For years, pundits and commentators complained the electric cars were expensive to buy and costly to run. Critics claimed that batteries were just too expensive and that every 50,000 miles or so, drivers would have to swap them out for a new unit, costing tens of thousands of pounds.
But something rather interesting has happened over the last five years or so. Back in 2013, the cost of a unit of electrical battery power was about three times what it is today. But back then, few people thought that prices would come down – at least not as quickly as they have.
Now researchers have reevaluated the cost of running an electric car in major industrial countries, like Japan, the US, Canada, and the UK. They compare car insurance costs, fuel, taxation, and maintenance to come up with an overall cost of ownership versus traditional petrol and diesel cars, and find something interesting: running an electric vehicle is cheaper overall.
What was so amazing about the research was that it used data from 2015 – another era in the electric car market. Back then, big automakers were still on the fence as to whether electric vehicles were the future and hadn’t made the massive investments in battery technology that they have today. What’s more, the difference in overall cost was quite significant: electric cars came out as being 10 per cent cheaper on average, that their petrol-guzzling counterparts.
Good news for both the environment and the car market? Seemingly. But it might not be so good for taxpayers. The study revealed that the total cost of ownership for an electric car was low, but only because of big subsidies in the UK and US. Although these subsidies have been helpful in getting the electric car market started (offering up to £6,500 in incentives in some countries), they won’t be able to continue as the volume of cars sold goes up. The subsidy in the US came to an end last year.
It’s worth pointing out that drivers might not be solely concerned with the cost of ownership – at least in monetary terms. There are reasons to believe that people will be willing to pay more overall for electric cars because of various inherent advantage.
Firstly, electric cars shouldn’t depreciate as fast as other vehicles. Tesla already proved that its batteries only degrade by about 10 per cent after 250,000 miles. What’s more, it’s cars have so few moving parts that maintenance costs are meagre, and will probably trend lower as servicing battery-powered vehicles goes mainstream.
Secondly, electric cars have a bunch of quality of life perks that traditional vehicles don’t. Drivers can cruise around cities knowing that they’re not doing any harm to people’s lungs or the planet as a whole. And they can relax in the knowledge that they’re unlikely to have a breakdown for anything other than a flat tyre.
Charging infrastructure remains a bit limited in some countries, but the rollout accelerates every year. Will you go electric?