Did you know that electric cars aren’t actually a new thing? Sure, it seems like automakers have been toying with the idea in the last couple decades, such as with the temporary release of the GM EV1, the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf electric vehicles. Really, electric cars, albeit crude, have been around since before even the internal combustion automobile, and it’s possible that, if not for cheap fossil fuels, the electric car might have become a permanent fixture.
Now, because of this, electric car maintenance might seem a foreign concept, since we’re so used to maintaining our conventional cars with engine oil changes, transmission fluid changes, engine coolant changes and spark plug replacement. In fact, over 150 million gallons of automotive oils are sold every year, helping to maintain all vehicles that are powered by an internal combustion engine. We’ve been doing this for over a century, but things are about to change.
How Do Electric Cars Differ?
Electric cars are not powered by internal combustion engines. Instead of using the stored energy in a hydrocarbon fossil fuel to turn the engine and transmission, electric cars use energy stored in a chemical battery pack, usually lithium-ion, to turn an electric motor. The lack of an internal combustion engine makes electric car maintenance a lot easier, and for at least a few reasons.
Electric motors have only one moving part — the armature. Everything else is controlled electrically or electronically, giant transistors taking the place of relays, meaning there are fewer failure points in the system.
2. No Transmission
Electric cars don’t need a transmission. Instead, because electric motors generate 100 percent torque at zero rpm and can spin up to 10,000 rpm or higher — even backward — the need for a transmission is eliminated. In fact, a couple of automakers have tried electric motors coupled with transmissions, only to find they didn’t improve performance or efficiency by much. It just made it more complex and more expensive.
3. No Maintenance
Electric car batteries don’t need any maintenance. The lifetime of a sealed lithium-ion battery pack generally exceeds 500 cycles, perhaps over 100,000 miles on the new Chevy Bolt.
Electric Car Maintenance: Easier than You Think!
The typical car today has many maintenance points: engine oil and filter, transmission fluid, engine coolant, engine timing belt, water pump, brake fluid, cabin air filter, tire rotation and more. The maintenance checklist on the new Chevy Bolt has just four items: tire rotation, cabin air filter, cooling system and brake fluid.
Really, every vehicle requires tire rotations, so that is expected, and the cabin air filter may depend on how dusty it is where you drive. Because the cooling system isn’t subjected to the extremes of the internal combustion engine, it lasts longer, Chevy suggesting 150,000 miles between changes. Also, because most of the braking is done by the electric motor, brake fluid is suggested to be replaced every five years. Brake pads will also last far longer. Again, because the electric car packs no engine and no transmission, none of those maintenance items apply.
Still, while your regular electric car maintenance is far lighter than the typical internal combustion vehicle, there are all the usual wear items that need to be watched, such as those making up the brake, chassis, steering and suspension systems.
For more information on electric car maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.