Futuristic view of a car driving fast and leaving light trails

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EV Lifespan: Do They Last as Long as Gasoline Cars?

EV life expectancy is improving as related technologies advance

Just as gasoline and diesel engines were once new technology and poo-pooed by the horse-driven public, modern battery electric vehicles (EV) are facing the same criticisms. Will electric vehicles be on the road as long as gasoline cars and diesel vehicles? Absolutely, and automakers are already delivering.

Myth Busted: Neither EVs nor Gasoline Cars Are Infallible

Since the first automobile went from production to daily driver to a cube at the junkyard, car and truck lifespan has been increasing. Notwithstanding a few outliers, such as Irv Gordon’s 3.2-million-mile 1966 Volvo P1800S and Matt Farah’s million-mile 1996 Lexus LS400, the increasing life of the typical car is encouraging. In 1977, the average American car was just 5.5 years old. By 1995, it was 8.4 years, and in 2020, the average reached 11.9 years.

That says a lot about today’s typical driver expectations and the technical advances implemented to meet them: People want cars that last. EV or gasoline-powered, they expect any car they buy today to be safe, efficient, and reliable years down the road. 

Still, where and how any vehicle is driven and maintained has a significant impact on lifespan, regardless of how well an auto might be built. Harsh driving, overloading, corrosion, and neglect will destroy any vehicle before its prime, but well-maintained vehicles are no longer considered worn-out until they’ve reached at least 150,000 miles. 

No vehicle is infallible but there are some things that tend to give EVs a better shot at a longer lifespan.

EV Key Component Life Expectancy

When you’re trying to decide between buying an electric vehicle or a conventional vehicle, there are several shared components to take out of the lifespan comparison. Both types include the following similarities:

  • Modern vehicle frame and body construction last the life of the vehicle, depending on environmental factors.
  • Electrical systems, such as the radio, navigation system, headlights, taillights, and power windows, generally last upwards of 10 years.
  • Steering and suspension components typically last 6 to 10 years.
  • Tires generally last 4 or 5 years, depending on driving habits and alignment maintenance.
  • Wipers and cabin filters are typically replaced every 6 to 12 months, depending on environmental factors.
  • The 12-V battery is also the same, lasting typically 5 to 7 years in typical driving.
  • Brake hydraulics and calipers are the same, typically requiring service every other year.

On the other hand, major differences do exist between conventional vehicles and electric vehicles. While modern conventional powertrains, with proper maintenance, are proven to last, electric vehicle batteries and motors aren’t often given a fair look, mostly because of the expense of critical components like batteries.

Even so, major electric vehicle components are at least as good as their gasoline-chugging counterparts.

Motor

Close Up Of Electric Motor In Engine Bay Of Electric Car
Close up of electric motor.

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Electric motors typically have a single moving part, in comparison to several hundred parts in an engine. Electric motor maintenance is limited to coolant changes every 100,000 miles. Engines, in addition to coolant, require regular oil changes, air filters, and likely spark plugs in that time. Both motors and engines are proven to last upwards of 20 years.

Transmission

A closeup of a transmission repair with the No symbol superimposed over the top.

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Since electric vehicles usually aren’t equipped with a transmission, just a single gear reduction, they’re the clear winner in the transmission lifespan comparison. For modern conventional vehicles, manual and automatic transmissions typically last upwards of 15 years, requiring fluid services at least every 100,000 miles.

Battery

Tesla S Model battery modules linked together to form a Tesla S Model battery.
Tesla S Model battery modules linked together to form a Tesla S Model battery.

Tesla

Lithium-ion battery packs are expensive, but they last a long time. So far, the typical EV battery has been proven to last about 200,000 miles, nearly 20 years. Tesla is rumored to be developing an EV battery that will last 1,000,000 miles, much longer than the average vehicle, currently 11.9 years. Major EV makers report few battery replacements in the last decade.

Brakes

Illustration of how slowing an EV actually converts energy to feed back into the battery.

Brake services offer an interesting comparison. Because electric vehicles use regenerative braking to slow the vehicle, the hydraulic brake system isn’t used as much. While conventional vehicle brakes last 25,000 to 65,000 miles, depending on vehicle type and driver habits, hybrid and EV pads and rotors are known to last much longer. Some hybrid and EV owners report their brakes lasting over 100,000 miles.

EV Maintenance Matters!

Electric vehicles’ simpler powertrains require less service, which actually makes required services more critical. How you drive, charge, and maintain your electric vehicle will play a big part in how long it lasts, just like it does with a gasoline-powered vehicle. There are two key areas to pay attention to.

Cooling System Checks

Cooling system maintenance is important. A combination of active and passive heating and cooling keep the battery pack around 70 °F for best lifespan. Pay close attention to cooling system maintenance, such as coolant or air filter replacement.

Battery Charging Practices

Charging practices are critical. While the battery management system (BMS) manages charge rates to protect the battery, you can do your part by charging mainly on Level 2 chargers. You can use Level 3 charging stations on trips, but regular consistent usage of these high-power chargers will impact battery life.

EV Life Expectancy Is at Least Equal to Gas Cars

Given technological advances in both conventional and electric vehicles in the last decade, neither seems to have longevity issues. With responsible driving and maintenance habits, both should last at least a decade, if not much longer. 

Government and automaker confidence seems to reflect the desire, if not the reality, of EV longevity. To help encourage confidence in EVs, federal rules now require automakers to cover major components, like the battery and electric motor, for eight years or 100,000 miles, while California extends that to 10 years or 150,000 miles. Some EV automakers even offer a lifetime guarantee, something practically unheard of in conventional vehicle warranties.

If you’re shopping for a new vehicle, it’s good to know you can choose any car that suits you best. Eventually, as pricing and availability become more competitive, it’s likely that not choosing an electric vehicle will seem like a risky bet.