Many electric vehicle buyers point to the elimination of common maintenance as part of the appeal: No oil or transmission fluid changes, no spark plugs. While those specific items are not needed, electric vehicle maintenance is necessary, and neglect can prove costly.
Estimates are that EV battery packs will last 12 to 15 years. Typical EV warranties cover the battery for eight years and 100,000 miles. Replacing an EV battery pack is a major expense. But where an EV is used and how its owner uses it can have a major impact on the life of the battery.
Extreme temperatures – hot or cold – can significantly shorten the life of the battery, cutting it to as little as eight years. Also, while convenient and downright necessary on a road trip, regular use of a public Level 3, 440-volt fast charger has been shown to degrade an EV’s battery, by exactly how much is unknown due to the newness of the technology. Letting the battery go completely dead or charging it to 100 percent capacity can also degrade the battery. In fact, most EV makers include software that limits battery charging to between 85 and 90 percent capacity.
It will probably come as news to many that EVs have cooling systems. Electric motors create heat that must dissipate to lengthen service life. Some EVs use air cooling like an old Volkswagen Bug or Porsche 911. But many use liquid coolant, the level and strength of which must be checked about every six months, along with the hoses that carry the fluid.
Just like gasoline-powered vehicles, brakes are an important part of electric vehicle maintenance. Thanks to regenerative braking that uses energy created by stopping to help recharge the battery, the brake pad’s friction material tends to last longer. But due to the extreme weight of an EV, they still wear and some manufacturers require yearly inspections. Also, brake fluid needs to be replaced according to the vehicle maker’s recommendation, usually every three years.
Another fluid that needs to be replenished, just like a gasoline vehicle, is the windshield washer fluid. Replacing windshield wipers regularly is also needed for maximum visibility in bad weather.
Then there are the tires. EVs require specialized tires due to their extra weight, extreme torque and quick acceleration. A staffer at AAA has had a popular electric vehicle for two years. When asked about replacing tires, he just hung his head and shook it slowly from side to side. The weight and performance of EVs can wear out tires quickly, sometimes lasting only 10,000 to 20,000 miles. My pickup truck has 60,000 miles on its current set of tires and has plenty tread depth remaining. Proper inflation and regular rotation helps them last. These same maintenance items are absolutely critical to getting as much life as possible out of EV tires. Drivers also need to exercise restraint driving an EV, accelerating and cornering gently to help stretch the life of the tires.
While there are no engine air filters to replace on an electric vehicle, cabin air filters need to be replaced regularly. These filters help clean the air of pollutants and allergens that can affect the respiratory systems of vehicle occupants.
While electric vehicle maintenance may not be as extensive as gasoline vehicles, they still need regular service to keep them rolling. That regular service and driver behavior can help cut the expenses that come with ownership of an electric vehicle.
AAA’s Recommendation: Whether you own an electric vehicle or a gas-powered car is up to you – and you should consider lots of factors in making that choice. No matter what type of vehicle you’re choosing, we recommend visiting a dealership, test driving one, and asking as many questions as possible to make an informed decision.