Electric Car Motor Life Expectancy: A Simple Explanation


Electric vehicles have jumped in popularity due in part to the fact that they require less maintenance than a regular gasoline powered vehicle. With fewer fluids to check and change, EV’s can go a long way on regular inspection and scheduled maintenance. However, they are still subject to wear and tear and will eventually require some work. A major component of an electric vehicle that may eventually be replaced is the electric motor.

What is an electric car’s motor life expectancy? The life expectancy of an electric car’s motor is about 15 to 20 years or around 200,000 miles.  Electric car motors are designed to last the lifetime of the car, however, driving habits and maintenance have a large impact on their lifespan.

The electric motor in an electric vehicle is the analogue to the internal combustion engine. Its primary function is to supply torque to the transmission, which transfers that torque to the wheels. This article will look into the expected lifespan of an electric motor in an electric vehicle and dig into why they may need replacing as well as costs compared to other parts of the vehicle.

How Long Can The Average Electric Car Motor Last?

A properly maintained electric vehicle motor is designed to last 15 to 20 years. The mileage may vary user to user, but a vehicle that is 15 to 20 years old would be around 200,000 miles. Typically, EV owners drive their vehicles fewer miles per year as compared to regular vehicles. Some sources estimate EV drivers put about 7800 miles on their cars annually. Multiplied by 15-20 years, that puts about 117,000 to 156,000 miles on the vehicle. Assuming this data, a 20 year old electric vehicle will still have plenty of longevity before major repair work should be done.

However, this is just an estimated average. There are plenty of ways that the lifespan of the motor can shorten. A few notable mentions include heavy acceleration, overheating, and system breakdowns. Of course, there are many other possibilities, but these 3 cover most scenarios.

Driving habits affect longevity of the vehicle, mileage, and probability of accident. Heavy acceleration demands a lot of work from the motor. While most vehicles are designed for some level of sport performance, prolonged driving habits like these will shorten the overall lifespan of the vehicle. A better alternative is to steadily accelerate and lower top speeds. This demands less of the vehicle and lessens the chances of extra wear and tear. 

The biggest enemy to the electric motor is heat. The motor is mostly constructed of metal and heat causes metal to expand. Considering the tight tolerances of precision engineering, there is not much room for expansion. This is partly why the cooling system is critical to electric vehicle temperature regulation.

The cooling system primarily cools the battery packs, but it also helps maintain the motor temperature. If the vehicle is constantly driven to where it overheats, that spells bad news for the lifespan of the vehicle. The remedy is to have the cooling system properly maintained and take extra precaution to limit higher temperatures, such as parking in shade or avoiding high temperature areas. Click here to learn more about how an electric car’s cooling system works.

Lastly, there can be some indirect causes of drive motor malfunctions. Again, the most critical system for the motor is the cooling system, which has many separate components. If any of these have a sensor go bad or something happens, there is a greater chance that the motor will overheat or malfunction. Pay attention to any warning lights and have them inspected by a qualified repair facility.

What Components In An Electric Motor Break Down The Fastest?

There are a few ways in which an electric motor can fail. First, we need to look at the construction of an electric motor to identify where the problems will surface. The basis of any electric motor is the stator and rotor. The stator is constructed of copper wire typically in 3 separate circuits, making a 3 phase motor.

Electricity is applied to each of these circuits to create a magnetic field. The rotor is constructed of permanent magnets that are polarized so that they move away from the electromagnetic field of the stator. As these magnets move, they spin a shaft. This spinning shaft is connected to the transmission as the main power input. 

The stator windings are subject to breaking. Typically, the wires are quite small and while they are encased and protected, there is still the chance that a single wire could break. This can be caused by excessive vibration or impacts. Damage can also stem from manufacturing defects or general wear and tear. If a winding breaks, it typically means rebuilding the motor. 

The rotor rides on bearings on either side of the motor assembly. The bearings allow for the rotor to spin freely with as little friction as possible. With age, the bearings tend to wear out. There is also the chance that they fail prematurely due to loss of lubrication or damage. Replacing bearings also typically means rebuilding the motor assembly.

These moving parts are most subject to wear and tear. Of course, there are plenty of other possible ways a motor could fail, but these are fairly common issues.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace An Electric Motor?

So if an electric motor happens to fail, for whatever reason, what can be done to fix it? A simple fix would be to replace the motor, although replacing the motor is not a simple job. Depending on the make of the vehicle, it might be an expensive project as well. 

Since modern electric vehicles are relatively new, there isn’t a reliable way to price it out. It really depends on the vehicle as well as the repair shop. For example, Tesla offers an extensive warranty on their motors, meaning if one needs to be replaced, it will likely cost the customer nothing. Of course, if the vehicle is outside the warranty period, it will come out of the owner’s pocket.

A good baseline for the cost of replacing the motor is about $5,000. On many vehicles, the motor will be replaced along with the transaxle, which drives the price up. Another variable is repair shop costs. If there aren’t many EV certified shops in the area, the cost of getting it fixed goes up.

So, when it comes to price, it will either be free, meaning the warranty will cover it, or it will be really expensive. However, dividing the cost of replacing a worn out motor by the lifespan of the vehicle should work out to be fairly affordable. Also, most EV’s shouldn’t ever need this work done as long as the vehicle is taken care of.

Does An Electric Motor Last Longer Than The Other Major Components Of An EV?

On most EV’s, the battery pack and drive motor are designed to last the life of the vehicle. In other words, if they wear out, they will be one of the last components to do so. This is assuming general wear and tear and no major accidents. 

When components “last the life of the vehicle” that means they are designed to last ten 15 to 20 years or 200-300 thousand miles. Vehicles really can last indefinitely provided the owner has enough money to keep replacing components.

Think about classic vehicles that get restored. The vehicle might be 50 to 100 years old but with enough money it can be back on the road. The expected lifespan is how long the vehicle should last before any major work should be done. This number comes from the automaker and is based on a mixture of test engineering data and marketing.

Electric vehicle’s don’t have very many wear components. There are small things, like wiper blades, that can wear out quickly, but are inexpensive to replace. Other components, like tires and brake pads, will eventually wear out, but are designed to do so efficiently. From there, most everything else should last quite a while. Regular vehicles have more fluids, like engine oil, that need to be replaced quite often. But electric vehicle owners have the luxury of skipping those maintenance items.

Conclusion

An electric vehicle motor should last the life of the vehicle. If it does wear out, it will probably be the rotor bearings or maybe something with the rotor itself. It is also possible that the windings could have problems and require replacing. Most often, the motor will be replaced with the transaxle as one unit. If the warranty won’t cover it, this will likely be a quite expensive project since it is a major component and requires specialized training to perform properly. Overall, the motor should be one of the last things to need replaced over the life of the vehicle.

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