Internal combustion engines have a lot of moving parts. For this reason, it’s important to keep them well-lubricated using high quality oil.
Electric cars, on the other hand, require no oil changes.
In this article, we consider why this is the case, and whether EVs require less maintenance on the whole.
Why don’t electric cars need oil changes?
Traditional internal combustion engines have hundreds of moving parts such as valves and pistons. We must keep the engine topped-up with motor oil to keep everything moving smoothly.
In an ICE, the oil flows through galleries (the tubes, channels and pipelines for delivering oil) that run throughout the engine. The crankshaft and bearings are doused in oil and have galleries running through them to keep them cool as they spin.
Spurt holes spray oil on the undersides of the pistons to reduce friction as they move up and down in the cylinders. The camshaft, valves, and valve springs are also lubricated to keep them moving freely.
In an electric car, there are far fewer moving parts. There are no cylinders or pistons, no valves, valve springs or camshafts.
In fact, the number of moving parts in a Tesla Model 3 drivetrain is said to be as few as 17. An ICE has around 200.
This means that there is no need for regular engine oil changes like we would expect from an ICE. However, this does not mean that EVs are ‘zero maintenance’ cars.
Do hybrid cars need oil changes?
Hybrid cars bring many of the benefits of owning an EV, without the downsides (e.g. long recharging times, ‘range anxiety’).
Unfortunately, because hybrid cars all have internal combustion engines - whether they are plug-in hybrid (PHEV), mild hybrid (MHEV) or full hybrid (HEV) - they still need oil changes. This is because they have all the same moving parts as a standard ICE.
What does need replacing or maintaining on an EV?
Although EVs don’t require the same regular engine oil changes as ICEs, they do have some fluids that need to be changed from time to time.
Electric cars use coolant to manage battery temperatures. How often the coolant needs flushing or topping up varies from car to car, so check the owner’s manual. EV cooling systems are sealed and should only be topped up by a qualified EV technician.
Although each vehicle will have its own schedule for replacing coolant, you can expect to replace it after the first 50,000 miles.
EVs also have transmission fluid or ‘gear oil’, which needs to be replaced, albeit infrequently. The Tesla Model S manual suggests this should be carried out once every 12 years or 150,000 miles.
Electric cars also rely on regenerative braking. This increases the range of the car and reduces the amount of wear and tear on the brakes by slowing the car down using the magnets inside the motor instead.
Elon Musk was so confident in the power of regenerative braking that he even suggested that the ‘brake pads on a Tesla literally never need to be replaced for the lifetime of a car’.
But regenerative braking can’t always replace brake discs and pads. In emergency braking situations, they’re invaluable.
When the brake discs and pads are pressed together for stopping, they rely on the same hydraulic fluid used in conventional cars. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, so it absorbs water from the air over time. Without flushing the fluid regularly, it can corrode the brake system.
You should aim to replace the brake fluid every 2 years.
What doesn’t need replacing or maintaining on an EV
Because EVs have fewer moving parts, they typically require far less maintenance. This promises to be a big selling point for EVs moving forwards.
To give you an idea, these are just some of the issues that you won’t need to worry about in an EV:
- Replacing the spark plugs
- Blown head gaskets
- Replacing belts/hoses
- Ring and cylinder wear
- Swapping the drive belts
- Changing fuel filters
- Replacing the water pump
- Carburetor flooding
- Radiator problems
- Exhaust system
All of these add up to some pretty significant savings when owning an EV.
And that’s not the only way to save by driving an EV - check out our post on how much it costs to charge an electric car to find out more!
Electric cars don’t need oil changes. While that might not seem like such a big thing, it does hint at one of the major benefits of owning an EV - lower maintenance costs.
In any case, EVs are not ‘maintenance free’ vehicles, and you shouldn’t neglect things like coolant, brake and transmission fluid, which may need replacing from time to time.
If less maintenance sounds like more fun, maybe it’s time to go electric? Take a look at our lists of the best electric cars, cheapest electric cars, and best small electric cars for some inspiration! Plus you can compare electric car lease deals with ease through Lease Fetcher and get your hands on a factory-fresh model for low monthly payments.