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What’s Different About Electric Cars?


A battery electric car (BEV or simply EV) runs on electricity alone; there is no supporting engine or generator. With hybrid cars, the electric motor is supported by a conventional engine. The battery pack is either recharged in use or, with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), can also be topped up via a mains outlet. The choice as to which type of vehicle is best comes down to individual need. It could be argued that a hybrid is perhaps more convenient for long trips while the BEV is great for around town and local driving. Each system has merit. What is crucial though is how we use and maintain this new technology; after all, they still require proper servicing.


Battery Pack

Over the last few years it has become clear that electric vehicle battery packs can stand the test of time when properly cared for. They have proven to be long-lasting and generally reliable, just like the small battery in the engine compartment of an internal combustion car. Most car makers these days will offer a 100,000 mile warranty on the battery pack. How long it lasts ultimately is up to the owner.


It’s a good idea, with a BEV or PHEV, to charge often where possible. Users have found that it helps by reducing the impact on the pack of heat generated by charging. Ideally, keep them topped up between 50% and 80%. It’s not always possible obviously, but it does help long term.


Tyres

Tyres are always critical for road holding and braking as on any vehicle so the same rules apply on the electrified variety. There is however an additional point worth noting: The additional weight of the battery and the electric motor(s) can increase wear and tear on tyres. Thus, inspection should be carried out regularly, just to be on the safe side. It’s not a huge deal but conceivably tyres may need to be replaced a little more often, depending upon how the car is driven. Go tearing into corners (BEV’s can be lively) and tyre wear will increase, just as always. Tyre makers are aware of this and new compounds are being developed to hopefully counter this: We’ll see.


Stopping Power

One positive outcome of the electric revolution is regenerative braking (as seen in Formula One racing). On a BEV, because throttle response is immediate, then lifting off has the same effect, slowing the car. Some skilled operatives can even drive normally, without resorting much of the time to the brake pedal, although this takes skill. Regeneration is augmented by any application of the brakes too, that recovered surplus energy topping up the battery.


Overall, this may mean that the traditional brakes are likely to need fewer disc and pad changes, although because of the extra weight they may need to work harder. In short, the brakes must be maintained as usual as part of the annual car servicing schedule, and the brake fluid changed routinely as always. Your local professional car servicing garage can advise on BEV or PHEV maintenance.



On A Charge

As the infrastructure for public vehicle charging develops (albeit slowly; it’s all a bit piecemeal right now) so the easier it will become to charge a car when out and about. The addition of domestic wall chargers for homes is becoming more viable, especially as utility companies are offering tariffs which may help householders who charge an EV. Slow charging is best to help preserve battery life. Fast chargers are great, but a slow charge, overnight say, is less demanding on the pack, generating less heat.


With most systems today, the charging rate slows down near the end of the cycle and it’s the last bit that takes longer, allowing the batteries to cool. That’s why fast chargers only state a speedy charge to 80% over perhaps half-an-hour or less. Still, that’s probably enough juice to get home.


It is key to remember that electricity is dangerous, that much is obvious, and any electric vehicle works at high voltage: So no tinkering; it’s not like changing an air filter. Normal charging using the right cables is safe, come rain or shine; so don’t let that put you off. Leave any maintenance work to a professional car servicing garage that understands this technology. By and large, there being less moving parts, a BEV should cost less to service, but many basic servicing items still apply as usual, as itemised above for example.


Servicing

A hybrid vehicle, either PHEV or self-charging, driven appropriately, will add mileage benefits, but a fossil fuel, usually petrol, will still be needed. That means there is still an engine, with its many moving parts, to service as normal with oils and fluids and driving belts, and there’s also still a gearbox which also needs routine, if rare maintenance. In other words, don’t expect a hybrid to be cheaper to maintain. Balance this against lower fuel bills and reduced road tax, however.


BEV’s are different. There’s no conventional gearbox; just push and go with nothing more than a single reduction gear and differential. It’s a really simple system. Although it is conceivable that the ‘gearbox’ may need attention, commonly they are sealed for life and it’s the same with the electric motor(s), saving money on car servicing.


Conclusion

PHEV or BEV, it is understandable that people are concerned about electrical safety but there’s really nothing to worry about. Charging systems on the cars and at the wall are designed to be safe in all weathers, even outside in winter. Leave the maintenance side of things to your local car servicing and MOT garage and get to know the plus side of electric motoring.

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