Modelling by consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports has highlighted the fact that drivers can save significant amounts of money owning an electric car compared to a fossil-fuelled competitor.
How big? In the case of the Tesla Model 3, which is priced from $US49,990 before on-road costs, as much as $US17,600 ($A24,259) can be saved in total ownership costs compared to owning a BMW 330i (which has a sticker price from $US40,750 to $42,750 depending on options and before on-road costs), the US-based report says.
Electric cars are becoming an increasingly popular choice amongst drivers, particularly in markets like the US, Europe and China, but their higher sticker price is still cited as a key factor deterring buyers, even if they place reducing personal carbon emissions as a priority.
But according to the new report published by the group on Thursday (US time), if a buyer can make the stretch to buy a more expensive electric vehicle (EV) over a combustion engine car, it will pay off in the long term.
While the high cost of batteries send the sticker price of EVs to between 10%-40% more than combustion equivalents, lower fuel (or rather, power) and maintenance costs mean total cost of outgoings are much less for electric vehicles. In many cases they are more than enough to regain the difference in purchase price, plus some.
The report says that even when compared against best-in-class “efficient” combustion vehicles from the same segment, electric vehicles are saving drivers $US4,700 ($A6,505) in fuel alone over the first seven years of ownership.
Adding in reduced maintenance costs (because electric vehicles do not need oil changes, and do not suffer the same wear and tear on parts that combustion vehicles do), Consumer Reports say that the average electric vehicle owner will save an additional $US6,000 to $US10,000 ($A8,304 to $A13,840).
In fact, EV owners report spending 60% less on maintenance than combustion car owners. And over 360,000km driven, power costs compared to buying fuel is about 50% less.
Based on 10,000 survey responses from US electric vehicle owners, the report covers popular EV models sold in that country.
Of the models studied in the report, only one is currently available in Australia – the Tesla Model 3 – although the Nissan Leaf+ is due to arrive in 2021.
The Tesla Model Y is expected to be available for pre-order in Australia by 2021 but no local launch date has yet been announced by the EV maker, and it is unclear if a US-made, German-made or China-made Model Y will eventually be sold here.
Still, the figures compiled in the survey are illuminating: Another comparison is made between the Honda Civic hatchback and the Hyundai Elantra and the Nissan Leaf+, and the electric version will save an owner $US6,000 to $US7,200 ($A8,304 to $A9,965).
We must note that the figures may be different in Australia, where the Civic costs around $A34,000 and the Elantra is priced around around $A32,000 locally for premium options, both before on road costs.
The Nissan Leaf+ has not yet been priced yet for Australia but with a 62kWh battery compared to the $A49,990 40kWh Leaf, it will perhaps cost in the vicinity of $A60,000.
For the Model 3, the figures are more compelling. According to data gleaned from US ownership, the savings are as high as $US17,600 ($A24,259) compared to owning a BMW 330i.
Given the BMW 330i is priced from $A71,900 locally, compared to the $A73,900 Tesla Model 3, this adds up to a big potential for local savings.
And because Australian fuel prices are just 36% higher than the US, whereas the cost of electricity is almost double, those who can lock in free charging with car makers or charge for free off solar at home will benefit more.
“No matter how you look at it, the massive lifetime savings potential of EVs could be a game changer for consumers,” said Chris Harto, CR’s senior policy analyst for transportation and energy, and the leader of the study.
He notes that as battery production costs continue to come down (see this article from Bloomberg for how fast this is predicted to happen), potential savings will continue to grow.
“As battery prices and technology improve, prices come down, and more attractive models hit the market, it’s only going to get better,” says Harto.
The report also covered a number of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and although none were models currently available in Australia. They also showed that as much as $US12,000 ($A16,609) could be saved over the life of the vehicle.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.