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The True Cost of Powering an Electric Car Posts: 10,046
edited April 2017 in Editorial
imageThe True Cost of Powering an Electric Car

Depending on the cost of electricity, an EV could be a bargain or bust. Here's the smart way to think about powering an electric car.

Read the full story here



  • One more thing to consider is the use of solar systems to produce your own electricity to power your car. Many people that have had an electric car have then added a solar array to their home. After a few months with the MINI-E I realized that I would be driving electric from now on so I installed a solar array that powers my home and fuels my car.

    Edmunds chose not to introduce solar to this discussion because it really complicates the cost analysis. While I do pay .18/kWh when I charge at home, my solar array produces about 90% of my total electric use of my home and my car charging. When I charge at work a lot in a month, my electricity bill is negative(banked kWh's for future use).

    The article uses Hawaii's high electricity cost of .36/kWh but Hawaii is a perfect place for solar PV systems and since the islands are small, it is also the perfect place for an EV because most people would be hard pressed to drive 100 miles in a day on a Hawaiian island so the limited range is really taken out of the equation.
  • Thanks to Carroll Lachnit for the best article I've seen to date on the costs of charging an EV. And Tomm250 is correct that adding solar PV to the EV equation - EV/PV - makes for a compelling economic argument in favor of EVs.

    I would only add that these cost comparisons as described leave out the huge external costs of using dirty energy, primarily oil, but also coal and natural gas for generating electricity. When all the costs are included, the EV is vastly superior to internal combustion in all categories save range, and range is a non-issue in over 90% of American's driving.
  • While it may be true that electricity costs more in Hawaii, so does everything else, from orange juice to gasoline. It may cost more to power an electric car in Hawaii, but believe me, it costs *A*LOT* to power an ICE (internal combustion engine) car in Hawaii, as well. Failure to mention this little fact makes this article misleading.
  • Sticker shock when you buy and EV and a even great shock when you decide to trade this White Elephant in when the warranty on the battery bank is near or past it's warranty. What sane person is going to want to buy one of these EV's when they know the cost of replacing the battery bank?
    Guess who is going to take the hit when you trade your EV in? It sure won't be the dealer! So much for all that money you saved at the pump :-(
    PS You are stuck with going to the dealer to have these beast service. I think I'd rather have a root canal!
  • And you don't even get to those of us less-fortunates who must pay the $0.42 to $0.46 PG&E charges for Tier 4 and Tier 5 in northern California! We are on Tier 4 throughout much of the year, and in the Summer with our 100+ temps we have enough air conditioning cost to get heavily into Tier 5. Running an EV a those prices is roughly equivalent to my having to pay $12/gallon for gas in my Lincoln MKZ. Guess what I won't be buying?
  • don_cadon_ca Posts: 1
    don_ca says:

    07:35 PM, 01/18/11

    Good article about the true cost of operating an electric vehicle. But not much has been said about how to keep eCars going when production starts ramping up. Ever notice how the market reacts to consumer use. Our electric grid is antiquated and runs quite close to its maximum output. Only limited expansion to the grid is underway. What happens on a hot day when everyone plugs in there car and there is not enough electricity to run air conditioners and computers? We have rolling brown or black outs now! The price of electricity will jump and it will take TIME for the grid to come in line with the increased demand, if it can catch up. What will the MPHe be then? Hopefully the air, heat, and solid waste pollution generated from the new large electricity generating systems that will be needed will be better than running gasoline engines, but the balance of all these systems does not seem to be well understood yet. Being GREEN may not be so green.
  • Seems like kWh/100m should be kWh per 100 meters. Try "kWh/100 mi." instead.
  • solman3solman3 Posts: 1
    The true cost of gas & oil is far more intricate and complicated than most people think as well. From socio-economic impacts, to human-rights issues, to environmental concerns, oil production and consumption needs to be curtailed. These are the real driving forces behind the need to become more fuel efficient.
    Even so, it is true that the bottom-line needs to make sense when purchasing a more efficient vehicle.
    This article should have also mentioned that solar electricity powering a home or business can make a consumers cost per kWh much lower than they are currently paying and also provide the power for these vehicles.
  • This article prompted me to look at some specific costs of electric driving, mainly for my own interest. Let me know if you find it useful or lacking! 

    A useful comparison between petrol/diesel and electric driving per year in UK units:

    Average 30 miles /day is approx 10,000 miles/year.

    Fuel Cost:  
    Petrol:  £1.30/litre
    Miles/Litre= 10  for 45 Miles/Gallon
    per mile = £ 0.13   
    per Year = £1300 

    per mile = £0.03 
    per Year = £300

    Savings = £1000 per Year on fuel

    Additional savings:
    Road Tax = £150

    So at least a savings of £1150 per year.

    What can reduce this is the added depreciation of the battery pack (£1000 per year?).

    I personally think that the battery is where most buyers should scrutinise. A system where the customer does not own the battery pack could become the norm. This also enables battery swapping at filling stations to occur.The life time of the electric motor and drive train is expected to be much longer than that of conventional petrol/diesel cars. The electric car owner could then stand to benefit from lower overall depreciation in an system where the battery is swappable and leased.

    Battery Lease cost per month is quoted as £65 for Renault and others.

    Battery Lease / year = £780

    So Basic savings per year = £1150 - £780 = £370

    A battery lease car like the electric Renault Zoe or the Kangoo Van is  £13,600 after UK government grant.

    The equivalent diesel van is £9000.

    Thats a difference of £4600.

    So the electric version would pay back the difference in at least 12 years.

    Also factor in reduced maintenance costs for electric motor vs combustion engine per year. 

    Since you can expect longer life-times out of your electric vehicle (without battery) compared to petrol/diesel than a payback time of 10 years is possible.

    Over the next 10 years, the value of electric driving will only improve.

    All in all, if you can afford the extra 50% upfront costs, you don't stand to lose very much in £'s .
  • "The true cost" seems a bit biased toward the extreme (high) price for electricity cost. The kilowatt per hour rate for our city is $0.0466. The average cost for me to charge my Mitsubishi i-MiEV is only $0.011 per mile. Compare that to a gas powered car that gets 25 MPG when gas costs $4.00 per gallon. The savings factor is over 14 times cheaper to operate. Or put another way, by the time I've spent $4.00 in electricity, my vehicle has been driven over 350 miles! In another 20 months if gas goes up another dollar, the disparity will be even greater.
  • This article is totally correct in the figuring of the cost of "Fueling-up". What is missing is the savings on auto maintenance. No more catalytic converters, mufflers, exhaust piping, engine tune ups, gas-oil-air filters and other time and money consumming costs of an internal combustion engine. Nothing is perfect but EV's also are quiet, cutting down on noise polution in heavily conjested areas. Less unburnt products of combustion to breath are a health benefit also.

    In comparing costs to benefits it seems to be a personal choice of financing and health. That is not to say that a 100 mile range on a "Fill-up" is close to ideal. I can drive my 2002 Intrepid from Boston, MA to Trenton NJ in six hours with one gas stop of 15 minutes. That trip would take 12 gallons of gasoline and cost me about $23 to $26 dollars Plus wear and tear on all of the above mentioned & related parts.

    EV's would be great for in the cities and short commutes.
  • Sorry I missed the point that in an EV the charging time would make this at least a 13 hour trip. Please SEE Above Senior Citizen
  • What's missing from this article is how much you have to pay in taxes for a gallon of gas. Those taxes include highway road repair and maintenance.

    This from

    Find the cost of taxes. The federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon. On top of that, there are state taxes and, depending on where you live, local gasoline and/or sales taxes, too. If taxes are typical where you are, the API estimates you're paying 49 cents per gallon in federal, state and local gas taxes, making up 12.5 percent of the average $3.88 gas price.

    If we are going to have electric cars on the roads, sooner or later, they will need to pay their fair share of the road taxes like the rest of us.
  • while this is a fine article on the cost,I have not seen anyone talk about the possible future hidden costs. part of the cost per gallon of gas is taxes,local,state,county,fed. which is used to pay for road repairs and are they going to collect that in the future? right now i admit that the owners of the elec cars are getting a free ride(pun intended) for the taxes, but once this becomes main stream,how much would that cost rise?
  • One advantage of an electric car that most people might not have noticed is that you can run a car with luxury-grade performance and acceleration for very little more than an economy car.

    For example, a Nissan Leaf gets 99 mpg equivalent. A Tesla Model S, a far more luxurious vehicle with class-leading acceleration and handling, gets 89 mpg equivalent.

    A Nissan Versa, on which the Leaf was roughly based, gets 30 combined MPG.

    A Mercedes-Benz CLS550, which has roughly equivalent performance and luxury to a Tesla, gets 20 combined MPG.

    So if you want to be comfy and have fast acceleration, it costs about 1.5 times more to run than the Leaf.

    However, a Tesla Model S costs only about 10% (1.1 times) more than the Leaf.

    Admittedly, a Model S in the long-range model costs from $80-105k. However, a Mercedes CLS550 costs about the same ($75k+).

    To make this concrete, let's say I had a Nissan Versa and wanted to go to Miami. I go 150 miles on my trip. So 150 / 30mpg is about 5 gallons, or $20. The same trip on a Mercedes CLS class would be about $30.

    The Model S gets about 0.300 kwh per mile. So a trip of 150 miles will consume 45 kwh. Here in South Florida, where I'm charged a bit under $0.12 per kWh, it would cost $5.40 to go to Miami and back.

    So I can drive to Miami for about 1/4 what a Versa would cost, and about 1/6th what a CLS550 would cost. And not sacrifice one thing in ride, handling or comfort.

    That looks like a pretty sweet deal to me. If you have $80,000 for a car, and don't need to go over about 200 miles in a stretch, Tesla looks like a fully competitive choice that doesn't need to apologise to anyone.

  • Nice article. Based on your estimates, an electric vehicle is only slightly cheaper to run than a gas vehicle.

    EXCEPT: You haven't finished the analogy. You haven't included THE COST OF REPLACEMENT BATTERIES.

    How often will they need replacing and at what cost? What is the resulting cost per mile just for the batteries.

    I imagine that factor would end up showing that electric/hybrid vehicles are MORE EXPENSIVE to operate than gas/diesels. And they cost more to boot.
  • And where does all this electricity come from? Rainbow colored, unicorn poop-fired plants?

    10-1 most of the people here raving about their electric cars would oppose solar and wind farms in their "pristine" local environments, just like Kerry et al did out on Martha's Vineyard.
  • tps6tps6 Posts: 1
    The hidden costs are never discussed in these articles. What did the charging station cost to buy and install in the home (and work in some cases). Some reports have indicated that the cost to install a charging system at home has been extremely high (as much or more than the cost of the car) as the power company charged the owner an astronomical fee to improve the transmission capability to meet the additonal demand imposed by multiple all-electric vehicle charging stations in the area.

    Although some maintenance costs for an IC engine go away with an electric vehicle, those costs are replaced by the need to replace the battery. Many of the costs do not go away as they are replaced by something else, for example belts go away but now an electric motor directly drives the A/C compressor and the power steering is electric, both with new reliability problems of their own.

    Today electric car owners are able to get away without paying road taxes that are part of the cost of motor fuel. That will not last very long, as more electric vehicles are in service the states and federal government will definitely start charging some sort of tax, look at the additional cost for propane or natural gas when used in vehicles as an example.

    EVs may be great in warm weather areas, but the miles per KWh definitely goes down substantially when the weather is cold. Batteries are much less efficient when cold and heating the air for the passengers (and battery) consumes a lot of energy. That is never accounted for in the cost analysis. Cold weather areas also require tires that are more aggressive to negotiate slippery and snowy roads. These tires have much higher rolling resistance, thus increasing the power per mile, sometimes quite dramatically.

    Solar cells sound like a great alternative, but what is the cost for installing enough solar cells to power your car? Also, the solar cells would either have to be at your workplace or some sort of storage device (another battery pack) at your home, otherwise charging the car at night is not possible with solar cells. Wind power is another possibility, other than it not being very predictable.

    I still would rather drive my non-hybrid Sonata for long trips. It is inexpensive to own, large enough for my 6 foot 5 inch body (unlike a Prius), and gets me 37MPG at 80 MPH or 47MPG at 65 MPH. A hybrid or all-electric vehicle would cost me at least 50% more to buy initially. An all-electric vehicle would also not be acceptable for frequent 500 mi (one way) trips. I can do that on one tank of gas in the Sonata.
  • dalbodalbo Posts: 1
    Every time I fill up I pay gas tax . Add that to the cost or stay off my road. Another is why should you be allowed to charge up at your office and then deduct your electric bill on taxes for your work. I am for electric cars but realize all the coal used to keep you charged up. Not to mention the true cost of that battery.
  • Many have heard of the 1976 film "Who killed the electric car?"
    The choices of consumers have kept the electric car down.
    There have been electric cars for sale in the US for 100 years.

    The above article implies that charging the electric car batteries will vary in price throughout the day. It might for a large commercial company, but residential power meters are not time of day sensitive.

    The truth is that if batteries were cheap, light weight, long lasting, and made from benign chemicals, we would all be driving electric cars.

    I have designed many battery chargers over the last 30 years for aerospace and medical systems. There are many kinds of batteries, and they all have their own problems.

    Electric cars are like anything else, they can seem great at a distance, but the more you learn, the more you find a can of worms.
  • Interesting article. I think the idea of costs per 100 miles or km traveled is a nice way of equalizing across different technologies and would be easy for the average person to understand. Most people don't know the cost per kWh they pay at home.

    Second, I think using kWh only costs may be under reporting actual costs. In my area, the other part you pay is the fee to get power to your home (essentially transmission costs), and mine isn't fixed but tends to float higher as you consume more power. If I use 200 or 400 more kWh per month and it increases this part of my bill, you need to factor that cost in as well.
  • Really why go through the numbers and cost per 100 miles in a all electric asian automobile with no styling? Than going American and choosing a GM Volt, extended electric automobile you can drive normally and charge whenever as needed. And check by OnStar anytime and program to charge when and where to go for a charge. And not see a gas station in weeks for the generator.
  • Not a very informative article. The biggest misunderstanding here is that our electrical grid can supply electricity 24 hours a day, yet it is used vastly under capacity at night an on weekends. In fact, research has shown that there is enough unused capacity in America's electric grid to power 71% of America's cars and light trucks electrically without adding another penny of infrastructure.

    Night time electrical power is very plentiful across the nation, creating an opportunity of power companies to sell an otherwise unused commodity. As you might imagine, the best place and time to charge an electric vehicle is at home, overnight. For this reason, many public utilities are creating special electric vehicle rates and time-of-use rates which sell this otherwise wasted capacity at a discount.

    The article mentions the high price of electricity in Hawaii as a disincentive. But what else is expensive in Hawaii? Why, gasoline, of course. Hawaii has the nation's highest gas prices. And while the electric rates are high, the article failed to mention that Hawaii's HECO utility sells electricity at a discount for electric vehicle charging. The result is that a Nissan Leaf, for example, is cheaper to operate in Hawaii than even a Prius.

    It's unfortunate that journalists today refuse to write articles that don't criticize and find fault, no matter how minor the fault. And it is even more unfortunate that a group of Americans who think they are patriotic has become politically opposed to a technology that will weaken OPEC's stranglehold on Mideast politics and power. An America and Europe full of plug-in vehicles will rapidly diminish the power of OPEC.
  • Higher cost up front, speculative fuel price dependent on politics, another hit if you replace the batteries, safety issues and severly reduced performance over gas. Oh, yeah, and resale will be non existent. Some will say its the price of early adopters, but I say its the cost of using a power source that is far inferior to the standard (gas).
  • What happens when the libs tie in your carbon footprint to your taxes? You're now showing immense electricity consumption...and you thought the Jan. 1 payroll tax to fund Obamacare was huge...just wait...this is ALL left wing agenda driven. These people could care less about energy consumption. It's their Siren song to reel in well intentioned but extremely naive conservationist minded libs. Follow the money.
  • These comments are so naive. I went from a Land Rover to a Volt. My electric bill went up a mere $30 per month. (and my kw rate is above the nat. avg.) I spend ~$25 every 6 weeks in gas. I used to spend $350 in gas per month for the same commute of 44 miles per day (that means I get a new Volt for the price of a used Carolla). To the author of this article - it's not about taking the worst construction and making an argument. And paying fair share for taxes? Give me a break. I'm taxed plenty on my elec bill, plenty on my car and plenty everywhere else. It's the govt's job to figure out which taxes pay for the roads. Whine about something else. You look desperate. And for trade in value, well you're just going to have to re-think things for a while. I'm leasing. in 3 years the EV market will be as different as the smartphone market. You don't buy a phone or a computer for the eventual trade-in cost. Cars are going to be the same way. Oh, my Land Rover? after 14 years it's worth a mere $1500.00 at best. Talk to me about re-cup'ing that! And whoever commented about the huge expense of installing a charger in your home is greatly misinformed. My Volt came with a charger. I bought a bungie cord to hang from the ceiling and an extension cord. Done! And BTW - technology already exists for plugging in on the road in 15 minutes for a full charge. Charging stations are quickly following. People are just too afraid of the next thing, but yet complain when advancements don't happen fast enough. Nobody is threatening your way of life, or your precious energy industries. Nobody shed a tear when we stopping needing a mall store to develop our film, right? I'm a died in the wool car guy (way more than a "green" guy - and I'm definitely NOT a dem). I'm embracing the future - it's pretty freeing. You should try it. Oh and rebound - great post!!
  • bargain - seriously? > Greatly offset by the freedom from gas prices and crazy incentives.

    > Only doomed to increase.

    > My Volt has an 100K mile warrantee. Ever had to replace a transmission post-warrantee? Oh yeah - the Volt DOESN'T HAVE A TRANSMISSION! With rate batteries are improving, replacing a battery array in 8 years will probably be amazing!

    > Batteries catching fire are greatly exaggerated (by fear-mongering conservatives) and incidents are all but gone. Tell me any other safety issues NOT present in ICE cars?

    > First off - my Volt will dust every average car out there (it's called instant torque). Secondly, YouTube the clip of the Tesla S beating beating a BMW M5 from 0-100mph

    > Read my post. Re-think that. As compared to what?

    > My being an early adopter means getting huge lease incentives and tax incentives. When the REAL math is done, I'm getting a new - very high tech car for the price of a used Corolla.

    > Please attempt to qualify this statement. I don't believe you can (or will).
  • At ~12cents/kWh (which is the approximate average across the US), then that is only slightly more than the regular maintenance costs of an ICE car. If you add up the costs at a dealer for the minor services ($75-90) every 5K miles, the intermediate services($250-275) every 15K miles and the major services ($450-500) every 30K miles, they add up to $3,000-3,400 at 90K miles. Which is about 3.3-3.8 cents per mile.

    If you take the EPA rating of the Leaf of 340Wh/mile and use the 12 cents/kWh then you'll pay $3,672 to drive the 90K miles; or about 4 cents/mile.

    So, what you save over the 90K miles when you drive an EV instead of an average 23MPG car (at the current US average of $3.36/gallon) is about $13,000. That is a lot, I think you'll agree. Even driving the 50MPG Prius would cost you about $6,000 more than driving the Leaf; over 90K miles.

    Another couple of points: if you live in a state that has SREC's on solar PV panels (including California), then you can probably get a very good deal on installing a system on the roof of your house - sometimes as low as $0 down, or $1,500 or $2,500 down gets you a large enough system to completely cover all of your electricity use including the EV for 30-70% *less* than you are currently paying.

    In other words, you use a small portion of the saving from driving an EV toward lowering the cost of all your electricity - and essentially drive for "free".

    The last important point about costs: ALL of the money you pay for electricity stays in your local economy; and none of it goes to a foreign country. We don't need a military to defend our supply of electricity; and since EV's are 2-3X more efficient than ICE's and electricity can come from several different renewable sources which will be here as long as the earth and sun exist(!), driving an EV will do little or no damage to the climate we all depend on to live.

    Sincerely, Neil
  • On the cost of replacing the battery, unless you abuse it, then I think it will last as long as the car does. Look at the battery in the Prius, for example - some have lasted 300-500K miles and when they do need servicing, only some of the cells are below par. If you do need to replace some cells (replacing all of them is very unlikely), then I'm pretty sure that the $20-30K savings will more than cover the cost. They will be much less expensive in the future, remember.

    How much would it cost to replace the ICE and/or the transmission in a conventional car? These are wear items that an EV doesn't have. What about the cooling system or the exhaust system? These are also not needed items on an EV that could potentially cost a lot of money to replace.

  • A regular workday, sitting in the sun with a solar cell on top should get you a full charge.
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