I’ve heard a lot about the low-maintenance quality of electric cars but don’t they need an oil change since an oil change is usually required to maintain cars. The answer to my question took a bit of research and raised even more interesting questions.
Does an electric car need oil changes? No, electric cars do not need oil changes or oil filter changes. Actually, electric cars do not use engine oil the way gasoline and diesel engine cars do, and since there is no oil in the first place, there is no need to change the oil.
Engines in Electric Cars Are Sealed, Not Requiring Oil
The gasoline and diesel engine cars run on an internal combustion engine (ICE), and it needs engine oil for filtering out the pollutants and lubricating the moving parts. But electric cars run on motors that are greased and sealed and so they do not need any maintenance.
So there is no need to change engine oil, but electric cars might need gear-box lubrication changes, but that too after a long time. In the case of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), they do need oil changes because they have an internal combustion engine.
Electric Cars Have Less Moving Parts that Could Require Lubrication and Thus Less Maintenance
Electric cars require low maintenance as compared to conventional vehicles. They do not need as much care as conventional cars do. Electric cars are changing the dynamics of auto workshops as they can solve their problems on their own.
The computer inside an electric car is the brain and the heart, everything is dependent on it; from the sensors to the motors, everything. Unlike old electric cars, modern electric cars are designed with intelligent self-diagnostic systems that are capable of fixing software problems and even updating their systems via the internet.
On average, a gasoline or diesel engine car user spends $500-1000 annually on car maintenance, and a significant portion is spent on engine oil and filter change. But in the case of electric cars, almost no maintenance is required as compared to gasoline and diesel engine cars. However, electric cars are not entirely maintenance-free; they do need minor maintenance.
But Tesla aims to produce electric cars that will need no maintenance at all. Tesla’s vision is to introduce electric cars that are both cheaper to maintain and are environment-friendly. However, that is going to take time, and we might experience such advancements in the late 2030s.
Why is Engine Oil Used in Cars?
To understand why electric cars do not need engine oil, first, you need to understand the purpose of engine oil. Engine oil is used in internal combustion engine cars such as gasoline and diesel engine cars. The oil is used inside a car’s engine is for lubrication, cooling, and removal of contaminants. There are several moving parts such as piston rings, bearings, and friction waste inside a car’s engine that need to be lubricated for minimizing friction.
The friction waste is a product of metallic parts rubs due to friction. When engine oil circulates inside the engine, the friction waste flows to the oil filter and is removed. The rapid sliding of pistons and the pressurized hot gas trap between the cylinder and the piston elevates engine temperature.
The piston ring inside a gasoline engine can exceed 160 °C, and the piston ring in a diesel engine can exceed 315 °C temperature in the absence of engine oil. Without lubrication, the friction cannot be reduced, and the engine is vulnerable to excessive heating and degradation of engine parts.
Apart from the friction waste, engine oil also removes the dirt particles that reach inside the engine. This is why the oil eventually starts changing its color and smells different. When the engine oil is changed, all the contaminations are removed with the oil.
Engine oil also works as a coolant for the engine. It creates a layer between the moving parts and minimizes their direct contact, which helps in maintaining the correct temperature inside the engine.
Furthermore, when the kinetic energy of moving parts is converted into heat, the loss of energy reduces the fuel economy. If engine oil is not used, the piston rings, bearings, and all the moving parts inside the car engine can heat up, which leads towards more friction. The more freely movable parts can move inside the engine, the higher fuel economy is, but due to friction, their movement reduces, and the engine consumes more power.
Higher power consumption leads towards more fuel usage, and accordingly, the fuel economy reduces. It is essential to change engine oil once it turns dark, full of pollutants, or a specified fraction burns away. Delaying engine oil change can lead to poor lubrication and a decline in car performance. In severe cases, it can permanently damage engine parts.
Why is Engine Oil Not Used in Electric Cars?
Unlike gasoline and diesel engine cars, electric cars run on electric motors, they do not have a gasoline engine or a diesel engine, and so they do not need engine oil at all. Apart from a few bearings and the primary motor (that runs EVs), there are no moving parts in EVs.
Fortunately, these movable parts are designed to function perfectly without the need of changing any oil. How? The EV motors and bearings are lubricated and sealed during manufacturing; The only way to change oil inside the motors is to change the motors.
But you never need to change the oil because the motors do not contaminate the oil, and the oil does not burn like in internal combustion engines. Neither the quantity reduces over time. Electric motor’s lubrication can last almost a lifetime. Since no engine oil is used in electric cars, there are no oil filters, and hence there is no need to change oil filters too.
Do Electric Cars Need Any Other Kind of Fluid Change?
Electric cars do not need engine oil changes, but some other parts need a fluid change.
The braking system in electric cars is based on regeneration technology but still. The braking system needs a fluid change. Typically, the brake fluid needs to be changed after almost every 25,000 miles.
Electric cars contain coolant fluid. You must be wondering that there is no engine in electric cars, then why do they need a coolant? Electric cars do not have an engine, but they still make lots of heat, in some cases, more than gasoline and diesel engine cars. The cooling system in electric cars regulates the temperature. Typically, the coolant fluid needs to be replaced after almost 50,000 – 150,000 miles (varies from car to car).
One Gear in Electric Cars – Sealed Fluid in Gearbox
There is only one gear in electric cars, which is responsible for regulating the RPM of the motor. The fluid is filled and sealed inside the transmission by the manufacturer. It lubricates the insides of the gearbox and ensures the smooth functioning of gears. But you do not need to worry about that either because the gearbox manufacturer-filled oil can last almost 100,000 miles sometimes even after that. There is little probability that you’ll need to change the gearbox oil.
Electric Cars Are Disrupting the Oil Industry
Electric cars are setting a new trend, and they have posed a great threat to oil companies. Over the last few years, electric car manufacturers are working on further reducing maintenance needs. Such advancements will lead to more eco-friendly car developments.
The impact of electric cars will not remain confined to petrol and gas stations; electric cars will influence a drastic fall in oil sales in the upcoming decade.
Oil companies already hate electric car manufacturers for this disruption, but the electric car industry is unstoppable, and it has stabilized. The rising global warming awareness and increasing fuel prices are already encouraging car users to shift towards electric cars. Today, electric cars have become a symbol of eco-friendly cars.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s estimate, the oil industry is about to experience a glimpse of downfall in 2020. The electric car sales will significantly boosting in the late 2020s and will initiate the downfall of oil industry.
The inclination in electric car sales during 2014-2015 was almost 60%, and Tesla has forecasted that the rate will remain almost constant for the next several years. Since the electric cars require low maintenance and no engine oil, the consumers will not have to buy engine oil frequently. Which means there will be a significant drop in engine oil sales.
Consequently, by the year 2023, the demand for motor oil will decline by almost two billion barrels a day. However, there is a difference of opinion among different research groups. But every single barrel counts; the adverse effects of an oil change on our environment are more than just reducing car maintenance.
Another study concludes that the electric car sales will not be the same due to high prices, and it will take a bit longer to reach phenomenal sales height; the decline of two billion barrels a day will occur in the year 2028. But in any case, the 2020s are going to be unfavorable for the oil industry.
According to Bloomberg’s forecast, electric car sales will surpass forty million by the year 2040, and that’s going to be devastating for the motor oil industry.
Several motor oil companies have already started shifting their business towards electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. This is a clear evidence of declining motor oil usage in the future.
The decrease in Engine Oil Changes; A Step Towards a Greener Future
The reduction of engine oil change due to electric cars is a step towards a green future. With the rising trend of electric cars, the need for engine oil changes is also declining, and it is beneficial for our environment.
How? Used motor oil is contaminated and carries toxic substances; used motor oil is a serious threat to nature. Just one gallon of used oil is enough to contaminate millions of drinkable water gallons. Imagine how much engine oil is being used in internal combustion engine cars and its impact on our environment.
Not only the toxic substances found in used motor oil contaminate the environment, but they are a serious threat to life on Earth. According to research, the toxicants found in used motor oil can also cause cancer. Although the effects of used oil can be minimized by recycling and proper disposal but still, every fraction of wast oil contributes to pollution.
Evidently, electric cars are playing a vital role in reducing pollution caused by the automobile industry, and it is expected to enhance with the rise in electric car sales. Ultimately, the need to change engine oil will reduce, and as a result, there will be less used oil, which means less pollution.
Although electric cars still need a change of other lubricants, but a lot of research is being conducted, and hopefully, in some years, the pollution caused by electric cars will be minimized.