Are Electric Cars Really Less Expensive To Own & Operate?

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If you are interested in fully electric cars or plug-in hybrids there is a myriad of misleading information to wade through.  One of the big questions is, ‘Is it is cheaper to run own and operate an electric car vs a gasoline powered car?’.

Before we get into the numbers, you need to be aware of two things:

  1. Most electric vehicles are plugged in at work during the day at no additional cost to the employee
  2. The price of electricity varies from city to city, so it is difficult to say definitively one way or the other

The most accurate, generalized, answer is to say electrified and gasoline vehicles are very competitive with each other and one does not (yet) have a major cost advantage over the other.

I drive a Cadillac ELR with a 60KM+ range (average of 55KM in winter and 65KM range in summer) before my gasoline engine generator kicks in.  Because I used to track my expenses and my kilometers, I can say with certainty that the ELR save me:

  1. about $1700/year in fuel costs. Like many, I seldom plug it in at home and on the rare occasion that I do my solar panels provide about 50% of electricity.  I do 95% of my car charging at work, at no extra cost.
  2. Nearly all electric vehicles have ‘regenerative braking’ which uses the electric motor to slow the car.  The physical brakes are seldom used and I expect that the factory set of brakes will last the life of the car.  That saves a few hundred dollars.
  3. Because the gasoline engine generator in my plug-in hybrid Cadillac ELR is seldom used I will only get an oil change every 18 months or so.  If the car was fully electric, I would never get an oil change.  This saves both money and time… which to me is more money.
  4. For the reasons above, I expect the exhaust system and other consumables (spark plugs, air filters…) will last dramatically longer than a regular car.  All of this saving money.

We have two interesting sets of numbers for you to review.  From the new for 2018 book ThePriceOfCarbon.com comes an interesting info-graphic:

comparison-of-fuel-prices-between-electric-vs-gasoline-vehicles-2018

ASSUMPTIONS:

  • Tesla model fuel rating (gasoline equivalents) = 1.87 L/100 km
  • Average mid-sized car = 9.9 L/100 km
  • Average distance travelled per year 18,000 km

ANNUAL FUEL COSTS:

  • Tesla Model 3 = $367 (19% of the cost of ICE vehicle)
    Average mid-sized car = $1,942
  • Fuel savings per year in switching to an EV = $1,575
    Fuel savings in operating an EV over a 200,000 of driving = $17,499

It is the national sport to whine about the cost of gas and how carbon pricing will hurt us at the gas pump but you can avoid that cost completely with electrified vehicles.

CLIMATE FACTS:

  • 24% of Canada’s GHG emission come from the transportation sector.
  • Gas is costly and a major source of emissions. The answer – don’t buy gas.

Battery Electric Vehicle*

  • Annual fuel cost = $367
  • Tailpipe emissions = 0

Average mid-sized gas fueled car**

  • Annual fuel cost = $1,942
  • Tailpipe emissions = 4.1 metric tonnes of CO2

*Tesla model 3 US EPA rating
**Government of Canada statistics

TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP COMPARISON: Honda Civic vs Tesla Model 3

 

ELECTRICITY IS NOT ALL MADE THE SAME:

From a green perspective it is important to think about how the electricity for an electric vehicle is produced.  I live in Calgary Alberta which now gets 12% of its electricity from wind power and the other 88% from natural gas.  If I had an electric car 5 years ago, about 70% of the electricity to run it would have come from coal.  Electricity produced from modern coal facilities is much better than burning gasoline  in your car, but it is not great.  Electricity produced from old coal facilities is on par with burning gasoline in your car.

SUMMARY:

You will have to do your own math to see if an electrified vehicle will actually save you money.  In my case, I expected the electric car to cost more and I was happy to pay it because:

  1. I wanted to drive something cool, and my Cadillac ELR is very cool
  2. I wanted to do my small part to advance tomorrows technology by buying today’s.   We can’t get to the ‘panacea’ revision 15 (of… any technology) until we get through ‘pretty good’ revision 8

For nearly everyone the 5 year total cost of owning an electric vehicle will break even with the cost of a gasoline powered vehicle, at a minimum.  Most of the numbers you see in videos like the one above, do not take into account:

  1. all of maintenance hassles and expenses that just go away with electrics
  2. the cost of gasoline collapsed in recent years, but because of new taxes and inflation the price has no-where to go but up
  3. the fact that most of you will plug in at work, for no additional cost
  4. even if you loose a few dollars you will look cool and advance new technologies and jobs

 

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