How much will you actually save with an electric car?
Electric cars drive savings at the petrol pump and in the garage.
Once just for hipsters and greenies, electric vehicle (EV) critical mass is right around the corner. High costs, disincentives from the government and non-existent public infrastructure has seen the adoption of EVs lag in Australia. Electric car sales are in the low thousands nationally. Throw a stone in Paris or San Francisco and you’ll hit an EV charging station. But, Tesla is generating a buzz — when was the last time you remember someone camping out to pre-order a car?
Australians are slowly coming round to the idea of electric cars. As well as reduce the driver’s carbon footprint, electric vehicles deliver savings at the petrol pump and EVs require less maintenance than a petrol-fuelled vehicle, too. Petrol run and electric cars have different price points, you pay more upfront for an electric car so you can save on running costs. But how much will you actually save?
Electric vehicles can be pure electric, that is the car is run completely from a battery, there are hybrid electric cars, too. Hybrids use a combustion engine to start and then switch to electricity when the car reaches the right conditions.
Did you know?
Pure electric cars require a charge from the wall or charging station; whereas hybrids charge the battery through regenerative braking and the engine alternator. Electric cars also use regenerative braking.
Comparison of 2015 BMW i3 & BMW M135i
|Car||Type||Price||Annual fuel costs||BMW service package||0 - 100 km ph|
|BMW i3 (range extender)||4D: Hatchback||$69,990||$483||$850 (basic)||7.9 seconds|
|BMW M135i||4D: Hatchback||$70,344||$1784||$1,240 (basic)||4.9 seconds|
*Annual fuel cost estimate: greenvehicleguide.gov.au
At the petrol pump: fuel savings
Petrol is an increasingly expensive commodity, per km travelled, electricity is a cheaper source of fuel than unleaded or diesel.
The Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) represents individuals and organisations with an interest in raising awareness about the benefits of electric vehicles.
An AEVA representative gave the following when discussing EV savings: “Recharging using cheap overnight power at 12c a Kilowatt Hour (kWh) equals a cost of less than 2c per kilometer or $1.70 per 100km.” This is a conservative estimate for off-peak tariffs. AGL can provide off-peak rates as low as 10c per kWh to some NSW residents.
At a high 24c a KwH, it (the cost to recharge) is $3.40 per 100km. A modern efficient petrol car run on petrol costing $1.20 a litre has fuel costs of closer to $9.00 per 100km. This is a $1400 saving over 20,000kms.”
ABS figures show Australians drive on average 15,000kms per year, expect a saving of $1,000 or more every year from plugging in instead of filling up.
In the garage: savings on maintenance.
It can be difficult to say exactly what the savings are on electric car maintenance costs. There’s less chance you’ll break down and service packages are cheaper, too.
Compared to petrol-fuelled cars, EVs are more efficient in urban environments. EV engines are better at converting energy to movement, especially from a standing start; regenerative braking uses the engine to slow the car as well as charge the battery.
Electric cars have fewer moving parts. “An electric car does not need oil changes or cooling system flushes and will have much less wear on the brakes,” said an AEVA spokesman.
The Australian Energy Commission (AECOM) published a handy comparison of maintenance costs between electric and petrol run vehicles in the 2011 report, Forecast uptake and economic evaluation of Evs in Victoria.
|Vehicle size||Petrol run: maintenance cost / per km||Electric run: maintenance cost / per km|
|Small||5.86 cents||4.10 cents|
|Medium||4.45 cents||3.12 cents|
|Large||4.34 cents||3.04 cents|
Electric cars cost less to maintain than combustion engine cars. The battery is one major electric vehicle component which is expensive and will need to be replaced after some years.
The battery in an electric car will need to be replaced at some point. Batteries degrade over years and after a decade can only hold about half the original charge. There are tips for getting the most life from electric car lithium-ion batteries, such as keeping the charge at about 50%; however, degradation is inevitable and electric car owners will have to deal with replacing an old battery at some point. Tesla offers an 8 year limited warranty on batteries, looking at overseas prices, batteries can cost more than $10,000 to replace when out of warranty.
What are the benefits of driving an electric car?
As well as the cost savings from petrol and vehicle maintenance, there are other things to feel good about, too:
- Electric cars produce zero emissions on the road and if an EV is charged from a renewable source such as solar energy, electric cars can be emission-free.
Electric cars cost more to buy than petrol run vehicles. The price will drop as the manufacturing capabilities of car companies improves and the price of parts decreases. It’s a case of paying a higher upfront price for lower running costs over the years. If you’re in the market to spend $70 - $100,000 on a car, an electric vehicle can make sense. For everyone else, we’ll have to wait till the price becomes a little more affordable.