When fleets compare electric vehicle (EV) costs with diesel, most of the emphasis is put on the P11d price and fuel. However it is important to consider the significant differences in service and maintenance costs. The 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.
Fewer parts in EV’s require maintenance. 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.
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 screen wash, brake fluid, cabin air filter and coolant to be replaced, while the Pulsar requires new screen wash, 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.
Although electrical vehicles have a lower Benefit-in-Kind tax of 5%, they are not practical for companies such as ABAX. The long journeys that are made by staff members mean that the battery would need charging frequently. This is too impractical when staff members have time slots to attend meetings with clients.
However, it is important to think about the future and the fact that in 50 years there will be no petrol or diesel to run cars. Therefore what is the answer? Hydrogen fuel cell technology and infrastructure is looking like it will be costly and difficult to implement. EV’s have limitations regarding range and sourcing of raw materials for batteries. Trains and public transport may have to play a much bigger part in our future. Horse power may also have a very different meaning in the coming years…
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