Though many still regard electric cars as the high-tech vehicles of the future, the underlying technology is quite basic and dates back to the advent of the Industrial Age. Today’s battery-driven models do, in fact, contain quite a bit of advanced technology, but they’re actually less complex in many ways than modern internal combustion engine vehicles.
Aside from being cheaper to charge an EV at home than to keep a gas-powered model’s fuel tank filled, full electric cars, trucks, and SUVs also cost less to own via lower maintenance costs.
Owning an electric car means never having to take the vehicle in for oil changes, coolant flushes, and tune-ups, and there are far fewer moving parts that can eventually fail and need replacing. EVs use a simple one-speed transmission and eschew wear-and-tear items like spark plugs, valves, muffler/tailpipe, distributor, starter, clutch, drive belts, hoses, and a catalytic converter.
According to the federal Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the estimated scheduled maintenance costs for an electric vehicle averages $0.06 cents per mile, while it’s at $0.10 per mile for a conventional ICE-powered ride. Those who clock an annual 15,000 miles per year on the odometer can be expected to save an average $600 per year, or $3,000 over a five-year ownership period.
Still, EVs are not maintenance free. All automakers insist owners follow a series of periodic checks and services in order to keep the vehicle’s warranty in effect. The benefit here is that an EV’s scheduled maintenance visits are typically limited to tire rotation, replacing the cabin air filter and wiper blades, topping off the washer fluid, and various mechanical inspections.
For example, aside from the aforementioned inspections, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV’s 7,500-mile maintenance visit involves having the tires rotated, lubricating the door locks, and checking and topping off, if necessary, the coolant level for the battery, cabin heater, and the power inverter, accessory power, and charger modules.
Edmunds.com estimates it will cost a Bolt EUV owner an average $2,885 in regular maintenance costs over five years, compared with $4,411 for the similarly-sized gas-powered Chevrolet Trax crossover SUV.
The maintenance-cost differences between electric and gas-powered cars, tend to be far more pronounced moving up the price scale, especially with luxury models that inherently carry costlier dealer service charges to cover higher technician salaries and parts costs, along with added overhead that includes high-end loaner cars and waiting-room espresso bars.
For example, KBB.com projects the new-for-2022 Audi Q4 e-tron electric SUV will cost an average $3,136 in five-year maintenance costs, while the owner of a standard-powered Q5 crossover will pay $5,226 over the same period.
But not all EVs could be considered cheap to maintain. The Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo S in particular can be a budget-buster to care for, with KBB projecting it will set an owner back an estimated $12,269 in regular service visits over a half decade. Porsche service departments must have some nifty espresso bars, eh?
Of note, requiring less maintenance than an ordinary auto doesn’t necessarily mean an electric vehicle is bulletproof. EV owners will eventually need to replace the tires, have the brakes serviced, and could be required to replace steering and suspension components, headlamps, taillights, and so on. As with any other type of vehicle, a wheel alignment is would be necessary if the car pulls to one side or is exhibiting uneven tire wear.
And then there’s the 5,000-pound elephant in the room, namely an EV’s battery pack, which is by far its costliest component. It requires no maintenance per se, but with proper care and charging, an EV owner can maximize its ability to preserve more of its original operating range over time. We’ll look at how long EV batteries can be expected to last in an upcoming By The Numbers post.
In the meantime, here’s an overview of projected average five-year maintenance costs for select electric vehicle base models, with data provided by Edmunds.com and KBB.com:
- Audi e-tron: $6,236
- Audi e-tron GT: $3,186
- Audi e-tron Sportback: $6,720
- Audi Q4 e-tron: $3,186
- Chevrolet Bolt EV/EUV: $2,885
- Ford Mustang Mach-E: $3,657
- Hyundai Kona Electric: $2,298
- Jaguar i-PACE: $1,258
- Kia Niro EV: $3,060
- MINI SE: $1,566
- Nissan Leaf: $2,444
- Porsche Taycan: $10,159
- Tesla Model 3/S/X/Y: $3,115
- Volvo XC40 Recharge: $1,950