Ford Pushes Key Marketing Message for Electric Cars: Lower Maintenance Costs

By · February 09, 2011

Ford Focus Electric

We usually don't usually repost press releases whole cloth, but this is a good one from Ford. A great reminder about one of the chief benefits of electric cars.

CHICAGO, Feb. 9, 2011 – When it comes to regularly scheduled maintenance, the Ford Focus Electric will be the easiest car to own that Ford Motor Company has ever built.

Because the Focus Electric does not have a conventional piston engine or an automatic or manual transmission, its drivers will wave goodbye to such things as oil changes and tuneups – a scenario most other motorists can only dream of.

“About all the driver will have to do is charge up the battery pack and go,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford’s director of electrification programs and engineering.

Focus Electric eliminates more than two dozen mechanical components that would normally require attention during the life of the vehicle. The dramatic reduction in moving mechanical parts is the key reason why consumers won’t have much to do to maintain the Focus Electric.

No matter how long they own the car or how many miles they drive over the years, Focus Electric drivers will never:

  • Wait in line for oil changes
  • Experience the inconvenience of a worn-out muffler, radiator hose or serpentine belt
  • Have to change dirty air filters, fuel filters or transmission fluid
  • Replace spark plugs, O2 sensors and radiator coolant

“When you have moving parts, such as the gears in a transmission or the pistons in an engine, you have maintenance,” Marakby said. “With an electric drive, there are very few moving parts. And in the Focus Electric, the only moving parts are the motor and the wheels."

More money in your pocket

Focus Electric’s minimal maintenance requirements saves drivers time and money. Oil changes demonstrate how.

For the gas-powered 2012 Focus, Ford recommends oil and filter changes every 10,000 miles. That’s a $29.95 job at a Ford Quick Lane service center. And it usually takes about 30 minutes. Over the 10-year, 150,000-mile life of the vehicle, those 15 oil changes cost $449.25 and 7.5 hours.

Because the Focus Electric won’t use those 75 quarts of oil and 15 filters, its impact on the environment is also lessened.

Over the life of the car, Focus Electric drivers also won’t need to spend time and money to:

  • Replace five air filters at a cost of $24.95 each
  • Have two cooling system flushes at a cost of $109 each
  • Get one transmission service, $179
  • Replace one drive belt for $130
  • Buy and install one new set of spark plugs for $69.95

Regular maintenance for the Focus Electric will consist of little more than checking the air pressure in the tires and keeping the windshield wiper reservoir topped up. Longer term, the car’s brake pads and shocks may need replacing, along with tires.

Comments

· · 6 years ago

I'm amazed, although thrilled, that BEVs actually seem to be heading to broad production, as I'd always thought that when auto companies evaluated the lost revenue along with all of the various parts and third party suppliers of ICE components along with the impact on oil companies, that reduction in their bottom line would guarantee that BEVs would never be produced by US companies.

Well, I'm crossing my fingers (and toes) that BEVs are here to stay, and really looking forward to my Leaf this April!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Also, brake maintenance should be reduced due to regenerative braking.

· · 6 years ago

When I speak to friends and coworkers about owning a EV I always am sure to talk about the lower cost of ownership from no gas to very little maintaince. This is truly music to my ears.

· · 6 years ago

Although Ford is of course correct that there are fewer moving parts in an EV, they come across as disengenuous when they say "And in the Focus Electric, the only moving parts are the motor and the wheels." Between the motor and wheels there is a reduction gearbox, a differential, halfshafts, stub axles, wheel bearings, etc. (And thoughout the rest of the car there are numerous moving parts, just as there are in an ICE car: switches pedals, wiper motor, steering system, suspension, ball joints, tie rod ends, air conditioning compressor, heater blower, etc, etc. )

Better to focus on the real differences than to start making stuff up. I suppose it is too much to ask that the auto industry suddenly become honest just because they are making the vehicles we like.

· GoEV (not verified) · 6 years ago

Uh, how about that battery. Any maintenace there at 100K miles?

· · 6 years ago

@GoEV - That's a very good question. Durability and life is an issue with batteries. Maybe our long-time EV-driving friends on the site can talk about how many RAV4 EV packs have crapped out, and how many are running strong after a decade of service.

Isn't it realistic to assume that some percentage of cars will need battery replacement at 100k miles, or 150k, or 200k? Not that the first owner will necessarily have to deal with it.

What do we know?

· · 6 years ago

>>Uh, how about that battery. Any maintenace there at 100K miles?<<

It seems unlikely. Many RAV4 EV's are over 100,000 miles and still going strong. Lithium battery packs are expected to last 150,000 miles, and then be transitioned into secondary uses.

More important, however, is the overall depreciation of the car. An Audi A4 and a LEAF are about the same price (ignoring the tax credit). A ten-year-old Audi A4 with 120,000 miles, in good condition, is worth about $3150 on trade in, per Kelly Blue Book. By the time a car is due for a battery (or a new engine and transmission), it will have lost almost all its value, whether it is an ICEV or a BEV.

In the old lead-acid battery days, replacement cost was a significant issue in EV conversions.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Don't they have to have at least one pump and radiator since the pack is temperature controlled and the necessary hoses to move the fluid through?

· · 6 years ago

I guess the Rav4EV and the Ranger EVs are about the only '90's EVs that have survived the crushers. Darell can fill in more on the RAV4EVs but my understanding is that when they have been passing 100,000 miles, they usually need a battery reconditioning and occassionally a new module or two. The RangerEVs with their lead acid batteries generally need a full replacement by now. I'm not sure if it is range or age related. Someone is making a Li-ion replacement for the RangerEVs though so from what I understand, their owners are delighted to upgrade.
Our Tesla Roadster is approaching 40,000 miles and there may be a slight range degradation but it really isn't completely clear. I'm still assuming we'll want to replace the Roadster batteries at the 7 to 10 year point with cheaper, better ones.
@anonymous,
Yes, there are pumps and radiators on cooled-battery EVs but their flow is much lower than a typical ICE. I'm sure that the Planned Obsolescence Engineers at the auto companies will manage to find a way to get those to wear out at their desired times just as they have with ICE vehicles. They'll probably manage to make the electric motors die prematurely as well in order to sell new cars but you can't blame the technology for sabotage.

· JP (not verified) · 6 years ago

They are being very conservative with these numbers. We bought a 2007 Chevy Aveo for my 16 year old. She has just hit 65k miles and we have already far surpassed the costs in the article. I spent about $800 in the past six months. The tension pulley for the serpentine belt went out and it was a little over $300 to replace both of them. The dealer recommended replacing the timing belt at 60k. I was reluctant but I read that the 1.6L is an “INTERFERENCE’ engine with possible valve-to-piston damage if it goes out. While they had it apart they had to replace the tension pulley and timing belt driven water pump for aprox $500. You would think after producing ICE for over 100 years it would be more reliable. Go EV's!!! NPNS

· sjLEAF (not verified) · 6 years ago

The lack of maintenance is what pushed my wife over the edge to (allow me to) order the LEAF. Don't forget the lost time taking the car in for service and then waiting around to pick it up.

· Michael (not verified) · 6 years ago

I don't think that reduced maintenance of an electric car is much of an argument. Today's cars are already extremely low maintenance. Starting batteries, of course, are orders of magnitude cheaper than a electric drive battery, and take much less time to replace, too.

· · 6 years ago

@Michael, There is a lot more on an ICE to maintain than the starting battery. For example:
Oil changes (oil and filter)
Tune ups (spark plugs, wires)
Radiator flushes (coolant)
air filter replacement

In addition to the routine stuff, I've replaced the following on my ICE cars:
water pump
belts
alternator
muffler
exhaust pipe
catalytic converter
radiator hoses
oil pressure sending unit
transmission
CV boots
clutch cable
fuel pump
fuel filter
timing belt
radiator
radiator temp sensor
heater core
oxygen sensor
re-program engine controller

And those are just the things I can remember off-hand, some of which have been replaced several times over the years.

Yes, if one buys a new car and trades it in every three years major repairs are unlikely, but that is very expensive and wasteful. I try to keep my cars for at least 200K miles. Putting in a new traction battery every 100K miles (probably at ever-lower prices as manufacturing scale increases) is pretty trivial by comparison.

· Michael (not verified) · 6 years ago

@dpgcolorado,

On my car,
Oil changes (oil and filter) - 7500 miles
Tune ups (spark plugs, wires) - 100,000 miles
Radiator flushes (coolant) - 100,000 miles
air filter replacement - 30,000 miles takes 2 minutes

You have to drive for years before doing anything but oil changes.

If you are going to start listing repair parts, you need to do the same for electric cars. There are sensors, controllers, pumps, fans, lubricants, battery cells, differentials, bearings, seals, etc. all that can fail just as on ICE cars. By the reasoning some people are using here, a personal computer should never fail.

· · 6 years ago

@Martin,
What's an "oil change"?
Seriously though, I'll bet you replace brake shoes at about the 40 or 50k point. Brakes and most of those things you mention only need about 1/10 the maintainence on a well designed EV because they get so little use or are under much less stress. Remember that an electric motor doesn't subject the engine compartment to nearly as much stress as an ICE because there's so much less heat and vibration. Cooling fluids don't have to work nearly as hard to cool a battery than to cool an ICE and, depending on how the car is designed or driven, most braking can be regenerative, greatly prolonging brake life.
Most bearings today are sealed and good for 100's of thousands of miles.
Batteries are definitely an uncertainty but, if the limited data to date is any indication, should last a long time. They are also likely to improve. If manufacturers are concerned. We won't start to know the details on battery life for 5 to 10 years though.
Of course, if maintenance cost and hassle savings aren't enough to justify EVs by themselves, add energy independence, cheaper and more convenient fueling, reduced pollution, and better driving performance to your list of EV advantages and you'll find the whole package beats an ICE for over 95% of most people's driving.

· · 6 years ago

@Michael, Where I live dust requires MUCH more frequent oil and air filter changes than the ideal light duty cycle mentioned in owner's manuals.

You might not be aware of it, but there are EV drivers who have discussed the lack of maintenance of their vehicles in other threads here. It seems to be tires, wiper blades and windshields. Current ICE cars are way better than they used to be but an ICE is a complicated device with hundreds of parts, many of them moving, as is the transmission. Lots of things to break. If you can go ten or twenty years with just oil changes and 100,000 mile tune-ups and radiator flushes, you are very fortunate. (A friend of mine just had the fuel pump replaced on her truck and it cost $800 because it was inside the gas tank.)

My main concern about an EV is that it is a rolling computer (although so are ICE cars nowadays). I also don't much care for drive-by-wire, especially for steering and braking. But, again, this is the trend for all cars I think. I hope that there is lots of redundancy in those systems!

· Mike Streadwick (not verified) · 6 years ago

Bring on the electrics! Anyone who wants to foolishly continue to service and maintain their ICE headache can do so if it makes them happy. Time will tell which one is cheaper to maintain but my money is on the EV's. I just hope the automakers don't program the electrics to need the same type of service that the gas engine cars do. If that happens the advantage will be nullified and we will be back to square one.

· JJ - from Canada (not verified) · 6 years ago

What about changing the brushes on the electric motors?

I've spent days in and out of the Ford dealership and I'm so sick of it.
They have so many sensors and they don't know which ones needs to be replaced because they rely on the computer to tell them but it doesn't indicate a fault.

I hope the electric cars won't be so technologically dependent on computers that the mechanics won't know what's going on.
But at least there won't be as many sensors and parts.

Still, I can't wait for a Nissan Leaf if it means spending less time at the Ford dealership garage.

All those sensors get clogged up and dirty in ICE cars.
No more worry about dirty sensors and dirty valves and carbonated this and that.

There's gotta be a gimmick on how Ford will recoup the losses from ICE repair revenues.

· Skip (not verified) · 6 years ago

I hear car companies are now offering free maintenance for many new sales (it's been since 1997 since I bought a car, so I dunno), so in fact low maintenance is in their own interest - not only might this benefit EVs but also general road worthiness, since planned obsolescence would be obsolete. I hope so!

· · 6 years ago

@ ex EV1 Driver,

"I'm sure that the Planned Obsolescence Engineers at the auto companies will manage to find a way to get those to wear out at their desired times just as they have with ICE vehicles. They'll probably manage to make the electric motors die prematurely as well in order to sell new cars but you can't blame the technology for sabotage."

I think your point is directed at cars built 40 years ago. Engines routinely go 200,000 miles now. Exhaust systems are stainless steel, and never need replacing. Coolant is good for 100,000 miles. Spark plugs are now good for 100,000 miles. Engines use synthetic oil, which lasts longer, and reduces engine wear. Engineers now specifiy finishes on cylinders, bearings, and gears which require almost no break-in, and cut wear and friction.

· · 6 years ago

@Michael,
While I don't have any inside information, it would appear that much of the planned obsolescence activities today have been directed at auxiliary systems such as alternators and water pumps, not mainline drivetrain components.
There's no excuse for an alternator or a water pump wearing out except maybe after 40 or 50 years. There are few moving parts, heat, and little harsh motion or vibration in them yet, somehow, they always manage to break a few months after the bumper-to-bumper warranty expires. It can't be chance.

· menez (not verified) · 6 years ago

This is actually a bit scary... if the manufacturers are not making money anymore on these maintenance parts... how are they making money? The problem is then how cheap will electric cars really be once many have converted and manufacturers now need more ways to make money? Somehow they have to compensate... unless they are planning on just making money just on the huge margin these cars probably have.

· · 6 years ago

>> What about changing the brushes on the electric motors? <<

No EV will have brushed motors. We've been using brushless for quite a while. Honestly, the motor is good for several vehicle lifetimes - conservative estimates are in the million mile range - with zero maintenance to the motor.

>>I hope the electric cars won't be so technologically dependent on computers that the mechanics won't know what's going on. <<

All cars electric or gas are highly dependent on computers today. Mechanics who are trained properly will always know what is "going on." Your shade-tree mechanic - no so much. Those days are quickly drawing to a close.

· · 6 years ago

As for battery replacement - yeah, I could detail how it is going with the Rav4EV. But that car has nothing more than a one-way fan (that cools the first batteries way more than the last row of batteries), it was never meant for a family car, and it uses NiMH batteries. So there's very little of use to compare here. Only thing I can say is that the Rav4EV batteries have lasted WAY the heck longer than anybody (including Toyota) ever thought they would. 100k miles seems to be a pretty good over/under number for where people start to think about module replacement. And even so - we've not talking about whole pack replacement, just maybe 20% of the modules - typically the ones that aren't cooled enough. If this car had thermal management, I can see folks easily going to 150k miles before the problems crop up. And again - this is with zero maintenance on the battery pack.

· · 6 years ago

@ ex-EV1

"While I don't have any inside information, it would appear that much of the planned obsolescence activities today have been directed at auxiliary systems such as alternators and water pumps, not mainline drivetrain components.
There's no excuse for an alternator or a water pump wearing out except maybe after 40 or 50 years. "

A lot of water pump failures are due to seal leakage, due to excess wear from people not maintaining their cooling systems.

Alternators have brushes which wear out. They are also exposed to and generate a lot of heat, which sometimes fail rectifier bridges and regulators. It's not an easy environment.

· Carl Juergensen (not verified) · 6 years ago

I am also waiting for the specs on this battery. I would like to see a 150 mile range. The technology for this is here, just not applied yet. In early 2013, an all electric solar powered aircraft will circumnavigate the planet. (Solar Impulse) It has 12,000 solar cells on it's upper surface powering lith-ion batteries. The batteries power 4 10HP electric engines. Just a few months ago the concept was proven by launching this bird in the mid afternoon with a 75% or so battery charge. At sundown the batteries were at 100%, so the batteries charge while all 4 engines are running. The aircraft then flew all night on battery power only, and stayed airborne until the solar panels started charging again. This aircraft is no speed demon, but it proves a huge advancement in battery weight and "power per pound" Ford seems to be a company that embraces new technology more rapidly than others. I look forward to this new electric Focus

· · 6 years ago

Carl: Ford has said they expect the Focus to get about 100 miles per charge, the apparent sweet spot that most OEM's are targeting. As I am sure you know they can easily make it go 150mpc, but that would probably add another $5,000 or so to the cost (to an already more expensive vehicle than it's ice counterparts), while making the car heavier and less efficient as you are still lugging around the extra batteries even when you don't need them. (which would probably be 90% of the time)

Balancing price and range isn't easy but it does seem that most companies that aren't called Tesla think that 100 miles will be sufficient for most people that want to buy an EV(for now at least)

· · 6 years ago

Yes to what Tom said. You can't make everybody happy.

>> The technology for this is here, just not applied yet. <

If by technology you mean battery range over 100 miles... sure it has been applied. Tesla Roadster. And soon the S.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Once I get my leaf, it will cost me $1.90 to fully charge the battery from empty and cost me around1.9 cents per mile to drive. I pay 7.9 cents a kilowatt hour. My electricity comes from 54% hydro, 35% natural gas, 5% coal and 5% nuclear. This is much cleaner and more efficient than any ice. It will be over 10 times cheaper than my mini van to drive and 4-5 times cheaper than our Prius. I'll save over $120 a month on gas alone plus reduced cost for maintenance over time. We will see how the batteries perform over time but the cost savings will balance out the higher initial cost.

· · 6 years ago

@Anonymous (not verified) "...and cost me around1.9 cents per mile to drive. I pay 7.9 cents a kilowatt hour."

Figure about 3.3 m/kwh and thus 2.4 cents/mile.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

EV Companies wont manufacture just to make money, I'm sure they're looking for better ways to make it more efficient like having low cost Serpentine Belts that I still use today. If I have a EVs I would also consider cheaper way for maintenance.

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