Electric vehicles are an increasingly common sight on our roadways — and in our auto repair shops. When it comes to servicing these vehicles, here are some key maintenance issues to consider
Electric vehicles (EVs) are poised to become more common in Canada and around the world.
As global temperatures continue to rise, and the effects of climate change grow increasingly more dramatic, EVs will take centre stage thanks to their relatively low emissions.
Indeed, EV ownership is already on the upswing. The world’s major automakers are joining trailblazers like Nissan, Chevrolet and Tesla to launch battery-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles — everything from luxury sport coupes to 4×4 work trucks — into the marketplace.
As part of efforts to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government recently mandated zero tailpipe emissions from all personal vehicles sold from 2035. This measure will drive further growth in EV sales, ensuring that EV maintenance will take an increasing share of the workload in auto repair shops.
While it may be true that removing a car’s internal combustion engine (ICE) simplifies its service needs, there are still plenty of EV maintenance and repair tasks for auto technicians to sink their teeth into.
Worn tires are not as straightforward a fix as the tires on an ICE-powered vehicle.
Even though the tire sizing may be similar, EV tires are typically heavier. A Hyundai Kona electric, for example, weighs about 300 kilograms (or 21 per cent) more than its gas-powered equivalent.
Translation: EVs demand a tire with a higher load index.
They’re also fitted from new with low-rolling-resistance tires. This means they may wear faster than tires on other vehicles due to a combination of the special rubber compounds used and the extra load placed on them by a heavier vehicle that has lots of torque.
Tire road noise is more noticeable when you remove a car’s engine from the equation. EV tires often feature a tread pattern that’s designed for low noise.
Paying attention to all these factors when selecting a replacement set of tires is key, said Darryl Croft, co-owner of OK Tire & Auto in Etobicoke, Ontario.
“It’s important to educate the vehicle owner because, otherwise, they can make the mistake of going purely by tire size and having to live with the repercussions of poor handling and high noise,” said Croft, who actively markets to local EV owners. “There’s quite a range of durability among the brands, so you could do the client a disservice if you fit a faster-wearing tire. They’ll be back in a hurry—and they’ll be upset.”
EVs rely on regenerative braking, which uses the electric motor to recharge the battery when you lift your foot from the accelerator. The car slows, but the regular friction brakes don’t come into play unless you brake hard.
This means the friction braking system should last much longer than in an ICE-powered vehicle, right? Sure, in theory. But proper annual servicing is vital to keep those brakes at their optimum. Otherwise, they may start to stick, leading to an undesirable early replacement and an unhappy customer.
An EV-owner faces inherently higher tire costs compared to the owner of an ICE-powered car. But an alignment check every six to 12 months can help to reduce those costs, as poor alignment will result in the car wearing the tires even faster.
An EV customer with two sets of tires should be recommended to do an alignment check when the winter tires go on. The other major annual item, the brake service, can then be done after the winter — leaving you with a happy customer who appreciates having those maintenance costs spread out a bit.
In the longer term, EVs that have reached 100,000 km or more will encounter the same suspension issues as any other vehicle. Shocks and struts wear out, with the owner potentially facing a hefty bill to remedy the situation.
According to Croft, the difference here is that the EV owner might be more willing to pay that bill than other drivers.
“Aftermarket advisors sometimes shy away from bringing up shocks and struts,” he explained. “It’s traditionally been a very difficult item for the ICE vehicle owner to commit to because their car has needed other maintenance or repair services during its life. But in the EV scenario, the owner hasn’t had those [major] problems up to that point and may be more likely to want to maintain a smooth, comfortable ride by refreshing the suspension.”
Failing to replace the cabin air filter at the right interval may lead to a musty smell in the interior. If it’s the first time the vehicle has been into your shop, check the history and replace as required.
Checking the health of the 12V battery can fall through the cracks during EV inspections. In an EV, the 12V is essential to the control system of the high-voltage battery.
EV drivers won’t be coming in for regular oil changes. The obligation is on the shop to make sure the battery is checked annually. Like with most other vehicles, the 12V battery in an EV should be replaced every three years or so.
Graham Heeps wrote this piece on behalf of Goodside, a carbon calculator app that helps individuals lower their carbon footprint. He’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) and a judge for AJAC Canadian Car of the Year.
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