By the way, can you guess how many parts the drive train of a car with an internal combustion engine consists of? Of course, it varies from model to model, but the engine, transmission and exhaust pipes usually add up to well over a thousand smaller and larger parts. And for comparison, an electric car? About two hundred. It couldn’t be much easier…
In an internal combustion engine, fuel burns at high temperature and pressure in cycles, many components are constantly moving, therefore they must be intensively lubricated, the exhaust pipe becomes clogged – by its very nature, there is a lot of stress and wear on the components. In the electric motor, only the rotor rotates, the gearbox is only a single-stage reduction. This basic thought alone must lead to the assumption that the electric drive should be virtually maintenance-free compared to the combustion engine.
And it is also in practice, as we will show by comparing the conventional VW Golf with the electric ID.3, i.e. very similar cars, differing only in the type of drive. For both cars, service inspections are prescribed every two years, but for the Golf there is still a condition of driving 30,000 kilometers, the ID.3 has them set regardless of kilometers. The basic tasks are the same – the technician checks the condition of wear of the brakes (the ID.3 has the advantage of rear drum brakes, which are practically maintenance-free) and tires, axle bearings and joint sleeves, etc., for the electric model, there is also a visual inspection of the high-voltage line and charging connectors.
Every two years, the cabin filter (which captures dust and pollen) and brake fluid also need to be replaced every two years, but the internal combustion engine also requires an engine oil change (for the model Golf GTD this is a volume of 5.5 liters) and filter, with additional inspections in addition to this, the replacement of the air and fuel filter, transmission oil together with the filter is added. While you practically do not have to touch the electric drive even after 120,000 kilometers, the internal combustion engine requires relatively extensive care to run smoothly.
Of course, her demandingness can also be expressed in terms of money. But since every driver treats their car differently and wears it out differently (some drive brake-gas, others smoothly, so they don’t rev the engine or grind the brakes, some people tend to avoid potholes, others wipe out every other pothole without mercy, some shift gears clumsily, for another, the automatic does it, etc.), the scope of maintenance (and replacement of some consumable parts) can vary quite a bit from case to case. So we will approach a certain generalization and look at this issue through the lens of service packages.
These are provided by practically every manufacturer for the purchase of a new car, and in the case of the VW brand, they are purchased for 5 years (with the option to adjust the mileage) and in their basic version cover only the service operations prescribed by the manufacturer (the aforementioned inspection and replacement of operating fluids and filters), the extended version then it also includes the prices of spare parts and the work required to replace them (worn brakes, worn shock absorbers or wiper blades and other components). It can be said that when purchasing an extended package, car maintenance should not cost you a single crown extra – so comparable conditions for both types of drive.
And it is the prices of the Golf and ID.3 packages that reflect the lower maintenance requirements of the electric drive. While the basic package for 5 years / 150,000 km for the Golf costs 57,000 CZK, for the ID.3 it is only 15,600 CZK for the same period – the difference is therefore a significant 41,400 CZK. An extended package purchased for the same period/run costs CZK 110,400 for the Golf, and for the ID.3 you can buy it for CZK 75,600, which means a difference of CZK 34,800 (the smaller difference is reflected in the price of other commonly exchanged “automotive” components).
And we are only talking about routine operations within the warranty period of the car, potential replacements of distribution boards, flywheels, turbochargers, probes and other components of the exhaust line lie in wait for the internal combustion engine… On the other hand, the simpler drive of the electric car should not suffer much more from continued operation.
Of course, you can argue that the big ticking time bomb is the traction battery, but the specimens that go to VW for service still have over 90% capacity even after more than 100,000 kilometers. And even if the capacity drops below a tolerable level of 60%, the battery is not to be thrown away – just replace one of the modules with the most tired cells and the capacity will suddenly jump up a bit. And in terms of price, it is not a more expensive operation than replacing the turbo, which most owners of internal combustion engines cannot avoid.
Of course, every car is just a machine that gradually wears out and ages, so replacement and repairs are inevitable. The electric car has a slight advantage thanks to its structural simplicity, but it will still matter most how you treat your car and what care you give it during its life.
So if you switch to an electric car because “it doesn’t need to be taken care of”, it probably won’t work. But if you give it the same care as your previous cars, you should find it a reliable and inexpensive partner to run.