Torque Shop

Do we need to warm up an electric car? And is there a "breaking in" phase when we should not drive it too hard?

An internal combustion engine consists of various snug-fitting parts that need to move at rather high speeds. In addition, these parts require plenty of lubrication, all provided by the engine oil.

Before achieving the necessary levels of fluidity and lubricity, the oil needs to reach temperatures of between 80 and 100 deg C. This is critical to avoid friction damage between surfaces.

The engine in an electric vehicle (EV) leads a much simpler life. The electric motor shaft bearings are the only precision-fit items. These low-friction bearings do not need a sump of warmed-up oil to continuously spray over them. Hence, the motor does not need to go through a warm-up phase.

Nonetheless, its transmission, suspension, brakes and tyres will need to warm up to operate optimally.

Generally, these parts will warm up after 2 to 3km. Besides, it is always a good practice to check that the brakes work fine and there are no unusual noises coming from the drivetrain, suspension or tyres.

The same routine applies to the running-in phase of a new EV. The motor does not need any part to be gently honed in, unlike in a combustion engine.

As for the battery pack, there is generally no warm-up protocol. One of the major sub-systems in every EV is the thermal management system, which cools the battery pack. This does not require warming up either.

Running in for the sake of getting the rest of the EV's mechanical parts working healthily is always recommended.

But perhaps the most important element to run in at the start of any journey is the driver. It is advisable not to drive aggressively as soon as you get behind the wheel.

Shreejit Changaroth

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2020, with the headline 'Torque Shop'. Print Edition | Subscribe