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Electric car maintenance explained

Everything you need to know about how to maintain an electric vehicle

Electric car maintenance explained

Over the last decade the number of switches, buttons and touchscreens is our cars (and in our lives) has gone through the roof. And now we’re moving to electric cars that probably means there’s even more to worry about when you’re behind the wheel.

Actually, no. While there’s plenty of new lingo that you’ll need to get up to speed with, the owning and running of an EV is actually a lot simpler… and cheaper.

Servicing and maintaining an electric car

The first thing to note is that electric cars have a lot fewer parts than a petrol or diesel. An internal combustion engine has about 2,000 individual components to get you from A to B, where an EV has something like 20.

That has two benefits. One, there’s less to go wrong so you have to spend less time visiting your local garage and, secondly, average maintenance costs can be as much as 50% less than for an ICE car.

You’ll still need to follow the manufacturer’s scheduled servicing recommendations, whether you visit the dealer network or an independent garage (make sure they’re fully trained to work on EVs). You won’t need to change your oil at a regular service but other things such as brake pads, brake discs and fluids will all need checking and maintaining on a regular basis.

Do electric cars need a MOT?

The quick answer is yes. Just like your petrol or diesel cars, EVs require a yearly MOT to check that your vehicle is roadworthy. This includes checking things like lights, brakes, tyres, number plate visibility and windscreen wipers. There’s one key difference for electric cars and vans, though, as there’s no need for the inspector to carry out a noise or emissions test.

If you’re leasing a new EV, then, just like all new cars, they’re exempt from MOT for the first three years. Once your car is older than three years, you’ll follow the usual yearly schedule with pricing (normally around £50) the same regardless of your fuel type.

Maintaining your electric car battery

The chemistry that makes a lithium-ion car battery work is pretty advanced so you don’t want anybody to be poking around inside the cells. Fortunately, the packs are sealed and only qualified technicians can access them to clean or top up the coolant – they’re not a regular service item though.

Over time, batteries will degrade but it happens extremely slowly – especially if you look after it and keep charge between 20% and 80%.

It might still be early days for the industry but reliability figures are already impressive. Take the Nissan LEAF. Of the half a million sold since launch in 2010, just three have experienced battery failure - less than 0.0006%. While fleet management companies have found that the average health of a battery after five years is still 89.9%.

Those sorts of numbers mean two things. One, you don’t need to worry if you’re leasing a new electric vehicle and, two, even if you’re buying used, you can feel pretty safe. Manufacturers like Toyota and Lexus are now offering 10-year warranties on their batteries while eight years, or 100,000 miles, is fairly standard.

Maintaining the tyres on your EV

Just as with any car, tyres remain one of the most important parts to maintain. No matter what make, model or powertrain you have, your tyres are the only contact you have with the road.

Regularly check your tyre pressures (you’ll find suggested figures in your vehicle’s handbook) and tread depth (the legal limit is 1.6mm but we’d recommend changing before that), and look for blisters, bulges or cracks.

Some critics have suggested that because EVs are heavier (thanks to the battery packs), they’ll wear through tyres faster and in turn create more rubber particle pollution. That’s not the reality as EV tyres are engineered to cope with the added weight and won’t create any more particle pollution than a petrol or diesel car.

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