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What Will be The Biggest Cost of Maintaining an EV?

When electric cars first became popular, there was a theory that they would take more work to maintain than a gas-powered auto. I didn’t really look into how the engines worked or what the maintenance schedule would look like.

And a lot of other people didn’t either. We all just knew electric vehicles were better for the environment.

Then I recently saw my friend’s new Tesla, and I looked under the hood at the engine that didn’t exist. When you “pop the hood,” you’re welcomed by a little storage area and then underneath this area is where the engine and components are.

No fans. No radiator. No battery. No nothing under the hood.

Yes, there is a core computer and components tucked away, but these vehicles are very low maintenance. I dug deep into my own research after reading an article on HowStuffWorks, and I can say a few things:

  • You can throw your car health monitor out the window
  • You barely have to perform any maintenance
  • Costs may be the same in the long-term

When you consider that the engine and transmission are never going to go bad, you don’t need oil changes and brake changes will be very infrequent, you start thinking that the cost to maintain these vehicles is zero.

You won’t have to pay for a check engine light repair, but there is one major factor to consider: EV batteries.

When you replace a traditional battery, you pay $100 – $200, maybe slightly higher, for a high-end battery. Your alternator will continue recharging this battery for years, and there’s little worry of replacing the battery every 5 to 7 years because it’s not that expensive.

But an EV battery is giant, and they’re far more intensive than your standard battery.

Imagine your smartphone for a minute. When you first purchased the phone, you had 100% battery capacity and the phone would last 12 hours on a single charge without dipping below 20%. Fast-forward a year later. You check your iPhone’s battery health, and you realize it has just 80% of the capacity.

Batteries eventually lose their ability to recharge to 100%.

With an EV, this means that the range starts to diminish over time. You may get 300 miles with a battery at 100% capacity, but when it drops to 80%, you’re now able to get only 240 miles per charge.

If you drive only locally, this isn’t much of a big deal.

But when you’re going long-distance, you will have to recharge more often, which means more stops along the way.

Costs to Maintain an EV Versus a Gas Car


If you want to get into figures, let’s assume that you pay $3,000 over a five-year period to maintain your vehicle. This is just a random figure, but you would pay close to $1,000 to maintain your EV.

The costs to maintain your EV are one-third, or 33%, of a gasoline-powered automobile.

But the battery will be your ultimate deciding factor.

A hybrid battery can cost $1,000 to $6,000 to replace. Nissan’s Leaf battery costs $5,500 to replace. The battery’s charge cycles will be a big factor, and the Leaf lost two bars of battery life four years after the owner brought the vehicle in for their 20,000-maintenance.

The vehicle started with 12 bars, so a loss of 2 bars was something like 16% battery loss.

Tesla vehicles had a lot of crowdsourced data, and it was found that vehicles driven 70,000 to 220,000 miles still had at least 90% battery capacity left. Tesla does offer a replacement if the battery degrades rapidly.

EVs have a standard 100,000-mile warranty or 8 years for the battery.

So, let’s assume you had to replace your Tesla battery in 10 years, paying $6,000. The cost would bring the vehicle’s maintenance up to similar figures as a gasoline-powered vehicle, but a lot of vehicles don’t last 220,000 miles. You may have had to replace an engine or transmission or both during this time, so your costs for running a gas-powered vehicle over an EV, even with a battery replacement, would be significantly higher.

Your main replacements and costs will come from:

  • Brakes. The traditional EV braking system will last far longer than a conventional system. A lot of these braking systems will use the energy of braking to recharge the battery, so they will wear less on the brake pads. Tesla even makes claims that you may never have to replace your brakes in their vehicle – they last that long.
  • Tires. You can expect a fairly normal tire rotation and replacement schedule, so you will not be able to avoid replacing tires.
  • Coolant. The car’s battery runs very hot, and you will need to change the coolant on vehicles that make use of a thermal management system. Not all EVs have one of these systems, but if they do, the replacement will be similar to your conventional vehicle’s coolant replacement schedule.
  • Fluids. There are no oil changes to worry about or transmission fluid changes, but you will need to keep an eye on your brake fluid and wiper fluid. Both of these fluids are very easy to replace.
  • Wipers. Wiper blades should be replaced twice per year or when they become worn. These changes are standard across all vehicle types.

If you’re curious about the general pricing for all of the repairs you’ll need to make, we wrote another article on the topic.

Overall, the majority of your maintenance costs will be negligible, especially during the first 100,000 miles of ownership. Brakes can be expensive to replace, and your biggest concern will be your battery.

If your battery doesn’t go below 20% and doesn’t get charged to full capacity, you’ll be able to extend the battery life of your vehicle.

For anyone who drives locally with their EV and doesn’t plan on long road trips, you’ll spend significantly less on maintenance and may not have to worry about your battery losing 10% or 20% of its capacity.

Overall, maintaining an EV is far less expensive than a conventional vehicle.

November 5, 2019

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Benjamin

Picture this: You’re driving down the highway, when all of a sudden your check engine light comes on. Your car had been driving a little funny, but nothing too out of the ordinary. In a panic, you pull over off the road and call a tow truck.

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