Tesla Model S: (almost) no maintenance required

The Tesla Model S has gotten a lot of press in recent months, but one of the more remarkable features of the car is the maintenance required – or lack thereof.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP/File
Visitors to the Capitol had the opportunity to inspect the Tesla Motors Model S electric sedan on display in Sacramento, Calif., in June.

The Tesla Model S battery-electric luxury sedan is a remarkable car, and it's elevated the public perception of electric cars to a new level.

It's won awards, thrilled thousands of buyers, and demolished a lot of stereotypes.

But among the things you may not know about Tesla is this: The Model S requires almost no maintenance.

Like pretty much any battery-electric vehicle, a Model S lacks many of the components that go wrong in gasoline cars.

Without the valves, camshafts,a crankshaft, connecting rods, gears, clutches, and more found in a gasoline car, the Tesla Model S, like any battery-electric car, needs almost no almost no regular adjustment.

About the only parts that need regular replacement are four tires and two windshield wiper blades.

Even brake pads, which you might expect to need regular replacement on such a high-performance car, last many times longer than those on comparable gasoline cars.

That's because the bulk of a Tesla's slowing power comes from regrenerative braking, or turning the motor into a generator to recharge the battery pack, slowing the car in the process.

The friction brakes are still there for hard or panic braking, of course, but they're used only a fraction as much.

(The same is true for hybrids, by the way. Ask your nearest Prius owner how long their brake pads last.)

A German study found that over eight years, battery-electric cars will be one-third less expensive to maintain--and many analysts view that as conservative.

Under its $600 annual service and update program, Teslas technicians will inspect the cooling systems for the battery pack, drive motor, and power electronics to ensure that everything's in good working order.

And they'll make any running updates that Tesla has decided older Model S cars should be retrofitted with.

Otherwise, there just aren't that many moving parts in a Model S to go wrong.

In fact, Ford compiled a list of all the parts its Focus Electric doesn't have, showing just how little maintenance the car needs.

That fact has a number of forward-thinking car mechanics very, very worried.

But we tend to think they'll have lots of work left for decades keeping older German luxury cars on the road.

Ask anyone who's ever tried to keep an older Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz in full working order, and they'll know exactly what we're talking about here.

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