EVs Do Not Need Maintenance...Do They?

Jek Ray Low
20 May 2021

If you think about it, EVs are much simpler machines than any petrol or diesel powered equivalent. Forward propulsion is achieved sans the need for thousands of separate, moving components utilising the energy of controlled explosions.

EVs then, are a more efficient and almost clinical way of getting about. With only one moving part - the motor output shaft itself, EVs seemingly do without the complexity, and the upkeep required of a vehicle that burns fossil fuels.

This simplicity means that, apart from consumables like tyres, brake pads and shocks, EVs do not need maintenance, right?

Regenerative Braking

This seems like a completely unrelated issue, but here me out here. Modern EVs are capable of being driven with just the accelerator, with their motors capable of bringing them to almost a complete stop by regenerating and recouping energy when u lift off the throttle. This means that the braking system, which is exactly what you would find on a more traditional vehicle, is used less.

Logically, that means the brakes last much longer.

But not using the brakes properly can also shorten their lifespan. Corrosion can build up on the discs that can compromise the integrity of the assembly. Pads can harden and disintegrate too. Till EV-specific brake materials are the norm (currently only Tesla uses hardier materials in their EV brakes), this is an issue that EV owners may potentially face. But there are other items that may cause malfunctions if not in operational condition.

Battery/Motor Heating/Cooling Systems

For maximum efficiency, EVs have heating and cooling systems attached to their powertrain. Range is optimised when both the motor and battery are within a predetermined range, and they achieve this by introducing, or taking away, heat into the system.

If these systems fail, a reduction in range and performance can occur. However, those issues are a mere inconvenience compared to the big one. An overheated motor or battery pack can be irreversibly damaged, leading to a permanent and premature reduction in performance.

Battery Pack Wear And Tear

Batteries are still imperfect. Sure, energy density has gone through the roof within the past decade, but the fact remains that there is a finite number of charge and discharge cycles you can subject a battery to.

Apart from ensuring your battery pack holds a set minimum charge (falling below a threshold dramatically speeds up wear), there really is nothing much else you can do to keep your pack in the pink of health.

Charging Circuitry

The charging circuit is the EV equivalent of a petrol pump. The difference though, is that you do not have the contend with the maintenance of the latter as you do the former.

Any number of components can malfunction. Your charging socket itself may fail, or perhaps a component further down the chain, such as capacitors, or even the high voltage cabling. Apart from getting your car looked at by a specialist during routine replacement of consumables, you really cannot tell when or if your charging system is on it's way out. The only obvious symptom? A dramatic increase in the charge times for your car.

As global oil supply dwindles, it seems inevitable then, that the EVs will eventually take over. They are not new as a concept, though widespread adoption is an idea that is in its infancy. As the concept matures, more mechanics should become familiar with keeping these vehicles in the pink of health in our collective bids to go green. That in turn, means more will be aware of how to keep these vehicles on the roads for reduced servicing costs.

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