How Are Electric Vehicles Comparing to ICEs for Ownership Cost?

Electric Hybrid

As automak­ers reduce prices on their plug-in elec­tric vehi­cles, how does the cost of own­er­ship com­pare to fuel-effi­cient inter­nal com­bus­tion engine vehi­cles?

• Ford Motor Co. just joined the price war reduc­ing the base price of its Focus EV from $39,200 to $35,200. With the fed­er­al tax incen­tive, the price goes down to $27,700 and some states are offer­ing their own incen­tives (i.e., Cal­i­for­nia is tak­ing anoth­er $2,500 off the price).
• Hon­da cut month­ly pay­ments of a 36-month lease on its Fit EV from $389 to $259.
• Leas­ing made up about 93% of elec­tric vehi­cle sales deliv­er­ies in Q4 2012, accord­ing to Exper­ian Auto­mo­tive.
• Main­te­nance costs are low­er on EVs com­pared to ICEs. You don’t take them in for oil changes and basic ser­vice as you do with a gaso­line engine car.
• As for the cost of the ener­gy need­ed to keep the car mov­ing, the US Dept. of Ener­gy has start­ed up . On aver­age, fuel­ing your car with gaso­line costs about three times more than pow­er­ing it with elec­tric­i­ty. On a giv­en day, the aver­age US price of gaso­line was $3.65 per gal­lon and the cost per mile equiv­a­lent for elec­tric­i­ty was $1.14 for an elec­tric eGal­lon.

Long term life­cy­cle costs for EVs are still unknown – unless you’ve been dri­ving one for sev­er­al years, such as the lim­it­ed num­ber sold in the sec­ond half of the 1990s. As for the new gen­er­a­tion of lithi­um-ion bat­tery mod­els, they’ve only been on roads since late 2010. The cost of the bat­tery pack replace­ment is a big issue for ana­lysts. How­ev­er, with 93% of them being leased for now, bat­tery life is yet to be much of a real con­cern – but the wor­ry is always there. The Nis­san Leaf has gone through this strug­gle in the past year with Leaf dri­vers in hot areas like Ari­zona being angry and vocal about the per­for­mance of the Leaf’s bat­tery pack.

EV sales are still small com­pared to the over­all mar­ket – only 0.63% of new vehi­cle sales in the US dur­ing June. They’re not going away, but there are a few bar­ri­ers to be crossed for these num­bers to grow. Car shop­pers need a lot more edu­ca­tion and expe­ri­ence to address con­cerns over their range anx­i­ety, vehi­cle reli­a­bil­i­ty and dura­bil­i­ty, and total cost of own­er­ship from pur­chase to end of lease or resale of their car.

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