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Breakdown of EV maintenance expenses

Dec. 17, 2021
The ROI of commercial EVs will become more attractive in the coming years: Government subsidies and tax rebates, along with maintenance advantages (such as eliminating diesel aftertreatment systems), and lower battery pack prices all should improve TCO.

It is only a matter of time before there is widespread use of commercial electric vehicles (CEVs). Grand View Research forecasted the overall electric vehicle market to grow at a 37.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2021 to 2028. A primary driver will be state mandates regarding the purchase of zero-emission vehicles. The ROI of CEVs will also become more attractive in the coming years: Government subsidies and tax rebates, along with maintenance advantages (such as eliminating diesel aftertreatment systems), and lower battery pack prices, all should improve total cost of ownership.

Professional mechanics and technicians will have to keep up with this growing industry trend by undergoing regular training and equipping their workshops adequately to provide EVs maintenance and repairs.

What will maintenance cost?

This all depends on the type of CEV, as a Class 8 battery-electric truck has far more complexity than an electric pickup or work van. It will take time to see if real-world data validates expectations, but for now, experts tend to agree that the range is somewhere between 25 and 40% when comparing gasoline engines to electric powertrains. According to Jill Trotta, RepairPal vice-president of marketing and sales, as told top Consumer Reports, an EVs maintenance and repair cost in its fifth year will be $900, whereas a gas-powered counterpart would be $1,200. Comparably, AAA states that an EV cared for according to OEM specifications would cost $949 to maintain per year versus $1,279 for a non-electric vehicle.

The Department of Energy calculated a battery-electric light-duty vehicle will have about 40% less schedule maintenance costs annually. Backing this up, Ford found that over eight years and 100,000 miles, the new Lightning Pro pickup would have a 40% maintenance cost reduction versus a F-150 with a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 engine.

The parts of an EV that may need occasional or regular maintenance include the following:

  • Brakes: EVs utilize regenerative braking most of the time in place of the disc brakes. This means that brake wear is very much reduced. A brake pad replacement may never be required since the brakes are rarely used.
  • Tires: Electric vehicles are heavier than conventional vehicles. This means that there will be a need to replace the tires of the former faster than those of the latter because of wear. Tire overpressure is another factor. The higher take-off torque on EV tires may also increase wear.
  • Windshields, Wiper Blades, and Washer Fluid: EV windscreens can get cracked or chipped and need replacement. They also have wiper blades and washer fluid that require regular maintenance. Washer fluid and worn-out wiper blades would need replacement.Batteries: Manufacturers of EVs offer battery warranties as long as 8 to 10 years. A mechanic is required to check the battery’s coolant level regularly. Servicing will be required to tackle cases of depreciation in the battery range; however, this is a rare occurrence. The battery’s sub-optimal cells might need to be replaced during repairs.
  • Many other parts need regular maintenance, aside from the aforementioned ones. They include the power steering, cabin air filter, suspension, door locks, and so on.

Is It Expensive?

It is not surprising that EVs maintenance costs are lower than those of non-electric vehicles since EVs have fewer moving parts (as few as four for pure electric types). The latter has up to ten thousand. EV  owners may spend about 50% to 75% of the average cost of maintaining ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles on taking care of their vehicles.

Consumer Reports gathered that conventionally fueled cars require an average of about $9,200 for lifetime maintenance and repairs, while both PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) and BEVs only need about $4,600. Battery replacement cost varies. A new battery can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on the manufacturer. See other reasons for the differences in expenses below.

Fewer Fluids

Electric vehicles utilize a lower number of fluids that require maintenance than conventionally fueled vehicles. The liquids are typically contained inside the vehicle’s infrastructure and can’t be accessed.

Simpler Structure

A traditional vehicle’s structure is far more complex than an EV’s. The former has a wide range of components that need maintenance, while the latter has a simple structure of three main parts where most maintenance work is required. These parts include the engine, inverter, and onboard charger.

Battery Lifespan

The average lifespan for the battery of a non-electric vehicle is between three to seven years. On the other hand, EVs utilize batteries that can last for at least 8 years without the need for a replacement. Although there will be a reduction in battery efficiency as time passes.

Regenerative Braking

Regenerative braking in EVs helps to save on brake maintenance expenses. That is about half of what would have been spent on maintaining the brakes of a conventionally fueled vehicle. Fleet managers can count on the optimal driving style of EVs that greatly reduces the wear on brakes.

Extra Incentives

Fleet managers are only allowed to avoid emergency repair costs as well as penalties for poor maintenance. In contrast, electric vehicle owners enjoy extra incentives such as financial credit when swapping old batteries for new ones.

Little maintenance work needs to be done on EVs yearly. Generally, a new one won’t need to be serviced until two years or 18,000 miles. Although it may require service checks for only two times a year to deal with the vehicle’s system and tire rotations. This is unlike ICE vehicles that need an oil change every year or 10,000 miles.

Note: OBDII ports, diagnostic tools, and data are losing their importance in the world of EVs due to developments in the area of remote diagnostics.

Does EV maintenance reduce fleet SMR costs?

Fleet managers have to consider negotiating the cost of service, maintenance, and repair for vehicle with internal combustion engines to minimize costs and downtime.

Because we have established that EVs maintenance costs are lower than those of non-electric vehicles, then it’s likely EV fleet service, maintenance, and repair (SMR) costs will be less expensive than for fossil fuel-powered vehciles. And due to fewer servicing requirements, there should be less vehicle downtime. This is good news for fleet managers and other stakeholders that are thinking of the viability of adopting CEVs.

According to Volkswagen Financial Services, EV servicing and maintenance expenses for over three years or 60,000 miles can be about 23% lower in comparison to ICE vehicle SMR. The blog also stated that electric car motors experience less wear and tear as well as less downtime.

As for those in the auto repair and maintenance industry, especially mechanics/technicians that will want to work on CEVs, there is still time to prepare before the mass adoption by fleet stakeholders. The higher cost-effectiveness of EVs maintenance over ICE vehicles will be a major driving factor for this adoption, apart from government regulations.

Tim Miller is a mechanic and car blogger from Denver, Colorado. He’s the founder and chief editor of OBDAdvisor - a blog about Diagnostic Tools and Auto Repair Guides, as well as gmundcars.com. He’s had over 10 years of experience in car repair. Some of his review articles about car parts and tools can be found on his websites.