Low Maintenance… No Maintenance?
In addition to reducing your carbon footprint and providing a fun driving experience, battery electric vehicles are great cars because they require a lot less maintenance than traditional vehicles with internal combustion engines. In fact, most EVs require almost no maintenance at all, saving you tons of time and lots of money. But how can this be?
While gas-powered vehicles rely on fuel systems, emission systems, brake systems, belts, hoses, alternators, spark plugs, oil filters, fan belts, and a bunch of other moving parts, battery electric vehicles have just one moving part – the shaft, which generally requires no maintenance at all. And EVs rely primarily on “regenerative braking” – a system that turns the electric motor in your vehicle into a generator – turning your forward momentum into electrical energy that partially recharges the battery pack and stops your vehicle. This also has the bonus side effect of drastically reducing the wear and tear on your brakes and brake pads – a big expense with ICE vehicles.
Just because your EV requires far less maintenance than in an ICE car doesn’t mean you can ignore it, though! Your vehicle’s user manual will dictate exactly what kind of maintenance your specific vehicle requires and how often it’s required, but keeping an eye on these six things will help your vehicle run smoother and last longer:
Tires – As with a traditional vehicle, you’ll want to check your tires periodically. Maintaining your tire pressure at the manufacturer’s specified pressure extends tire life as well as your range. Further, experts recommend a quick spot check looking for uneven or irregular wear, cuts, or worn tread. Both checks can be conducted on a monthly basis, and some EVs show tire pressure right on the dash for a quick spot check. It’s best to check tires at the beginning of the day before you drive, also known as the “cold” pressure (even in the summer!).
Cabin Air Filter – Although your EV does not need an air filter to keep dirt and debris out of the engine, it does have one that keeps the same stuff from coming into the cabin of your car through the AC/heat vents. This filter it typically replaced once a year or whenever you find the air smells a bit stuffy or funky with the A/C on recirculate.
Windshield Washer Fluid and Wipers – As with any vehicle, replacing wiper blades and topping up on windshield washer fluid is common maintenance must. Checking both at the start of summer and the start of winter is an easy way to remember (you may need a winter-grade wiper fluid if you live in cold temps).
Brake Fluid – While rarely used thanks to regenerative braking, EV’s do have a traditional hydraulic brake system like the ones used in internal combustion engine vehicles. Manufacturers typically recommend replacing the fluid (brake flush) every three to five years, and there are brake fluid test kits available to see check the viability of your brake fluid. The fluid does not exactly “wear” in a traditional sense; brake fluid is hydroscopic (meaning it absorbs water from the air) and over time this small amount of water could potentially turn to steam during a hard-braking event, reducing braking effectiveness. Thus, replacing the fluid at regular (but fairly long) intervals helps make sure you have full braking force in the event of a panic stop.
Coolant – Many EVs have liquid cooled electronics or even a thermal management system that circulates heated or cooled liquid through the battery. Your owner’s manual will tell you when this fluid needs replacing, and it may find it may be the same fluid typically used as engine coolant. Since it is under much less stress in this environment, the interval to change it may be much longer.
Gearbox Oil – While EVs do not have a transmission in the same sense as an automatic or manual transmission internal combustion engine car, they do have something else: a gearbox containing a set of “reduction gears” which takes the high RPM output of the electric motor and reduces it down to drive the wheels. This single ratio gearbox does not contain a clutch or torque converter, so gear oil fluid can last eight years or longer – check your manual for your specifics.
If you’re one of the many EV drivers who will be hitting the road for the 4th of July holiday weekend, it’s worth spending just a few minutes checking your manual and giving your vehicle a quick once over before you head out, especially if it’s been fairly idle during the Coronavirus shelter-in-place orders. Safe and happy travels!