Electric vehicle (EV) repairs often incur higher costs than a conventional car or truck. Conversely, vehicles with an internal combustion engine (ICE) are slightly more expensive to maintain. This article explores how repair, labor, and material costs differ for EVs and ICE vehicles. It also discusses why EV maintenance is simpler and less expensive.
Analyzing the higher cost of EV repairs
EVs, which have fewer moving parts than ICE vehicles, are designed with lightweight materials such as aluminum, ultra-high-strength steel, composites, and carbon fiber. While these materials boost performance and efficiency, they are often challenging to repair. EVs are also more vulnerable to rear-end collisions that may damage powertrain components.
Labor can account for nearly 50% of total EV repair costs. Compared to ICE vehicles, EV repairs generally require six extra hours of labor and an additional 2.5 days of cycle time, resulting in an approximate $950 cost increase. These repairs typically begin with de-energizing various electrical components such as batteries, inverters/converters, power controllers, and distribution modules. This step is crucial for mechanics to safely remove, repair, or replace affected systems.
Onboard sensors can help identify and troubleshoot a wide range of EV-specific issues. However, many repair shops lack the specialized equipment and tools required to service complex electrical systems and energy-dense lithium-ion traction battery packs. Additionally, EV mechanics must undergo extensive training, follow strict hazard prevention protocols, and apply heightened safety measures, particularly during collision work.
Notably, EV repairs often involve a combination of mechanical and IT skill sets to reprogram, customize, and recalibrate various ADAS functions, from adaptive cruise control and parking assistance to full self-driving capabilities. As with ICE vehicles, EV ADAS necessitates meticulous recalibration to maintain sensor and camera accuracy after suspension adjustments, windshield replacements, and collision repairs.
Repairing and replacing lithium-ion batteries
EV lithium-ion battery packs are comparable to gasoline-powered engines in importance and cost. Designed to last as long as, or even longer than, an EV’s functional lifespan, these energy-dense traction batteries typically offer an impressive range of 100,000 to 150,000 miles. Each battery pack comprises numerous interconnected cells and modules regulated by sophisticated battery management systems (BMS), ensuring safe and efficient charging and discharging.
In contrast to ICE vehicles — where individual parts are replaceable or repairable — even minor damage can render entire battery banks unusable and irreparable. Lithium-ion battery replacement costs, when not covered by insurance or warranty, vary from $5,000 to $20,000, based on size, manufacturer, and EV model. Eventually, modular battery designs may offer easier maintenance and even facilitate partial replacements.
EV vs. ICE transmission repair
ICE transmissions feature multiple gears and complex mechanical systems. Malfunctions or failures in these vehicles may necessitate disassembling gear synchronizers, clutches, and hydraulic systems. In contrast, most EV transmissions use a single-speed design that significantly reduces mechanical issues and simplifies repair.
EV repairs typically focus on troubleshooting electrical components and software issues rather than mechanical wear and tear. Repairing EV transmissions often necessitates specialized diagnostic tools and advanced electrical system expertise.
Understanding EV maintenance
Routine EV maintenance includes replacing cabin air filters to remove external dust and particulates. Additional essential services involve brake pads, tires, and suspension components. Compared to ICE vehicles, EVs require reduced maintenance, leading to an average annual savings of about $330. This results from:
- Durable electric motors: Electric motors eliminate emissions and exhaust systems, and in many cases, traditional lubrication oil. While expensive to replace, EV motors need little to no maintenance and tend to last longer than the EV itself.
- Advanced cooling systems: Unlike ICE radiators, EVs are equipped with cooling systems that need only minimal maintenance. These EV systems are primarily designed to cool the battery, in some cases, the electric motor.
- Streamlined drivetrains: EV drivetrains, having fewer moving parts, are simpler to maintain than their ICE counterparts.
- Regenerative braking: Electric motors function as generators during deceleration, recharging the batteries by converting kinetic energy back into electrical energy. This feature reduces brake wear and tear.
- Simplified gear systems: EV transmissions, featuring a single-speed design, need less maintenance than ICE vehicles. This typically involves software updates and securing electrical connections. Periodic transmission fluid changes, however, are still essential for cooling and lubricating gear reduction units.
Maintaining EV charging systems
Unlike ICE vehicles, EVs require specialized maintenance routines to ensure onboard chargers, charging ports, and associated electrical components operate safely and efficiently. Regular inspections, for example, are crucial to maintain clean ports, secure connections, and identify frayed charging cables. Additionally, routine checks for voltage irregularities and isolation resistance help maintain electrical integrity and prevent malfunctions.
EV repairs typically involve higher costs than a conventional car or truck due to heightened labor and material costs. EVs, however, contain fewer moving parts and feature a single-speed transmission, significantly reducing mechanical issues and simplifying repair.
- EV Repair Explained: Are EVs More Difficult to Repair?, Motor Repair Network
- A New Era of Auto Repair: How Electric Cars Will Be Fixed in the Future and What It Means for Consumers, Yahoo
- EV vs. ICE: The Impact on Collision Repair, Mitchell
- EVs Totaled at Same Rate as Gas-Powered Cars, Data Shows, Insurify
- Pay Less for Vehicle Maintenance With an EV, Consumer Reports
- Electric vs ICE Vehicles: Unpacking Repair Cost Impacts, CCIS
You may also like:
Filed Under: FAQ