Do electric cars use oil?

In Buyer's Guide by evarchive2 Comments

Electric cars do not use oil in the same way that Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars do. Typically an ICE car uses oil to lubricate all the moving parts within the engine and to keep everything working. An electric car does use grease, which technically is an oil-based substance and provides lubrication to bearings in some electric motors.

An oil change is required for electric cars that have a single speed gearbox, the oil is normally sealed within the transmission and will be changed by the manufacturer. It’s best to check with your manufacturer what the servicing requirements are and when the change is needed.

Generally, most electric cars do not need an oil change in the same way that an ICE car does, this is because no oil is required to lubricate the engine. Electric motors are very efficient and there is not as much loss of energy creating heat, which cannot be said for an ICE. Electric motors have a small amount of moving parts, typically there is a rotor and a stator. In an electric motor, the stator creates a rotating magnetic field to move the rotor.

Do electric cars need coolant?

Some electric cars do need coolant, especially if they have a thermal management system within the car for cooling the batteries. A thermal management system is essentially the cars way of managing battery temperatures. For cooling the batteries the coolant is circulated around the battery packs to lower the temperature. Batteries have an optimal temperature they work best at, and overheating can cause degradation. Similarly colder temperatures can limit the speeds you can charge your car at, especially if the battery pack is cold. The solution of Tesla, in this case, is to use a resistance heater in the model S and X to heat the battery pack to an optimal temperature. Not only does this allow for normal charging speeds, but it also restores some of the range of the car which is temporarily lost due to cold batteries.

If you are buying an electric car for the long term it’s a good idea to purchase one with a thermal management system. This also has other names such as a battery management system or BMS for short. The reason for this is that your batteries will be kept in a more optimal temperature which helps to decrease degradation. Some cars on the market do not offer this and instead have passive cooling where the outside air is used to cool the batteries. In some cases this will not be as effective as a BMS and over the longer term these cars will suffer greater battery degradation than those with a BMS in my opinion.

Do electric cars use transmission fluid?

Transmission fluid is used in an electric car but as mentioned before it’s in a sealed unit. Typically this will not need to be changed as often as an ICE car because no gears are actually being changed. When the car wants to go in reverse the electric motor spins backward and when neutral is selected the electric motor stops spinning.

Do electric cars need antifreeze?

Since an electric motor within an electric car works very efficiently there is very little wasted energy that creates heat. This means that no coolant is needed for the electric motor and therefore no antifreeze is needed. Cars which have a battery management system such as any of the Tesla’s or the Hyundai Kona use coolant to cool their batteries, there will be some sort of antifreeze properties within this coolant.

Regenerative braking reduces maintenance costs

An electric cars brakes need replacing less often than a gasoline car. The reason for this is that an electric car uses regenerative braking. Regenerative braking or regen braking for short is when you take your foot off the accelerator pedal and the electric motor within an electric car starts spinning in reverse. Essentially the car uses its kinetic (movement) energy to recharge the battery and slow down the car. As you can see regen breaking works very different from the mechanical brakes you have on your gas car, they use friction to make your car stop. Don’t worry you still have mechanical brakes on an electric car, it’s just that you might not need to use them as much due to regen braking.

Normally an electric car has different levels of regen braking you can choose, ranging from harder to softer. The harder regen braking will top up your car’s battery more than one of the softer settings. If you speak with some electric car owners I’m sure they’ll tell you its a strange feeling at first to use regen braking but you get used it over time. The electric car owners who are pro’s with regen breaking use the one pedal method as much as possible. The one pedal method is when people are essentially using the accelerator pedal to do all the driving because the regen braking is doing the braking for them. 

Maintenance of an electric car

Generally, maintenance of an electric car is a lot less when compared to their gasoline counterparts. Generally no oil changes or new oil filters are required, no air filter, no spark plug changes, no exhaust maintenance such as catalytic converter, the brakes last longer on an electric car, no power steering fluid to be replaced and there are a lot less moving parts in an electric car. Typically an ICE can have up to 10,000 moving parts whilst an electric car can have approximately 1000 moving parts. With a lot less moving parts there is a lot less chance of a breakdown and things going wrong.

Electric cars and ICE cars both require the following things to be maintained: brake fluid, brake pad replacement, windshield washer fluid, 12-volt battery, wiper blades, air conditioning recharge, and tire replacement.


  1. what kind of coolant can be use in an EV. ? i believe its not as same at other ICE.

    1. Author

      The same coolant used in ICE cars can be used in electric cars. The automobile industry is now moving away from coolants that are more hazardous to the environment. They are using less toxic coolants such as Propylene Glycol. I have written an article on this subject that you might find interesting…

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