When fleets compare electric vehicle (EV) costs with diesel, most of the emphasis is put on the P11d price and fuel. However, there are also significant differences in service and maintenance costs. Put simply, servicing and maintenance of a fully-electric vehicle is estimated to cost between 25% and 40% less than that of a petrol or diesel car.
“There are fewer parts that will require maintenance in an EV,” explains Chris Chandler, principal consultant, fleet consultancy, at leasing giant Lex Autolease.
Unlike petrol or diesel vehicles, which have dozens of moving components in their engine and transmission, EVs have a simple drivetrain, typically consisting of just three parts: an on-board charger, inverter and motor.
When Ford unveiled its Focus electric car in America in 2012, it listed more than 20 items used in petrol and diesel cars but not in EVs that require inspection, maintenance or replacement over a vehicle’s 10-year/150,000-mile life.
These included the alternator, power steering fluid (it uses electrical assistance), radiator and assorted pipework, spark plugs, starter motor, thermostat, timing belt and a water pump.
This makes an EV cheaper and means there are fewer moving parts to go wrong, resulting in improved reliability and on-road times.
On top of this, EVs require no oil changes, spark plugs, air filter, transmission fluid, exhaust pipe or radiator hoses, all of which can add to the service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs of a petrol or diesel vehicle.
The relative simplicity of an EV’s drivetrain is reflected in its SMR costs, according to Nissan. It says that both the Leaf and Nissan e-NV200 cost “considerably less to service and maintain than diesel or petrol alternatives”.
Compared with a Nissan Pulsar 1.5-litre dCi, the year two service, including labour, of both the Leaf and e-NV200 is an estimated £102.94 cheaper at £143.74, while a year three service is £176.92 less at £208.98.
All three vehicles have the same service schedules of 12 months/18,000 miles.
At their year two service, both the Nissan EVs need their screenwash, brake fluid, cabin air filter and coolant to be replaced, while the Pulsar requires new screenwash, oil, oil filter, sump plug, brake fluid, air filter and pollen filter.
The spokesman says these pricing estimates (for retail, not fleet customers) give an indication of the maintenance cost benefits enjoyed by EV owners.
“Fleet prices may differ based on a number of factors, including individual maintenance contracts,” he adds.
Based on annual mileage of 10,000 per year, operators of the fully-electric Renault Zoe will also make significant SMR savings compared with running a diesel Clio 1.5-litre dCi 90 Dynamique Nav. The manufacturer estimates that, over a three-year period, the SMR costs of the Clio will be £727, £250 more than that of the Zoe (see panel, below).
Volkswagen’s petrol Up and electric e-Up both follow the manufacturer’s fixed service regime. This means petrol and diesel models require an oil change every 10,000 miles, or 12 months; the e-Up doesn’t require its first service until 18,000 miles, or two years. It then requires an inspection service every 18,000 miles, or every 12 months.
Servicing on the petrol model consists of oil change and visual health inspection, but as the e-Up doesn’t have any engine oil, its services consist mainly of visual inspections.
Most of the braking components between the two vehicles are the same, with only the front brake pads being different on the e-Up (£10 more expensive). Tyres and brake pads also have a longer lifespan on EVs, thanks to the effect of regenerative braking – the vehicle’s wheels can be slowed by resistance from turning the motor-generator to regenerate electricity that is fed back into the vehicle’s battery.
“As for wear and tear on the brakes and tyres, the e-Up has a sophisticated system with degrees of generation,” says the Volkswagen spokesman. “This goes some way to reducing brake wear so could almost even-out the upfront premium. That said, wear factors can differ hugely between drivers and what the vehicle is being used for, so it would be hard to be too simplistic about this.”
The lower cost of servicing is also reflected in the service packs offered by some manufacturers.
Battery cost fears unfounded
Commonly-held fears about the longevity of an EV’s battery and the amount of money it would cost to replace when it failed have so far proved unfounded.
Data released by Nissan has shown that 99.9% of battery units fitted to Leafs since the model’s launch five years and more than 35,000 European sales ago remain entirely fit for purpose. Just three batteries have so far failed: a fraction of the equivalent industry-wide figure for defects affecting traditional combustion engines, says Jean-Pierre Diernaz, director of electric vehicles for Nissan in Europe.
“The facts speak for themselves,” he adds. “The rate of battery faults in our vehicles is negligible; even the most ardent critic cannot argue with that.”
Manufacturer confidence in the longevity of the vehicle batteries is reflected by the lengthy warranties they provide. BMW, for instance, offers an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty for the battery in the i3, Nissan will replace the lithium-ion units in Leaf and e-NV200 models should the range drop below nine of the 12 bars displayed on the dashboard over five years/60,000 miles, while Renault’s warranty covers the same time/mileage duration and guarantees a minimum of 70% of the original capacity for Zoe and 66% for Kangoo Van ZE.
A Nissan spokesman says the reliability of its battery technology has been demonstrated by C&C Taxis (see case study, page 61). “It has clocked up 100,000 miles in its first-generation Leaf,” he says.
Diesel vs electric
Estimates from Renault show that the diesel Clio will have higher servicing, tyre and brake costs than the electric Zoe after three years/30,000 miles. The Zoe incurs lower tyre and brake wear due to its regenerative braking system, which slows the vehicle when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator.
However, the Zoe does have higher ‘other’ costs, due to its 12v battery, which is used to power vehicle equipment such as lights and windscreen wipers, needing to be replaced.