They Won’t Save You Money at the Dealership, but are Electric Cars a Good Investment in the Long Run?

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While electric car owners don’t have to worry about the price of gas, they do have to worry about the price of electricity. Just like the cost of running a gasoline or diesel powered engine, the cost of the electricity required to run an electric vehicle can add up over time as well. When trying to decide whether or not to buy an EV (electric vehicle), after putting environmental concerns aside, the question becomes: will the money I save on gas ever justify the increased sticker price of an EV? The short answer is yes. Unfortunately though, you might be driving that little Chevy Sonic for a long time before that happens, and here’s why: Electricity is sold in units called kilowatt hours, or kWh. Though the price of a kWh fluctuates depending on where you live, the time of day, and what season it is, the average cost of electricity in a residential home is currently around 10 cents per kWh. According to a study conducted by the Department of Energy, an electric vehicle can travel just three miles per kWh on average. Therefore, it costs 3.3 cents per mile to operate an electric car.
So how much does it cost to operate a non-electric car? It depends on what kind of car you are driving. As I’m sure you know, different cars have different fuel economies and the distance they can travel per gallon of gas inevitably varies. So for the purposes of this calculation, let’s assume you’re purchasing a 2012 Ford Focus, which gets 31 MPG combined city/highway. With the average price of a gallon of gas at $3.50 right now,operating your new Focus would cost about 11 cents per mile. While at this point it seems like choosing to purchase the EV is a smart, money saving decision, when you factor in its increased price, unfortunately it’s not. Electric vehicles still cost significantly more than their fuel-burning counterparts. Currently, Ford manufactures their 2012 Focus with both a gasoline and an electric engine. The 2012 non-electric Ford Focus starts at only $17,295 (with an automatic transmission), and the 2012 Ford Focus Electric starts at $32,495 after the current $7500 credit from the IRS.Therefore, if you were to buy a Ford Focus Electric at that price and if it gets close to the industry average of 3 miles per kWh of electricity, at 10 cents per kWh you would need to drive your new EV 197,402 miles before you would make up the $15,200 difference in sticker price between it and the non-electric. Because the average vehicle is driven 18,000 each year (and that’s on the high side), it’ll take you almost eleven years to drive that many miles.

Other Cost Factors

Unlike regular vehicles, the electric motors and the lithium-ion batteries in EVs require much less regular maintenance. Though purchasing an EV means fewer trips to the mechanic and no more oil changes, electric cars are still very new to the market. How long they will last after purchase and their technological reliability are factors that have yet to be determined. Because of these uncertainties and because EVs are still so much more expensive than non-electric cars, it might be wise to refrain from investing in an EV for the time being. Like all new technologies, the longer you wait, the more you’ll save.

Author’s Bio: Brittany Larson is a blogger who writes about cars for one of the United States’ largest automotive groups. Her father and grandfather are both mechanics, and she is contributing this guest post on behalf of Paso Robles Ford Lincoln .