By on February 14, 2020

Image: Lucid Motors

Marc writes:

Hi. Long-time reader, and have had a past question answered. With all the hype surrounding electrification, there is one aspect I see little discussion about — the impact on the service and parts business. If the majority of profits at a dealership comes from service and parts, what is the impact of no oil changes, etc, and the myriad of ICE parts that electric vehicles don’t have? Jiffy Lube, Aamco, Midas, all done.

The economic implications are huge. Your thoughts?

Sajeev answers:

This is where I give the standard speech that my full time corporate gig is in the auto retailing side of things, so you outta take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

Anyway, let’s be realistic about maintenance and repairs on EVs. While the likes of specialty places like Jiffy Lube shall see a contraction (or an unlikely death), Auto Dealerships/Repair shops don’t make a living on oil changes. Considering the number of $29.99/$19.99/$9.99 oil change coupons I see floating around online and in direct mail pieces, the game here is to get cars in the service bays to look for problems (via free multi-point inspection) while the oil drains out/tires get rotated.

Taking a scope to the brake calipers (measuring pad thickness), checking for play in suspension bits, looking for leaks, etc, is where you make the profits that keep the lights on. This will not change if/when EVs dominate the market, because most EVs possess cooling systems that are complicated works of art and require periodic attention. From the Tesla forums, the Model S recommends annual servicing to the tune of $600, though commentator Rocky_H notes, “the (required) 2 year service is $700 and the 4 year service is $900, and then the cycle repeats.” That post has another gem from dd.micsol:

“This is very high maint costs if you think about it. If you get a new ICE you won’t do anything but oil changes for the first 3 yrs. So about 5 oil changes or about 150 bucks.”

He’s got a point, irrelevant if people actually embraced the low maintenance, air-cooled Nissan Leaf. But nobody(ish) in North America wants a practical EV, so forget it! On to the next point: suspension wear.

Electric cars are oh-so-heavy, often run on big wheels with low profile tires, and our infrastructure is generally crummy and motorists rarely avoid every bump in the road.  Peep these curb weights:

  • 2020 Nissan Leaf: 3,538 – 3,946 lbs
  • 2020 Chevy Bolt: 3,563 lbs
  • 2020 Nissan Sentra: 3,045 – 3,084 lbs
  • 2020 Audi E-Tron: 5,754 lbs
  • 2020 Porsche Taycan: 4,777 to 5,132 lbs
  • 2020 Tesla Model S: 4,883 to 4,941 lbs
  • 2020 Mercedes S-class: 4,553 to 5,296 lbs
  • 2011 Lincoln Town Car: 4,352 to 4,467 lbs 

You’d be forgiven for thinking the Town Car’s high center of gravity (among other things) make it feel much heavier than a Model S. It’s a safe bet that inertia-laden Teslas have more R&D money invested in a (relatively) featherweight suspension with low amounts of unsprung weight. Both the Model S and 3 handle so amazingly well for their sizes, they must have a light suspension relative to their gross vehicle weight rating (which is nearly 6,000 lbs)!

Because you can’t have a tough suspension that handles like a race car…you gotta pick one!

Since Tesla is leading the charge (sorry) on North American electrification, odds are they know the truth about suspension design for an electrified chassis. We will never know their truth, but it’s fair to note Tesla’s history of denying suspension problems when customers drive their luxury barges on bad roads, break stuff, and sometimes make owners sign confidentiality agreements. If it allegedly happened to a Hollywood star, it can theoretically happen to anyone, right?

What’s the point? Once more automakers/people get on the EV bandwagon, more data will likely show that EVs need mechanical attention in the aforementioned ways, and many shall be pricey. So mechanics and dealerships shall still win, because the multi-point inspection shall save some bacon.

[Image: Lucid Motors]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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116 Comments on “Piston Slap: Will EVs Bankrupt Mechanics, Dealerships?...”


  • avatar
    redapple

    Electric cars are evil.
    Nothing wrong with GAS cars.
    Adjusted for inflation, gas is the same as 1960s.
    Factor in Average MPG is 2x what it was then, gas is 50% less monthly expense.
    Man Made Climate change is BS. Vladivostok Ice Core Sample Study.
    I will NEVER have an electric POS !!!

    • 0 avatar
      Vanillasludge

      Ha! Good one. My Grandpa refused to drive cars when the throttle moved off the steering column. They just didn’t make em like they used to.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “Electric cars are evil.”

      OK Boomer.

      • 0 avatar
        Master Baiter

        “OK Boomer.”

        OK Doomer.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        It is not wise to display in public your shallow reasoning by writing stupid things like “OK boomer”.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          But surely any and all complaints about “Millennials” are fair game right? Those only show the depth of wisdom and reasoning that comes with advanced age?

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Would the Boomers and Millennials both please give it a freaking rest…you both suck equally.

            -Gen X

          • 0 avatar
            Cactuar

            No, they’re both stupid for saying things like Mellenials or OK Boomer. Putting everyone of an age group into the same basket is unreasonable no matter who does it.

            ps: the commenting system of this site is still poor at best

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            n.b. the vast majority of the time, my use of “OK Boomer” is tongue-in-cheek or a mild troll. the latter because it works ;)

        • 0 avatar
          bkojote

          Ok Boomer.

          • 0 avatar
            2manycars

            Bring it on, snowflake. What’ve you got? (The truth of course is you’ve got nothing but a stupid saying.)

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            funny how Boomers sneer at “snowflakes,” but bring up something like Colin Kaepernick and they go into instant meltdown mode.

            physicians, heal thyselves.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          …It is not wise to display in public your shallow reasoning by writing stupid things like “OK boomer”…

          Well, that was in response to a remarkably stupid post by redapple so whats good for the goose is also good for the gander…

          As for longer life and lower service requirements, have no fear. The manufacturers will find ways of reducing lifespan. Just look at the lifespan of LED lighting. Early examples had lifespan ratings of 50K or more hours. Today those same manufacturers have lamps with lifespans of 15k hours. At least they also have lower prices.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Even if your tinfoil hat is adjusted properly to prevent the slightest hint of climate science from reaching your brain, electric cars are awesome.

      Instant response and torque.
      Frunks (and generally excellent packaging).
      Low center of gravity from underfloor battery.
      Quiet.
      No cold-start stink and no worries about CO in enclosed spaces.
      Regenerative braking makes friction brakes last basically forever.
      No time lost to gas station visits.
      Much less maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      Ok redapple, I’ll get off your lawn.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      It’s funny how so many people think that generations (a flawed concept, at best) are monolithic in their outlook.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Cars will always need service and repairs, and it doesn’t matter what kind of engines they have. Mechanics will either adapt or find something else to do.

    Change is part of economic reality.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I’d say the vast majority of the work I’ve had to do on my (aging) truck has been suspension related. And seeing as how we’re collectively OK with the idea of paying hundreds/thousands out of pocket to get our cars repaired rather than making sure road maintenance is funded sufficiently, I don’t see EVs changing that.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        A lot of people don’t bother with those suspension repairs, and if there is no safety inspection, they run them until it, or something else, fails. My father in law owned his own repair facility. He would inform the owner of the 5 series or other expensive vehicles that the struts/shocks were toast and needed replacement. Most chose to drive them without the repairs.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Piston Slap: Will EVs Bankrupt Mechanics, Dealerships?

    Manufacturers

    VW especially seems to be reeling from one disaster to another

  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    Don’t worry, they will recoup the lost oil change income with nitrogen tire packages and ev “coolant” top offs.

  • avatar
    probert

    Yes – a lot of people will be hurting when the EV dominates. 1 moving part, regenerative braking etc.. Other industries will rise. For example: Right now there are companies re-using EV batteries that are no longer suitable for transportation – for wall energy storage units.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Ironically the last time I heard the “Dude, it has like 3 moving parts…what could go wrong” refrain was from a frienf buying a used wankel powered RX-7. I pulled it home behind my Ranger on multiple occasions.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      So the wheels don’t move on an EV, and neither do the axles or anything in the transmission? How about the windows, seats, wipers ect?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I LOL every time someone says this. It’s still a CAR. It still has HVAC, window regulators, suspension, CV joints (unless wheelmotors become a thing), electronic modules, headliners, seats, sunroofs, all the other crap besides the ICE that is what actually gives you FITS as a car ages. With rare exception, you change the oil in the motor once in a while and that is about it for most non-high performance cars.

      Anyone who thinks that the “electric motor drivetrain never fails” has obviously not known anyone who has owned a Tesla.

      And even at that – it is going to be DECADES before EVs are a particularly large presence on American roads. The vast majority of Americans can’t afford new cars to start with, never mind expensive EVs.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I feel, this is gonna be disaster for repair industry. Forget suspension.
      Cars services included timing belt changes, sparkplugs, engine/transmission flush, exhaust work (Meineke/Midas), transmission rebuild (all the transmission places).
      Also
      Purolator will lose filter business. Bunch of engine chemicals and engine repair supplies will be gone.

      All those tuneup shops that install chips, exhausts, intakes, etc. will hurt. etc.

  • avatar
    Jon

    “the game here is to get cars in the service bays to look for problems”

    Sajeev speaks truth. One of my main responsibilities as a technician was to teach the lube techs how to inspect cars and what to look for on each model that came through the lube rack. The inspections suddenly became much more thorough when i convinced the service manager to incentivise the inspections for the lube techs. Paying small bonuses ($2/hour for maintenance and $5/hr of repairs) to the lube techs was a small price to pay for tens of thousand of monthly dollars in customer pay work.

  • avatar

    There simply won’t be enough sold for the next 20 years to make much of a difference. Right now EV’s have about 1% of the market, and half of that number belongs to Tesla. Besides, most are buying a Tesla because of its brand name not because it is an electric vehicle. Tesla is a brand cult much like Apple.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      Please stop with the Apple cult BS. It’s not 1985 anymore.

      Go compare the performance of their CPUs, screens, software update support and customer satisfaction to any Android maker. Their products are superior; I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings because you can’t afford an iPhone or a Mac.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “Their products are superior; I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings because you can’t afford an iPhone or a Mac.”

        Whew. Definitely killing Apple fan stereotypes.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “Their products are superior; I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings because you can’t afford an iPhone or a Mac.”

        I’ll be crying into all 32 cores of my AMD Threadripper based system. I tried to see what an equivelent iMac would go for, but they don’t make one that powerful. The less powerful Mac does cost considerably more however. But hey, you get Mac OS. Of course mine boots Windows or Linux, both of which I can run a Mac VM in probably faster than 90 percent of Mac hardware can. But hey, enjoy those “superior” Radeon graphics though…assuming your “superior” Mac has a discrete GPU. Odds are it doesn’t though.

        I do like their phones, but I travel enough and like music so the DAC is important to me. My LG can push an 80 ohm headset. My wife’s iPhone has nowhere to plug that headset in. I would buy an iPhone though were it not for that as I prefer iOS to Android.

        But yeah, superior hardware…Mac? Really? If you were going to partner up with AMD you should have gotten there CPU’s…The GPU’s they source for Macs are hot smelly garbage. They don’t offer anything on the level of the last gen top tier Nvidia cards…let alone my 2080ti. But hey, enjoy paying more.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        MB, True, it’s not 1985 anymore and Windows is no longer the trash heap it once was either.

        I’m a Mac user and have been for over 15 years, but let’s call a duck a duck – Apple’s philosophy on addressing their engineering, design and manufacturing mistakes is similar to how the Houston Astros have dealt with their recent challenges or how VW handled dieselgate. Deflect blame. Don’t accept responsibility.

        Need more proof? Go look online to see the stance Apple takes toward right to repair. Apple has no integrity.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        BTW, my 40 year old IBM model F keyboard works great…how’s your Mac’s Butterfly?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Go compare the prices for that superiority, and ponder whether the average user has any need of any of it. It’s a cult.

        I can afford whatever I darned well please to use, and as an IT professional I am quite agnostic when it comes to computers (I am equally conversant with Windows, Linux, and MacOS), and I *rarely* see the value proposition of Apple products. They have a few very niche products like the latest fancy pro monitor that actually are good deals, but for the most part, their products are *insanely* overpriced for the typical use case. And their laptops are horrifically unreliable. Hilariously so with the keyboard issues of the past couple generations.

        Anyone who thinks there is any significant difference in capability between what IOS can do and what Android can do at this point is delusional. If anything, the far more locked-down walled garden nature of IOS makes it far more limited in capability. Safer for the uninformed, but limited for those of us who actually know what we are doing (at least most of the time). I buy iPhones for my Mother, because she is clueless. But usually at least two generations behind, when the price approaches sanity.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @krhodes: “(I am equally conversant with Windows, Linux, and MacOS), and I *rarely* see the value proposition of Apple products.”
          — This statement gives the lie to the leading half of that sentence, “… and as an IT professional I am quite agnostic when it comes to computers.” Clearly you are not agnostic when you make such a statement as that. Your bias is especially telling with the following sentence: “They have a few very niche products…but for the most part, their products are *insanely* overpriced for the typical use case.” You may consider them overpriced but you are obviously not agnostic if you believe what you said.

          Even when I couldn’t afford whatever I want, I chose Apple products over any other–including self-built Windows-using PCs–because they were more reliable for the price. I will also point out that my first Mac was a 10-year-old Mac Plus onto which I attached a 4KB hard drive back in ’94. Extremely reliable and wasn’t replaced even then for over five years–with another and much newer Mac simply because it was so reliable compared to any Windows PC I had ever used. This isn’t to say all Mac are perfect but rather that your viewpoint is as biased as I know you will claim of mine.

          I’ve used both Microsoft OSes and Apple OS machines side by side for now over 40 years and the Apple has always proven itself more reliable–with the occasional ‘lemon’. However, those ‘lemons’ were the obvious exception when you understand what Apple did–and does–to make them that reliable. Understanding the different brands down to the circuit board component levels can clearly demonstrate the differences–where most brands use 5% or even 10% component tolerances and Apple buys 1%-2% components.

          Ok, so this has little relevance when talking about cars but it does have relevance when you’re talking about the buyers and users of those respective technologies. There’s an old saying that starts with, “You Get What You Pay For.” What most people have forgotten is that it ends with: “You Pay For What You Get.” Think about it.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Honestly, I use Windows and Linux on my desktop and laptop, respectively, but have an iPhone as my mobile. Why? because Apple supports their iDevices with OS and software updates far, far longer than most Android handset manufacturers. If you buy an Android device, you pretty much get kicked to the curb quickly. And there’s a lot of sh*tware that sneaks into the app store.

          And while I don’t “trust” any big corporation, I distrust Apple far less than I do Google. Apple has at least tried to stand up to the government’s requests to neuter their encryption. As far as Google is concerned, *you* are their product.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          You’ll need a citation for that reliability claim. Even in the butterfly keyboard era, every well-known source I can find says that Apple laptops have the best reliability record on the market by a significant margin. (They better, given that they don’t sell anything in the low end of the market.)

          Apple products are good if you care about what Apple does well (good hardware/software integration, polished UX, design, and reliability) and overpriced if you care about other things more, especially raw speed or expandability. People’s views on Apple are pretty much a reflection of their priorities for computing equipment.

          My work machine is a Lenovo laptop running Windows, and my family has several Apple laptops (including two with butterfly keyboards, neither of which has had any issues). They all work fine but I find the Apple products more satisfying to use, partly because I like macOS better and partly because, even in 2020, nobody else makes a trackpad as good as Apple’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @akear: It appears you are off by at least two years. In 2018, the global EV market share exceeded 2% of all vehicle sales, which means the number was likely closer to 4% at the end of 2019, not 1%. https://www.virta.global/global-electric-vehicle-market

      While I do expect growth to slow somewhat simply due to capacity limitations in battery manufacturing, I think we can still say that EVs will continue growth to double about every 3-4 years, which would put the EV market at 8% by 2023, 16% by 2027, 32% by 2031 and 64% by 2035. If battery manufacturing capacity grows concurrently, we could reach that 64% earlier, at which point the bell curve will start dropping off as ICE retains certain specialty-vehicle markets.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      What about us flip phone users? Do we get a cult too? G’zOne for the win!!!

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        See the price on the new Moto Razr…you guys are spending more than the iPhone crowd!

        • 0 avatar
          Jon

          youguyz??? Ive had the same phone since 2008. Replaced the battery once.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Too bad that battery will probably outlast the sunset of the 1-3G networks.

          • 0 avatar
            Jon

            Funny you bring that up. Verizon (my carrier) announced they will extend their 3g coverage until the end of 2020. Twice they have extended their 3g coverage by a year.

            I work on the automation industry. We design and upgrade alot of remote facilites (pump stations, etc.) that communicate over the 3g network. In addition to that, many EMS providers employ medical devices that communicate via the 3g network. It costs ALOT of money to upgrade all that equipment to 4g or 5g.

            3g isnt going anywhere anytime soon. There is too much critical infrastructure that uses 3g as its primary means of communication.

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      This….Right now there are roughly 17M ICE cars sold per year. Even under the most optimistic forecasts, it would take at least 20 years before EV’s capture a majority market share, starting from their current 1% of market position.

      Perhaps JiffyLube will go the way of Blockbuster someday, but that day is probably not in my lifetime.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    According to the yearly stock reports I got, service departments typically have a 50-60% profit margin and provide about 10% of the dealerships’ annual profits. The new and used car sales fluctuate, but are generally around 10% profit margin and 90% of total dealer profit.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I don’t know about that the owner of a Honda Dealership my Dad used to know has said that the service dept made up the majority of the profits, followed by used cars and then new cars.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Things may have shifted since I was in the industry, but new cars were generally break even on the car itself. You sold them, so you could have that sign in your parking lot that brought people to you and, more importantly, so you could do warranty work. Cars became more reliable, so the warranty work thing didn’t make you as much.
      Used cars made money.
      Financing is the big money maker.
      Add on’s (aka True Coat and such) made money.

      That was more than a decade ago, but I bet it’s not too far off today.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Here’s 2019 (November year-to-date) data from NADA for the average U.S. dealer – split (sort of) by New/Used/Service:

        https://www.nada.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=21474859651

        However you slice and dice it, be sure to account for the fact that “Net Profit Before Tax” is significantly *higher* than “Total Operating Profit” (this is usually the opposite for most businesses).

        [The first two pages are “Average,” then the same format repeats for “Domestic”/”Import”/”Luxury”/”Mass Market.”]

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Then there are things that are breaking like faulty touch sensitive door handles or Tesla’s more complex wiper system that will need repairs after the warranty. Some Youtubers have also needed replacement electric motors and batteries and the home chargers will not last forever, especially the way things are made today. Electric cars also still have power windows, locks, seats, electric steering, power sunshades, touch screens and infotainment systems, speakers, XM radio and some version of Onstar. And despite what the electric car crowd would have you believe the internal combustion engine and transmission are rarely the things that go south during the first 100-200k of ownership so taking those two items out of the equation really isn’t making that much difference in overall maintenance costs. It’s been 34 years since I needed an engine or transmission replaced in any of my cars and some of them have had upwards of 300K!

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      My friend just got his X back from the service department. Some sensor on the rear door had dislodged and the door wouldn’t work right. Another’s 3 had been in for some sort of headlight issue. Just a couple of days ago we had an article involving infotainment screens needing replaced.

      This is typical of the bulk of the work any new car dealership’s service department is likely to see.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      There is a middle ground between needing a new engine or transmission and needing nothing. Spark plugs, ignition coils, cooling system components, various gaskets, emissions sensors, throttle sensors, thermostats, cats, etc.

      EVs aren’t maintenance free, but they should be less hassle than an ICE. I’m curious to see what happens when today’s EVs start accumulating real mileage (150k+).

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        They should be somewhat less maintenance intensive. But the Leaf is pretty much the VW Beetle of electrics with it’s air cooled battery yet I have definitely put a radiator in one (the motor and inverter I believe are water cooled). It has an electric water pump down at the bottom on the passenger side. It has CV Joints, electronic modules and a ton of other things. Even before it was smashed it needed a pressure sensor on the AC system. Things like Spark plugs are usually 100k mile items now. The simplicity of the drivetrains are, in current electrics at least, somewhat offset by other things. Things like auto opening doors for example will keep service departments happy. Dealer service departments will be just fine I think.

        One hot discussion in the Leaf forum involved brake fluid changes. I din’t dive in but there was something about the fluid wearing early or something due to it not being used as often. I don’t know…it sounded like nonsense personally, but service departments have been known to profit on nonsense and they will continue to do so.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          My Mother’s Prius V has needed rear brake calipers due to them rusting and siezing. Salty climate plus not getting as much use – you can bet EVs will have the same issue, probably worse.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            krhodes1, that does not make sense. Hybrids often wear out their rear brakes first (all the Prius/Atlima hybrids in the company fleet did) because when you go into regen braking, the rear brakes are engaged to help maintain directional stability. So for moderate braking the fronts may not be working but the rears are. They get used all the time, unless there is a rear motor that can provide the braking in the rear…

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      Tesla doesn’t know how to build a reliable car, but that doesn’t mean EV is inherently unreliable.

      Prius (an EV with a gas engine) seems to be very reliable, so it can be done at least by Toyota.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    And when will these EV’s dominate? When batteries are cheaper and when charging faster? And when will that happen? EV’s will remains niche. ICE vehicles will continue to dominate.
    Because: physics and economics.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      I don’t know. China is pushing for a standardized battery swap mechanism. Maybe they will mandate each car with 5 battery bay and you can swap them at a gas station, with each battery having an RFID tag and internal charge monitor, then you will be paying for the electricity used and a battery deposit like how propane tank swap is done in the US?

      I think if you ask people to pay a little more for the electricity and battery usage / depreciation, and a lot less on the car, and then fast swap in 2 mins to a new pack so you can drive it 247 like most commercial vehicles, EV will be a lot more popular and it will exceed 40% market share.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    New cars typically don’t have powertrain failures and Dealerships typically don’t see the cars that are old enough to have those failures. The stuff that normally breaks (power seats, yellowing infotainment screens and things like that) still break on EV’s so yeah, I am not certain from a dealership service department perspective they are going to see all that big of a change. Tesla has service centers too after all and all of my friend’s Teslas (3) have made at least one unplanned trip in addition to scheduled maintenance (I think only one is old enough). This is the same as my F150 (2 Recalls, done at the same time…both items that could happen on an EV), and my Fiesta (one trip to meet the paintless dent removal/rim touch up dude). Again, stuff an EV could go for as well.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    Care for a comment by a mechanic? For the past 6 years I have made my living working for a government contractor managing a state safety and emissions program, teaching classes for safety and emissions inspectors, and writing content to bring certification and re-certification programs online, among “other duties as assigned.” On the side I use my 30+ years of experience as a mechanic to do everything from oil changes and brakes to engine and transmission replacements out of my home garage. I can’t wait to be out of a job, for the sake of my children and their children down the road. I love cars (why I’m on this site), but the fact that we are still motivating them by exploding a flammable liquid, to drive a piston vertically, to spin a shaft horizontally, to turn 20% of the potential energy of that liquid into forward motion is absurd when you think about it. EVs are still rich boy toys at this point (the YouTube channel Engineering Explained has an excellent piece on why the internal combustion engine isn’t going anywhere anytime soon), but it’s only a matter of time until breakthroughs in battery technology allow the technology to be viable and affordable. Maybe not in my lifetime, but it will happen. If engineers have made the modern ICE engine to have 98% less emissions than engines made in the 1960s, it’s not a stretch to think that someday battery technology may one day not depend on mining precious metals and will be many times lighter than today’s models. If that happens in my lifetime, I will gladly put my wrenches down and toss my internal engine tools, evap smoke tester, etc. and find something else do do. Who knows, I might have to actually use those degrees I have hanging on the wall and get a real job. I truly hope my children are able to laugh at what I used to do and their children give them puzzled looks when they try to explain it to them.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      “…but the fact that we are still motivating them by exploding a flammable liquid”

      It burns. Explosions create their own oxygen.

      • 0 avatar
        Yankee

        Uh, no. Explosions consume oxygen, they don’t make it. What they make is friction, heat, and emissions, which is where the other 80% of that lost potential energy goes.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          High explosives do not need oxygen to explode. Combustion requires it. Perhaps my “creates oxygen” was a misnomer.

          • 0 avatar
            Master Baiter

            “RDX is an organic compound with the formula (O2NNCH2)3. It is a white solid without smell or taste, widely used as an explosive.[2]”

            Explosives don’t need oxygen from the air, but they do carry oxygen inside the molecule itself. Anything that burns needs an oxidizer.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            explosives detonate supersonically. they’re usually made up of compounds containing lots of nitrogen atoms crammed into molecules they really don’t want to be part of. The more nitrogens you cram together- or the weirder ways you cram them together- the more amusingly loud things they do to realize their dream of turning back into a hot cloud of nitrogen gas.

            stuff like gasoline and other combustibles which don’t inherently detonate (they deflagrate) can still explode if ignited in a closed container (mixed with oxygen) via bursting of the container.

            /pedant

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “the fact that we are still motivating them by exploding a flammable liquid, to drive a piston vertically, to spin a shaft horizontally, to turn 20% of the potential energy of that liquid into forward motion is absurd when you think about it”

      It is elegant mechanical harmony. I expect there will always be hobbyists that enjoy ICE even if EVs take over as day-to-day transportation.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Of course there will be. There are still steam enthusiasts. Honestly I wish I could afford to be a steam enthusiast and daily a Doble.

        And whatever the case on explosions, the engine in your automobile burns the fuel. I have actually put COMP-B in the cylinders of an engine block before (Bored 12B’s in the Army with lots of boom and not much time until the range went cold and bits of what I assume to be a target practice M113). It blew it apart.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      It was buried in your post, but I second the Engineering Explained video. He did a follow up on that video to also address the efficiency argument. The follow up is even better than the first video. Everyone should watch both.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Back in the day we did tune ups every 12k, valve adjustments on certain cars every 12k. Brakes would last 40 – 50k tops, you needed a new muffler and tail pipe by 5 years old, here outside of the rust belt. Timing belts every 60k. Water pump with the timing belt on many, if not you did it by 90k. Many cars needed head gaskets by 75K or so. Clutches would get you to 100k most of the time but the majority of smaller cars and pickups had them.

    Most of that has gone away and mechanics and repair shops still stay in business.

  • avatar
    vvk

    What’s wrong with cars becoming appliances? Modern cars are already appliances compared to the 70s and 80s. They last longer and require far less maintenance.

    Besides, the still require some maintenance. It’s just that there is a head in the sand mentality among dealers and repair businesses. Mass migration to EVs is coming, no matter what people who have never owned an EV think. Because once you go EV, you are hooked for life.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      ” Modern cars are already appliances compared to the 70s and 80s. ”

      cars have always been appliances. The roads weren’t filled with GTOs, Chevelle SSs, ‘hemi Challengers, Boss 429s, or Road Runners/GTXs back in the ’60s and ’70s, they were filled with humdrum 6-cylinder (or small V8) Tempests, Valiants, Belvederes, etc. And buyers rapidly turned the “standard” manual transmission into not-so-standard.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      You can buy a non appliance today if you have the money. Cars were appliances back in 70s and 80s too if you can’t afford to buy a nice toy.

  • avatar
    Fleuger99

    Two things to consider which the average EV fanboy doesn’t think about. I work at ERCOT which is an organization that manages the electrical grid for the majority of Texas. In the summer when it’s 105F (38C) and everyone one has their air conditioners running we operate on a margin of only around 3% – 5%. I don’t see how our existing electrical infrastructure will handle an adoption rate of EV’s when they become the majority of vehicles. That demand and the available operating margin will drive electric prices through the roof.

    The other area of concern is, what will the social and environmental impacts be on those that mine the dangerous chemicals/elements needed to produce the large volume of batteries to support EV production and what will the resulting environmental impact of these activities be?

    Personally, my current driving use case does not support EV’s in their current state. I do several 1500 mile trips a year and waiting around for an EV to recharge is not something I’m willing to do.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Most of the EVs are not charging when it’s 105 F out. They’re charging at night, in many cases intelligently when there is low demand. The grid will need some expansion but less than a lot of people think.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        True, I think that the grid will need less expansion than a lot of people think, but it will be less efficient simply because of line resistance losses — heating of conductors on the system — dem wires overhead.

        An unfortunate fact of life is that any conductor has resistance and losses go up as the square of the current. If the load factor on any circuit goes from say 67 to 83 percent, the current has gone up by a factor of 6 to 5, and the losses by a factor of 36/25, almost 50%.

        Nothing in life is free, but chucking away expensively created electricity via higher line losses has always offended my soul. Comes from working at an electrical utility in the past on metering. And that’s what these load levelers to accomodate EV charging will do, raise the load factor on every circuit with predictable results.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      You have the same problem everywhere when you are using AC, the biggest concern you have for the grid is temperature, and then fallen trees that broke the powerline.

      I think the battery environmental impact is a concern, but so is the power plant emission and the oil drilling / fracking / tar sand. Needs to be balanced and regulated, but it is really picking the less of two evil.

      I personally like to see some extreme use cases get shifted to EV first (short route, long idle, commercial vehicles that need to function as a generator, commercial vehicles that can swap batteries), then gradually when things are ready and better we shift the rest over (i.e. small cars that are cheap but you need to swap battery at a gas station).

  • avatar
    DedBull

    Here in Pennsylvania, the annual “safety inspection” process is where the dealers/shops catch issues (a good thing) and try and up sell on marginal repairs and services (a bad thing). But in general cars are still very complex pieces of equipment that have many moving parts that can wear out and fail outside of the power train. Businesses will continue to adapt until the manufacturers win the right to fix war and anything beyond basic parts replacement becomes a replacement vehicle. Just like lots of cars go to scrap with good power trains, I see many EVs eventually in the scrapyard due to an electronic “bricking”.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    I’m with Jon and Yankee on this. Jon is right in the “52 Point Inspection” looking for worn brakes, tires, suspension, and don’t forget ALIGNMENT!.
    “And make darn shoor you check that the TRU-COTE don’t need re-spray!”
    Having been over 3 decades in the repair business, in another life, I saw things change a bit for dealerships. First the old “tune-up” disappeared with points, spark plug wires, and distributors. Then manufacturers decided that they did not like paying so much for warranty repairs particularly for the mandated emission warrantees. Some of those now last 10 years.
    So dealers had to look for other business or reduce their service department by 70%.

  • avatar
    JMII

    But do you really need the $700 Telsa 2 year “maintenance”. Reeks of BS to me.

    Sure enough reading further down in the link provided we see that Telsa’s maintenance schedule is:
    Every 5,000 miles: Rotate tires
    Every 2 years: flush/replace brake fluid
    Every 4 years: flush/replace battery coolant
    Every 12 years: replace ATF in gear reduction box.

    The first three items are the pretty much the same as ICE vehicle. So if you are paying $700 for a brake flush then I’ve got a deal on a bridge in Brooklyn your going to love.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I mean most of the ICE maintenance outside of oil changes reeks of BS. But yeah, other than that it looks like my Fiesta ST’s schedule more or less. Not having an automatic transmission simplifies it.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      Tesla charges typical amount for brake fluid changes. In line with other “premium” makes. The $700 includes other services. For example, changing the “desiccant bag” inside the A/C system that requires evacuation and refill of the system.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    As someone else said, new jobs will be created in re-furbishing and reclaiming worn out EV batteries. There’s a lot of value there to be extracted.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      This is correct. EV battery rebuild and recycling will become a big deal as volume picks up.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        One of the less shtick-laden and more interesting Hoovie’s Garage installments is when he buys a Prius on the cheap because its battery is bad and then uses a kit (from Electron Automotive, if I remember correctly) to repair it.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSwUEVx5G3U

        Unfortunately, Hoovie can’t resist returning to his dumbassery formula and intentionally destroys the car in subsequent installments. It would’ve been more interesting to me to see the car go to someone who needed a daily driver and to get long-term updates on how the refurbished battery had held up.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I do think if electric cars become the default, a huge amount of service shops go under. Electric cars of course need service and repairs, but not nearly to the same degree as ICE engine cars.

    I’m not saying that as an electric car fanboy, but if you see the service schedule on an owners manual for something like a Tesla, it’s basically just “rotate tires”. Not many “wallet flush” services there that every service place needs to survive.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      And yet Tesla charges $600 for the first year service, $700 for the second year, $600 again for the 3rd year and then a whopping $950 for the 4th year. Meanwhile my Hybrids call out for a small fraction of that per year until they hit 100k at which point you may spend $700-$900 on a set of spark plugs, transmission fluid and coolant changes in addition to the oil change and tire rotation.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Sounds like a lot of Tesla owners are getting ripped off. It’s a tire rotation and brake fluid flush, with a coolant change added in the fourth year.

        The service schedule on my Bolt is similar except that Chevy’s willing to push brake fluid longer. Tire rotations every 7500 miles, replace cabin air filter every 2 years, brake and coolant flushes every 150k miles or 5 years.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        This seems to explain the $700 “maintenance plan”:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlYFW9MPcaM
        This $700 is an OPTIONAL plan and its clearly total BS – you don’t need it to keep your warranty valid and its massively overpriced. Its the same junk the F&I department for your ICE vehicle tries to screw you with. Who is their right mind is paying $700 to rotate tires and replace wiper blades?

        https://www.tesla.com/support/car-maintenance – indicates little to no maintenance.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          So Tesla is screwing owners in the service department? Maybe it is indeed time to dispense with all of this “They aren’t a real automaker” talk. Clearly they have learned some things from them.

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            Yeah this has sucker written all over it:
            https://electrek.co/2017/02/03/tesla-nodel-s-x-maintenance-plans/

            But hey they replace your FOB battery and since Radio Shack is long gone who else is going to perform this expensive and complex task?

            This is clearly aimed at the “I just get in and drive” luxury car crowd. Change wiper blades? Hmmmm I don’t know that sounds safety related so I best leave it to the professionals, plus $400 sounds reasonable to see clearly in any weather condition, so put them on my Amex Black card.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        They used to include a lot more in these “recommended” annual services. When I had my Model S service, I had to specifically request the stuff they used to include because what the hell am I paying so much money for? New key batteries?? For example, the $900 service used to include coolant change, oil change in both drive units, brake fluid change, cabin filter change, desiccant bag (requires A/C system evac/refill,) tire rotation, alignment, check of the software logs (hugely important,) new key batteries, new wipers, etc.

        They said they will do it as a “one time customer good will.” I have not taken my car back to them after that. Just so happens that Tesla announced that no more maintenance is required, so that was good timing! I will still have to do some maintenance but they charge “normal” prices for individual services, nowhere near the amounts they charge for “annual service.”

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I deleted this comment. I am somehow being directed to the wrong commentary threads.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I didn’t realize a Nissan Leaf could be specced to weigh as much as my SS.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    There’s nothing new under the sun. We got rid of carb, cars last 200k now, and then we have Prius that goes around the world with the most reliable power train ever. Yet mechanics are still around and the auto repair and parts retail business still survived.

    EV has no combustion system so you don’t have the repair in engine or emission system. You still have to repair suspension, air conditioning, cooling (if you consider 5 year 100k a money maker) and most importantly, tires, for people who need someone else to do it for them.

    You will see a lot of older mechanics working on gasoline cars, and you will see a lot of young people going into tire businesses instead of rebuilding carb, and you will see a lot of people bringing in parts from Amazon, ebay (pulled from junkyard), or TireRack asking you to install for them. You will see a lot of people sick of buying a lot of cars and they rent or uber occasionally when they need an extra or different car.

    Most importantly, you will see a lot of cars died way before the body or suspension rot, when the battery goes out. People will strip those parts and then swap them out, and people will export a lot of semi-new condition car to 3rd world when the battery range starts deteriorating to unacceptable for US range. Those cars will get locally rebuild battery and then a 2nd life there.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Most commenters here have never owned an EV, or even driven one, and are simply parroting stuff they heard on Fox News. I’m on my second EV.

    My 12 Leaf was a 3-year lease. Total dealer maintenance: $0. I rotated tires myself, and installed my own wipers and cabin air filter. PA requires annual safety inspections, but no emissions check on EVs. No brake service was required, and the dealer didn’t try to have me do the 2-year brake fluid flush they recommend. But I could have done that myself, too.

    My 19 Ioniq EV is also a 3-year lease. Total dealer maintenance so far: $0. After 17k miles and 15 months, I haven’t even added window wash fluid.

    As for Tesla, just because it’s a Tesla doesn’t mean you have to pay “Tesla money” for its upkeep. RockAuto lists 2018 Model 3 brake pads for $19 and rotors for $45-69. Brakes for a Model S are similarly cheap.

    As for the weight discussion, doesn’t anyone realize that suspensions are designed to carry the weight of the vehicle? My Leaf weighed 3400 lbs; my Ioniq weighs 3100 lbs. – both are short-range EVs, but they weigh similar to their ICE counterparts.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      In fairness, none of my ICE cars have been to a dealer in that timeframe either. The Truck at 60k hasn’t been for other than recall work (door latch and the carpet seatbelt fire risk thing… and some body work because I was an idiot…but that could be just as likely in an EV and all was beyond that window. I do my own oil changes and tire rotations though but really, how much are they making on an oil change if I did take it. My old Frontier was the last one to get a dealership oil change and it was like 32 bucks. That isn’t keeping the lights on.

      Dealers service newer vehicles mostly and most of that service involves stuff EVs have as well. They will likely lose some work, but they’ll still have plenty to keep the lights on. And let’s be honest…They are probably just going to raise the prices on the stuff they still have to do. You know, them new ‘lectric cars is more complicated after all” – Random Service Writer

      I just remembered our 13 Leaf had to hit the dealer too right after I got it for recall work. The P/S sensor for weight in the passenger seat had to be replaced and something had to be done on the blower motor.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    Here’s a guy called Chad who says he cringes when he hears people say electric cars don’t need maintainance. Relevent maintainance talk starts at the 11 min mark. Cringe remark at 14 min.

    https://youtu.be/ecmwWZmaU0A

    **

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t see mechanics and car dealer service departments going away with EVs. EVs still need maintenance and still have parts that need to be replaced besides batteries. Unless you have so much money that you can afford to replace your vehicle when it needs maintenance most will have it maintained whether its ICE or EV. Maybe there will be less maintenance with an EV but there will still be maintenance.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Wait till the magnets to wrap around those EV orange main wires appear from Huckster TV Ads Central. “Order one Miracle Magnet today, and as a bonus, we’ll send you two — just pay the extra shipping! And drive further or farther, take your pick!”

    I once knew a well-off man with a Mercedes GLK 350 SUV, that vehicle of the long flat hood and abruptly angled windshield. He had secured himself the local distributorship for some device that “atomized” fuel molecules if you just wrapped it around what you thought was the fuel line – yeah. Fantasy for the technical doofus who always figured the real truth was being kept from us by gubmint, 200 mpg carburetors sort of thing. He was so excited! Going to save the world, he was. Tried to sell me one. I took some time to gently let him down, finally convincing him he’d be regarded as a fool by his colleagues if kept that gig up. Took over half an hour.

    So there’ll be some spiv somewhere with a miracle gizmo to boost your EV range. The next step up the ladder is those 5 minute oil change shops whose denizens know b*gger all about anything and announce you need new shocks even as they leave the oil pan bolt loose. They’ll peddle electrical fairy dust to the unwary for $44.95 a can plus tax. Your actual dealers will come up with the electric motor “factory-approved” tune-up For $119.95 – “It’s like those walnut shells we used on your A6, Madam. Smoother after that wasn’t it?” How are those bearings on a big EV motor shaft lubricated, anyway?

    I’ve bought cars since 1967. Never had a one that burned oil, even. Never had to replace a clutch, but the last one at 12 years old cacked its transmission, one of only three I’ve owned with an automatic. So, the hings that did go wrong had nothing to do with prime propulsion.

    But Car and Driver had a dud inverter pack on their Model 3, and Service swapped in a new motor and subframe to fix it. That’s full scale dopery at work in the Tesla Service Dept. The ultimate parts swap repair routine. Buy that post warranty. Others have had electric motors replaced for cause, which the imagination can only soar to understand – was the car too near an electromagnetic flare from a Sunspot that caused the permanent magnets to go phut, perhaps? With stuff like this from those who are supposed to know but don’t to those who don’t understand and cannot, you can be sure the service aspects of EVs will prosper as usual.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Assuming no government bans on ICE—the future will be a mix of ICE, hybrids, electric, diesel, natural gas and possible fuel cell/hydrogen. Crazy thought: for some people ICE is better, for others plug-in electric.

    Now if the US goes full “soda ban” on new ICE cars—OEMs will seal those powertrains, guaranteed

    third/4th-hand electric cars will not be affordable to lower incomes (end-of-life battery failures);

    many chains with inconsistent quality will go out of business, the whole industry will get squeezed, dealers will thin out until only the strong balance sheets survive;

    many people will just throw their hands up and choose or be forced to use Uber-Lyft-whatever else whether or not there’s a robot behind the wheel

  • avatar

    Go broke ? Hardly.

    You underestimate the ability of car makers to design in planned obsolence. There is no reason your car today can’t run 250k reliably, save wear parts like tires shocks and brakes…and shocks and brakes could be designed to last a lot longer than they do.

    The current leading edge cars are expensive, mostly and aimed at a buyer who can afford an experiment. They aren’t yet mass market. When they do, you will be sure the batteries will last X time. The motors won’t be forever, no matter what you have today…stuff will wear.

    A car is a financial instrument. The cost to buy, the cost to keep running, the cost after warranty, are all well planned and calculated. Some car makers go longer, like Honda or Toyota, some go shorter (first owner only) like GM or Chrysler, but they all have an average lifespan for part like alternators or fuel pumps. Some cheap wheel bearings or alternators can easily be hidden in the car, as bombs for the second owner-saves pennies, produces huge knock on effects-

    Electrics will eventually be mass, and the costs will also be per marketing, not engineering. No one changes points any more, but the OBD-2 sends more people in than points ever did. Once the ultimate battery is designed, someone will shave pennies from it, and at 200k, you may expect to re-power the car….or buy new.

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