There's a lengthy list of things that missing on an electric vehicle compared to a traditional combustion vehicle: spark plugs, exhaust, gearbox, radiator, clutch, air and oil filter – all this and more isn't needed in vehicles with an electric drive. These are parts that are often the cause of expensive repairs and add up to a significant cost difference: overall, the maintenance costs associated with electric vehicles are about one third lower than those for combustion engines, as calculated by the German Institute for the Automotive Industry (IFA).
Nevertheless, even if you're driving an electrically powered vehicle, it should be serviced regularly. As a rule of thumb, a thorough inspection is necessary once a year. In addition to “standard” vehicle components – such as steering, air conditioning and windscreen wipers – the following components should be checked in particular:
This should be checked regularly – but replaced less frequently. The reason? Brakes on an electric vehicle wear less because of recuperation – because kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy and recovered during the braking process, and because recuperation also acts as an engine brake, which means that the braking system doesn't wear as quickly.
Tyres on electric vehicles should be given special attention during maintenance. Compared to combustion engines, they're subjected to greater stress because higher torque is possible during the inherently rapid acceleration, which has an effect on the tyre tread over time. Adopting a moderate driving style can help to increase the service life of the tyres.
This is the most important component of an electric vehicle. This involves checking the general condition of the battery, as well as all cable connections and the charging connection. The latter should be free of dust, dirt and rust. For rechargeable batteries, a service life of eight to fifteen years (depending on the number of charging cycles) is expected before they “die”; before that, it's sufficient to simply replace individual defective cell modules. Since the battery in an electric vehicle is the most expensive spare part, it's worth handling it with care – for example, by not leaving the battery at a less than 20 percent charge level for longer periods and also not charging it over 80 percent, as this can shorten the life of a lithium-ion battery. Charging with alternating current – as supplied by your wall box at home – is also preferable to using a rapid charging station, since these stations use direct current.
Individual electronic components must also be thoroughly checked during servicing. Testing the function and performance of these parts helps to avoid spontaneous failures. Analysing the electronics also allows engineers to draw conclusions about the battery’s service life based on charging time and performance information.
As a general rule, electric vehicles usually only have three main fluids that need to be topped up from time to time: brake fluid, windscreen washer fluid and coolant. The latter is also required for a BEV’s thermal management system.
Don’t forget: If maintenance work or repairs are due but don’t involve the electric vehicle’s high-voltage system (e.g. tyre changes, windscreen wipers), you can take it to your chosen garage. In contrast, a specialised workshop with the appropriate equipment and trained personnel should carry out any maintenance work on any specific electric vehicle components.