Jun 25, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Study shows consumers save long term with electric vehicles

Illustration of electric cars and lightning bolts.

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The long-term costs of owning an electric car in the U.S. are thousands of dollars lower than gasoline-powered models, a detailed new study by Energy Department researchers finds.

Why it matters: The peer-reviewed paper in Joule adds to the literature on costs by providing a granular, state-level look at power rates (including hourly variations), charging infrastructure types, regional gasoline price differences and other variables.

The bottom line: The paper finds "total projected fuel cost savings between $3,000 and $10,500 compared with gasoline vehicles" over a 15-year time horizon. But the savings could be even higher.

"Regional heterogeneities and uncertainty on lifetime vehicle use and future fuel prices produce even greater variations," notes the analysis from researchers with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory.

My thought bubble: While lifetime fuel costs may influence some buyers, it's the vehicle price that looms larger.

So reaching cost-parity and finding affordable models will likely do more to spur adoption than evidence of lower fuel expenses on a long-term basis.

The big picture: It comes as EVs, which typically have higher up-front costs, remain a niche market in the U.S.

  • But new models are coming to market and a victory by Joe Biden, who has pledged to promote EVs via tougher emissions rules and building our charging infrastructure, could quicken adoption.
  • Advocates are also pushing for expansion of tax credits for buying EVs, which are now capped at 2o0,000 vehicles per manufacturer for the full $7,500 credit.
Go deeper