A recent study analyzing the cost to power electric vehicles compared with internal combustion engine vehicles has generated debate and inspired reader questions.
The study found gasoline cars to be slightly cheaper to fuel than some EVs, depending on several factors.
That study is an outlier. Many studies show the opposite to be true.
Still, no single study can account for every scenario in car ownership.
There are differences in: Personal driving habits, the local cost of gasoline, access to public charging, personal charging habits, fuel economy of the ICE car versus driving range of the EV model … to name a few.
The consensus is that most EV owners charge predominantly at home, but the public infrastructure required to support widespread EV adoption still needs work,.
As interest in EVs grows among buyers, here are some top-of-mind questions and answers inspired by readers.
Q: Which is cheaper to own: An EV or internal combustion engine car?
A: The consensus is an EV.
That’s factoring in tax credits at time of purchase of a new EV and lower maintenance costs because EVs have fewer parts and don’t need regular care such as oil changes or antifreeze. Many EV owners also say there is a time savings to not waiting in service lounges for routine vehicle maintenance.
Many local utilities offer discounts to charge at home during night time off-peak hours.
Last year, Consumer Reports did a 45-page cost comparison and found the savings advantage to total ownership costs for an EV is significant the first few years and continues to improve the longer a person owns the car. It compared the nine most popular EVs priced less than $50,000 with the “best-selling, top-rated, and most efficient vehicles in their class.”
For the EVs analyzed, the study found that fuel savings can be at least $4,700 over the first seven years. The lifetime ownership cost savings were estimated at $6,000 to $10,000.
According to Forbes, the cost to insure an EV will be slightly higher than that of a gasoline car because it generally costs more to do major repairs on EVs than on a gasoline car.
Q: How long does an EV battery last and how much is it to replace?
A: Batteries are one of the more expensive components in an EV. If you need to replace one after the warranty expires, the average cost is about $5,500, according to vehicle shopping website TrueCar. The federal government requires an eight-year warranty on EV batteries. Most automakers offer eight or 10 years.
The good news is EV batteries tend to last a long time, though they lose range as they age. The average EV battery will lose about 2.3% of its initial range annually, TrueCar wrote.
Q: Which is cheaper to power: An EV or internal combustion car?
A: This is a hot topic and depends on a lot of variables.
According to the Department of Energy’s eGallon.com, it costs about half as much to drive an EV compared with a gasoline car. Based on the average price for regular gasoline in March of $2.85, the comparable eGallon cost is $1.16. The Department of Energy defines an eGallon as the cost of fueling a vehicle with electricity compared with a similar vehicle that runs on gasoline.
An independent 36-page study released last week by Anderson Economic Group found higher costs when factoring in the cost of the residential charger, cost of commercial electricity and the cost of “deadhead miles” driven to find a fast charger. There are no other surveys citing so-called “deadhead miles” as a significant cost. Most EV owners charge primarily at home and use smart phone apps to find available chargers when that’s not possible.
Michigan assesses an EV tax of $100 a year for vehicles weighing less than 8,000 pounds to offset the decrease in gasoline tax income. A $200 annual tax will be assessed for EVs weighing more than 8,000 pounds. The upcoming GMC Hummer EV pickup is likely to be the first personal use vehicle subject to that tax.
The Anderson study said a mid-priced internal combustion car that gets 33 miles per gallon would cost $8.58 in overall costs to drive 100 miles at $2.81 a gallon. But a mid-priced EV, such as Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf or a Tesla Model 3, would cost $12.95 to drive 100 miles in terms of costs that include recharging the vehicle using mostly a commercial charger.
Q: How much does it cost to install at-home chargers?
A: EV drivers do most of their charging at home, during off-peak hours at a considerable savings.
A Level 1 charger is a cord or charging system that usually comes with the vehicle during purchase. It can be plugged into a standard 120 Volt, 20 amp circuit wall outlet, according to Evocharge website. EvoCharge is a hardware provider of EV charging stations and cable management.
A Level 2 system provides a 240-volt current for faster charging and requires a 208-240 Volt, 40 amp circuit
The average cost of an L2 charger is $500-$2,200, according to website EV Love, a website created by women for women who want to own EVs. PlugStar shopping site lists L2 home chargers for as low as $174.
Hiring an electrician to install an L2 charger can cost from $250 to over $1,000 depending on the home and charger wall mounting, various reports say.
A Level 2 home charger operates at about the same voltage used to power household appliances like dryers or electric range stoves, so there is usually no need for additional insurance coverage for a Level 2 charger in the home, according to a report by Kelley Blue Book. KBB wrote that some underwriters may require photographs or documentation that the home-charging unit has been properly and professionally installed.
Q: What is the actual charging time involved in driving an EV?
A: Most electric owners have access to Level 2 240v chargers at home, work or both.
An L2 charger will get an average of 32 miles of driving range per hour of charge.
Art Causin, who lives in Long Island, New York, owns a 2018 Tesla Model 3 with a range of 300 miles. He recharges it fully overnight using a Level 2 charger.
“The charger is programmed to start at 11 p.m. and stop at 7 a.m.,” Causin said. “My electric company, PSEG LI, provides me with a 25% reduction for charging at night. My home charging setup was essentially free, as the IRS gave me a $500 rebate on my home charging setup.”
Causin said the only time he uses a commercial charging station is when he travels.
“The Tesla navigation system plans your trip to route you to a Tesla Supercharger,” Causin said. “A 250-mile charge takes 20 minutes. All Supercharging stations are located near a Starbucks or similar establishment. So on a trip, after four hours of driving, I charge my car, stretch my legs, get a cup of coffee, go to the bathroom and I’m on my way.”
Other automakers and independent companies also offer apps to help with route-planning to commercial chargers.
Consumers Energy is addressing the “charging inconvenience” issue, said Brian Wheeler, media relations manager.
It has installed 30 Level 3 fast-charging stations around the state that can fully power an EV battery in less than an hour, he said. The current plan is for Consumers to install 200 public fast-charging stations — plus 2,000 Level 2 chargers at homes and businesses across Michigan through charger rebates and lower electrical rates — over the next three years.
DC fast-chargers, sometimes called Level 3, provide faster charging than Level 2. Wider availability of DC fast-charging is widely considered a key to expanded EV use.
Additionally, Consumers Energy recently introduced the Bring Your Own Charger program that offers special charging rates for customers who buy a home EV charging system, or use one that comes with an EV, like the Ford F-150 Lightning.
Q: Will the current power grid support widespread EV use?
A: General Motors will spend $35 billion by 2025 on EVs, bringing 30 new EVs to market in that time. It aspires for its entire light-duty vehicle lineup to be zero emissions by 2035 and it plans to double revenues by 2030 largely with new EVs.
Ford Motor Co. has said it will invest more than $11 billion into manufacturing a strong, dependable supply of essential parts for electric vehicles, creating nearly 11,000 jobs along the way.
With more electric cars planned, bigger and better charging infrastructure is needed.
In April, GM introduced Ultium Charge 360 for its retail car buyers. In June, GM expanded the technology to fleet customers. Ultium Charge 360 is technology that ties GM’s vehicle mobile apps to other products and services that make it easier for drivers to find charging stations and pay to charge their vehicles.
But many worry there is still a need for greater electric-grid capacity
A 2018 Department of Energy study found that increased electrification across all sectors of the economy will increase power consumption by up to 38% by 2050 and EVs would account for the bulk of it. So the environmental benefit of EVs depends on the electricity being generated by renewable energy sources.
That means utilities and power generators must invest billions of dollars creating additional capacity while also finding a way to replace fossil fuels with renewables. Then, there is factoring in extreme weather events to up the challenge. Take the winter storms in Texas earlier this year that caused failure of the power grid there.
A Reuters report in March said a model utility with two to three million customers would need to invest $1,700 and $5,800 in grid upgrades per EV through 2030 to meet expected demands. Reuters cited Boston Consulting Group, adding that if there are 40 million EVs on the road, that investment could reach $200 billion.
But there are others that say transitioning to EVs does not pose a threat to the power grid or electricity supply.
In a March opinion piece written for Energy News Network by Charlie Michel, a retired petroleum engineer, he said, “If managed strategically, electric vehicles can make our grid more robust and resilient.”
Michel wrote that states with excess power capacity can export it to other states.
“What’s more, electric vehicles can help make our grid more stable by storing power and functioning as a backup power source when necessary,” Michel wrote. “Vehicle-to-grid technology that would allow electric vehicles to provide energy to the grid during times of high demand is being piloted in North Carolina and the United Kingdom.”
Vehicle-to-grid technology is the process of feeding the energy stored in an EV’s battery back into the national grid to boost the energy supply during peak demand.