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News>>Do EVs really need less maintenance?
November 15, 2023

Do EVs really need less maintenance?

The proliferation of EVs will bring extensive changes to bodyshops and automotive repairers, requiring new skills and new investment. However, it may also require a new level of engagement with motorists as the messaging on the simplicity of EV maintenance might make drivers think their vehicle doesn’t need as much professional attention – when in fact the opposite could be true.

Electric vehicles are often celebrated for having fewer moving parts and therefore, says proponents, motorists will save money on maintenance and often not need more than one check-up a year. There is some evidence that routine servicing is cheaper – but repairs are not. Thatcham Research’s recent report into the impact of the EV sector put repairs at 25% higher than ICE costs.

However, the message bodyshops and repairers should be offering customers is that reliability and roadworthiness are two separate things. Reliability is about the vehicle breaking down – if it goes, it’s ‘reliable’. Roadworthiness, however, is about the way in which the various parts of the vehicle perform to prevent and mitigate collision. And that’s a different story.

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI)’s report Electric Revolutions contested that EV maintenance was no less necessary than with an ICE. EVs do not need as many lubricants, but most of the safety critical elements tested at MOT are still present. Furthermore, it analysed MOT failure data and found that EVs failed their MOT tests more than petrol vehicles and more often on dangerous items, such as tyres.

MOT are a snapshot of the vehicle’s roadworthiness – ie its safety for operation on the roads. Vehicles that fail first time on safety critical issues were therefore not safe to be on the roads in the months or weeks leading up to the test.

DVSA recently revealed that commercial vehicles receive 10 times as many prohibitions three months after their test as they do at one month post-test. Maintenance is therefore something that must happen daily and weekly, not once a year.

Key areas for maintenance

  1. Tyre wear is the most obviously contentious area for electric vehicles. Driver behaviour has a huge impact on tyre wear – the smoother and safer the driver, the longer tyres will last. However electric vehicles have linear torque, and much greater weight. This means there are greater inertial forces when accelerating, braking and cornering. Although electric vehicle tyres have brought forward some next generation compounds to allow better rolling resistance and better water clearance and grip, there is plenty of evidence that, for most motorists, the tyres will wear far quicker. Data from Epyx’s 1link Service Network platform shows EV tyres providing an average of 6,350 miles less than those of an ICE vehicle. Some fleets and users are claiming the tyre wear is far worse; and others that the tyres are wearing better because of the non-friction-based regenerative braking.

What is essential is that road users are aware of the need to check their tyres, or have them professionally appraised regularly – particularly as sub-optimal inflation will hasten wear.

Tyres are the only point of contact between the vehicle and the road and motorists must be reminded that they are therefore a key component of safe and responsive handling.

  1. Brakes can also require regular checks. While regenerative braking takes away a lot of the work of disc brakes, particularly if the vehicle is driven optimally, this very lack of use can leave the brakes vulnerable to corrosion or seizure. When brakes are regularly used, moisture gets vapourised by the heat generated. When they are not used, that moisture can cause issues. This may be a long-term effect, but it makes regular checking essential, because those disc brakes will still be a life-saving component if the vehicle needs to brake sharply.
  1. High tech diagnostics and driver assistance technologies both make electric vehicles a more complex proposition for workshops. There are a few issues here:
  • Diagnostics vary substantially by make and model which can make it hard for technicians to even access the vehicle’s computer.
  • ADAS (advanced driver assistance technologies) such as intelligent speed assistance, lane departure warnings, and autonomous emergency braking systems all have a complex and varied array of cameras, sensors, and software. They also frequently come with drivers who do not understand the technology or turn it off because they do not know how to use it to advantage. Used properly these functions will make drivers safer – so bodyshops not only have to be able to service these features, but also be able to explain them to customers. In the future it is likely that the ability to turn these off will be removed, and also that at some point they will be incorporated into MOT testing.

Electric vehicles will by no means be maintenance-light vehicles, and drivers should be encouraged not only to do regular pre-use checks of their own, but also to maintain a regular maintenance schedule with their local garage. The components that can and do fail on any vehicle as it is used and ages are often safety-critical – and they should not be overlooked whatever the driveline.