The simple fact that an electric vehicle’s powertrain has far fewer moving parts than an ICE should result in less need for maintenance and ultimately lower maintenance costs. However, it seems that this may not be the case in the real world, at least in some situations, even though a recent study states that EVs are, in fact, considerably cheaper to run and maintain.
Car and Driver recently posted an update on their long term Tesla Model 3 which ended up costing the publication almost the same as the ICE vehicles that were part of their test fleet. We still strongly believe that EVs are ultimately cheaper to maintain (remember, the Car and Driver report didn’t take the cost to charge versus filling up into account).
Now a new study called Comprehensive Total Cost of Ownership Quantification for Vehicles with Different Size Classes and Powertrains confirms that the total ownership cost of an EV is quite a bit lower than ICE. The study was put together by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI)
In order to accurately compare the costs of two vehicles, the total cost of ownership (TCO) should consist of all costs related to both purchasing and operating the vehicle. This TCO analysis builds on previous work to provide a comprehensive perspective of all relevant vehicle costs of ownership. In this report, we present what we believe to be the most comprehensive explicit financial analysis of the costs that will be incurred by a vehicle owner.
We encourage you to read through the source material as it contains information about regular ICE, electrified and fully-electric vehicles, but here we’re only going to focus on EVs. So the study takes into account the initial purchase price and depreciation, fuel, insurance, taxes as well as maintenance and repair.
What it uncovered is that EVs cost on average around 40 percent less to maintain compared to ICE vehicles. It also found that while new EVs tend to hold their value quite well, older models will incur stronger depreciation.
We find that cars depreciate faster than light trucks and that older plug-in electric vehicles have a greater depreciation rate than newer electric vehicles.
Electric and electrified powertrains have lower maintenance and repair costs than internal combustion engine (ICE) powertrains for all vehicle sizes, relative to vehicle price.
In the current market context, the study says hybrids are still the lowest-cost option for buyers (followed by ICE), but that EVs will reach cost parity with ICE vehicles in the near future - some have predicted that it will occur in 2027, in Europe at least, but it’s only an estimate right now.