Will You Save Money by Buying an Electric Car?
By Cheryl Harbour

You’ve seen it happening: More electric cars on the market. Some of the best parking spots being reserved for electric cars, with equipment for recharging. And 2017 was a record year for electric vehicle (EV) sales. If you’re considering making the switch from gasoline to electricity to fuel your car, some new analysis may help you decide.

To compare the two really requires considering the price you’ll pay for the car (many electric cars come with substantial tax credits) and the expense of running it, in terms of both maintenance and fuel.

According to an article on forbes.com, the average cost of buying an electric car decreased by 11% in 2017. Tesla, GM and Nissan all make models priced in the $30,000s and Hyundai makes the Ioniq priced in the low $20,000.

Maintenance costs for electric cars are lower than for gas-powered cars. They have fewer parts to need repair or replacement; they don’t need fan belts, air filters, timing belts, head gaskets, cylinder heads or spark plugs. They don’t require oil changes. Brake pads and rotors last longer because an electric motor can slow itself down.

What are maintenance costs for an EV? You’ll still need to replace windshield wipers, rotate tires and adjust suspension at intervals. At some point, you’ll need to replace the expensive battery. You’ll need to charge your car at home with a charging unit that typically costs around $600. Some utility companies are offering rebates for buying and installing a home charging unit.

The Department of Energy offers a tool for computing and comparing the cost of fueling an EV compared with a gas-powered car and takes into consideration the cost of gas in your state. The cost of electricity is historically much more stable than the cost of gasoline.

Unlike gas-powered cars, which measure energy consumption in miles per gallon, an electric car's energy consumption is measured in kilowatt-hours per 100 miles. If you're car shopping, that rating will be on the car's EPA fuel economy sticker. Most people primarily charge electric cars at home, so in order to understand how much it's going to cost you for a "fill up", you'll need to multiply your vehicle's kWh/100 miles figure by the electric rate for the time of day you'll most often be charging. Why does time of day matter? Because many electric companies charge different rates at different times of the day. So, it's important to investigate the details of your plan.

If you’re also trying to compare hybrids vs. pure electric cars, you can do your own research and make an informed decision. But here’s a spoiler alert: New research published in the Journal of Applied Energy compared the total costs of ownership for hybrid and electric vehicles in the UK, US and Japan and concluded that pure electric cars came out cheapest in all the markets they examined: UK, Japan, Texas and California.


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