Different types of cars have various maintenance considerations, which sometimes affect how you should wash them. Most professionals know not to run a soft-top convertible through an automatic carwash, for example. As electric vehicles (EVs) gain prominence, you may wonder if they also carry unique washing concerns.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. consumers bought a record 761,000 EVs in 2020, marking the fifth straight year of electric car growth.1 Despite their surging popularity, EVs are still a novel concept to many drivers and carwash professionals alike. As such, how to treat them may be unclear.
Here’s a closer look at the maintenance needs of electric cars and whether or not you should pay extra attention to them at the carwash.
What carwashes should know about EV maintenance
It’s entirely possible you have never encountered an EV at your carwash before. While these vehicles’ adoption is growing, they still lag behind gas and diesel alternatives. This may lead some carwash professionals to think they don’t need to learn about EVs yet. But this isn’t the case.
While vehicle electrification is still in its early days, it could explode before long. As mentioned, more drivers are buying these vehicles, and that’s not where their growth ends either. Many automakers are shifting their focus to EVs as the threat of climate change looms.
Ford, for example, has invested $11 billion in electric vehicles, including transitioning the iconic Mustang to electrification.2 Many other automakers have announced plans to phase out fossil fuel-powered cars or make more electric alternatives. As these trends pick up, EVs will make up an increasingly significant portion of the market.
EVs will slowly become more common until they’re more numerous than gas and diesel. This shift is all but inevitable, so it’ll help to get to know EVs now. If there are any special wash considerations for electric cars, carwash professionals should learn them early.
Potential concerns over EVs in the carwash
Many people have concerns about washing EVs, especially when it comes to automatic washes. A recent survey from the U.K. government revealed that 42% of people believe you can’t take an electric car through an automated carwash.3 It helps to know where these concerns come from to understand any potential necessary steps.
You don’t have to be a mechanical engineer to know that water and electricity don’t mix. While every car has electrical systems, EVs rely entirely on them and feature bigger, potentially more sensitive batteries. If these high-tech pieces of equipment get water or soap into their inner mechanisms, it could theoretically interfere with their circuits and damage the car.
Electric car parts are also expensive. The lithium-ion batteries in EVs today cost $7,350 on average, and that’s 87% cheaper than they were 10 years ago.4 If one of these batteries sustains water damage, replacing it could cost as much as buying a used car.
Normally, water wouldn’t be a concern, as EVs can drive through the rain without trouble. Carwashes tend to have higher water pressure and moving brushes that touch the vehicle’s surface, which makes it seem riskier to some people. This leads these people to worry if EVs require more delicate washes.
Why standard carwashes are safe for EVs
Despite these fears, washing an EV doesn’t require any more care than a gas or diesel car. Auto manufacturers need to meet strict safety standards, and that includes a certain level of waterproofing. Given the sensitivity of an EV’s lithium batteries, electric cars typically meet even higher standards for waterproofing.
A typical gas car would have an Ingress Protection (IP) rating of IP65, meaning it can resist dust and low-pressure water jets.5 EV components often feature a rating of IP66 or higher, meaning they can resist strong jets of water, not just low-pressure ones. Automatic carwashes’ jets typically are not powerful enough to break through that level of waterproofing.
EVs also feature safety systems that protect the driver and passengers should something go wrong. In the event of a crash, an EV, like most modern cars, would disconnect its high-voltage components through an impact sensor. EVs also have a system that shuts off power to high-voltage parts, further reducing the risk of shock.
The only instance in which waterlogging would be a concern for EVs is a flood. Hurricane Sandy proved how being submerged in saltwater can destroy EV battery packs after enough time.6 The clean, non-submerging water of a carwash will be perfectly safe though.
Related: Wash Wisdom: 8 emergency response tips for natural disasters
EV wash considerations
If you want to practice an abundance of caution, you can take a few steps to ensure safe EV washing. While you don’t run the risk of damaging someone’s electric car, it’s not a bad idea to be careful with them. That’s simply because many EVs are new cars and often luxury models too.
According to www.nrdc.org, the average electric vehicle costs $19,000 more than a gas-powered alternative.7 Considering this expense, you should take the same approach to washing them as you would any luxury car. Keep your washing equipment in optimal condition, avoid abrasive cleaners or applying too much pressure, and offer surface protectant services.
Make sure that anyone with an EV has sufficient charge left in the battery before he or she goes through an automatic carwash. Just as you don’t want to run out of gas in the middle of a wash, you want enough charge to get through it with an EV. You don’t necessarily need to install a charging port by your carwash, but it could help to post signage reminding drivers.
Even if you know it’s safe to wash an EV as you would a gas-powered car, drivers may not. Since some people have a misconception that automatic carwashes are unsafe for EVs, you can post signage or talk with customers to inform them otherwise. Assuring them the process is safe for their vehicles will help build good client relationships.
Carwashes must be ready for developing trends
Running a successful carwash involves preparing to work with any cars that drivers bring to you. Consequently, carwash professionals should stay on top of car ownership trends. And right now, EVs are the dominant trend.
Washing an EV vehicle requires no extra care as far as safety goes, but operators may want to treat it as a luxury vehicle, given its expense. When you understand these factors, you can serve your clientele better.
Oscar Collins is the editor-in-chief of Modded, where he writes about cars, car trends and auto news. Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates on his work.