Lifetime cost of electric vehicle ownership comparable with conventional vehicles, EPRI finds


Mark Duvall,
Director Electric
Research, EPRI
Palo Alto, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — June 12, 2013 – Consumers who purchase a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) will find that the costs to own the vehicle are competitive with conventional and hybrid vehicles, according to an analysis conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The study compares the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf with gasoline fueled cars that reflect average costs for different makes and models. It looks at several factors, including gasoline and power prices, incentives, financing, driving patterns and maintenance.

The cost advantage of PEVs increases as gasoline costs rise and decrease as they fall. PEVs can still be competitive with lower gasoline costs, but payback will take a longer period. If a buyer finances a vehicle purchase, total monthly expenditures for all options will be within 15 percent of the conventional vehicle purchase, so buyers can reasonably make a purchase decision based on their personal preferences.  

According to the report, the lifetime costs for the Nissan Leaf are lower than that of the comparison vehicles. However, the variation in costs is much higher for the Leaf than for the Volt – up to 30 percent of total costs – the reason being it is a battery electric vehicle with a fixed range limitation that could result in significant cost or inconvenience, given current charging availability.

The study assesses both cash and financed purchases for electric, hybrid and conventional vehicles. The monthly outlay during the loan period is a key indicator of affordability and may obscure the overall cost competitiveness of vehicles for the life of the vehicle or the entire time of ownership.

The report also finds that the lifetime costs for the Volt are close to the comparison conventional vehicle and comparison hybrid, indicating that increased up-front costs are offset by fuel savings.  The variation in costs is relatively low between the best and worst matched, at about 5 percent.  This makes the Volt a low risk cost option for buyers interested in a PEV.

“Our analysis indicates that capital costs and operating costs are reasonably well balanced at the current time for most vehicle comparisons,” said Mark Duvall, director of electric transportation research at EPRI. “However, changes in the price of gasoline will affect this balance and will cause significant changes in payback time. Favorable state incentives or equivalent changes in capital costs for vehicles will have a larger impact than fuel prices, and will significantly improve payback time, total ownership cost, and monthly expenditure.”

The study focused on the Leaf and Volt because they have been on the market the longest, have generated the greatest sales volume, and provide data on real world performance.