Do Electric Cars Use Oil? EV Maintenance Tips

How does EV maintenance compare to that of gas-powered cars?

The open hood of an electric Volkswagen e-Golf reveals its motor.
An electric vehicle has fewer moving parts and less need for lubricants than a gas-powered car. Nigel Treblin/Getty Images.

No, electric cars do not use oil. Since they use electricity stored in batteries to rotate the car's motor, they do not use motor oil. One of the key benefits of owning an electric vehicle (EV) is that fewer moving parts mean lower maintenance costs.

Electric Vehicle Maintenance

EVs do require other lubricants with maintenance needs. It's best to refer to your owner's manual for proper scheduling of fluid maintenance.

Transmission Fluid

Most EVs have motors with only one gear, which can spin up from 0 to 10,000 RPMs, whereas a gas-powered car needs multiple gears to shift from lower to higher RPMs. EVs have transmission systems that require fluid maintenance, but because of the specialized fluids, drivers shouldn't try to replace them themselves.

Battery Coolant

The lithium-ion batteries in EVs need coolant to keep them from overheating and potentially catching fire. EV battery maintenance must be done by a dealer according to the vehicle's maintenance schedule. Tesla no longer recommends battery coolant replacement on its vehicles as it did on older models, while the Chevy Bolt has a recommended replacement rate of every 150,000 miles.

Brake Fluid

Like gas-powered cars, EVs have brake fluid (also known as hydraulic fluid). In an EV, however, the brakes are used less frequently because of regenerative braking.

Regenerative braking reduces wear-and-tear on the brake pads, but not necessarily the need to replace brake fluid on a regular basis. For electric vehicles, the range is recommended brake fluid change is roughly the same as for gas-powered cars, with Tesla and Nissan recommending fluid changes every five years.

Common Lubricants

Windshield washer fluid replacement is the same in EVs and gas-powered cars and should be refilled regularly. This also applies to steering fluid (for vehicles with hydraulic power steering), air conditioning fluid, as well as grease for suspension systems, door locks, wheel bearings, and other small moving parts.

The main fluid that distinguishes an EV from a gasoline-powered car is—you guessed it—gasoline, and it's here that cost savings are the greatest. Calculating the cost of the electricity needed to drive an electric vehicle can be complicated, compared to the cost of gasoline. Just as those costs can vary depending on the efficiency of gas-powered cars, the efficiency of electric vehicles varies from model to model. And like gasoline prices, electricity costs vary from state to state as well.

But consider this statement from the U.S. Department of Energy: “The cost to run your [electric] car over the course of a year can be less than running an air conditioner.” According to a 2020 study from Consumer Reports, electric vehicles “were estimated to save consumers about 60% on fuel costs compared with the average vehicle in their class.” The study also points out that as vehicles age, those savings increase even more, as the efficiency of a gas-powered engine decreases more quickly than the efficiency of an electric motor. A five- to seven-year-old used EV saves an owner two to three times more in fuel costs than a comparable gas-powered vehicle. The study estimated that electric vehicle owners could save between $6,000 to $10,000 over the life of a vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What fluids do electric cars require?

    EVs require coolant, brake fluid, and sometimes transmission fluid, but none need to be topped up as frequently as they would in a gas-powered car.

  • How often does an EV need maintenance?

    Even though they don't require oil changes, EVs do need to be serviced regularly—about twice annually is recommended. Services should include tire rotations and pressure checks, windshield wiper replacements, and general battery checks.

  • Are EVs cheap to maintain?

    EVs are a lot cheaper to maintain than gas-powered cars because they contain fewer parts. They don't even have engines or require oil to run.