What’s An Electric Car MOT Like? We Find Out

Like many other parts of the world, the UK mandates that all vehicles over a certain age take a mandatory road-worthiness test to test its safety and tailpipe emissions.

No emissions to worry about? Your electric car may still need an annual inspection.

No emissions to worry about? Your electric car may still need an annual inspection.

While electric cars are obviously exempt from tailpipe emissions tests due to their lack of tailpipes, electric cars in the UK still have to undergo a Ministry of Transport (MoT) test every year once they turn three years of age.

But what’s an MOT test like for an electric car? We headed to our local friendly Nissan dealer to find out, along with Staff car Hiro, a Nissan LEAF we’ve owned for just under three years with more than 50,000 miles on the clock.

More than just a smog check

Like its petrol and diesel-powered counterparts, an electric car’s MoT includes a suite of tests designed to examine every aspect of its roadworthiness.

Carried out by Department of Transport-approved mechanics, the test lasts somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes per car, and checks everything from the car’s brakes, suspension and steering through to its wiper blade function, lights, and structural integrity.

The tester checks the correct operation of each wheel.

The tester checks the correct operation of each wheel.

The test, which is strictly monitored, is mandatory rather than optional. Without it, you can’t renew your car’s insurance or get a valid tax disc (an annual road taxation which is currently free for electric cars.)

Lights, Horn, Glass, Wipers

The MoT test often begins by checking headlight alignment. This is done by using a special headlight aim tool that checks the headlight intensity at a specific height and distance from the headlights.

This test exists to ensure that the headlights are not too high, dazzling oncoming motorists, or too low, improperly illuminating the road ahead.

Following this, the tester checks each and every light on the car for proper function, from the turn signals and hazard blinkers to brake and taillights, number plate illumination and if fitted, fog lights.

At the same time, testers will often check horn function. Another requirement for an MoT certificate, a non-functioning horn means no MoT certificate.

Next, the MoT tester will check the windscreen for chips and cracks. An instant MoT fail, the check ensures the driver’s vision of the road ahead is not obscured and that the windscreen itself is not at risk of breaking.

With an electric car there's no need for emissions check.

With an electric car there’s no need for emissions check.

Finally in this section, the MoT tester looks at the condition of the windscreen wipers, ensuring each works and that their condition is acceptable. They will also check the windscreen washer mechanism works at the same time.

Rust, corrosion

Once the tester has satisfied themselves that the car has passed the previous section, he or she will place the car on a workshop lift, raising the car up to give the car a visual inspection of its underside.

The primary reason for this is to check for corrosion, primarily in the form of rust. Having previously checked under the bonnet for rust, the tester will make their way underneath the car to examine the car’s chassis, sills, and mechanical mounting points such as motor mounting brackets, suspension components and hinges.

Under the rules of the test, the MOT tester is not permitted to use any implement other than a specially-designed inspection tool — which looks like a cross between a wrench, a short screwdriver, and a hammer.

Under-car checks are carried out for corrosion.

Under-car checks are carried out for corrosion.

With this, they are allowed to tap and gently poke parts of the car they suspect to be corroded after visual inspection, but the testers are not allowed to remove any underside body panels to undertake the test.

On most electric cars, where large underbody panels provide an additional aerodynamic boost to the car’s efficiency, this means a large portion of the car can’t be seen by the tester.

The mechanical bits

Finally, the tester moves onto the car’s mechanical components like suspension, steering, wheel bearings and brakes.

Each shock absorber is checked visually for its condition, ensuring its seal is not perished.

Lifting the front wheels clear of the lift, the tester — with the aid of another MoT-approved tester — checks the correct steering function of the car, also taking time to check each individual wheel for excess wear in it’s bearing.

The wheels are also spun by hand to make sure the wheels freely spin without any excess friction from stuck brake components or failed bearing.

These tests are repeated on the rear wheels, then the car is lowered back to the ground and driven onto a specially-designed rolling road to test the correct function of each brake.

Make sure you get one

Although there’s no emissions tests required for an electric car, we hope you’ll see that there are plenty more tests that your garage is required to undertake by law to ensure your electric car is safe and roadworthy for another year.

If you’re among the first wave of EV owners in the UK, the chances are your car’s first MoT is due in the next few months, so take time out to book your car in for a check.

If you’ve looked after your electric car well and given it regular maintenance the chances are you’ll have no problems getting its first MoT certificate.  Technically, any garage licensed to test a four-wheeled passenger car should be able to test your electric car, but since many MoT testers won’t have seen an electric car before, we’d recommend taking your electric car to a dealer where electric cars are serviced and sold.

Elsewhere in the world

In this article, we’ve focused specifically on the road worthiness test for electric cars in the UK. We know in other parts of the world tests like the British MoT differ for electric cars compared to gasoline ones.

If you live somewhere outside of the UK and you’ve had to put your electric car through a mandatory road safety or emissions test, let us know what it was like?

Was it easier than the same test for a gasoline car? How long did it take, how much did it cost, and did your car pass?

Let us know in the Comments below.


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