Electric and hybrid car warranties

Worried tired wires in used electric cars will ruin your bank balance? Fear not, as warranties are available for second-hand electric cars

James Wilson
Sep 15, 2020

Electric and hybrid cars are complicated, with sophisticated motors and banks of batteries. The prospect of the potential costs involved should things go wrong are panic inducing. Fortunately, to combat this, car manufacturers offer warranties that cover electric vehicles' major components for a number of years after they roll off the production line. These don’t go on forever, though, so what happens when they expire?

Well, largely the same as what would happen if you were driving a petrol and diesel car. You can either continue driving without any cover or you can take out a used car warranty. There are a number of comprehensive warranties on the market specifically designed to shield those buying a used electric car from potentially crippling repair bills. 

Strangely enough, when comparing a battery-powered car to a diesel or petrol alternative, there is significantly less to go wrong. Internal combustion engines (i.e. those powered by petrol and diesel) have all manner of bearings, seals, springs, valves and pistons that require regular maintenance and/or checks to be kept in tip-top condition to ensure they continue to run smoothly.

The ‘engine’ of an electric car is an electric motor - which is made up of a handful of fairly straight forward components - such as copper wire and magnets. Likewise, an electric car's fuel system is its battery and even though the chemicals inside are rather fancy, they aren’t made up of moving parts that wear out.

That said, if one of the major parts of an electric car completely fails it's likely to be an expensive fix, which means a warranty would be worth its weight in gold. Not all warranties are born equal, though, so it is important to understand which components are covered. With that in mind, below is an overview of the major components that make up an electric car and are the ones you'll want to make sure are covered by any electric car warranty.

Electric/hybrid cars: major electronic components

When thinking about electric cars, the headline components are; the drive battery, drive motor(s), high-voltage inverter, energy/power control module, reduction gearbox, regenerative braking system and charging unit.

We're not expecting you to know how an electric car works, so the explanations below will shed some light on each of these components, so you can get a feel for what they do and why they're important.

Drive battery

This is the main battery pack that powers the electric motor (or motors) which turn the wheels. The term ‘drive’ is often added to avoid confusion as smaller low-voltage batteries can be used on electric cars to power safety or start-up systems.

Drive motors

Drive motors take power from the drive battery and use it to turn the wheels - eg. they are the motors which actually propel a car down the road.

As is the case with the drive battery, there can be other smaller motors (such as those used to open and close the electric windows) used on an electric car, so ‘drive’ is added for clarity.

High-voltage inverter

Battery packs can only supply direct current (DC) electricity but the types of drive motors used in electric cars require alternating current (AC) to work.

We won’t get bogged down in the technical details, but inverters are used to convert electricity from DC to AC. It is fair to say that a faulty inverter will soon halt any progress down the road.

Energy/power control module

Even though EVs still have an accelerator pedal, you need something which turns how far you press the pedal into how much electricity is sent from the drive battery to the drive motor. This is what the energy/power control module does. It is also useful for sending different amounts of electricity to different drive motors (if a vehicle has multiple motors).

It is possible to combine inverters and control modules into one mysterious box - after all, it makes sense for the part of the car which tells the battery how much electricity is needed to be connected to the part of the car which converts the battery’s DC supply to AC. As a note, the energy/power control module (EPCM) can sometimes be referred to as a power delivery module (or PDM for short).

Reduction gearbox

Unlike petrol and diesel cars, electric cars do not have a conventional gearbox. That said, many have a 'reduction gearbox', which does exactly what it says on the tin and reduces the speed at which a car’s wheels turn in relation to the motor.

If that is hard to follow, imagine being on a bike in a gear where your legs are pedalling around furiously but the back wheel is turning slowly - this difference in speed is the same effect.

Regenerative braking system

The regenerative braking system of an electric car puts charge back into the drive battery when braking. To do this it uses all the same components that are used to take charge from the battery but in reverse order.

There is also some clever software at play but understanding that is best left to engineers. Pumping electrons back into the battery pack creates resistance in the system which slows a car down.

Charging unit

The function of a charging unit is one of the easier things to understand about an electric car - they simply work by managing the electricity coming from a socket so that it can be used to charge the on-board battery. They can get awfully complicated, but in essence, that's all you need to know.

BuyaCar electric and hybrid car warranty

All electric cars purchased through BuyaCar.co.uk come with a minimum of 30 days warranty but there is the option to extend this. The annual or monthly costs (depending how you choose to pay) vary from one car to the next but as BuyaCar has partnered with Warrantywise for used car policies.

Warranty cover can be sourced for vehicles that are up to 12 years old and with up to 120,000 miles on the clock - which is well beyond that any car maker offers and covers all the cars available on BuyaCar. These extended warranties cover all the major electrical components listed above.

Do hybrid warranties differ from electric car ones?

No, there aren’t any major differences between how used car warranties work for hybrids and how they work for fully electric vehicles. What is slightly different, though, is that hybrid warranties cover a wider range of components - as hybrids include additional mechanical parts, such as a petrol or diesel engine - and slight variations in price.

 

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