The automotive industry is beginning to embrace a future where electric cars dominate. Don’t believe us? All you need to do is be on the lookout for electric cars when you’re out driving. It seems that every month you see substantially more electric vehicles on the road.
Tesla was the first one to start producing desirable electric vehicles. Now every large automotive manufacturer has shifted massive R&D dollars to develop electric vehicles. A number of manufacturers have also said that they will no longer put any money towards developing new gasoline engines.
Is this the time to switch to an electric vehicle? Should you buy an electric car now or wait a few more years? Let’s find out.
Cost of Ownership – Electric vs. Gasoline
The cost of ownership on an electric vehicle will be the deciding factor for many people. Car and Driver did a great three year analysis on the total cost of ownership that includes upfront cost of the vehicle, gasoline costs, charging costs, depreciation, maintenance, and federal incentives. Financing costs and insurance premiums were not included in the calculation as those are highly variable based on things like your credit score, age, and driving record.
The comparison was done with the Mini Cooper and the Hyundai Kona as both of these models have gasoline and electric versions. Here are the results:
Before 2020 Federal Incentive.
- Mini Hardtop: $41,454
- Mini Electric: $49,312
- Hyundai Kona: $39,817
- Hyundai Kona Electric: $55,311
After 2020 Federal Incentive.
- Mini Hardtop: $41,454
- Mini Electric: $41,812
- Hyundai Kona: $39,817
- Hyundai Kona Electric: $47,811
As you can see, electric vehicles are still more expensive than their gasoline vehicles.
Furthermore, the battery on an electric vehicle is about 30% of the cost of the car. The battery on the car will degrade over time (just like the battery in your phone), and a case can be made that the electric car will not last as many miles as the gasoline car.
On the flip side, the maintenance costs on gasoline cars tend to go through the roof after a certain point due to the amount of parts it has. Transmission, engine gaskets, and fuel pumps all break after a certain point.
Finally, electric cars are still heavily dependent on the availability of incentives to bring the price closer to a gasoline car.
If price is the only thing that matters, then go with a gasoline car.
One of the great things about electric vehicles is the energy savings you will enjoy. The US Department of Energy has done a thorough analysis on how much energy it takes to run electric vehicles versus their gasoline counterparts – and it’s not even close.
A gasoline truck uses about 8,600 BTU/mile of energy. An electric truck such as the F150 Lightning uses around 2,900 BTU/mile of energy. The calculation done for the energy content that produces the electricity uses the average US mix of 37% natural gas, 25% coal, 20% nuclear, and renewables/biomass for the remaining portion.
This means that despite the slightly heavier weight of electric vehicles, they are still much more energy efficient than their gasoline equivalents.
Of course, electric vehicles depend on the electricity that is produced in the local grid. The amount of carbon emissions from producing the electricity will vary from region to region. In the US, the Upper Midwest is the most carbon intensive with up to 46% of the electricity coming from coal. The west coast of the US is the least carbon intensive with 17% coal and 42% renewable
If we look at the energy use of the electric truck in the Upper Midwest, the usage is 3,480 BTU/mile. That same electric truck will get 2,700 BTU/mile on the west coast. Even at 3,480 BTU/mile, it is still much lower than the 8,600 BTU/mile from the gasoline truck.
Cost and energy efficiency are the more quantitative factors when deciding between an electric or gasoline car. Here are other important factors to consider as well.
The sound of the car. Some people love how quiet an electric motor is. Other people cannot live without the roar of an internal combustion engine.
Charging infrastructure. Do you live in an area with lots of charging stations? If you’re in a condo, does the condo board allow you to charge in the parkade? If you live in a house, can your existing electric panel handle the additional load?
Your driving pattern. Electric vehicles do not have as much range as their gasoline counterparts, and the range will be greatly affected by the temperature. If most of your trips are short (<200 miles) then this is not an issue. However, if you’re driving long distances every single day then you might want to stay with a gasoline car.
Smaller carbon footprint. In the energy efficiency analysis we referenced above, an electric vehicle is way more efficient when compared with a gasoline car. This remains true even if you consider the amount of energy it takes to produce the car and battery.
Less maintenance. In addition to the cost of maintenance, there is also the hassle of having to take your gasoline car into the shop. Services like transmission flushes and oil changes are simply not required for an electric car since they don’t have a transmission or engine pistons that require oil lubrication.
So you might still be asking yourself “Should I buy an electric car now or wait?”.
If price is the only factor you care about, then an electric car is likely not for you. However, the price is close enough that other factors like carbon footprint, maintenance, and even the thrill of instant acceleration from an electric vehicle comes into play.
The industry is definitely shifting towards electric, and soon the price differential will be gone. Automotive industry experts say that despite the massive shift towards electric, the gasoline car still has a long way to go (at least 20 years) before they stop getting made.