Looking after today’s electric cars: If you’ve read a Kia review recently, you’ll probably be aware that the Korean automaker has a good reputation for its cars’ quality, reliability, and value for money. What you might not know is that Kia’s electric offensive is also gathering speed and that the electric versions of its Soul hatchback and Niro crossover were just the beginning; many more Kia EVs will be available soon. The first is the imminent new EV6 crossover lineup that starts with a 167-horsepower base model and culminates in a high-performance 576-hp AWD flagship. Let’s see about EV operation and maintenance advice.
The EV6 is no normal electric Kia and demonstrates Kia’s intent to become a frontrunner in the EV stakes. But with Kia and so many other automakers now launching new EVs and the lure of the apparent simplicity and ease of maintenance of EVs, we should take a look at how basic maintenance actually differs in comparison to models with normal gas and diesel engines. The truth is that some parts require less maintenance and others are the same.
What Stays The Same?
An EV is still a car and it shares many parts and features with vehicles that have an internal combustion engine (ICE). Just the propulsion system changes, so general upkeep and maintenance concerning the electric motor, battery pack, and regenerative braking system will be different, but other systems won’t. Trim, windows, electrical equipment, infotainment, and many other parts are virtually the same or identical as what you’d find in a normal ICE car.
Some of the items that require the same routine maintenance as ICE cars include:
- Rotating the tires
- Replacing the wiper blades
- Replacing brake pads
- Removing corrosive materials such as road salt from the underbody
- Replacing the cabin air filter
- Replacing the brake fluid
- Replacing the washer fluid
- Replacing the shock absorbers
- Servicing the air-conditioning system
How Much Is Different?
Because of the absence of an ICE and, in most cases, a transmission, the following maintenance items fall away in comparison with ICE cars:
- Engine tune-ups
- Engine oil replacement
- Replacing spark plugs or glow plugs
- Radiator flushes
- Transmission servicing and fluid replacement
- Cambelt or cam-chain replacements
- Alternator repairs or replacement
However, some maintenance considerations are EV-specific, such as:
- Cooling system servicing: An EV’s cooling system cools the large battery pack, and its servicing needs differ a lot from an ICE car’s. Service requirements differ, though, so check your car’s service manual. For example, Tesla does not recommend replacing a Model Y’s coolant, but Ford recommends replacing a Mustang Mach-E’s every 200,000 miles.
- Transmission servicing: Many single-gear EVs have no conventional transmission that needs no servicing, such as the Tesla Model Y’s. However, Ford recommends replacing the Mustang Mach E’s transmission fluid every 150,000 miles or ten years. As two-speed automatic EVs become more commonplace, their transmissions will come with their own oil-change intervals.
- Software updates: Although ICE cars also get software updates, an EV’s are often even more important and can affect things such as cruising range and more elements of the vehicle’s operation than an ICE car’s. The upside is that many new EVs can have their software updated over the air without having to visit a service center.
- Finding a service center: Not every mechanic can work on an EV and it’s best to leave the maintenance and repairs to the official dealership, at least during the warranty period. However, more EV training programs are becoming available, so the supply of EV-qualified technicians is improving too. Some of these are the Tesla START Program, the National Network for the Transportation Workforce’s program, and the National Alternative Fuels Traning Consortium’s program.
- Towing an EV: If you run out of battery charge or your EV breaks down and it has to be towed, be sure to consult your owner’s manual first. An EV that is still in gear will get damaged if it is towed. To be safe, it is generally recommended to load an EV onto a flatbed truck instead of having it towed by a chain-and-hook tow truck.
Although an EV still has a higher MSRP than an ICE car on average, it is generally cheaper to “fill up” with electricity, especially when you charge at home, and it requires less maintenance too. Still, it is important to adhere to the service schedule and do everything by the book in order to maintain your EV’s reliability and warranty cover. It is also critical to only allow qualified and certified experts to work on your EV because the basic propulsion system is a world apart from the well-known basics that mechanics have learned about ICE cars’ over the years.