Are Electric Cars More Reliable Than Gas Cars?


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The number of electric cars on the road is projected to reach just under 20 million by 2030. Electric cars appear to be taking over the road. But many who are considering electric cars are still questioning their reliability.

In general, electric cars are more reliable than gas cars in terms of engine failure. Electric cars have more reliable motors than gas cars because electric cars have far fewer moving parts than a gas engine.

The question of vehicle reliability is always there when you buy a new car. I will explain why electric cars are more reliable than gas cars. It is one of the main reasons I decided to go electric.

Electric Cars Are Simpler Machines

While many electric cars look like they vroomed out of a science fiction movie, they are surprisingly simple machines. They were being developed right next to gas-powered cars in the late 1800s.

The only part that moves in an electric car is the motor. Meanwhile, a gas-powered car has hundreds of moving parts. That means all the moving parts in a gas-powered engine need to work in concert to work properly. If one of these parts is not working properly, the engine’s quality of output would decrease or even lead to engine failure.

For this reason, a gas-powered car needs almost constant maintenance, including:

  • Filter changes
  • Belt fixes or readjustments
  • Oil changes
  • Tune-ups
  • Part replacement.

A gas-powered engine can last 200,000 miles or at the median mileage of 13,500 miles a year, just under 15 years, if it is maintained.

An electric car motor may be simpler than a gas-powered engine, but it is still a complex machine with many moving parts that depend on each other. Therefore, many factors can affect the quality of the electric car motor:

  • Fluctuations of charging power (short-circuits)
  • Weather and heating
  • Vibrations
  • Particles
  • Power usage.

Improper usage of an electric vehicle can lower the life of your car’s electric motor, sometimes even significantly.

An electric motor can easily last 15-20 years, but that depends on how well the motor is maintained and how well the car is treated. Compared to the barely less than 15 years of a gas-powered engine, that is hardly an improvement. 

Why Are Electric Cars Considered More Reliable?

An electric motor should last only a little longer than a gas-powered engine, and the battery has a life that is variable. So why are electric cars considered more reliable? The answer is that electric vehicles require considerably less frequent maintenance.

A gas-powered engine may have a lifespan almost equal to that of an electric motor. But if you do not change the oil on a regular basis nor give it a tune-up from time to time, its lifetime will not even come close to an electric motor. 

You do not need to perform the same maintenance for an electric vehicle that you do for a gas-powered vehicle. While these are not the largest costs for owning a vehicle, they do add up. Electric vehicle owners claim that they save $1,000 in maintenance for their first 5 years.

That makes sense because the top ten vehicle maintenance are as follows according to PR Newswire:

  1. Oil/oil filter changed
  2. Wiper blades replaced
  3. Air filter replaced
  4. Scheduled maintenance (including annual inspections)
  5. Tires replaced
  6. Battery replaced (12 volt)
  7. Brakes maintained
  8. Fluids changed
  9. Engine tuned-up
  10. Wheels aligned/balanced.

With electric vehicles, we can eliminate 1), 3), 9). We can lower 6), 7), 8). However, an electric vehicle will still need to be maintained at least once a year.

In addition, you may come across new issues with electric vehicles. For instance, electric vehicles utilize a more complicated regenerative braking system. You may face issues with this braking system that is more complex than replacing a brake pad.

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Will the Battery Be Reliable?

Unfortunately, the largest limiting factor to the reliability of an electric car is the battery. Despite some advancements in battery technology, the most advanced batteries require 100 times the volume of energy cells to have the same energy as gasoline or any other fuel. That is why electric cars require very large batteries that weigh over 1,000 pounds.

Even with such a large battery, an electric car can only travel so far with maximum ranges of only maybe a few hundred miles.

To top that all off, you need to charge the battery for a very long time. It can take several hours to charge your car for a couple of hours of driving (tops) meanwhile, a gas-powered car takes a few minutes to refuel.

Since the battery is incredibly large, replacing the battery will not be the same as replacing the battery in a gas-powered car. The battery of a gas-powered car is a box that can easily fit under the hood of your car right next to the engine. The battery of an electric car is a considerable fraction of the weight of your electric car. You will not be able to change this battery yourself.

If you do need to change the battery, that is a hefty cost. It can cost tens of thousands to replace the car battery. The reason is that the battery itself is 57% of the electric car’s production value.

However, you do not need to worry much about changing the battery of your electric vehicle. Many people report that a car battery will last 10-20 years under normal circumstances. 

Despite this, the car battery takes up the entire area of the car itself. That means that damaging the car usually means damaging the battery. You better be sure not to get your electric car in a fender bender or worse; otherwise, the damage may require a repair or even battery replacement.  

Aside from these issues, there are few issues with the battery’s performance or the lifespan of the circuitry if the car is well maintained. Unfortunately, loss of power or range of the battery charge is common when it comes to electric vehicles.

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Brakes Will Be Used Less on an Electric Car

Many electric vehicles do not utilize brake pads like most gas-powered cars. Instead, they utilize regenerative braking for most of their braking. Instead of wasting a brake pad as you would with a gas-powered car, an electric car harnesses the energy from the friction to recharge the electric car’s battery. This only works for light braking. 

While that sounds like an amazing feature by itself, it also cuts the use of a brake pad. For electric vehicles, you only need to use your brake pads for heavy braking, so your brake pads will last longer with an electric vehicle.  

Reliability and Savings with Electric

While electric motors and gas-powered engines can last almost the same time, an electric motor just does not require the same attention; you must provide a gas-powered engine. That can be money you save and less you need to worry about. 

In addition, electric vehicles do not need as much done on brakes as gas-powered cars, a good feature that very few mention.

Electric Batteries Last Longer 

You will not go as far with current electric car batteries as you will with gas-powered cars. Many companies and innovators are working on that; some electric cars have a range exceeding 300 miles. Luckily, these same companies and innovators do not need to work too much on the battery life; these batteries are already designed to last longer than almost any other battery.

Takeaways on the Reliability of Electric Cars 

Altogether, if you can deal with the shorter range and the requirements to charge an electric vehicle, you will be surprised by the lack of maintenance and problems you will have with your car. Just be sure to check the quality of the battery before you buy your car. If you have that problem, it can easily evaporate any advantage in reliability you were looking for.

Photo by Christopher Windus on Unsplash

Jordan Fromholz

I'm an electric car owner, enthusiast, and founder of the Plugin Report. As a Chemical Engineer with over 14-years in the energy industry, I've made my passions be renewable energy, batteries, and electric cars. My family lives on Maui where we drive our 2017 Nissan Leaf and share everything there is to know about electric cars.

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