Electric Vehicles Are Only Getting Cheaper To Own

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Ready to go. Handsome well-built man unplugging the charger
This article is courtesy of Chris Johnston with

One of the fastest ways to accelerate your transition to an eco-friendlier lifestyle is to switch to an electric vehicle (EV).  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is from transportation.  This accounts for 28% of emissions, coming in above agriculture, commercial & residential, industry and power generation.

The average North American drives about 10,500 miles per year.  Taking a national average of 25.1 miles per gallon, that equates to about 420 gallons of gasoline burned annually.  In aggregate, this translates to approximately 1,870 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent expelled annually – a mind boggling number.

In addition to the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, did you know that many are also cheaper to own than their gas-powered counterpoints?

An internal-combustion engine vehicle will cost about 4½ times more to operate and maintain than a comparable electric car. When it comes to the cost of ownership, the data is very clear. Electric vehicles are much cheaper to operate and maintain. That’s one major advantage of owning an electric car. So we decided to compare costs over a five-year period. 

Do you look at the price of gasoline every time you pull into a gas station? That’s one of the larger costs of operating an internal-combustion engine vehicle. If you drive like an average American does, you put about 10,500 miles on your odometer each year. Over five years, that is 52,500 miles. Taking a national average of 25.1 miles per gallon, that equates to 2,091 gallons of gasoline consumed over five years.  

In February 2020, the national average price of gas was $2.44 for regular and $3.11 for premium. For this comparison, we use the price of regular. That means that the typical gasoline-powered car owner will pay about $5,100 for gas over five years.  

To determine charging costs, we took the average cost of electricity for the home in the United States in February 2020, which was $0.1282 per kilowatt hour (kWh). The average EV will use 10,900 kWh to drive the American average of 52,500 miles. That means that the typical electric car owner will pay about $1,400 to charge their vehicle. 

So, over a five-year period, the typical US electric car driver saves $3,700 in the cost of fuel plus a ton of time and some aggravation by not having to go to gas stations.  

Save Money on Brake Maintenance


Illustration of EV Car Batteries

Besides saving on fuel costs, electric cars save money on brake maintenance. Electric cars save wear and tear on their brake pads and rotors by using the resistance of their motors to slow down and stop. This is called regenerative braking, and it drastically reduces the wear on the brakes, not to mention saving on fuel costs by recharging when traveling downhill.  

Electric vehicle owners can expect to get at least 150,000 miles from their brakes before they need servicing. On the other hand, gasoline-powered vehicles do not have regenerative braking. According to Kelley Blue Book (KBB), the average lifespan for brake pads on a gasoline-powered vehicle is about 40,000 miles. Kelley Blue Book states that the average cost to replace pads is $225 per axle. That means on average, internal-combustion engine car drivers pay $450 every 40,000 miles to have all four brakes (two on each axle) serviced.  

No Oil Changes and Regular Maintenance

The third cost of operating gasoline or diesel-powered cars is changing the oil. The electric motors in electric cars do not require oil. For cost comparisons, we use an oil-change window of 7,500 miles. Thus, over our five-year operating-cost comparison between EVs and gas vehicles, the gas vehicle owner would change oil seven times. Kelley Blue Book estimates that oil changes cost between $65 and $125. We use a midpoint cost of $95, which suggests a cost of $665 to change the oil seven times.  

Here is a table summarizing the costs of fuel and maintenance over a five-year period. Obviously, we are leaving out many potential repair bills that are impossible to predict. Of the maintenance items we know about, it is clear that electric vehicles are much less expensive to operate. We estimate the savings at almost $5,000. 


Cost to Operate and Maintain Over Five Years

 Electric VehicleGas Vehicle
Fuel$1,400 to charge$5,100 for gas
Chart courtesy of Chris Johnston

The bottom line shows that a gasoline-powered vehicle will cost about 4½ times more to operate and maintain than a comparable electric car.

Are you considering buying an electric vehicle? Currently in North America, there are less than a dozen passenger EVs on the market.  In 2021, there will be over two dozen including a variety of new sedans, pickup trucks and SUVs.  The Arrival of the Electric Car, is a comprehensive, easy-to-understand overview of the passenger EV universe including a buyer’s guide, preparing to own an EV, history and what we can expect in the future. If you are new to the EV space, searching the Internet can be a bit overwhelming. We wrote this book to be a fun, insightful guide to the fascinating world of electric vehicles.

The arrival of the electric car by chris Johnston & ed Sober PHD

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