Reader Question: The Cost of EV vs. IC Maintenance?

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Here’s the latest reader question – along with my reply!

Krishna asks: Thanks again for your response to my earlier question (here) confirming the shorter life of EV batteries.  I brought this up with one of my friends who is passionate about alternative energy and while he agreed, he also pointed out the extra maintenance expense associated with ICEs (oil changes as biggest examples) as well as the fact that when your EV battery dies, you can sell it to companies like Rivian, which would then repurpose the battery for solar and storage applications. Would love to hear your thoughts and response to this!

My reply: There is a misconception – several, actually – as regards EV vs. IC maintenance. Specifically, that EVs are largely “maintenance-free” while IC cars bludgeon their owners with maintenance costs.

In fact, modern IC cars have virtually no maintenance expenses to speak of – at least, none that EVs don’t also have such as the need to replace worn tires, windshield wipers, brake pads and so on – excepting oil and filter changes – for the first five-six years (generally) of ownership.

“Tune-ups” are largely things of the past – or at least, things of 100,000 miles or more. And oil/filter changes are minor expenses (generally, about $50) and changeout intervals now extend to 8,000-10,000 miles.

Contrast this with the major expense – about $1,000 – of having an electrician come to your home to wire a “fast” charger; or the expense of a new battery pack (about $6,000) after ten tears or less.

Many EVs also have maintenance expenses similar to IC cars – such as the need to periodically change coolant (yes, really) and because they are more electronic than mechanical, there are at least potential – and expensive – issues with chips, circuit boards and so on that IC cars either aren’t vulnerable to or are less vulnerable to.

So, the idea that the EV “saves” money on maintenance costs is false. Both initially – and long term. There is also the fact the EV costs its owner time and convenience, which are huge expenses that should also be factored into the equation.

. . .

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  1. Much of the repair expense for our one 21st century vehicle has been steering and suspension repair, plus brakes which I suppose MIGHT be cheaper on an EV if it uses some sort of regen braking. And of course tires which are needed on both ICV and EV. I doubt an EV is any less vulnerable to rough roads.

    Otherwise, aside from oil/filter changes, I have spent around $50 for one engine part (which I replaced myself in about 30 minutes) in 120K miles EXCEPT for having to replace the in-tank fuel pump which was about $600. That’s still got to be cheaper than a battery 😉


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