What follows began as a reader question about electric cars and their “low maintenance.” I replied to this reader here. She replied to me, below. Since the topic is of general interest, I decided to give it the Treatment, in the manner of fungicide.
First, Samantha, who writes:
I have an engineering degree and you don’t fool me for one second. The engine (in an IC car) is by far the most expensive part of the car. In electric and hydrogen cars, they’re maintenance free. You’re selling horses in the dawn of the age of the motor car.
I never claimed the engine in an IC car isn’t “by far the most expensive” part of it. Do you know what a straw man argument is? I did state that in an electric car the battery is extremely expensive.
Which is inarguably true.
I also pointed out – in re your original question – that electric cars are not (as you claimed) lower maintenance than IC cars. Maybe the electric motor is – but that is only one part of the EV. Aside from the motor, EVs have many of the same maintenance issues (e.g., wear and tear on brakes ands tires, suspension components as well as the cooling/heating system for the battery, which isn’t easy for the average person to deal with; in some cases, the EV’s body must be lifted off the chassis to access these systems, etc).
You’re right that an EV doesn’t need oil and air filter changes and occasional tuneups but these are very infrequent in a modern IC car – which you ought to know since you’re an engineer – and such regular maintenance is generally inexpensive, while the EV itself is extremely expensive.
For example, the Nissan Leaf – which is currently the lowest-priced EV available – stickers for $30,000. This is for the version with the low-capacity battery and a 150 mile “best case” range.
This is twice the cost of an IC economy car that’s otherwise similar in terms of size and so on, such as Nissan’s Versa – which stickers for about $15k (and can travel 300-plus miles on a tank).
How many oil and filter changes does that $15k difference pay for? Well, let’s do some math – which engineers are good at. Let’s say an oil change costs $50 and let’s posit that the oil needs to be changed once every 5,000 miles. Let’s call it twice a year, so $100 annually.
But let’s try to make it better – for the EV. Let’s quintuple the cost of annual maintenance for the IC car to $500 – which is a gross exaggeration.
It still looks pretty bad… for the EV. Ten years of $500 annual maintenance runs to $5,000 so you’re still $10k in the hole – if you bought the Leaf.
But wait there’s more . . . math, that is!
In addition to the expense of the EV itself, there is the additional expense (several thousand dollars) of replacing the battery – which must be replaced at some point due to inevitable degradation of charge capacity (engineers ought to know about this) as opposed to expensive IC components such as an engine, which usually never have to be replaced over a much longer useful service life (at least 15-20 years and longer).
Let’s not forget the cost of a “fast” charger” in your home. Add another $800-$1,000 to the cost of ownership. Oh, and you’ll also be paying more in property taxes – based on the purchase price/retail value of the car.
And insurance – based on the much higher replacement cost of the EV.
If your fundamental point is that EVs are cheaper because the motor doesn’t need maintenance, you’re simply wrong. EVs do not cost less to maintain – or rather, to own – once you factor in the cost of everything – as opposed to just the battery.
And your premise that EVs are today’s equivalent of IC cars replacing horses and buggies is silly because unlike the cars of 100 years ago, EVs today are much more expensive and far less convenient than IC cars. One hundred years ago, it wasn’t necessary to pass laws mandating that Model Ts be manufactured, nor subsidize their purchase. They were bought freely because they were superior – functionally and economically – to the horse and buggy and to the electric cars of 100 years ago!
Today, EVs are being forced onto the market via mandates and subsidies. They have to be forced onto the market. Because there is no real (significant) market for them.
Precisely because their overall costs are so much higher and their limitations so much greater.
And they ask me why I drink . . .
. . .
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