The goal of this article is to challenge the true cost of owning an EV. If you drive 5,000 miles per year, you are probably not feeling the crunch of fluctuating gas prices. Currently most EVs are aimed at the 15,000-mile-per-year driver with a few exceptions.
If you are the 15,000-mile-per-year driver, keep your EV for 6-8 years, and the average cost of gas over that period is $3.5-$4, then you will probably save $12,000-$15,000 in fuel consumption. Don't believe it? Are you paying $50 per week in gas? That's $200+ per month, $2400 per year, $20,000 in 8 years spent on energy that you will never see again. The energy cost of electricity is substantially less and can be even lower if you make you own via solar or other alternative methods.
Using the Department of Energy Vehicle cost calculator, the equivalent cost of a Chevy Volt compared to a Camry/Accord class auto is $17,000-$20,000 or the equivalent cost of a Nissan Leaf $10,000-$13,000! So to the statement "EVs are still too expensive" I ask, Really? So lets look at three comparisons:
Nissan Leaf vs Honda Civic
Torque 207 ft-lb Horse power 107 hp 99 MPGE Leg room front 42.1 Leg room rear 31.1 Cargo Volume 14.5
Honda Civic Torque 128 ft-lb at 4300 rpm Horse power 140 hp at 6500 rpm 30 MPG Leg room front 42 Leg room rear 36 Cargo Volume 12.5
Nissan Leaf vs Honda Civic
The provided graph is generated from the Department of Energy Cost calculator using 15,000 miles per year and average gas price of $3.75. The first specification to be understood in comparing EVs to ICEs is torque. The Nissan Leaf torque is superior to the Civic "class" auto and better compared to Accord "class" autos in acceleration. I use the Civic in the first comparison to make the point about EV cost. Here is a comparison where the Nissan Leaf carries the superior specification, yet cost of ownership remains the same. The DOE graph shows the cost of both vehicles equal for the five year loan period. The DOE calculator does not include a maintenance cost for replacement batteries but the American Chemical Society has predicted that well managed batteries could last up to twenty years opposed to eight.
Chevy Volt vs Toyota Camry
Chevrolet Volt Torque 273 ft-lb Horse Power 149 hp MPGE 98 Leg room front 42 Leg room rear 31 Cargo Volume 10.6
Toyota Camry 4cyl Torque 178 ft-lb at 4100 rpm Horse power 176 hp at 6000 rpm MPG 25 Leg room front 41.6 Leg room rear 38.9 Cargo volume 15.4
Cost of Volt vs Camry 4 and 6 cyl
The Volt compares well to the Camry 4 cyl class ICE in price yet performs closer to the V6 class so I included the V6 in yellow. This should really help one understand why everyone is pleased with the Volt's overall performance. Note the torque specification on the Toyota Camry 4cyl is 178 ft-lbs at 4100 rpm. The V6 is 248 ft-lbs at 4800 rpm. That's a lot of rpm to achieve 248 ft-lbs of torque. The Chevrolet Volt achieves 273 ft-lbs of torque directly from the Voltec system almost as fast as you accelerate. Remember that we are comparing to the V6. For the 15,000 mile driver, the Volt is price competitive with the inferior 4cyl ICE class vehicle in cost of ownership. It must be noted that the Volt is a 4 passenger vehicle with inferior rear leg room. If this is your only concern, might I suggest the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi.
Tesla Model S vs Lexus LS 460
Tesla Model S Torque 362 ft-lb Horse Power 306 hp Leg room front 42.7 Leg room rear 35.4 Cargo Volume 26.3
Lexus LS 460 Torque 367 ft-lb at 4100 rpm Horse power 380 hp at 6400 rpm MPG 19 Leg room front 42.3 Leg room rear 36.8 Cargo volume 18
Most individuals complain about the cost of the Tesla Model S but compared to what? I chose to select a Lexus sedan for comparison and had to go to the 8 cyl LS 460 before I could get comparable performance. The 85 kwh Tesla Model S produces a torque of 360 ft –lbs. Only the LS 460 produces equivalent torque of 367 ft-lbs at 4100 rpms. The LS has slightly better horse power giving it 0-60 in 5.4 seconds vs 5.6 seconds. Still this entry level Model S will blow the LS-460 away in normal driving due to the direct torque. You can opt for a Model S that achieves 0-60 in 4 .5 seconds but this article is concerned with cost. And these numbers are achieved with an MSRP of the LS -460 at $67,630 vs $69,900 of the 85 kwh Model S after tax credits. Now with the 19 mpg rating on the LS-460, the cost of ownership of the Model S will be about $22,000 under our test conditions making the Model S cost equivalent around $47,900. Still too expensive? Well if you just said you did not need that much performance you can get a 40kwh version of the Model S for $20,000 less at $49,900. That would make the equivalent cost at $27,900! Too expensive? Really?
I have focused a lot on torque vs horse power for it is truly the thing that brings a new driving experience that is so enjoyable. Torque and horse power go hand in hand when it comes to performance. And while most ICEs will still deliver superior performance in a one mile stretch or in the traditional 0-60 test, most EVs will deliver superior passing or acceleration due to superior torque of its electric motor and not dependent on reaching a conditional rpm level. The EV also delivers superior handling based on the placement of the battery weight in the auto.
Conclusion: There currently is an affordable EV for well over half of the US population's driving habits. Compare your driving habits and test drive an EV. EVs can cost the same monthly payment/monthly fuel bill as a comparable auto in the "same class". The EV has less maintenance, better warranties, lower cost of ownership, and much more fun to drive. Don't believe it? Test drive an EV, and be sure to test the cornering, accelerate at 35 mph, 55 mph as if you were passing an ICE. You are going to be surprised with your experience.