Do electric cars use oil?

Do electric cars use oil? Yes – but not engine oil as we are used to it in a combustion engine. Electric cars use oil in their reduction gearboxes, which could need an oil change depending on the mileage you do (AA). Also, depending on the car manufacturer, they may use oil in the engine as a cooling mechanism (CNBC).

Where do electric cars use oil?

Electric cars have different drivetrains than fuelled cars (KIA). EVs have a single speed transmission that sends the power from the engine directly to the wheels. 

Standard gas cars have lots of moving parts in their combustion engines; pistons and valves in the cylinder head and the crankshaft. The combustion engine has thousands of parts, as many as two thousand. These parts need oil to reduce friction. Tiny metal flakes build up in the oil, necessitating an oil change. By contrast, the drive frame in an electric car might have as few as twenty parts (Savage Scotty).

Do electric cars use oil in the gearbox?

No metal flakes enforce a change of oil on an electric car but they still need a transmission to manage the rotational force. A combustion engine operates within a band of rotation speeds (Current Automotive). Too slow and the engine cuts out or stalls, too fast and the engine is damaged. The ideal powerband is different for each car but is usually between 800-7000 RPMs (rotations per minute). 

Gears manage the ratio between engine and wheels to keep the car within the required powerband. Each gear ratio only manages a certain speed range, so we need different gears for each speed range. E.g. one gear for 0-20, 20-40, etc. That’s why you stall when you are in the wrong gear in a manual transmission car.

An electric car usually has an automatic transmission with only one gear. EVs have no clutch and just brake & accelerator pedals, just like an automatic. There are a few EVs that have more than one gear, like the Porsche Taycan. Having more gears allows for greater efficiency and potentially extended battery life and range. But most electric vehicles are single speed systems. Single speed systems offer the benefit of no gear changes, so a very smooth drive. Do electric cars use oil in the gearbox and transmission? Yes, as there is still a gear reducer and that requires oil but EVs are unlikely to need an oil change.

Some electric cars use oil in their engines too. The oil is used as a cooling mechanism. Lubricant manufacturers, like Total Lubrifiants are developing new thermal management fluids for electric vehicles that will contribute to faster charging and stronger acceleration, increasing range and improving safety. They’ll protect coils from corrosion and prevent short circuits. 

Other places where electric cars use oil include wheel bearings, central locking and air conditioning (TopSpeed). So, yes, electric cars use oil in some parts.

What are the hidden costs of owning an electric car? 

The maintenance costs of your electric car will depend on the type. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) will be similar to a standard combustion engine, because you are maintaining both electric power and an internal combustion engine in a hybrid (U.S. Department of Energy). 

In an all electric vehicle, or BEV (battery electric vehicle) you don’t need to worry about changing spark plugs, blowing a cylinder head gasket, oil changes or timing belt adjustments. EVs will need a regular service to cover air filters, brakes and air conditioning. The parts of an electric car that need the most maintenance are the battery and the tyres, like a petrol or diesel car (AA). 

Tire wear on an electric car will be the same as a conventional car. If you drive at high speeds or in rough terrain, you will wear through the tires quicker than if you drive at moderate speeds on good roads. 

The batteries on an electric vehicle will last ten years on average but their life span is increased or decreased by extreme weather and over or undercharging the EV. Currently, batteries last between 100k-200k miles, but General Motors is ‘almost there’ on developing a battery that will last for a million miles (Reuters). Some manufacturers offer an 8 year or 100,000 mile guarantee on the battery (U.S. Department of Energy). An electric vehicle battery, which is not the same as the battery in your standard gas car now, costs as much as the car itself. Although battery prices are dropping year on year and batteries are becoming more efficient. 

Lithium ion batteries with iron and phosphate batteries are three times as efficient and are cheaper than Lithium ion batteries with nickel and cobalt. Tesla, Ford and VW have all made announcements that they will be swapping to iron/phosphate batteries. There are concerns over the sustainability of lithium in EV batteries but there is potential for the lithium from old electric vehicles to be recycled into new car batteries. 

Electric vehicles have regenerative braking and friction braking. What this means is that the brakes start to generate electricity, charging the battery, when the car slows down using regenerative braking. The kinetic energy of the car is used to recharge the battery. The brake fluid has to be topped on an EV, just the same as a conventional car. Plus, brake pads will need to be replaced but they should last longer than a standard gas car (Savage Scotty). 

Depending on the type, electric cars use oil in the gearbox. Officially speaking this is ‘sealed for life’ and will last the lifetime of the car, according to most internal combustion engine manufacturers, but changing the oil could increase the life expectancy – if you are planning to keep the car for years. 

Overheating is a major problem for electric vehicles and so coolant fluids are critical to ensuring the car does not overheat. EVs need a complete coolant service once every seven years. This entails draining, cleaning and refilling all the coolant lines. As with a conventional gas car, check your coolant levels regularly (battery, cabin heater and power inverter).

On average, an electric vehicle costs half the amount to maintain than a conventional combustion vehicle. This could save an owner as much as $4600 over the lifetime of the car. This is assuming no unusual issues with the battery.

Do electric cars use oil?

Do electric cars use oil? Yes, but not in the same way as engine oil is used in the conventional gas-powered vehicle or the hybrid motor. Electric cars use oil in the gearbox or transmission, but in theory, this will never need to be changed in a standard lifetime. Some electric cars use oil in the engine as a cooling mechanism for the battery and power inverter. EVs use oil in wheel bearings, climate control and central locking too.