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The EV in 2023

Are Electric Vehicles better or worse than owning a gasoline-powered vehicle? What are the maintenance costs? EV’s are expensive to buy, but how expensive are they to own? Do they have less maintenance than traditional gas-powered cars? Are there any hidden expenses nobody talks about?

Electric Vehicles are everywhere. You can’t drive on the highway without seeing them in the adjacent lane or advertised on a nearby billboard. With the growing trend of Electric Vehicles, you may feel a societal pressure to adopt the EV lifestyle, or at the very least want to learn more about them. As it stands, EV technology is still in its infancy, and they still have a long way to go to become the norm.

We have previously written about EV practicality, or lack thereof, in 2023. However, with changing legislation and promises of technological improvement, infrastructure capabilities and more – the future is steadily becoming more and more electric.  

So, what do you need to know? 

Well, for a start, there are a lot of people, skeptics, who would like to know what they’d really be getting into with EV ownership. Car manufacturers seem to always promote the positive aspects and glamor of their latest models, but rarely discuss the undertaking of owning an EV in the year 2023. Is it better or worse than owning a gasoline-powered vehicle? What are the maintenance costs? EV’s are expensive to buy, but how expensive are they to own? Do they have less maintenance than traditional gas-powered cars? Are there any hidden expenses nobody talks about?

Here's the issue

Let’s focus on the most popular Electric vehicle on the road today, the Tesla. Part of the design of the Tesla presents the first challenge. The battery is built into the  Chassis of a Tesla, which is arguably not ideal. This means  to change the battery, it will be very expensive and repair would almost exclusively be handled by the dealership. Owners would be better off replacing the entire vehicle. This is unlike vehicles with combustion engines, who’s engines and batteries can be more easily accessed and repaired[1]

The battery is most expensive component of an electric vehicle. It is more expensive than the rest of vehicle put together, meaning when it dies – there really isn’t much value left in your car. In an EV, the battery is not just a part, the battery is everything.

How to care for your EV battery

Since the battery is fundamentally the basis of the electric vehicle, it’s important to get as much lifespan from it as possible to lengthen the yield of your investment. Try to keep your battery charge between 20% and 80% to avoid under or overcharging. Also, avoid exposing your vehicle to extreme temperatures for extended durations. Under or overcharging, and exposure to extreme temperatures are the top threats to long battery life. Whether or not you can adapt to these practices may sway your overall decision to invest in an EV.

Does the Electric car industry mean the end of DIY repairs?

It is true that EV’s have fewer moving parts than traditional combustion engines, which overall should mean less maintenance is needed. No oil is needed in the engine, other than in the gearbox, so oil changes are indeed required less often.

Electric cars do however have complex electrical power steering systems, ac pumps, and high voltage relay banks. Those are all main areas of focus when maintaining an electric vehicle. So, although gas-powered vehicles also have many electronic bells and whistles in 2023, owners of EV’s may simply be swapping out their traditional maintenance issues for new ones.

What will ultimately fail first on an EV?

We already covered that battery damage can occur if vehicle is left in extremely hot or cold temperatures, or if you constantly charge it too often or too little. These habits may result in the loss of your battery’s ability to hold charge or result in decreased charge capacity. However, did you know that every year the average EV battery also loses 2% of its initial capability. So even with the best practices, there is still some natural battery loss to be expected over time. [2]

The next thing that can go wrong is electric motor failure. Without proper maintenance, EV motors will break down from contamination. Chemicals and dust particles can clog the cooling fan, limiting the ability for the motor to regulate its temperature. So don’t get too excited thinking you will be dodging filter changes and routine maintenance altogether, you do still need to pay attention to the health of your electric vehicle just as you would a gas-powered one.

Let's talk about recall rates

Tesla has been in the news lately for a high amount of vehicle recalls. How do they stack up against other auto makers like Ford, GM, and Chrysler?

The recall rate was calculated by dividing the total number of affected units by the number of new vehicle units sold during 2022. Tesla had a difficult year in 2022, nearing the top of the list in vehicle recall numbers. Although still trailing behind Ford, Tesla has the lowest sales in comparison to Ford, GM, and Chrysler, yet it has the second highest recall rate among them.  Overall, Tesla reported delivering about 1.31 million vehicles globally in 2022. Tesla has had nineteen total vehicle recalls in 2022, affecting more than 3.7 million vehicles. [3] In fact, Tesla has recalled at least a quarter of the cars it has sold. Recalls can be for both major and minor issues, and many of Tesla’s recalls have been for minor issues fixed with automatic software updates. [4]

Here are some interesting comparisons

Charging Costs vs Gasoline costs:

This might be a touchy subject, as some charging stations charge per minute instead of per kilowatt-hour, and the variations can be frustrating for EV owners. Charging costs also depends on where you live. So, if you were expecting EV charging to be more predictable than national gasoline prices, well, it’s not, in fact it might be worse. Charging at home is usually preferred among EV owners to keep costs low and predictable, although you may incur some added costs to make charging more efficient. With the standard level 1 charging unit provided with most EV’s, it can be a slow process, taking up to 24 hours for a full charge with some models. Upgraded charging can mean hiring an electrician to install a 240 volt line to your garage, which can refresh a drained battery in about 4 hours. [5]

What if you’re on the road and need a faster charge? Well, you’re probably still going to be waiting longer than you would at a gas pump. Level 3 public charging stations still take around 30 minutes to bring a battery up to 80% capacity. Tesla owners have their own supercharger network, with locations allowing them unrestricted access to charge easily and at low cost, while owners of the Nissan leaf, and BMW i3 have access to EVgo stations only for a limit of 2 years after purchase of their vehicle. Not only are there fewer locations to “refuel” your vehicle than for gas-powered drivers, but EVgo users are also subject to a dreaded per-minute cost to charge their vehicles.

Many drivers of EV’s also maintain a gas-powered family vehicle as well. This may be the reliable option while the EV charging networks are still developing. Drivers who can go 600-700 miles on a tank of gas, may only manage to go 250-280 miles on a single EV charge, making having a gas-powered vehicle on hand a practical choice.

Depreciation and Insurance:

We all learned in school that any vehicle is considered a sunk cost as soon as you drive it off the lot. However, according to Car and Driver, who looked at experience, customer demand, vehicle availability and many other factors, it’s clear that EVs depreciate quicker than their gas counterparts. The higher cost of EV’s only contributes to a steeper depreciation. [6]

“Typically, you will also pay more to insure an electric vehicle than a conventional automobile. This is primarily due to the higher electric vehicle purchase price and the fact that electric vehicles generally have higher repair costs, especially those with expensive technology features”.[7] So, hopefully those EV tax credits make up for the sharp decline in value and cost to insure, right? Although, you’ll have to be eligible to receive them – and there are specific requirements. Not all new EV’s are eligible, so do your homework to see if the make and model you have your eye on counts for the program.

At the end of the day, there’s good and bad in every decision. The world is progressing fast with new vehicle technology on both sides, and the consumer has more than ever before to think about. While some states are pushing for greater EV adoption, others are pushing back to protect fossil fuels. [8]

2023 is rumored to be a very interesting year for EV technology, with promises of new unveilings, price decreases, and more. Will it be too good to be true? Will it be a pivotal year for the industry? With increasing sales, unstable energy grids, and ever optimistic thought-leaders, only time will tell.

Sources Cited:

[1] YouTube. (2021). YouTube. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gUAy2gSNWQ.

[2] How do an EV’s components compare. EnergyRight. (2021, January 12). Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://energyright.com/ev/how-do-an-evs-components-compare/

[3] Person, & Shepardson, D. (2022, November 21). Tesla recalls 321,000 U.S. vehicles over rear light issue. Reuters. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/tesla-recalls-321000-us-vehicles-over-rear-light-issue-2022-11-19/

[4] Winter, E. (2022, May 13). Yes, Tesla has issued recalls for at least a quarter of the cars it has sold. verifythis.com. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://www.verifythis.com/article/news/verify/business-verify/tesla-has-recalled-at-least-quarter-of-cars-sold/536-eac87b54-4706-40a8-a2f1-3a6144cc100a

[5] MYEV.com. (2023, January 4). What it costs to charge an electric vehicle. MYEV.com. Retrieved January 4, 2023, from https://www.myev.com/research/ev-101/what-it-costs-to-charge-an-electric-vehicle

[6] EV vs. gas: Which cars are cheaper to own? Car and Driver. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.caranddriver.com/shopping-advice/a32494027/ev-vs-gas-cheaper-to-own/

[7] Everything you need to know about insuring an electric vehicle. Bankrate. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2023, from https://www.bankrate.com/insurance/car/electric-car-insurance/

[8] Wade, P. (2023, January 15). Wyoming GOP considers declaring war on electric vehicles to protect fossil fuels. Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/wyoming-gop-ban-electric-vehicles-protect-fossil-fuels-1234661628/5

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