Optimal Maintenance Schedule for Electric Vehicles

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Optimal Maintenance Schedule for Electric Vehicles

Maintaining an electric vehicle (EV) shares some similarities with traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles but also differs in several key ways. Some components in EVs wear out faster, others last longer, and there are items in ICE cars that EVs simply don’t have, eliminating certain maintenance needs.

Electric motors, with far fewer moving parts than combustion engines, don’t require frequent fluid changes or replacement of mechanical parts prone to wear and tear. As a result, EVs generally demand less upkeep, which should make maintenance more cost-effective, though reliability varies by model, potentially leading to more garage visits than anticipated.

Major EV components like the battery pack and motors require minimal maintenance, especially when adhering to the manufacturer’s guidelines. EVs often have longer recommended service intervals compared to their ICE counterparts, contributing to a smoother ownership experience barring any unforeseen issues.

Now, let’s dive into the specific maintenance needs and considerations for EVs.

Battery Pack

An electric vehicle’s (EV) battery pack is designed to maintain a substantial portion of its capacity even after ten years of use, but this longevity largely depends on whether the EV’s lithium-ion batteries are equipped with a thermal management system. EVs without this system may see their batteries degrade more quickly. To preserve battery life, it’s advised to store your EV in a garage during extreme weather conditions, like the coldest winter months and the peak of summer.

Keeping your EV plugged in during extended periods of non-use can prevent the battery from fully draining. This is because the thermal management system, which operates even when the car is off, needs power to function. Consider investing in a charger with a timer to control charging periods, and setting charging limits can also be beneficial.

Frequent use of DC fast charging can hasten battery wear, particularly if the battery is often recharged from a low level or charged beyond 80-90% of its capacity. However, lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries are more resilient to damage from full charges.

Direct maintenance actions for the battery pack are limited, mainly ensuring the coolant level is appropriate and hasn’t leaked or evaporated.

Battery lifespan can vary significantly based on climate and storage conditions. In mild climates and with temperature-controlled storage, an EV’s battery may last up to 15 years. Conversely, in environments with extreme temperatures and if the vehicle is left unsheltered and unplugged, lifespan might reduce to less than 10 years.

Motors

Electric vehicle (EV) motors, much like the battery packs, generally require minimal to no routine maintenance, their durability hinging on the motor type. With fewer moving components—the rotor being the primary one, operating within a magnetic field created alongside the stator—there’s less that can malfunction. Absent are the gears, belts, or chains found in internal combustion engines, and wear and tear over time is significantly reduced.

While some motor types might need disassembly and cleaning, electric motors are capable of lasting for hundreds of thousands of miles with proper care, rivaling the longevity of traditional combustion engines which demand more frequent maintenance and consumables to achieve similar durability.

The transmission system in EVs, usually a straightforward single-speed reduction gear, is designed for longevity. It lacks the complex shifting gears of conventional vehicles, functioning merely to convert the motor’s output into torque to propel the vehicle. This simplicity means there’s far less potential for issues compared to multi-speed or continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), further enhancing the low-maintenance appeal of electric vehicles.

Fluids

Both electric vehicles (EVs) and internal combustion engine (ICE) cars require lubrication and cooling, achieved through fluids. In EVs, motor and transmission lubrication is facilitated by oils that also aid in cooling. Unlike ICE vehicles, where oil degrades after numerous thermal cycles necessitating changes, EVs don’t typically require oil changes. The oil retains its lubrication properties over time, with only top-ups needed if leaks occur and levels drop.

Most EVs, like many ICE vehicles and certain building heating and ventilation systems, use a glycol-based coolant. This coolant choice is critical in EVs because, unlike water-containing coolants, glycol doesn’t conduct electricity, making it safer for use around lithium-ion battery cells. The longevity of coolant in EVs generally surpasses that in ICE vehicles, largely because it doesn’t reach the high temperatures experienced by combustion engines. While coolant in an ICE vehicle may need replacement every two years, in an EV, it can last up to 5 years barring any vehicle issues.

EV manufacturers often provide information on coolant levels and replacement intervals. Vehicle owners should consult their dealer or vehicle manual for specifics related to their model.

Tires

Electric vehicles (EVs) are generally heavier than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts due to the substantial weight of the battery pack. This increased weight leads to more rapid tire wear, necessitating more frequent tire replacements compared to gasoline vehicles.

Tire rotation remains essential for EVs, recommended every 5,000 to 8,000 miles to ensure even wear. However, tire lifespan in EVs can be reduced by 20 to 50 percent, largely due to the vehicle’s weight—the heavier the EV, the quicker the tires need replacing. Lighter EVs, such as the Chevrolet Bolt, may experience slower tire wear than heavier models like the Tesla Model S due to their reduced mass.

All-wheel drive EVs tend to exhibit faster wear on all tires because of the distribution of power to all wheels. Additionally, the immediate torque characteristic of electric motors further accelerates tire degradation. High-performance EVs, especially those with aggressive power delivery and all-wheel drive systems like the Porsche Taycan Turbo, will see even faster tire wear than more modestly powered models.

To address these challenges, some tire manufacturers have introduced EV-specific tires designed to withstand the additional weight and offer lower rolling resistance to extend driving range. These tires are equipped with reinforced sidewalls to support the extra load of EVs and enhance vehicle control and safety.

Brakes

Electric vehicles (EVs) extensively utilize their electric motors for braking, with some models offering one-pedal driving that allows the car to stop completely without touching the brake pedal. As a result, EVs tend to use their friction brakes less often than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, despite the additional weight EVs carry, which could suggest more strain on the brakes.

Volkswagen, for instance, outfits its MEB-platform EVs, including performance models, with drum brakes on the rear. This choice was made after finding that the combination of front disk brakes and regenerative braking provides sufficient stopping power. Continental, an automotive parts maker, has suggested a concept for EV-specific disk brakes with much thinner disks, similar to those found on motorcycles, based on the premise that the evolving strength of regenerative braking in EVs reduces the need for heavy-duty friction brakes.

The lifespan of brakes in an EV largely depends on how much the driver utilizes the regenerative braking feature. Drivers who prefer minimal regen and rely more on friction brakes for stopping will likely need to replace their brake pads sooner, as the EV’s added weight exerts more pressure on these brakes without regen’s assistance. Conversely, drivers who maximize one-pedal driving and rarely use the brake pedal could see their brake pads last significantly longer, showcasing one of the many ways EVs can offer lower maintenance costs compared to traditional vehicles.

Other Consumables

The replacement frequency for wiper blades and cabin air filters in electric vehicles (EVs) mirrors that of gasoline-powered cars. Additionally, EVs require a 12-volt battery replacement roughly every five to seven years. This battery powers essential systems unrelated to propulsion, including screens, onboard computers, and diagnostic systems. In Tesla models, for example, everything except the drive motors relies on this 12-volt battery. A failure in this battery can prevent the vehicle from starting, potentially leaving you stranded, even if the main traction battery is charged.

The increased weight of EVs also places additional stress on the suspension system, including components like shock absorbers and bushings, potentially leading to faster wear compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. However, manufacturers have begun to equip EVs with more robust suspension components to better handle the added mass. Similarly, the wheel hub assemblies, particularly the bearings, may experience accelerated wear in EVs due to the greater vehicle weight.

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