03.15.2010 - by Richard Kelly
Maintenance and Repair of Plug-In Vehicles

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelastminute/ / CC BY 2.0

Julia Perry asked us on Facebook about maintenance and repairs of electric cars:
“I want to know more about how these cars will be supported from a maintenance/repairs perspective (at least, that’s what my husband keeps nagging me about). Thanks.”

Julia, by “these cars”, I assume you’re referring to the coming generation of new plug-in vehicles from the established original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and new startups (as opposed to conversions of existing vehicles).

Maintenance

Happily, electric cars have fewer moving parts and put much less wear on the brakes. They don’t use oil filters, spark plugs, air filters, or mufflers.

Take a look inside the glove box maintenance manual for your new EV. You’ll be surprised to see how few maintenance items are required at the different service intervals. By at least one account, you only need to worry about tires, windshield wipers, and maybe shocks. This type of maintenance can be done by any trusted service shop.

Repairs

Having to take a car in for repairs is no fun, no matter the propulsion system.

Fortunately, handling of repairs of plug-in vehicles should be similar to that of conventional cars. Of course, owners of new technology vehicles will likely want to take their car to the dealer or a specialty mechanic rather than a low-end service chain.

Warranty

The Tesla Roadster has a 3-year, 36,000 mile warranty. This is bumper-to-bumper coverage (includes the battery pack). Tesla offers an extended 5-year/50,000 mile warranty as well. The company offers the Tesla Rangers, a mobile service squad that makes housecalls for inspections, software upgrades, and other services. There is a distance charge from the nearest service center (minimum $100 charge).

Nissan has not released warranty details for the upcoming Leaf. However, several sources report that Nissan is planning to match their conventional car coverage, with a 3-year/36,000 mile warranty. The powertrain will be covered for 5-years/60,000 miles.

Because the propulsion batteries are key to keeping emissions low in PHEVs, California requires that these batteries be warranted for a longer period. Exact manufacturer requirements depend on the number of vehicles they produce.

Chevrolet initially said they would warrant the Volt’s battery pack for the life of the car (10-years/150,000 miles). More recent reports list a shorter warranty period for the Volt, more along the lines of the 3/36 warranties offered by the competitors above). Chevrolet hasn’t given the official word on the warranty for the Volt, which is due to launch November.

Fisker Automotive is planning a 50-month/50,000 mile warranty for their luxury plug-in offering, the Karma.

Among the smaller startups, Coda Automotive is outsourcing “service, warranty and parts processes” to an outside firm, 4CS.

Aptera has said that they will offer a 4-year, 50,000 mile warranty with free roadside assistance on their 2e model, which has been delayed several times.

Marc Geller has suggested that it would be smart for smaller companies like Coda or Th!nk to sell their vehicles through the same garages that would ultimately service them.

Out of Warranty

Specialty garages already exist that service hybrid vehicles. It’ll be a while before the new generation of OEM battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are out of warranty. When that happens, however, it stands to reason that these garages will adapt to service these vehicles as well.

Leases

Electric car leases are also available. The Mini-E is lease-only. (much to the chagrin of current owners who want to buy theirs) BMW covers all maintenance and replacement of worn parts during the lease period.

Leasing is now also available for the Tesla Roadster as well which comes with the support of the same Tesla Rangers mentioned above.

Hope this answers your question, Julia.

Richard Kelly

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelastminute/ / CC BY 2.0

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