What does maintenance actually mean for an EV owner?

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By: Ben Westby

One aspect of EV ownership that is often highlighted is the concept that EV’s have less moving parts, less components necessary for mobility, therefore less maintenance. This should, in theory, lead to a far greater offset in costs in the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) from the higher price tag to make it more comparable to a gas car.

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Is that true? What happens when an EV hits high mileage?

Thankfully, there’s plenty of data, both anecdotally and recorded by auto manufacturers to help alleviate concerns on EV longevity.

Our family drives around 25,000 miles a year, on the West Slope, which was one of our factors for choosing an EV. We purchased a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range in 2019 and by March of this year we hit 80,000 miles on the odometer.

There are quite a few maintenance items, both frequent and infrequent on a gas car that are absent of an EV: spark plugs, oil changes, air filters for the engine, coolant flushes, transmission, exhaust checks, and and in some cases, brake changes.

Our Model 3 wasn’t totally absolved from maintenance: we had to change the cabin air filter a couple of times, mostly due to the fires that occurred in Glenwood Canyon and around Grand Junction that really clogged up the filters. We needed window washer fluid every now and then.  We had a cracked windshield (hello Colorado “rocky” roads).

But honestly, that was about it.

Due to regenerative braking, using the kinetic energy of the car to translate into electricity to recharge the battery pack, the mechanical brakes were hardly ever used. At 80,000 miles our brakes were still nearly brand new. About once a week I would make sure to tap the brakes fairly aggressively just to make sure brake fluid was flowing smoothly.

Later this spring, we traded in our model 3 for the exact same year and model but with AWD and bigger battery pack, but this model has 130,000 miles on the pack. Brakes are still in great shape, and the pack has about 8% degradation. After 3 years and racking up tons of miles on our first EV, we had full confidence going into a used EV with lots of miles.

And considering battery tech, Tesla announced their energy impact for the last year and they had shown data that proves their batteries experience on average 12% degradation past 200,000 miles. Other auto manufacturers are making similar claims, and placing strong battery warranties to help alleviate concerns about the still new advent of battery technology.

However, all that to say,with the average cost of a new car, gas or EV, approaching $50,000, many EV models can be found under that price tag, along with the cost savings that comes from far less maintenance, charging cheaply at home, and more time in your pocket away from gas stations and auto shops.

Had we kept our 2016 VW Jetta, we would have spent $13,400 on gas and maintenance in the years we owned our Tesla. We spent $1500 on electricity, washer fluid, and tires in those 80,000 miles of driving. So yes, if you make the switch to EV, you’ll find you save a lot of time and money staying away from an auto shop and gas station.

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