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All you need to know

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Electric motors have far fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines. This means that electric cars often require far less maintenance (and can be cheaper to run) than their gas-powered counterparts. However, electric vehicles require regular maintenance.

This includes familiar tasks such as rotating tires, changing various fluids, and replacing cabin air filters. There are also a number of EV-specific services that drivers of these battery electric vehicles need to be familiar with.

Battery maintenance

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory predicts that today’s EV batteries will last between 12 and 15 years if used in temperate climates. This drops to between 8 and 12 years with regular use in extreme environments.

Either way, EV batteries require virtually no maintenance throughout their lifespan. That said, there are a number of things drivers can do to extend the life of their EV battery.

Avoid extreme temperatures

Extreme temperatures (hot and cold) are Kryptonite for batteries. Automakers take this into account in the development of their electric vehicles, equipping them with the necessary auxiliary cooling and heating systems to help keep battery temperatures within acceptable levels.

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Electrifying America

Don’t plan to use fast chargers all the time

Despite their ease of fast charging, fast chargers degrade batteries at a faster rate than slower 120 or 240 volt charging. However, the impact of fast charging on battery life is not precisely known in these relatively early days of modern electric vehicles. Of course, in a road trip scenario, fast charging is necessary and there’s no reason to avoid it. But buying an electric vehicle with the plan to use fast charging exclusively is not a good idea, both from a battery life perspective and from a cost perspective. Fast charging costs three to four times more per kilowatt-hour of energy than what you pay at home, a price that can bring the cost of refueling electric vehicles on par with gasoline-powered vehicles. For example, we found that it’s possible to pay $100 to quickly charge a Hummer EV from empty to full.

Try not to fully charge or drain the battery

Batteries degrade faster when charged to full capacity or when they are depleted of all their energy. On the plus side, many manufacturers prevent full-capacity charging to help combat battery degradation. Most cars have settings to charge less than 100%, and many car manufacturers suggest charging to 85 or 90% for everyday use.

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Maintenance of electric vehicles vs gasoline cars

The conversion of electricity into mechanical energy creates heat, and like gasoline-powered cars, EVs need to cool their powertrain components to make sure everything keeps running as it should. Some use air to do this, while others use some form of coolant or refrigerant to keep components from overheating.

Check cooling system and wiper fluid

For electric vehicles that use coolant or the like, it may be necessary to flush or recharge the system periodically. The Ford Mustang Mach-E and Lightning F-150 Owner’s manuals recommend checking the integrity of the cooling system hoses, as well as the level and resistance of the cooling system, every six months. During this time, the Porsche Taycan The owner’s manual recommends checking coolant levels as part of routine car maintenance.

Regardless of what powers your car, you will need to regularly top up your windshield washer fluid. The same goes for replacing windshield wipers.

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Keep an eye on brake fluid and pads

Likewise, electric vehicles and gas-powered cars rely on brake fluid to modulate their binders. Flushing and replacing this fluid at regular intervals is a necessary service, regardless of your vehicle’s powertrain. Although replacement times vary by vehicle and manufacturer, Ford recommends replacing brake fluid in the Mach-E and Lightning every three years.

Brake pads are also something EV drivers need to watch out for. The good news is that an electric vehicle should eat up pads and rotors at a much slower rate than a gas-powered car. Credit the regenerative braking feature of electric motors, which allows the motor to slow the vehicle down by recovering its kinetic energy (and then feeding that energy back into the battery). Although electric vehicles still rely on their mechanical brakes, they tend to use them less often, which reduces wear on pads and rotors.

The fact that the brakes are not exercised as much on an electric vehicle is exactly why Tesla’s maintenance schedule includes lubricating the brake calipers every 12 months or 12,500 miles in areas that use salt to melt snow and ice. This service cost us about $100 each time, about the money of an oil change on a gas car, on our long term Model 3.

Tire wear

Maybe this one is a bit obvious, but yes, you still need to replace your EV tires. In fact, you may even need to replace them more frequently. Part of the blame goes to the added weight of EVs (batteries are heavy).

The Michelin Primacy MXM4 tires on our long-term Tesla Model 3, for example, have a lower tread depth than typical all-season tires. We believe this is to help increase the range figure. But this decreases the life of these all-season tires. The ones fitted to our Model 3 had to be replaced after 30,000 miles and cost us $1,157.

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Toyota

Maintenance of electric vehicles compared to hybrids and plug-in hybrids

Since hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars have gasoline engines on board, their maintenance routines are closer to those of a gasoline-powered car than an electric vehicle. Nevertheless, the electric motors of these vehicles allow them to slow down thanks to regenerative braking. This means that the brake discs and pads of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles tend to have a longer lifespan than those of gasoline-powered cars.