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Published on September 27th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown


The Tesla Model S Is Almost Maintenance Free

September 27th, 2013 by  

Electric vehicles are different from gasoline-powered vehicles in many ways. However, mainstream debates tend to focus on only a few of those differences, such as the initial cost of electric vehicles, their range, and the fuel efficiency of gasoline-powered vehicles.

Tesla Mode S Image Credit: Tesla

Image Credit: Tesla

For example, they rarely factor in the reliability or durability of electric vehicles. This may be due to the fact that the main motive electrification is the reduction of petroleum usage. And, of course, opponents of electric vehicles don’t like to mention their many other positive qualities.

The Tesla Model S actually requires little to no maintenance compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, due to the fact that it has very few mechanical parts that can malfunction. The only parts that require regular replacement are windshield wipers and tires. Brake pads will require replacement as well, but not nearly as often as those in gasoline-powered vehicles, since they are used much less thanks to regenerative braking.

Regenerative braking takes over some of the braking work, giving the brake pads a… break, and it does so without additional generators.

An electric propulsion system’s mechanical parts consist of the propulsion motor, the fans in the speed controller, radiator fans, a coolant pump (if there is a liquid cooling system), and that’s it.

But wait, don’t electric vehicles require more electronics? They actually require fewer electronics than gasoline-powered vehicles, as a typical electric propulsion system contains the following semiconductor electronics:

  1. Speed controller.
  2. Inverter.
  3. Battery management system.
  4. Electrical, non-semiconductor parts include coolant pumps and fans.

Gasoline propulsion systems contain a longer list of them, including, but not limited to:

  1. Electronic actuators to adjust various valves.
  2. Ignition system.
  3. Throttle controls.
  4. Turbochargers (only in some models).
  5. Engine control unit.
  6. Transmission control unit.
  7. Oxygen sensor.
  8. Coolant pump.
  9. Fuel pump.
  10. Oil pump.
  11. Engine fan.
  12. Transmission oil cooler pump (only in some models).

Mechanical parts in gas propulsion systems which can fail include, but are not limited to:

  1. Transmission.
  2. Valves.
  3. Spark plugs.
  4. Crankshaft.
  5. Connecting Rod.
  6. Cylinders.
  7. Camshaft.
  8. Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system.
  9. Belt and pulley systems for driving the alternator, engine fan, and other parts.

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.

  • Emmanuel Huna

    I blogged about all the things you don’t need when you own a Nissan Leaf: http://blog.ehuna.org/2012/06/infographic_things_you_dont_ne.html – but it applies to most EVs as well. 🙂

  • Adam Grant

    Another dividend of simplicity is that it’ll eventually become possible to buy a standard car controller, sensors, batteries and motors, and build whatever kind of frame around it you want. Once the basic controller is certified road worthy, any small startup car company (or high school auto shop) with a cool styling concept will be able to cheaply develop a road-worthy car.

    • Martin WINLOW

      Ah, yes! Now where did I put that 3D printer…?! MW

  • Adam Grant

    Hopefully the reduction in moving parts means that there’ll be space for fun things like active suspension and all-wheel steering.

  • beernotwar

    Now that thousands are driving EV’s we can build realistic Total Cost of Ownership estimates which will make EV’s look even better compared to dinomobiles.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Yes. This car is made to last 100 years. You’ll be seeing it in Cuba forever!

  • MaxDamage007

    Note when a battery or motor goes it will cost a fortune. More over optimistic assumptions

    • Ronald Brakels

      Say what? You do know that electric motors in trains can last over 80 years? With some Swiss electric trains they rewired them after 80 years and they still work fine now. An electric car motor has about 5 moving parts. A car internal combustion engine has over 200. As a result of this difference electric motors are much cheaper and much more reliable and require much less maintenance. If the battery goes it won’t cost a fortune if it’s still in warranty. I believe the Leaf has a warranty of 160,000 kilometers and the Tesla S 60 kWh battery has a warranty of 8 years or 200,000 kilometers and the 85 kWh battery has an eight year unlimited kilometers warranty. So while batteries will need to eventually be replaced they will still last a considerable amount of time even with pessermistic assumptions. And fortunately battery packs are likely to be considerably cheaper in the future. (Tesla will let you pay for a future replacement battery pack now for as little as $141 a kilowatt-hour.)

      • beernotwar

        And when you get that new battery pack you will probably get an increase in range. I’d bet most owners will replace their packs early just for the range increase.

      • Ronald Brakels

        I just looked up information on Swiss electric trains since my memory isn’t like it used to be and I am forgetting stuff after mere decades now. The Ge 6/6 “Crocodile” electric locomotives entered serice in the 1920s and are still being used today. I couldn’t find information on when they were recoiled except for the very first prototype which was the first Swiss electric train and served as the testbed for the entire class. It was recoiled after 42 years. The first non-prototype to be retired was in service for over 50 years and two are still in operation today.

        • Coaltopia

          Ahh the Crocodile – good memories of playing Railway Tycoon in the Swiss Alps 🙂

          • Ronald Brakels

            Heh heh heh.

    • Daniel Fichana

      Happen to have any data to back up the statement for when the batteries will go and at what mileage?

      So far there are examples of extreme Model S drivers; whom in the past year have put between 20,000 to 30,000 miles on their cars. In terms od degradation, they have not experienced any degradation. Also the vast majority of Roadster owners (the ones who actually followed instructions), who have over 100,000 miles have much less loss than was originally expected.

      Also if you car to look at the Panasonic data concerning the batteries, even in the worst, abusive usage, those batteries will still retain 70% capacity at 600,000 miles.

      As for the electric motor, it is a liquid cooled, imdustrial,frictionless, sealed motor.
      How long should it last… Tough question to answer since most electric motors die of negect. The rule of thumb is 40,000 to 50,000 hours of service, which would correspond to over 1,000,000 miles.

      To put it in perspective, a normal car is sent to the scrap heap after around 150,000 miles, or 13 years of service. So using that an EV should last a MINIMUM of. 52 years.

    • The motors don’t really go bad. It isn’t overly optimistic for electric motors to last 20 years with no maintenance, that is average. I personally have motors that lasted that long, and all of them still work.

      The battery warranties are usually 8 years. So owners can enjoy at least 8 years of unparalleled economy.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    note also that hybrid vehicles are even more complex than gas mobiles. Therefore the pure electric vehicles are the way to go.

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