Electrified transportation is inevitable. Talk to anyone in the industry. We know it, and so do those who have a lot of money invested in fossil fuels. Some are moving quickly to adapt, while others are fighting the transition. To quote President Obama, “Hard things are hard.” A transition to an all EV future is hard but necessary. Recently, a private consulting group in the Midwest released a study claiming electric cars cost more to fuel than gas cars. It got some media traction, and a lot of pushback and scrutiny of their assumptions such as accounting for free charging at commercial rates. Car and Driver does a stellar job setting the record straight, however you can be sure that the study top-lines will be used again and again by those aiming to delay or derail electric vehicles.
When it comes to the facts about the real costs of going electric, there are many reputable research organizations like University of Michigan, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Idaho National Laboratory (IDL), Consumer Reports and AAA, that have produced extensive data proving that electric vehicles are less expensive to own and operate than gas powered vehicles. And, as EVs reach and then beat upfront cost parity with gasoline powered vehicles, the difference between overall cost of ownership becomes even more beneficial to EV drivers.
If you are going to talk costs, you have to talk ALL costs—also known as the total cost of ownership, commonly referred to in the industry as TCO. EVs are new technology disrupting the old paradigm and altering the way we think about our vehicle. The consumers’ drive to save money remains the same though. In the old world, we cruised the streets looking for the cheapest price per gallon of gasoline, drove less or begrudgingly paid more when oil supply drops spiked gas prices and frequently took our car to the shop for costly maintenance. EV drivers on the other hand cruise their utility website to easily find the cheapest time to charge, surf their charging apps to find the cheapest place to charge and take their car to the shop for traditional maintenance less frequently.
So, when you are talking all costs, here are the facts:
Maintenance & Repair
Electric vehicles are not your grandmother’s cars full of a thousand moving parts. This short video breaks down how many moving parts are in an EV, with the final answer being a mere 20 moving parts. They are computers on wheels! That means that there are fewer things that break, no exhaust system, less need for cooling, less abrasive braking options and no need to change oil, fan belts, air filters, timing belts, head gaskets, cylinder heads and spark plugs. As a result, they are far less expensive to maintain: 40% cheaper according to Argonne National Laboratory in a collaborative study with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. In 2018, New York City’s electric fleet vehicles saved an average of 80% per vehicle on maintenance costs versus equivalent gas-powered vehicles.
This is trickier to calculate because fuel prices are rarely apples to apples. While the cost of electricity is notably more stable than that of gasoline, like gas, it varies by region. Electricity costs are characterized by a more diverse set of factors including charging location, time and power level. That said, if—like most consumers—you make decisions based on price, you can refill your battery much more cheaply than refilling your gas tank, no matter where you live. The Department of Energy has a helpful calculator that compares the cost of e-gallons to gas gallons by state. Spoiler: e-gallons are cheaper in every one! San Diego Gas and Electric also have their own calculator tool that allows you to compare your personal gas versus electric costs real time.
According to AAA, the electricity required to drive 15,000 miles per year in a compact electric vehicle costs an average of $546, while the amount of gas required to drive the same distance in a similarly sized car costs $1,255 (130% more). The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that the average cost in 2018 to fill an EV in the US was $485 per year compared with a gas-powered vehicle at $1,117. Finally, an NREL and IDL study found total projected fuel cost savings was between $3,000 and $10,500 when compared with gasoline vehicles over a 15 year range.
These are mostly averages though, so let’s unpack the variability of cost more specifically based on charging behavior and equipment.
Home vs. Public Charging
According to Consumer Reports, EV owners with a home charger can do about 90 percent of their charging at home. The Union of Concerned Scientists found utilities in the largest 50 US cities offered a residential electricity rate that allowed EV owners to save even more on fuel costs compared with gasoline vehicles. However, when you charge is just as important as where you charge. Charging the car overnight, when electricity demand drops and prices are low, can save you 30 percent versus charging during the day your car runs a little low according to NREL and IDL. Just as your grandmother scouted for the lowest price per gallon, you can be sure that EV owners figure out the best time to charge. Not to mention, unlike with gasoline cars, EV owners can treat their cars just like their cell phones and conveniently plug it in at home before going to bed.
We here at Veloz recognize that home charging is not presently a viable option for everyone though. That’s why we are working to make public charging more accessible and affordable for all, especially those living in multifamily units.
While charging at home does provide the most refueling cost savings, Consumer Reports found that when including realistic, real-world use of more expensive public charging, consumers can still save an average of $800-$1,000 annually when charging an EV versus paying for gas. There continues to be minimal visibility into the cost structures of public charging stations and this is a problem. Providing consumers with greater consistency and transparency when it comes to what they are paying to charge is key to accelerating equitable and affordable EV adoption.
To put it plainly: Hard things are hard. The transition to electrified transportation is not always an easy one at the start, however switching to zero-emission transportation will most certainly be cheaper and healthier for everyone. Valuable time continues to tick away while combating the spread of misinformation intent on stalling this necessary transition to a far better future, time that could be better applied making the transition to clean energy more effective, affordable and accessible. Let’s continue to move faster toward Electric For All by holding fast to the facts!