Study Suggests EVs Cost More to Service

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

One of the reasons electric vehicles have been so polarizing is down to the near-constant proclamations that they’re the superior mode of transportation. But truth is usually a mixed bag and spending some time with EVs has shown them to have some serious blind spots that will need to be addressed if they’re ever to supplant internal combustion vehicles. Electrics aren’t always the better option, though they do boast features that make them extra desirable to some.

Among those was the promise that owning an EV yielded lower maintenance costs. But there’s a new study out claiming that’s not entirely true. Data is pointing to electrics actually having average servicing fees higher than traditional automobiles.

We Predict, an analytics firm that uses predictive modeling, data mining (shudder), and plain-old statistics, has claimed that EVs were 2.3 times more expensive to service than their gasoline-driven counterparts over the first three months of ownership. Those numbers were crunched beneath the weight of data on over 19 million vehicles (MY 2016-2021) but are supposed to get better over time.

Despite being more troublesome and costly in the initial stages of ownership, We Predict estimated that EV servicing fees would only be 1.6 times greater after a full year. Forbes even framed the entire report as proof that electrics would eventually average lower over a long enough timeline.

From Forbes:

A year after an electric vehicle’s launch We Predict found the the number of so-called “incidents” per 1,000 vehicles dropped 33 [percent] from its initial launch and repair costs declined 27 [percent]. But by the second year incidents per 1000 vehicles fell by 14 [percent[ but the cost to repair those vehicles decreased 65 [percent].

“It looks like the EV costs are actually very front-loaded,” explained [We Predict founder and CEO James Davies]. “Once you get through the launch of a vehicle and get through the first three to six months it’s just about trying to figure out how to fix the problems you have. Those costs begin to come down precipitously.”

But it failed to address the sizable expenses associated with battery replacement. Modern EVs lose about 2.5 percent of their maximum charge annually, resulting in a vehicle that will probably need its cells replaced after eight to ten years (or it passes the 100,000-mile threshold). While that’s about the time most original owners would be considering a new car, the issue would still need to be covered by whoever purchases the vehicle next unless it’s heading directly to the scrap heap. Though that would undermine the premise that EVs are environmentally friendlier than their ICE equivalents and bode poorly for resale values.

It’s also a little strange that we’re discussing EVs being front-loaded with problems as a good thing. But We Predict suggested this was likely due to electrics being relatively new (at least in the mass market sense) and haven’t had time to mature as a platform. The majority of incidents relate to wiring or charging issues, which mimics the subject of most EV-related recalls. Though the heaviness of batteries may also lead to suspension issues and the report makes mention of electrics seeing greater wear and tear on wheels and related components.

The firm believes these issues will diminish as the industry begins selling more alternative energy vehicles. Right now EVs take 1.5 times longer to fix than gasoline models with labor costs that are 1.3 times more. But those are both likely to drop when and if the market breakdown shifts toward electrics. Even if it doesn’t, most pure electrics should still enjoy less routine maintenance than gasoline or diesel models.

We Predict said that it plans to release a secondary report in the future that examines EV service costs after three years of ownership.

[Image: Virrage Images/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 62 comments
  • Snooder Snooder on Aug 06, 2021

    Get the ATS. It's nice, relatively easy to service here in America, and you should be able to get a 2016 or 2017 model with about 30-40k miles that's in your budget.

  • Ol Shel Ol Shel on Aug 06, 2021

    As with so many modern electronic components, you fix it by buying a new one. They could be repaired by diagnosis, if anyone wanted to train people to do so (nope). Better to milk that money from consumers instead.