EV vs ICE Maintenance – The First 100,000 miles


Maytag or EV serviceman?

Maytag or EV serviceman?

If you drive an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and have a service file, take it out for comparison. If you own an ICE and don’t have a service file, you should start one, for you will be shocked with how much time and effort you really spend on your vehicle. You may find the service costs found here higher or lower. They are listed as a reminder of how often you require service. The more expensive your auto, the more the manufacturer or dealer pads the service charges. Still, you have to endure these regular maintenance issues.


Tires are the common denominator between both types of vehicles. The recommended rotation is every 7500 miles. Hence you will have 13 scheduled trips to your mechanic in the first 100,000


Check the fluids!

Oil change

I love this job

I love this job

ICE: The frequency of oil changes vary from person to person and manufacturer. The number used to be 3000 miles.  If you change every 5000, that will be 20 scheduled visits out of your daily routine and about $400-$800.

EV: No thanks!

Automatic transmission fluid

ICE: This is generally recommended to be changed at 100,000. Depending on whether you flush the system and change the filter or just add fluid, you will spend between $30-$100

EV: No thanks


ICE: Generally this will last for 150,000 before recommended change, but you DO have to keep a check on it throughout the life of the ICE for you can do considerable engine damage if you let it run hot.

EV: If you have a thermal management system on your battery, you will have a similar check.


400 visits isn't that bad

400 visits isn’t that bad

ICE: The frequency with which a person fills their ICE varies. The norm is generally once per week. If this is your pattern, and you are driving the national average of 12,750 miles per year, then you have invested FOUR HUNDRED TRIPS to the gas station in your first 100,000 miles. For the lucky, the trip is on their normal route, for others, four hundred special trips. I call that heavy maintenance! 100,000 miles @ $3.50/gal and avg of 28 miles/gal costs $12,500.  Calculate your own

EV: You have plugged and unplugged daily for eight years normally taking 3-5 seconds. The difference being 90 percent are done at the convenience of your home, not investing in an additional four hundred visits to the pump. Average cost 3.5 cents/mile $3500. Check out what EV drivers say about this.    

Spark Plugs and wires

ICE:  Generally recommended in the first 100,000. Cost DIY $60 Shop $200.

EV: No thanks!


Muffler and a tail pipe

Muffler and a tail pipe

ICE: Location and driving distance are just a few issues that will determine the life of your muffler.  Short distances do not give time for condensation to dry out thus shortening the life unless it is stainless steel. It is also a high probability that you have to replace more than just the muffler. Generally $100-$250

EV: No thanks.


ICE: Depending on your vehicle and driving style, you will probably have at least 2 trips to your mechanic in the first 100,000. Will budget $200 per visit so call it $400

EV:  The regenerative brakes will cut your visits to the mechanic in half. Still we will plan on one visit in the first 100,000. Costs $200


The big 100,000 mile maintenance



ICE: Timing belts are recommended every 60,000-100,000 with most ICEs not equipped with timing chains. In fact, most recommend that you go ahead and replace the water pump while you are at it. Most service centers will charge for the pump only since the labor is already invested in the timing belt. Cost $600- $800 for the timing belt only. $900- $1100 for both.

Other possible expenses that the ICE can encounter in the first 100,000 include a catalytic converter and automatic transmission as some of the more expensive possibilities.


Leaf Battery replacement

Refurbished 23kWh battery for $5500

EV: The big “potential” cost is the battery replacement. At 100,000 miles, your battery may have lost up to 20% of its range, though studies from the American Chemical society predict well managed batteries may last up to twenty years. Unlike the timing belt, you are not running the risk of damaging your vehicle by continuing to drive, so many may continue to drive without this expense. The initial cost in 2012 was around $500-$600/kWh. Studies show this cost could drop to $150-$250/kWh in the next 5-8 years which happens to be the warranty period for most EV battery systems. Already 2013 is showing some packs at 400/kWh.

Some batteries are designed in such a manner as to replace modules opposed to the entire pack which will generally be the better OEM solution. This has allowed some 24kWh OEM refurbished packs to be offered for $5500 or $240/kWh with a core charge.  Parity has arrived. 

Ease of installation also matters. GM and Nissan are able to offer low labor rates due to their easy access.  You should be aware of the installation labor cost before making a purchase.  This price is based on the design, not the future cost of the battery.

It is still too early to realize the aftermarket pricing but this is sure to follow. With a large number of early adopters also investing in solar, it is likely that they may keep their old battery as a future solar home battery back up if core values are too small.

Also for the EV with a renewed battery solution, you effectively have hit the reset button for the next 100,000. Not the case for the ICE. The mechanical components of the ICE continue to wear and are now subject to the same continual maintenance as well as at least one major service call on the way to 200,000 miles.  But this is not the largest looming cost. At this point, we are 10-15 years into rising gas and lowering battery cost . By this time, rising gas and lowering battery costs, have almost certainly made the ICE a relic on the road to 200,000 miles.

Now you might think that I am implying that the EV is unbreakable. This obviously with anything mechanical is not the case. I am first and foremost pointing out the huge imbalance in regular maintenance. I made mention of possible failures with the ICE like the automatic transmission. I challenge you once again to review your own ICE service file to better understand the extra cost you may have been trying to forget.

You will have similar possibilities with the EV with anything in the electrical system from inverters to  rectifiers. One major difference being that in most good EV warranties, the electrical system is covered for the first 100,000 miles, which is the emphasis of this piece. So if you are considering your first EV, make sure to ask for a specific breakdown of what is covered in their warranty.  Though nothing is maintenance free, I think you will find a huge imbalance in favor of the EV.

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24 Comments on "EV vs ICE Maintenance – The First 100,000 miles"

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You can also add a Volt EREV on this as well that is like a BEV for the 1st 40 miles regardless of the speed or acceleration. A great transition vehicle to future 300+ miles EVs.

For comparison in two years I have 25,000 miles on my Volt and 20,000 of those have been EV/electric_only miles. So that means I put 5,000 miles on the gas_engine/ICE in 2 years or 2,500 per year. So very little wear and tear on all those components (spark plugs, oil, etc). And of course, VERY little GAS usage.

Oil needs to be changed every 2 years based on age. I’m at 55% oil life. So I will need 4 oil changes over 100,000 miles at my current rate.

Same limited brake changes on the Volt because of the aggressive regen braking.

The Volt is a PHEV, not an EREV. There is a direct connection from the ICE engine to the wheels.

Mr. Hovis,

Very well done Ice Vrs EV long term maintenance costs comparison . You, sir have done your homework!


Thomas J. Thias

The Amazing Chevy Volt EREV – Facts Guy

Facts guy? The Volt is a PHEV, not an EREV. There is a direct connection from the ICE engine to the wheels.

great article Mark. These are the kinds of things that need quantifiing. Usually when we see cost comparisons, we only see the fuel savings of electric vs gas. However, my guess is that all that you have outlined above amount to some VERY large numbers.

You should put some numbers together!!

The interesting part is running the EV to 200000 or 300000 miles with only a battery change every 100000 miles.

Soon we shall have some data. My guess is that the Volt battery will go way past 100000 miles.

So adding up the costs, there is an edge to the EV.

I think there is also the chance that and EV will need some maintenance with the motor. Based upon design, bearings and brushes.

We also don’t know the life expectancy of electric heaters, controllers, rectifiers and ac units.

BTW, many a Prius owner has cussed about rectifiers not under warranty.

While good news for owners, this is not good news to a dealer’s service cost center. That said, I’m counting on minimal maintenance contributing to low cost of ownership to offset the higher purchase price for EVs.

With one exception, this article gives a reasonable assessment of comparative operating costs ICE v EV. The core element as we all know is the battery, and the comparison here does not really cover the challenges of getting at the pack in most (current) vehicles – time is always money so in order to mitigate cost,this is a key area to scope in vehicle design. That, or just make it a switchable battery a la Fluence… Incidentally, I worked alongside a number of major fleet players who were operating EV Fleets in Europe 2007-11 (Modec BEV) so I have invaluable first-hand experience.

I miss watching the commercials of the “old” Maytag Repairman

Completely proves why Nissan LEAFs and Tesla Model S make so much more sense in the long run.

No exhaust, spark, fluid (etc.) issues to ever deal with, let alone the many trips and line ups at the local gas pumps!

Mark enjoyed the article. Many who have never owned an EV are skeptical of potential savings. And in general it is probably fair to say most Americans do not make purchases based on potential savings over a decade or longer. Heck many of our CEOs don’t really make decisions predicated on such “long” terms, and is a prominent reason why industry after industry in this country has stumbled and ultimately given way to foreign competition. 28 MPG is perhaps a good middle ground number, but people should adjust based on their actual vehicles. There are many calculator out there to do this. Here is a very good one. http://www.befrugal.com/tools/electric-car-calculator/ In my own case the savings were around $3000 per year. You ticked off the items that you absolutely WILL HAVE to address, but as anyone who owns an ICE for a longer time knows, there are many things on an engine that can and do fail. Seemingly minor items can cost you a big chunk of cheese because of the labor involved to change them. Just recently had to change a leaking Oil Cam Plug on my Honda Odyssey, $467 later we are out the door. Most of that was… Read more »

Sorry no timing belt on my Nissan 370Z, timing chain, exhaust is stainless, no maintenance. Seven speed AT downshifts itself at stops so it’s almost as good as regenerative breaking.
Oil changes are $5 for five years every 3000 miles from the dealer.
Fuel cost? If I couldn’t live with it I wouldn’t have bought the car.
A Nissan 370Z fun to drive? PRICELESS!

I would allow your nissan 370z to replace an electric vehiclr if you plumb the exhaut pipe back into the cabin and into your mouth. Else, it is just as bad as any ICE vehicle.

Nice to hear your time isn’t worth anything. Oil changes take time, especially at a dealership.

You would think I wouldn’t need my calculator to tally up the totals in a comparison article… Maybe a recap at the bottom?