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Everything You Need to Know About Servicing an EV


As for other service intervals, Tesla suggests Model 3 owners replace the cabin air filter and HEPA filter every three years, check brake fluid every two years, and clean and lubricate the brake calipers every year or 12,500 miles, but only if local roads are salted during winter.

Their lack of service requirements makes EVs desirable for drivers, but manufacturers—who like to factor ongoing service and maintenance costs into the vehicle’s profit margin—will soon be in need of alternative revenue streams. “That’s why we’re now seeing BMW, Tesla and the like offer subscription packages for add-ons … manufacturers know they’re going to lose the revenue from regular maintenance, and they’re looking to other revenue streams,” says Cleevely.

Such subscriptions include BMW’s controversial plan to install heated seats as standard, then ask drivers to pay a monthly fee to activate them.

Motor and Battery Pack

With so few moving parts, electric motors and their battery packs require very little maintenance. Otmar Scharrer, head of engineering of electrified powertrain technology at ZF, a producer of gearboxes and EV motors, says there is “a clear difference in terms of maintenance” between EV and ICE drivetrains.

“While internal combustion engines require regular checks to change the oil and oil filter, for chain or belt drives, etc, electric drivetrains are virtually maintenance-free over their entire service life,” he says. “However, depending on the e-drive design and use, it may be necessary to check the oil level in the reduction gearbox or the oil cooling system after many years of operation.”

As the RAC, a UK breakdown and car-recovery company, points out, EV batteries “have long warranties—usually eight years—which tends to be more than the warranty for the car itself.”

This is all well and good, but this year the first of those warranties will expire. Cleevely says how, with the battery warranties of early Tesla Model S cars coming to an end, his business is seeing more demand. Model S warranties expiring is “a massive opportunity” for independent EV specialists, he says.

On EV reliability, Cleevely states that “generally they are very reliable—although some of the problems we’ve seen have been electronic. Chargers with faults, or inverters with faults, and those are expensive components to fix. But these aren’t a regular or common occurrence, and the aftermarket is finding an affordable solution.”

An issue independent garages face is manufacturers’ use of coded parts, which if they fail cannot be swapped for an off-the-shelf replacement due to the car’s computer rejecting them. This coding issue can be overcome, but not without conversations with manufacturers of electronic control units, repeated trial-and-error with replacement parts, and a great deal of reverse-engineering.

Brakes

Photograph: kenneth-cheung/Getty Images

EVs use their brakes less frequently than ICE cars, because much of the deceleration is done by regenerative braking, slowing the car with the motors instead of the discs and pads, and feeding kinetic energy back into the battery. In many EVs, this encourages drivers to adopt the one-pedal driving technique, where the car can be brought from highway speed to a standstill without touching the brake pedal.

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