The all-electric sedan made in California doesn’t need the gamut of moving parts found in internal combustion engines. That means no valves, camshafts, crankshaft, cylinders or ignition system. There aren’t any connecting rods, clutches or gears, either, nor any need for belts and pulleys, oil filters, spark plugs, mufflers, oxygen sensors or air filters. The list goes on.
It’s a little known feature of all battery electric vehicles: simplicity of design and ultralight maintenance. Car owners are estimated to spend half as much on the care of electric vehicles compared to their dinosaur juice-sipping counterparts, according to the Center for Automotive Research. Why is there such a gap?
Internal combustion engines are inherently complex. They require hundreds and, lately, thousands of specialized components to safely convert fossil fuels into motion via cycles of controlled explosions. And the more ‘modern’ traditional cars get, the more complicated their guts are, and the less friendly to DIY repairs.
Most drivers have grown accustomed to regular oil changes, filter switches, radiator flushes, exhaust system replacements and smog checks. These habits were carefully cultivated by generations of car owners to help the high-maintenance gas engine do its job.
Electric vehicles (EVs), in stark contrast, emphasize self-reliance. The design of an electric propulsion system is elegantly simple, pared down to the basics: a propulsion motor, radiator fans, speed controller fans and, sometimes, a coolant pump. Cars made by Tesla Motors have but one moving part: the rotor. Fewer electronic components are needed, and with regenerative braking, the brake pads in EVs last many times longer than those in traditional cars.
How to Maintain a Tesla
Electric vehicles are easier to own. High-end battery electric cars like Tesla’s cost more up front, but over the long term, serious savings add up alongside some undeniable perks. There is hardly a learning curve on maintenance intervals. Tesla recommends a single annual checkup for its cars to make sure everything is in good working order. Routine software updates are instantly accessible through each Model’s onboard touchscreen.
But what if something does go wrong? Tesla cars are designed for self-monitoring; the car itself will let you know about any problems in a timely fashion. Some maintenance can even be done remotely. If not, you can always call for a ‘Tesla Ranger’ to come to you and troubleshoot the problem on-site. Otherwise, simply head to your local Tesla Service Center.
Need a loaner vehicle? The manufacturer will dispatch one to your house, free of charge. 24-hour roadside assistance is part of the package, too. All of this is available in the basic service contract. And with prepaid in-house repairs for Tesla owners, the company’s eco-friendly cars won’t be filling mechanics’ garages any time soon.
The Repair Economy
The century-old car maintenance industry grew up around the tuning, repair and routine care of vehicles that depend on the smooth operation of an internal combustion engine. Understandably, many consumers seek an escape from this web of sunk costs, and EVs seem a promising way out.
The lack of mechanical overhead is a major driving force behind the blooming U.S. EV market. Tesla Motors’ small, sophisticated lineup of roadsters and sedans continues to lead the pack. Could the simplicity of the electric drivetrain smash the market for car maintenance? Will electric vehicles undermine the auto repair economy as swiftly as the Internet hobbled the newspaper business? Only time will tell.
Whether or not you enjoy the smell of motor oil in the morning, there’s no doubt that repair costs negatively affect the average consumer’s bottom line. There’s a reason Silicon Valley startup Tesla is a feared and respected disruptor of the automotive status quo. With a product that renders obsolete nearly all the hassle and expense of car repairs, mechanics indeed have a good reason to worry.