Global

How electric vehicle maintenance can contribute to a lower TCO

Compared to a traditional diesel driveline, electric vehicle repairs and maintenance are required far less often. In industrial applications, this can generate significant savings in time and money that will improve its overall total cost of ownership.

As it stands today, the upfront purchase price of an electric vehicle is undeniably higher than its diesel equivalent – but as we’ve attempted to demonstrate in this article series, in many industrial applications electric drivelines can also generate savings that can contribute to a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). One of those areas is maintenance, servicing, and repairs.

The key difference is that an electric driveline has far fewer moving parts and components than a diesel driveline. This means fewer parts, less wear-and-tear on those parts, and by extension, fewer repairs and replacements will be required over the driveline’s lifetime.

Simpler drivelines mean simpler maintenance
A typical maintenance programme for a diesel driveline will consist of around 40 different points that need to be inspected during a biannual service visit. An electric driveline by contrast, consists of just four inspection points every six months:

  • Connect the diagnostic tool to check for error codes and the battery’s state of health.
  • Check the software status including updates.
  • Check coolant levels in the energy storage system and electric motor
  • Check the electric heater for leaks.

“ All these checks combined in periodical 6 months service should take just one hour to perform,” says Rolandas Rimdeika, Aftermarket Project Manager for E-mobility, Volvo Penta. “A diesel driveline by comparison, is almost 90-95% more work. Then you need to periodically replace oil, filters, adjust valves, clean the aftertreatment system and inspect many more components.”

Longer lifetime
Fewer parts mean fewer potential faults, while the lack of moving parts helps the driveline last far longer. “There is much less friction, less waste heat, and little vibration – all of which cause wear on parts and axles in diesel vehicles,” adds Rolandas. “This means electric drivelines can last 2-3 times longer than a diesel driveline. When the vehicle or installation comes to end of life, in some cases you can remove the driveline and put it into another frame and continue working with it. The technology is just so much more robust.”

As a relatively new technology, one challenge when it comes to electric vehicles is a lack of trained technicians and qualified workshops. Consequently, if there is a failure in an electric driveline, the whole module is removed and replaced – rather than being repaired or adjusted. However, as electric drivelines become more common, more workshops will train their technicians to make such repairs, which will bring the cost of maintenance down even further.

Battery care key to low TCO
As the single most expensive component in an electric driveline, prolonging the life of the battery is vital to keeping service and maintenance costs down. A key factor for achieving this is to optimise the design of battery’s size according to different applications and limit the charging cycles and charging conditions.

Another important element is thermal management as extreme temperatures will shorten battery life. This is achieved through the system’s software, which is why regular software updates are an essential part of the maintenance programme.

“We’re continuously developing and improving the software, so when you update it, you’re also ensuring you have the latest features and capabilities for managing the battery better,” says Rolandas. “You can half your battery’s lifetime simply through poor installation design and thermal management. On the other hand, if you use your driveline as intended and maintain its service programme, the batteries can still be working perfectly for years.”

 

Rolandas Rimdeika is the Aftermarket Project Manager for Electromobility at Volvo Penta, where he is responsible for preparing aftermarket support for new electrified products in both the industrial and marine segments. He has over 20 years’ experience working in the automotive industry, having started as a workshop technician and service engineer, and later becoming a technical trainer in e-mobility and advanced automotive diagnostics.