla will now tell you if your rear tires are wearing too unevenly with your front tires on RWD vehicles for people to remember to turn. It would be nice if they also included a rotation reminder where you could use the UI to indicate you’ve fitted new tires or when you rotate them to remind you the interval is up.
Some people believe changing tires is a bad idea, there are many arguments about it. Regardless of where you come across them, most tire warranties require it if you want to claim them – but they often have other conditions that make them difficult to use, including of course buying the same tires every time.
In fact, one of the side benefits of not requiring service is that you don’t have to take the time to do it. With a petrol car you regularly have a service day where you have to take your car to the workshop for a day, find an alternative means of transport during the day and pick it up. Changing a tire still requires a service appointment, but can be brief enough to do while you wait and surf the web – and may be done with a mobile service van in the future, although likely not for free.
Tesla also lists replacing the air conditioning desiccant bag every 4-6 years, and also checks the brake fluid and replaces it if it’s dirty. As these cars age, there may be more things coming up the list, but there’s nothing quite like the >$1,000 timing belt change you have to do every 7 years on a car like my old Honda to keep the engine from spinning self-destructs if it fails. It’s a whole different world. I wouldn’t be too surprised if a Tesla 12v battery maintenance schedule came up.
EVs incur costs for what categorizes as repairs rather than maintenance. Many Tesla 12V batteries have been reported to have failed, although most are under warranty. Parts for expensive cars are always expensive if you smash a windshield or smash a mirror or have a car stolen. Tires also fail due to road hazards and other reasons. When it comes down to it, as they say, your mileage can vary. And the battery does degrade over time, but there’s not much that can be done about that unless you have a serious problem that’s hitting the warranty threshold.
The shift to electric vehicles also means a shift in the future for the ecosystem of service centers and auto parts stores that serve cars today. Cars with fewer parts and wearing parts just aren’t going to need this industry as much. Today, electric vehicles make up just a few percent of all cars, but they accounted for over 10% of auto sales in California, which is at the forefront of the future. This trend will increase worldwide.
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