EV Advice: When it comes to maintenance, there is a winner

By Michael Bettencourt Wheels.ca

Apr 9, 2022 3 min. read

Article was updated a month ago

Join the Conversation (0)
I get a lot of questions from readers wondering how big a difference there is in maintenance costs between EVs and gas cars. It’s a good question, as the fuels savings with EVs are easier to compare. But on the maintenance side, going by my own experience as well as those of other EV owners in Canada, the short answer is that there are less maintenance costs – but don’t expect huge savings.

The first thing to consider is what type of EV you are talking about. With a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), which uses both a lithium-ion battery and a traditional internal combustion engine, there typically is little to no maintenance savings. The battery often needs annual checks, and the engine requires regular maintenance – such as oil changes and tune ups – and might need costlier transmission or exhaust system work.

That is why fans of pure battery electric vehicles sometimes refer to PHEVs as the “worst of both worlds.” You have all the maintenance costs of electric and gas-powered vehicles but relatively little driving range per battery charge (often fuel savings are also overestimated by owners). Some plug-in hybrids, like the formerly produced Chevrolet Volt, managed to offer impressive EV range of up to 85 kilometres and, if run largely in electric mode, its maintenance schedule allowed for oil changes to be delayed up to once every two years. But most PHEVs do not extend their maintenance schedules that long.

With battery electric vehicles, there are simply fewer drivetrain components to maintain or need to have repaired. Our Nissan Leaf, outside of the annual battery check, required very little maintenance during the five years we owned it. It did still need some annual care, like tire changes and rotation, cabin filter replacements and even some brake work.

The brake work surprised us. We were led to believe most electric vehicles need very little maintenance thanks to the brake regeneration system that slows the car by reversing the drive motor as you lift your foot off the accelerator and initially press the brake pedal, which usually doesn’t engage the pads or brake discs.

Speaking of brakes, we did just replace all our brake pads and discs on our Ford C-Max Energi (a pHEV), which cost roughly $1,100 in total. Plus, there was also a charge port cover that fell off while driving on the highway when it didn’t latch properly – but that was not very expensive to replace.

Still, it’s tough to think of our 10-year-old PHEV as having low maintenance costs right now. In fact, the advances in battery-electric vehicles in terms of range and convenience have us considering ditching gas completely – and for good.

Michael Bettencourt bought his first EV in late 2011 and has followed the Canadian EV scene ever since. Follow him on Twitter @MCBet10court