Dear Car Talk:
Electric motors have been around a long time. They are simple devices with few moving parts. They have no complicated valve trains, no head gaskets to blow, no piston rings, no oil to change and no coolant to leak out. I am an old man, tired of car maintenance and in need of a low-maintenance, reliable vehicle. It would seem that an all-electric car is the solution to my problem, but life has many ugly surprises. Are there excessive maintenance issues with e-cars? Serious reliability problems? Am I missing anything that I need to know? — John
I don’t think you’re missing anything, John. You’re right. Electric motors are simple. Much simpler than internal combustion engines. And they’re pretty bulletproof. While we’re still in the relatively early stages of the electric-car revolution, hybrid electric cars have been around for decades now. And the electric motors in hybrid cars have been pretty trouble-free. We’ve seen them run for hundreds of thousands of miles without failure.
The bigger issue is battery failure. But most electric cars come with eight- or 10-year warrantees on the battery. So even that’s not a big deal. And presumably, eight to 10 years from now, replacement batteries will be even cheaper.
There are still things that can go wrong with electric cars, though. They are cars, after all. So they have electronic components, like computers, screens, safety systems and sensors that can fail. They also have mechanical parts that will wear out — like tires, shocks and wiper blades. Just because the car is electric doesn’t mean that someday you won’t need an air conditioning compressor or a door handle.
But you’ll never have to replace a hose, weld an exhaust system or fix an oil leak. And by the way, your brake pads will last much longer, because regenerative braking (which uses the moving wheels as a generator when you slow down) cuts down on your use of your brake pads. So if you’re looking for a lower-maintenance car, and you can make do with a couple of hundred miles of range before recharging, an EV is for you.
For good, basic transportation, we like the Chevy Bolt, the Nissan Leaf, the Hyundai Kona and the Kia Niro. All four should get you more than 200 miles on a charge. As an added benefit, you’ll be able to “refuel” your car in your own driveway. So you’ll never have to visit a gas station again … unless you have a sudden urge to buy a pack of gum or use a filthy restroom.
Got a question about cars? Write to Car Talk write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.