Maintaining your EV

EV electric vehicle power button
EV electric vehicle power button

Maintaining an electric vehicle (EV) may seem as alien to some as the cars themselves, but the process is not all that different than caring for their internal combustion engine (ICE) equipped ancestors.

While there are some major differences between electric and ICE vehicles, they actually have much more in common than they do setting them apart.

The largest difference between the two is that an EV utilises battery packs and electric motors to drive, either solely or in tandem with an ICE depending on the type of EV. This electric circuit is the most crucial (and most importantly, expensive) part of an EV, so learning to maintain it is worth your time.

Maintaining your EV’s battery

Lithium-ion is the most common style of battery used in EVs, similar to what is found in modern mobile phones and laptops. Much like its application in these devices, the batteries in EVs are not serviceable, meaning discarding and recycling them is often the most economic option.

However, while the innards of battery packs themselves are not considered serviceable, there are still tips and tricks that can help your EV’s battery last longer.

How to charge your EV for maximum battery life

The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs deteriorate at the extremes of charge state and are happiest somewhere in the middle – between approximately 30 to 80 per cent of their capacity.

By nature, lithium-ion batteries have a finite amount of charge/discharge cycles, however making sure not to stress the battery unnecessarily will ensure a long life.

Owners should read the owners' manual follow the manufacturer's advice on the best charging practice to maintain battery life.

How to keep your EV’s battery at its optimum temperature

Much like extremes of charging capacity, lithium-ion batteries can be weakened by extreme temperatures.

The hottest an EV’s battery gets is during rapid charging and discharging. Some – but not all – EVs use water cooling to keep batteries at their optimum temperature during these conditions.

Just like in conventional ICE vehicles, this coolant degrades over time, reducing its ability to transfer heat and keep components cool. If your EV is water-cooled, ensure this fluid is changed as part of routine maintenance.

Avoiding heavy, constant acceleration (to limit discharge) and using lower kW output chargers where possible (to limit charge) will also help keep batteries happy.

Parking your EV in the shade or under cover when possible can also save the battery from heating up under Australia’s sun.

What else can I do to maintain my EV?

When the electric motor and battery are taken out of the equation, an electric and ICE vehicle are almost identical and their servicing should be approached in the same way. 

Both types of car use suspension, steering and braking components, tyres, fluids, wiper blades and even a normal 12-volt lead acid battery, and all wear out over time and need replacing. Maintaining the correct tyre pressure as specified in your owner's manual will improve fuel economy.

The NRMA is here to help with roadside assistance in the event of a breakdown and motoring advice all year round.  

DIYers and mechanics who are not high-voltage certified should never attempt to service any part of the high-voltage system on an EV.

How much does it cost to service a battery electric vehicle?

Car makers generally advise battery electric vehicles (BEVs) should follow an annual service schedule (or every 15,000km) to ensure they are safe to operate and to maintain factory warranty. 

This annual routine inspection of all components (such as brakes, suspension and steering, air conditioning, lights and wipers, battery terminals, instrument warning lights and gauges, safety systems, tyres [including tyre rotation], a diagnostic system check, recall check and lubing of hinges) could cost between $200 and $400 depending on the manufacturer or service centre.

Given that BEVs use fewer moving parts than ICE, plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles – and don't require as many fluids in their operation (such as engine oil) – costs of these consumables are subtracted from your servicing bill as they no longer need to be replaced. Many BEV vehicles cost a little as 40 per cent to service as their ICE equivalent.

Unlike ICE vehicles (which require major servicing for their engine at predetermined mileage), each service interval for an EV will have the same parts checked over, so servicing costs should be stable over the lifetime of the vehicle. The only possible exception for an EV being and issue arising with its battery pack.

How much will a new EV battery cost?

EV batteries are by far the most expensive component in the vehicles, but they are designed to last much longer than standard batteries in conventional vehicles. Most manufacturers offer 8 or 10-year or 160,000 km warranties, exceeding the typical mechanical warranty on internal combustion engine cars.

If an EV battery fails outside of warranty, it could cost between $2,000 and $12,000 to replace, not dissimilar to the cost of replacing an ICE engine. There are many variables, from battery size to labour charges, so contact the manufacturer to get an exact quote. As the EV market grows, economies of scale should see battery prices fall.

If you are interested in buying an EV, see our calculator to determine which EV is best for you.

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