Do Electric Cars Need Engine Oil?

Do Electric Cars Need Engine Oil?

By on Apr 29 2024

top view of an electric vehicle engine

Unlike gas-powered and hybrid cars, electric vehicles don't require engine oil. Since electric engines generate way less friction compared to their counterparts, you can skip the engine oil, but you still need a few other fluids to keep things running smoothly.

To better understand why electric cars do not need engine oil, let’s look at the differences between combustion and electric engines.

Combustion Engines

view under the hood of a red vehicle

Combustion engines are deeply complex. They consist of many metallic parts that are constantly moving such as crankshaft, valves, pistons, connecting rods, camshafts, etc. The role of these mechanical components is to turn the pistons’ vertical movement that is produced by the air/fuel explosion in the cylinder, into a rotational movement that will be transferred to the wheels.

The friction between these different parts causes a loss of energy efficiency, heat release, and the development of deposits. In more simple terms, the engine wears out. The specific role of engine oil to reduce this friction and to slow down the increase in temperature and metal erosion.

Because of this, oil is essential in classic combustion engines. Otherwise the engine could be seriously damaged after only a few miles.

Electric Engines

view under the hood of a blue vehicle

Mechanically speaking, electric engines are far less complex than combustion ones since they generate a rotational movement (from the rotor’s circular movement which is produced by a magnetic field). Therefore, electric engines can drive the wheels without relying on the various mechanical parts combustion engines need.

That’s why electric cars do not need engine oil yet they still require other fluids to work properly.

So if electric cars don't need engine oil, what fluids do they need?

  • Transmission fluids: electric cars are less complex than gas-powered cars but they still have some mechanical parts (e.g., in the transmission block). To efficiently lubricate the components, it is necessary to use fully insulating fluids with thermal properties suitable for electric engines. Transmission fluids should be replaced rarely: once or twice during the vehicle’s lifetime.
  • Engine coolant: this fluid will reduce the risk of battery and inverter overheating. Ideally, the first replacement of the coolant should take place after the car has travelled approximatively 49,000 miles.
  • Brake fluid: although regenerative braking* plays a major role, brake fluid is also essential in electric cars. When the electric car has enough brake fluid, the brake pads, and the disc brakes work properly and guarantee the passengers’ safety. You should replace it every two years or every 24,000 miles.
    *Regenerative braking is used in both electric and hybrid cars. When you press the brake pedal, the electric engine becomes an electric generator which is powered by the kinetic movement of the braking wheels. The advantage is twofold. First, the engine brakes. Second, the electricity generated by the engine is immediately stored in the batteries.

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Information above provided by TotalEnergies USA

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