All there is to know about electric car maintenance

Published by on 04.27.2021 - 5 min

One of the advantages of owning an electric vehicles lies in its easy maintenance. With a small number of parts to keep an eye on, maintenance for this type of car is neither demanding nor particularly hard on the wallet. These advantages are due to the very nature of electric power, but also thanks to certain innovations —Renault’s wound rotor motors being a good example.

What are the particularities of electric vehicle maintenance?

A vehicle that needs few consumables

An electric motor requires much simpler maintenance than an internal combustion engine. With no friction between any moving parts or exchanges between liquids and gases, it needs neither lubricant nor exhaust. This means no oil, filter or exhaust system changes. All this can be taken off the cost of the car’s upkeep. Maintenance therefore involves far fewer mechanical elements than in a combustion-powered car. In fact, the tires, windshield washer fluid, brake pads and air conditioning filters are the only consumables that require regular changing in an electric car.

A small number of parts

The design of the electric car’s motor considerably reduces the number of parts required for it to function. Among these, none are what’s known as “wear parts”, which can affect the running of the motor. So, in an electric vehicle, there’s no timing belt, no cylinder head gasket and no cooling hose — which can all cause engine breakdown when worn. As for traction, these vehicles are reliable over hundreds of thousands of kilometers. For drivers looking for peace of mind as well as easy maintenance, the electric vehicle is an obvious choice. Especially because simplified maintenance doesn’t mean it’s any less thorough: every part in the vehicle is checked by experts within the manufacture’s network.

Less wear on the brakes

Electric cars use two braking systems: first, regenerative braking, which uses the motor as a generator to charge the battery from time to time, then standard braking — with discs or drums and brake pads — which is activated afterwards. This therefore lightens the load on the mechanical braking system and tires, which means that the parts involved need to be replaced less frequently.

A simplified transmission

With no manual gearbox or clutch, the transmission of an electric vehicle is much simpler: unlike a combustion engine, an electric motor delivers direct drive. When the driver presses the accelerator, the battery generates a magnetic field within a fixed part, which then causes a mobile part to rotate. In the electric vehicles produced by Groupe Renault, this latter part is a wound rotor synchronous motor, which increases the energy efficiency of the motor. All breakdowns related to the traditional transmission are therefore avoided, reducing the overall costs of maintenance.

Standard inspection points

Maintenance work on the chassis, bodywork, tires, steering and suspension of an electric vehicle is carried out in the normal way, as are checks on the air-conditioning system, comfort features and windshield wipers. These inspection points are essential for vehicle safety and driving comfort.

Less maintenance to carry out oneself

On an electric car, the levels of brake fluid and coolant need to be checked and possibly changed or topped up. Tire pressure should also be monitored regularly, like for a combustion-powered car: before leaving on vacation, before a vehicle safety inspection, etc. Another task that can be achieved without the need for a mechanic is the replacement of the 12 volt battery that powers the lighting and electronics every three years, like that of Renault ZOE.

Does an electric vehicle battery require maintenance?

New ZOE on the road

The battery of an electric vehicle is one of its most important components. The motor is powered by what’s called a traction battery. It defines the range of the electric vehicle, sometimes in the hundreds of kilometers depending on the model.

When it comes to the durability of a lithium-ion battery in an electric vehicle, Groupe Renault, pioneer in electric mobility, estimates its automotive life span at 10 years. But this doesn’t mean that the battery can no longer work. On the contrary, it still has a good dozen years to be used in its “second life” in other fields from stationary electricity storage to vehicle electrification, local distribution of green energy and more.

The way a vehicle is used also affects battery life, which is why it’s essential to have check-ups carried out by a Renault dealer. To ensure optimal longevity, they will verify the lifespan of this crucial part. In addition, Renault guarantees its batteries for a period of eight years or 160,000 kilometers for ZOE, five years or 100,000 kilometers for the Kangoo Electric, and three years or 60,000 kilometers for the Twizy, in order to conserve a charging capacity of at least 66% under all circumstances.

How much does electric car maintenance cost?

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The cost of driving an electric vehicle

Considerable savings

Several converging studies show that the cost to maintain an electric city car is 20-35% lower than that of an equivalent combustion-powered car*, for which repairs, servicing and oil changes can drive up the bill. These notable differences in maintenance costs can be explained, when it comes to the electric vehicle, by the absence of wear parts that require changing regularly as well as no need for major engine repairs.
These advantages apply to everyone, and are all the more obvious for those who drive a lot. Businesses, for example, have good reason to choose electric vehicles for their company cars or utility vehicles. Fleet maintenance — depending on the type of vehicle, mode of acquisition and type of use — represents between 7-12% of the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership.)

Far fewer inspections

It’s recommended to have your electric vehicle checked every 30,000 kilometers by a certified professional, compared to every 15,000 kilometers for a gasoline-powered car, and 20,000 kilometers for a diesel. Nevertheless, throughout the European Union, electric and hybrid vehicle are subject to an obligatory inspection every two years after their fourth birthday.
Other maintenance costs to expect involve changing the tires and the brake discs according to their condition and distance traveled.

Steering, suspension and shock absorbers are also integrated within the maintenance budget, which depends, once again, on how often the automobile is used.
Not to mention the savings made “at the pump” or, rather, “at the plug”! All this explains the financial advantages of running an electric vehicle, and allows drivers to precisely calculate the savings that can be made with this type of vehicle.

RENAULT KANGOO MAXI Z.E.

Who should carry out the maintenance of an electric vehicle?

Not all garages are authorized to carry out maintenance on electric vehicles. Electric vehicles require qualified professionals for checks and any repairs. The high voltages and amperage in the traction system (between 400-700 volts) necessitate a safety procedure so that maintenance can be carried out under the best possible conditions.

Also, when having your vehicle serviced, or even for routine maintenance procedures, it is strongly recommended to contact a certified mechanic to take care of your vehicle. The law requires that they be certified to work on electrical systems, and the qualification must be renewed annually. For more convenience, manufacturers offer packs with maintenance included. You are therefore guaranteed to receive the best parts when required, and on short notice. With a decade of electric experience to its name, the entire Renault European network is trained in all the particularities of electric vehicles.

How to maintain a hybrid car

Because it uses the combustion engine less frequently, a hybrid car requires less maintenance than a 100% gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle, but more than an electric car. This is because an internal combustion engine goes hand in hand with regular oil changes. While it’s used less on a hybrid vehicle, the engine still needs to be checked regularly. 

A hybrid car (and plug-in hybrid) fueled by gasoline requires an inspection every 15,000 kilometers. For a diesel hybrid, an inspection is carried out every 10,000 kilometers. But the frequency of visits also depends on the vehicle and the specifications found in its service record. During the inspection, the mechanic also empties and changes the oil, and replaces the oil filter.

Compared to gasoline and diesel combustion-powered cars, electric vehicles benefit from reduced maintenance. Peace of mind guaranteed for the driver! In addition, while an electric car is currently more expensive to buy than a car with an internal combustion engine from the same segment, the gap is becoming smaller. The cost of an electric car is getting closer to that of a combustion-powered vehicle, notably thanks to government incentives. Electric cars provide financial savings over time, both in terms of maintenance as well as energy consumption. These advantages are added to the other qualities of 100% electric mobility, like the lack of emissions during use** — beneficial in the fight against global warming and pollution — and a lower energy bill thanks to particularly affordable charging stations in certain places. And, of course, there’s the pleasure that comes from the silent and dynamic drive of an electric car.

 

* Studies UFC Que Choisir (France, 2018), Consumer Reports (United Kingdom, 2020) and ADAC  (Germany, 2020)

** Neither atmospheric emissions of CO2 nor pollutants while driving (excluding wear parts).

Copyrights : gilaxia, Jean-Brice LEMAL