EVs May Cost More Over Lifetime Than Gas Powered Counterparts: Study

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A new study shows that many electric vehicles cost more to operate than their gasoline powered counterparts.

A new study comparing the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles (EV) and their gasoline-powered counterparts found that over the long term and considering various factors, some EVs were less costly while others—in particular, larger and longer-range ones—were more expensive.

The study, carried out by researchers affiliated with the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems, aimed to analyze the total cost of ownership (TCO) for gasoline, hybrid, and EVs while considering a broader range of factors than many previous similar studies.

The researchers developed a detailed TCO model encompassing five vehicle classes, three powertrains, and three EV ranges, with the analysis covering 14 cities in the United States and incorporating multiple charging scenarios.

Adjustments were made for local gasoline prices, electricity rate plans, and home charging access, with the TCO model incorporating inputs like purchase price, financing, taxes, fees, insurance, refueling, and maintenance—as well as the impact of local temperatures and drive cycles on fuel economy.

Overall, the study offers a counterpoint to the cost-of-ownership assessments that EV advocates often reference.

An electric vehicle charging station in Irvine, Calif., on Nov. 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
An electric vehicle charging station in Irvine, Calif., on Nov. 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Detailed Findings

The study concluded that small and low-range EVs (roughly 200-mile range) are less expensive than gasoline vehicles, while larger, longer-range EVs (400-plus-mile range) are more costly than their gas-powered counterparts.

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Midsize EVs (around the 300-mile range) are also more expensive than gasoline vehicles, although, in certain cities, they can reach cost parity with gasoline vehicles if they get government incentives.

The researchers noted, however, that the question of cost parity between EVs and gas-powered vehicles is “best answered on a case-by-case basis, as vehicle costs are ultimately unique to each specific location and each individual user.”

For instance, for a 300-mile-range midsize electric SUV, the total cost of ownership varied by nearly 40 percent, or $52,000, depending on the location.

Home charging was a critical factor, with access to it reducing lifetime ownership costs by around $10,000 and as much as $26,000 in some cases.

In reaching their overall conclusions that smaller EVs are cheaper than gas-powered vehicles, the researchers assumed a base case of 80 percent home charging and 20 percent at public charging stations.

Having access to home charging flipped the lifetime total cost of ownership in favor of midsize EVs in eight of the 14 cities investigated, the researchers noted.

“EVs are more competitive in cities with high gasoline prices, low electricity prices, moderate climates, and direct purchase incentives, and for users with home charging access, time-of-use electricity pricing, and high annual mileage,” the researchers concluded.

Other studies have challenged the narrative that EVs cost less to operate.

An electric vehicle charging station in Irvine, Calif., on Nov. 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
An electric vehicle charging station in Irvine, Calif., on Nov. 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

‘True Cost’ of EV Fueling

A recent study from the Austin-based think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) found that, when considering various subsidies and regulatory credits, the actual cost of operating an EV is equivalent to running a gas-powered car with prices at $17.33 per gallon.

The report found that various subsidies, regulatory credits, and charging costs of an average EV from the model year 2021 add $53,267 to the vehicle’s price over a decade.

Assuming that the EV is driven for 10 years at 120,000 miles, this would make the “true cost of fueling” equivalent to an EV owner paying $17.33 per gallon of gasoline—many times higher than the $1.21 per gallon claimed by other estimates.

“This analysis shows that electricity is a long way from becoming a cost-effective transportation fuel compared to gasoline,” the report reads. “Without increased and sustained government favors, EVs will remain more expensive than ICEVs [internal combustion engine vehicles] for many years to come.”

Also, an earlier study from Anderson Economic Group (AEG) found that, with higher electricity prices, “most traditional gas-powered vehicles cost less to drive than their EV counterparts.”

While the differences varied across segments and depended on whether charging was done at home or commercially, the results of the AEG study suggest that EVs can cost more to run.

For example, in the Entry segment (which includes cars like the Chevy Bolt and Honda Civic), a gasoline-powered model costs on average $9.78 per 100 miles to fuel, per the study. By contrast, the average EV in the same segment costs $12.55 to charge per 100 miles—but only if charged mostly at home. If charged mostly commercially, that cost increases to $15.97 per 100 miles.

Workers assemble Chevy Bolt EVs at the General Motors assembly plant in Orion Township, Mich., on Nov. 4, 2016. (Joe White /Reuters)
Workers assemble Chevy Bolt EVs at the General Motors assembly plant in Orion Township, Mich., on Nov. 4, 2016. (Joe White /Reuters)

Electric can be cheaper in the Luxury segment, where a high-end vehicle such as a Tesla Model X costs an average of $13.50 to charge per 100 miles when charged at home compared to an ICE vehicle like a BMW 5 Series, which on average costs $17.56 per hundred miles to fuel with gas.

The cost of charging a luxury EV climbs to $17.81 per 100 miles for mostly commercial charging, slightly more than for a high-end gasoline-powered vehicle.

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