Environmental Protection

What Is the True Cost of Powering an Electric Car?

Edmunds.com explains that this uncertainty is slowing consumer acceptance.

Edmunds.com analysts report that about 2.4 percent of all the new cars sold in 2010 were hybrid or electric. Despite the excitement surrounding the Volt, the Leaf and other new entries in the green car segment, Edmunds.com expects alternative vehicle market share to rise to just 3.7 percent in 2011, to 4.1 percent in 2012 and to 4.8 percent in 2013.

Part of the explanation for the slow consumer acceptance is the uncertainty of the new technology. For one thing, people are unsure how much it will cost to own these cars. Edmunds’ GreenCarAdvisor.com was among the media outlets to report that the Chevy Volt is expected to get the equivalent of 93 miles to the gallon while running on battery and the Nissan Leaf is expected to get 99 MPGe.

But correlating the electricity costs of an electric car with the fuel costs of a traditional gasoline car was no easy task for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, let alone for consumers now considering purchasing an electric car.

"The true cost of filling up your electric car turns out to be far more complicated than anyone expected and, in many cases, far more costly than it would appear at first glance," reported Edmunds.com Features Editor Carroll Lachnit in her article "The True Cost of Powering an Electric Car." "The cost of a 'fill-up' depends largely on when and where you recharge it, not to mention the rates of the utility company used."

In the report, Lachnit analyzes several electric cars in a variety of regions in the United States under different recharging conditions. One interesting discovery: powering a 2011 Nissan Leaf in Hawaii would cost about the same as the fuel costs for a gasoline car that gets an average of 36 mpg. The article also explains how consumers can calculate their real-world costs for powering these cars.

Another article, "Decoding the Electric Car MPG" looks at EPA's window sticker on electric cars that shows the fuel economy equivalent, what the agency calls MPGe. "The issue is that this rating really doesn't have much to do with fuel economy," says Paul Seredynski, senior editor at Edmunds' AutoObserver.com. "The MPGe rating is only useful for comparing the relative energy consumption of gasoline (or hybrid) cars with that of electric cars." Seredynski also points out that EPA uses the national average for electricity costs, even though electricity costs vary much more widely than gasoline costs across the country. For more details, read "The True Cost of Powering an Electric Car," at www.edmunds.com/fuel-economy/the-true-cost-of-powering-an-electric-car.html, and "Decoding the Electric Car MPG," at www.edmunds.com/fuel-economy/decoding-electric-car-mpg.html.

"There is a high cost of pushing new technology into the market which should come down over time if sales volumes increase and economies of scale come into play. Also, while we expect both gas and electricity prices to rise, we think gasoline prices will rise at a much steeper rate, increasing the savings an EV or plug-in hybrid owner might realize," commented Edmunds' GreenCarAdvisor.com's John O'Dell, who covers this in more detail at http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2011/01/cheaper-watts-for-volts-leafs-and-other-electric-drive-vehicles.html.

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