Electric vehicles are radically different from traditional cars. EVs and gas-powered cars feel mostly the same from the driver’s perspective, but maintaining the two types of vehicles couldn’t be more different. Do electric cars use oil? What about coolant? As simple as these questions sound, they’re not crazy to ask because EVs really are that revolutionary.
Do electric cars use oil?
No. EVs are a new class of vehicle, nothing like their internal combustion forebearers in terms of propulsion. There’s no combustion, no tailpipe emissions and no fossil fuels.
Internal combustion engines need oil because there are a lot of rotating assemblies. Engines need motor oil to cool and lubricate those assemblies. Without oil, an engine would quickly overheat and seize, with parts welding to each other and locking up the engine. There’s nothing akin to that in an EV’s drivetrain.
Do electric cars need oil changes?
No motor oil means no oil changes. An EV’s maintenance needs are lower compared to a gas vehicle. But there are other fluids that need to be replaced and maintained.
The coolant in an EV isn’t radiator coolant/antifreeze. Instead, the coolant reduces heat in the battery as well as the power inverter, accessory power and charger modules. This fluid should be checked at 7,500-mile intervals and topped off if needed. Fluid checks are essential to proper operation of the vehicle and shouldn’t be neglected.
EVs don’t have a transmission in the way we think of a transmission in a conventional vehicle. They still experience power and motor speed fluctuations, but this is handled by a gear reducer instead of a transmission. This unit requires oil. Sometimes the motors themselves also use oil. This oil has very specific properties. It protects against corrosion and short circuits as well as cooling and lubricating systems.
Just like in a conventional vehicle, EVs have hydraulic brakes that use pressure from the brake fluid to engage the brake pads. Like in any other vehicle, the reservoir in the master cylinder stores the fluid, which travels down brake lines to the wheel cylinders. This brake fluid has a life cycle and will need to be flushed and replaced at regular intervals for peak performance.
EVs revolutionized several things. But the system that squirts water onto your windshield for cleaning isn’t one of them. Keep the washer fluid topped up to try and ensure you can always see clearly.
Power steering fluid
This is a thing of the past for EVs. Traditional systems used a hydraulic pump for assistance, but EVs have electric power steering—no pump, no reservoir, no fluid to worry about.
Other EV maintenance
You’re accustomed to oil changes, tire rotations, wheel balancing, transmission fluid changes, belts and hoses and spark plug changes for your internal combustion engine vehicle. We know EVs don’t have the same concerns, but what maintenance is needed?
Tire maintenance won’t change until someone invents new tire technology. Your EV will still need tire rotations at 5,000-7,500-mile intervals and regular inspection of the condition of the tires. Tesla, for example, recommends rotating them every 6,250 miles or whenever tread depth differences become too pronounced.
Cabin air filter
Just like with your traditional vehicle, you need to check and change the cabin air filter roughly every 22,500 miles.
EVs use regenerative braking—the vehicle’s kinetic energy slows down the car while also recharging the battery. As a result, brake wear is a lot slower than a conventional vehicle. Still, checking the condition of the brake pads at every tire rotation is a good idea.
The battery itself will generally last the entire life cycle of the vehicle. But any battery that can be recharged will eventually start to lose its capacity to accept and keep a full charge. An EV battery is no different.
Many manufacturers now offer battery replacement as part of their powertrain warranty, often up to eight years or 100,000 miles. If you keep your EV past that warranty term and need a battery replacement, your auto manufacturer may offer credits or rebates that can save you money.
EVs requireless maintenance than conventional vehicles. When you add up the cost of the oil, belts, hoses, transmission fluid, coolant and everything else you won’t have to buy (along with the gas you’ll never use), depending on where you live and your car needs, owning an EV may cost you less in the long run.