Posted 09/02/2021 in Family Finance

Electric Cars versus ICE and Hybrid Cars: Which Type is Least Expensive to Own?


Electric Cars versus ICE and Hybrid Cars:  Which Type is Least Expensive to Own?

Electric Cars versus ICE and Hybrid Cars:  Which Type is Least Expensive to Own?

With so much buzz about electric cars (EVs), hybrids, plug-in hybrids and how the days of the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles are numbered, we asked ourselves—what about the Total Cost of Ownership of the EVs versus hybrids versus ICE?  Which type of vehicle is less or more expensive today from the total cost of ownership perspective?


Executive Summary

In a detailed side-by-side comparison, below, we have looked at the Total Cost & Convenience of Ownership of electric, hybrid, and internal combustion engine type vehicles.  Going in, our hypothesis was that EVs will offer an unquestionable value over ICE and, possibly, even over hybrids as well.  

The reason we had such a hypothesis is because almost every blog and every main-stream-media article we've read in the past has praised the huge cost savings that EV vehicles offer compared to ICE vehicles due to "substantially lower cost of fuel" and due to lower maintenance and repair costs "because of fewer moving parts."

Well, the detailed side-by-side Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis showed us that all these blogs and MSM authors have either never looked at all relevant costs or simply chose to ignore them, focusing on just one or two costs—where EVs do have a clear cost advantage—while conveniently ignoring all other costs that more than outweigh the savings.

Here is the Executive Summary of our detailed TCO analysis:

  • With or without the maximum amount of $7,500 Federal Tax Credit, EV vehicles are much more expensive to own compared to hybrid and ICE vehicles,
  • Given the Federal Tax Credit has already expired for such brands as Tesla and General Motors, over a 10-year period EV vehicles are more expensive to own than: 
    • Hybrids by more than $11,000 (or $1,100 per year), and 
    • ICE cars by more than $10,000 (or $1,000 per year),
  • When comparing the Total Cost of Ownership of EV, hybrid, and ICE vehicles it is important to do this at the state level, rather than use the national averages, because such critical costs as sales taxes, vehicle property taxes, as well as gasoline and electricity prices, vary quite significantly from state to state and have a big impact on the Total Cost of Ownership.  As an example, owning an EV on average offers only one clear cost advantage:  gasoline versus electricity cost savings of up to $1,000 per year.  However, owning an EV in some states does not offer any cost savings even on this most-frequently quoted part of the Total Cost of Ownership:
    • In the state of Hawaii, gasoline fuel is less expensive than electric fuel, and
    • In such states as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, the fuel cost savings amount to just $5 to $60 per year (a mere rounding error),
  • On top of being more expensive than hybrid and ICE vehicles, EVs, at this point of technological and U.S. infrastructural development, offer significantly less "convenience of ownership" as well due to:
    • Much higher charging times compared to gas fueling (it takes 30 minutes up to 4 days to charge an EV versus 3-5 minutes to refuel a hybrid or an ICE car),
    • Smaller driving range on one charge, and
    • Substantially smaller network of DC fast-charging stations in the United States compared to the established network of gas stations,
  • Until the EV’s purchase price drops down to levels equal to or lower than those of hybrids and ICE vehicles, they are likely to continue to be more expensive from the TCO perspective, and
  • Until the EV battery technology development is sufficiently advanced and the U.S. DC fast-charging stations’ network development is broad enough, owning an EV vehicle will continue to be less "convenient" than owning a hybrid or an ICE car.

Now, let's jump into the nitty-gritty of the TCO analysis.


Key Cost Components:  Side-by-Side Comparison

First, let's list all key cost drivers that we need to compare to determine which car has the lowest Total Cost of Ownership.

  • Purchase Price
  • State and Local Taxes and Fees
  • Insurance
  • Maintenance & Repair
  • Fuel Cost, and
  • Car Value Depreciation

In the case of EVs, a few additional costs will also need to be taken into account, including:

  • EV Home Charging Station (EVSE), and
  • Battery Pack Replacement.



Should "Convenience" Be Also Compared in Addition to the Cost?

When we started researching this fascinating topic we realized with electric cars there is another very important aspect of car ownership that drivers have to face—call it customer experience or convenience of ownership.  Why?  Because unlike the ICE or hybrid cars, for which there are almost 150,000 gas stations in the United States, there are only about 17,000 "fast-charging" DC outlets in the U.S. according to JDPower.

And to compare apples to apples, 17,000 fast-charging DC "outlets" should be compared to the actual fuel pumps, not gas stations.  Typically a gas station in the United States has 4 to 8 fuel pumps.  Assuming the average is 6 fuel pumps per gas station means there are about 900,000 fuel pumps in the country versus 17,000 DC fast-charging electric outlets, a difference of more than 50 times.

But that's not the only bad news.  To make things a lot worse—the average ICE fueling time versus the average EV "fast charging" time today is quite different.  It takes on average 3-5 minutes to refill a gas tank.  Plus a bit more time for pulling over, processing the credit card, and waiting for your receipt to be printed out.  So, let's just say 5-10 minutes in total.  With EVs the best time one can hope for at the current technology levels is about 20-45 minutes of charging time (or as high as 66-68 minutes for Tesla Model 3 charged to 100% by their Supercharger station), depending on the vehicle's voltage capacity.  And that's if you have bought the "right" type of battery pack and are charging at one of the "fast charging" DC stations, and not the Level 2 or, worse, Level 1 charging outlets, which take 3.5 to 40 hours to "fill the tank."

Why is charging time so important?  This means the United States will need a lot more "fast charging" DC outlets than it currently has gas fuel pumps to ensure people don't have to wait for hours in huge lines for their turn to charge their EVs.  So, how long will it take for the United States to go from 17,000 "fast charging" DC outlets to, say, 900,000, which is just the same number as the fuel stations today?   We don't know.  And if the charging time will not drop from 20-45 minutes down to 3-5 minutes like for gas, the country will need a lot more than 900,000 outlets to ensure you won't have to wait for hours and hours to get your turn.  How many?  A simple math says if it takes, say, 30 minutes to charge your battery versus 3 minutes to refuel your gas tank—to ensure the same "waiting time" in line will require 30/3 or 10 times more DC fast-charging stations than fuel pumps, or about 9 million at today's numbers.  

Of course, most people will simply charge their EV vehicles at home, after installing Level 2 Home EV Charging equipment (see below for more on this).  This will reduce the demand for external DC Fast Charging stations from 9 million to something significantly fewer.  Let's say, we'll "only" need a couple of million of those, rather than 9 million.  Given today there are only 17,000, it might take 20-30 years or longer to build "a couple of million."  Until then, you should expect to rely primarily on your home EV charging station or take a lot more time when you need to (a) find the closest DC fast-charging station and also quite likely (b) to spend a lot of time waiting in line for your turn to recharge your car.

Thus, to ensure we account for this "convenience" factor, we decided to compare not just the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), but the Total Cost and Convenience of Ownership (TCCO) between different vehicle types.


Pragmatism vs. Cult

Having read quite a few articles and forums while researching this topic, we decided it is also important to address one more salient point before we jump into the side-by-side comparison.  There are quite a few emotionally charged, oftentimes cult-like supporters of electric vehicles, which seems to be predominantly connected to either the Tesla brand or the Elon Musk personality.  There is also an equally emotionally charged part of the population who believes that without immediately switching everyone from ICE to EVs our planet will be completely destroyed due to CO2 emissions and global warming.

We don't consider ourselves to be in either of these camps.  We also don't consider ourselves to be in the camp of "ICE cars forever," if such a camp does exist.  The main objective of our research is simply to estimate, as accurately as possible, using a variety of authoritative sources plus our own estimates and math, how much it actually costs to own an EV versus a hybrid versus an ICE car for 5 or 10 years (since the average number of years Americans own the same car today is about 8.4).  We don't have any other objective beyond that.  In sports they say "May the best man win."  We say "May the lowest-cost car win."

Let's now jump right in.


Apples to Apples:  Picking Cars to Compare

First things first—we need to pick some cars to compare side by side.  For electric cars we thought the most logical choice would be picking a Tesla, since Tesla is the most popular brand of EVs cars in the US market.  And Tesla Model 3 seems the most logical choice as the least expensive one in terms of purchase price.

Another EV that we thought is worth reviewing is Chevy Bolt, as the second longest lived EV car brand with the second largest share of the US EV market.

Now, which cars are "comparable" enough to be considered an apples-to-apples comparison for the Tesla Model 3?   There are quite a few people who consider Tesla Model 3 in the same league as BMW 3 series, Lexus IS 300, or even Mercedes A-Class.   

What is interesting when reading or watching videos of various car-related blogs which compare these vehicles is one does inevitably hear things like, "Of course, Tesla Model 3's interior is austere and minimalist," with faux leather rather than real leather, very "basic" seat configurations compared to ergonomic, performance-car type seats typical in luxury cars, a simple, iPad-like center console unit, which is not as convenient or safe to use when driving as dials and knobs offered by regular cars, and other comments of this sort.  However, despite such important differences, many people still believe Tesla Model 3 is comparable to German luxury brands.  Go figure....

We believe, having driven all of the above models, plus cars like Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry that in terms of finishes, trim, and luxury, Tesla Model 3 is a lot closer to Hyundai Sonata than to BMW 3 or Mercedes A-Class.  Most likely people began comparing Tesla Model 3 to BMW 3 because of the comparable price tags, rather than the comparable luxuriousness and trim.

Of course, a lot of people, especially those who have a cult-like following of Tesla, will disagree.  But for simple, pragmatic folks out there who don't put much value into the Tesla brand over that of Hyundai, Toyota, Ford, GM, or BMW for that matter, we'll include Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry, along with the BMW 3 Series, into the fray.

Now let's compare all the costs one by one.


Detailed Total Cost of Ownership Comparison


Vehicle Purchase Price

As anyone who bought a car knows car prices, like most other physical goods, vary in price by geography, by retailer/ car dealer, based on price promotions, special discounts, and other reasons.  To make our purchase price comparison as "fair" as possible, we will have to stick to what is known as MSRP (car manufacturer recommended purchase price).  Usually cars are sold at or below such MSRP prices.  Those customers who shop around, don't mind driving 100 or even 500 miles to save 5-10%, are willing to wait for a special holiday promotions or inventory clearance, or simply are willing to negotiate really hard to get the best deal—such customers can easily buy a car at 10%, 20%, or even 30% below MSRP.  But because such discounts are not systemic and also because they can equally apply to any type of model—whether it's an EV, a hybrid, or an ICE vehicle—it is more "fair" to use the MSRPs for our side-by-side comparison.

Here is a list of MSRPs for the different cars we picked for our comparison.


Table 1:  MSRP Prices for Compared Vehicles

#

Model

MSRP Price ($)

Delivery Fee ($)

TOTAL Price ($)

1

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Standard Range 2021

39,990

1,200

41,190

2

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Long Range 2021

49,990

1,200

51,190

3

EV:  Chevy Bolt 2022

31,000

995

31,995

4

Hybrid:  Hyundai Sonata Blue 2022

27,750

1,005

28,755

5

Hybrid:  BMW 330e Sedan 2022

42,950

995

43,945

6

Hybrid:  Toyota Camry Hybrid 2021

27,270

1,025

28,295

7

ICE:  Hyundai Sonata SE 2021

23,950

1,005

24,955

8

ICE:  BMW 330i Sedan 2022

41,450

995

42,445

9

ICE:  Toyota Camry 2022

25,295

1,025

26,320

 




 


For EV vehicles we should also add one more cost that most owners face today as well as add one more benefit that many (but not all) buyers can take advantage of, if only temporarily:

  • The additional cost we need to add is that of the so called Home EV Charging Station (aka EVSE), and
  • The additional benefit we need to add is that of the Federal Tax Credit that the U.S. government offers on many EV and plug-in hybrid cars.

Let's briefly discuss both of these.


Home EV Charging Stations (aka EVSE)

First, what is a home EV charging station and why is it needed?  

One of the key problems with EV vehicles is severe lack of charging stations around the country.  As we discussed above, today there are about 17,000 DC fast-charging stations in the United States.  To avoid (a) wasting time looking for one near you, (b) wasting time waiting for 20-68 minutes while your car is being charged, and (c) wasting money on expensive electricity—Tesla Supercharger costs 25-28 cents per kWh, which is twice as expensive as the national average electricity cost of 9.9-22.5 cents per kWh (depending on the state) if charged at home—it is better to install the home EV charging equipment at home and charge your car overnight.

So, in order to do that you'll need to:

  1. Buy the home EV charging equipment, which costs $300 to $1,000 or more, and
  2. Hire professional electricians to:
    1. Wire and set up a 240V / 50-amp outlet, which according to HomeAdvisor on average costs $700,
    2. Install the EV charging equipment, which according to HomeAdvisor costs on average $789.  Of course the "typical range" of installation costs is extremely wide:  from $500 to $2,200.

So, when all is said and done, you are looking at the following additional costs to ensure you can charge your electric car at home and avoid inconvenience plus paying double price at Tesla Supercharger or other external charging station vendors.


Table 2:  Home EV Charging Equipment Installation Cost

#

Model

Low ($)

High ($)

Average ($)

1

EVSE / Home EV Charging Equipment Cost

300

1,000

650

2

240V Circuit Wiring and Installation*

490

910

700

3

EVSE Installation Cost

500

2,200

789

 

TOTAL

$1,290

$4,110

$2,139

*NOTE:  HomeAdvisor's average of $700 is assumed to range +/- 30%


Our estimated range of $1,290-$4,110 is in line with another estimate provided by a car mega-dealer, Carvana.  They estimate that it costs $1,500-$4,500 "to mount a new station, install a new service panel, do wiring, and equip it with a 240-volt outlet."

Carvana explains a high cost of installing the home EV charging stations by the high labor cost of electricians:  "Electricians charge $40 to $100 an hour, and for the installation of a 240-volt and 50-amp outlet, it costs $300 to $800.  A 200-amp panel upgrade costs between $1,800 and $2,500.  Wiring, on the other hand, costs up to $8 per foot, and trenching is $4 to $12 per foot."

A bit of the good news, though, is that the U.S. government offers a federal tax credit of 30% (up to $1,000 maximum) for the cost of buying and installing the residential EV charging station.  As of the time of this article, the tax credit can be applied if the equipment was bought and installed by December 31, 2021.

Taking this federal tax credit into account reduces the effective average cost from $2,139 down to $1,139.


Federal Government Electric Vehicles Tax Credit

In 2009, to jump-start the sales and adoption of electric vehicles in the United States, the federal government introduced an EV Tax Credit of up to $7,500 per electric vehicle.  This tax credit is still applicable to most EV and plug-in hybrid car brands.  However, it can be applied to brand new vehicles only.  You cannot use it when buying a used electric car.

Of course, the tax credit is not automatic cash you receive when buying an EV or a plug-in hybrid.  You have to claim the credit when you file your federal taxes.  The credit reduces the amount of taxes you'll have to pay the federal government by up to $7,500.  If what you owe in federal government taxes turns out to be lower than the EV tax credit, you should receive the balance sum as a refund from the government.

The amount of tax credit is not the same for all vehicles.  There is actually a formula that you'd need to use to calculate how much tax credit you can claim.  It works like this:  you get to claim $2,500 for any car that qualifies:  basically any car that gets charged from an external energy source and has battery packs with capacities of 4 kWh or higher.

On top of that, if the battery packs have capacity higher than 4 kWh, for every additional kWh exceeding the 4 kWh threshold, you can claim an additional amount of $417 per kWh.  So, if the battery pack has a total capacity of, say, 5 kWh you can claim $2,500+417=$2,917 in federal tax credits.  However, the maximum tax credit you can claim cannot exceed $7,500.

To avoid getting mired in doing your own math, the website FuelEconomy.gov, which is run by the U.S. Department of Energy, conveniently provides a list of all electric (EV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles in the market today and the associated tax credits you can claim on each one.  Here is the link to the webpage listing all EV and PHEV vehicles and the amounts of tax credits you can claim.

One important aspect of this government program is that it only applies to car brands that have not yet sold 200,000 EV and PHEV cars.  Once a car manufacturer reaches this goal, tax credits no longer apply.  At the time of writing, only two car manufacturers reached this goal:  Tesla and GM (the owner of Chevy Bolt EV and a number of hybrid plug-ins).  Both of these companies sold more than 200,000 electric and plug-in hybrid cars and thus if you buy a Tesla or one of General Motors' "alternative energy" cars, you cannot claim any tax credit.


State and Local Taxes and Fees

Well, speaking of taxes....  Unfortunately for all vehicle owners, in addition to enjoying some tax credits, all car owners also have to pay all sorts of taxes and fees, some only when the vehicle is purchased and some every year.

Here is a list of different taxes and fees and how they are typically assessed.


Table 3:  Vehicle Related Taxes & Fees

#

Tax / Fee Types

Size / Amount

1

Sales Tax

Varies by State/Town from 0% to 10.75%

U.S. Average:  ~7.1% of the Paid Retail Price*


2

Registration 

& Title Fees

  • Flat Fee [in 25 States]:  from $15 to $151
  • Weight-Based [in 14 States]:  from $17 to $274
  • Value-Based [in 7 States]:  from 0.65% [CA] to 2.8% [AZ]
  • Age-Based [in 3 States]:  $69 to $217

 

+19 States have special EV and Plug-in Hybrid Registration

Fees ranging from $50 to $214


3

Annual Property 

Tax

23 States have a 0% Vehicle Property Tax

27 States have an Annual Vehicle Tax of 0.1% [LA] to 4.05%

[VA] of the Car Value


 



*NOTE:  Average excludes four states with 0% Sales Tax (Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and New Hampshire)


So, as you can see the purchase price of a car has a significant impact on the cost of owning a car in different states.  For example, if you buy or register a Tesla Model 3 in the town of Cicero, IL, which at 10.75% has one of the highest sales taxes in the country, in addition to the vehicle MSRP you will pay a pretty hefty sales tax.


Sales Taxes

Let's compare the average sales tax by state that one would pay for car models such as EV Tesla Model 3, hybrid Hyundai Sonata Blue, and ICE Hyundai Sonata SE.


Table 4:  State-by-State Sales Taxes by Car Model

U.S. State

Avg. Sales Tax (%)

EV:  Tesla Model 3 Sales Tax ($)

Hybrid:  Hyundai Sonata Blue Sales Tax ($)

ICE:  Hyundai Sonata SE Sales Tax ($)

Alabama

9.2%

3,798

2,651

2,301

Alaska

1.8%

725

506

439

Arizona

8.4%

3,460

2,415

2,096

Arkansas

9.5%

3,917

2,735

2,373

California

8.7%

3,575

2,496

2,166

Colorado

7.7%

3,180

2,220

1,927

Connecticut

6.4%

2,616

1,826

1,585

Delaware

0.0%

-

-

-

Florida

7.1%

2,916

2,036

1,767

Georgia

7.3%

3,015

2,105

1,827

Hawaii

4.4%

1,829

1,277

1,108

Idaho

6.0%

2,484

1,734

1,505

Illinois

8.8%

3,633

2,536

2,201

Indiana

7.0%

2,883

2,013

1,747

Iowa

6.9%

2,859

1,996

1,732

Kansas

8.7%

3,579

2,499

2,169

Kentucky

6.0%

2,471

1,725

1,497

Louisiana

9.5%

3,921

2,737

2,376

Maine

5.5%

2,265

1,582

1,373

Maryland

6.0%

2,471

1,725

1,497

Massachusetts

6.3%

2,574

1,797

1,560

Michigan

6.0%

2,471

1,725

1,497

Minnesota

7.5%

3,073

2,145

1,862

Mississippi

7.1%

2,912

2,033

1,764

Missouri

8.3%

3,398

2,372

2,059

Montana

0.0%

-

-

-

Nebraska

6.9%

2,859

1,996

1,732

Nevada

8.2%

3,390

2,367

2,054

New Hampshire

0.0%

-

-

-

New Jersey

6.6%

2,719

1,898

1,647

New Mexico

7.8%

3,225

2,252

1,954

New York

8.5%

3,509

2,450

2,126

North Carolina

7.0%

2,875

2,007

1,742

North Dakota

7.0%

2,867

2,001

1,737

Ohio

7.2%

2,978

2,079

1,804

Oklahoma

9.0%

3,687

2,574

2,233

Oregon

0.0%

-

-

-

Pennsylvania

6.3%

2,611

1,823

1,582

Rhode Island

7.0%

2,883

2,013

1,747

South Carolina

7.5%

3,073

2,145

1,862

South Dakota

6.4%

2,636

1,840

1,597

Tennessee

9.6%

3,934

2,746

2,383

Texas

8.2%

3,373

2,355

2,044

Utah

7.2%

2,962

2,067

1,794

Vermont

6.2%

2,570

1,794

1,557

Virginia

5.7%

2,360

1,648

1,430

Washington

9.2%

3,802

2,654

2,303

West Virginia

6.5%

2,677

1,869

1,622

Wisconsin

5.4%

2,237

1,561

1,355

Wyoming

5.3%

2,195

1,533

1,330

AVERAGE*

7.1%

2,709

1,891

1,641

*NOTE:  Average excludes four states with 0% Sales Tax (Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and New Hampshire)


As you can see, sales tax does add up a non-trivial amount increasing the overall Total Cost of Ownership.  The paid sales tax ranges from:

  • EV Tesla Model 3:  from $0 in Delaware to $3,934 in Tennessee (with the average sales tax of $2,709),
  • Hybrid Hyundai Sonata Blue:  from $0 in Delaware to $2,746 in Tennessee (on average $1,891), and
  • ICE Hyundai Sonata SE:  from $0 in Delaware to $2,383 in Tennessee (on average $1,641).


Vehicle Registration Fees

Vehicle registration fees vary quite a bit from state to state.  As mentioned in Table #3 above, there are more than four types of registration fees that are used in different states:

  • Flat Fee:  25 states use a flat fee approach with fees ranging from $15 to $151, with the average fee of about $70 per registration,
  • Car Weight-Based Fee:  14 states use a weight-based registration fee (the heavier the vehicle, the higher the registration fee) ranging from $17 to $274, with the average fee of about $85,
  • Car Value-Based Fee:  7 states use a retail value-based registration fee (the more expensive the vehicle, the higher the registration fee) ranging from 0.65% (in California) to 2.8% (in Arizona), with the average fee of about $440, and
  • Car Age-Based Fee:  3 states use a car age-based registration fee (the newer the vehicle the higher the registration fee) ranging from $69 to $217, with the average fee of about $80.

In addition to the above fees, 19 states also have additional registration fees for EV and for plug-in hybrids.  Why?  The logic is quite solid:

  • The states get their funding for road construction, maintenance, and repair primarily from the gasoline excise taxes.  Such taxes, depending on the state, range from 9 cents/gallon in Alaska (the lowest in the country) to 59 cents/gallon in California and Pennsylvania,
  • The average gasoline tax across all 50 states is 31 cents/gallon.  With the current U.S. average gas price of $3.20, this tax amounts to about 9.7% of the gas price,
  • Electric cars use electricity instead of gasoline for fuel.  Therefore EV car owners do not pay gasoline taxes used to fund road construction, maintenance, and repair,
  • But EV vehicles continue using the same roads as ICE cars, so some states are trying to make sure that EV car owners pay at least some portion of the road construction and maintenance cost.

On average the additional registration fee across the 19 states that have such a fee is $54 for plug-in hybrids and $132 for EV vehicles.  The actual fees range from $50 (in Colorado) to $214 (in Georgia).

To avoid getting bogged down in calculating numerous fees by state by vehicle type, weight, age, etc., we have estimated (roughly, of course) the average registration fee for all vehicles across 50 states and also the EV and plug-in hybrids registration premium across those 19 states that have it:

  • Average Registration Fee:  $117
  • Average Plug-In Hybrid Add-On Fee:  $54  (thus total is $117+54=$171)
  • Average EV Add-On Fee:  $132  (thus total is $117+132=$248)


Vehicle Property Taxes

How about the annual vehicle property tax?  The good news is it is 0% in 27 states.  The bad news is it is NOT 0% in the other 23 states.  And in some states, such as Virginia, Mississippi, and Rhode Island, the vehicle property tax is more than 3% per year.


Table 5:  State-by-State Estimated Vehicle Property Tax by Car Model

U.S. State

Vehicle Property Tax (%)

EV:  Tesla Model 3 Sales Tax ($)

Hybrid:  Hyundai Sonata Blue Sales Tax ($)

ICE:  Hyundai Sonata SE Sales Tax ($)

Alabama

0.69%

284

198

172

Alaska

0.00%

0

0

0

Arizona

1.68%

692

483

419

Arkansas

1.01%

416

290

252

California

0.65%

268

187

162

Colorado

1.79%

737

515

447

Connecticut

2.61%

1,075

751

651

Delaware

0.00%

0

0

0

Florida

0.00%

0

0

0

Georgia

0.00%

0

0

0

Hawaii

0.00%

0

0

0

Idaho

0.00%

0

0

0

Illinois

0.00%

0

0

0

Indiana

1.20%

494

345

299

Iowa

1.00%

412

288

250

Kansas

1.94%

799

558

484

Kentucky

1.45%

597

417

362

Louisiana

0.10%

41

29

25

Maine

2.40%

989

690

599

Maryland

0.00%

0

0

0

Massachusetts

2.25%

927

647

561

Michigan

0.59%

243

170

147

Minnesota

1.29%

531

371

322

Mississippi

3.50%

1,442

1,006

873

Missouri

2.63%

1,083

756

656

Montana

1.25%

515

359

312

Nebraska

1.59%

655

457

397

Nevada

1.80%

741

518

449

New Hampshire

1.80%

741

518

449

New Jersey

0.00%

0

0

0

New Mexico

0.00%

0

0

0

New York

0.00%

0

0

0

North Carolina

1.21%

498

348

302

North Dakota

0.00%

0

0

0

Ohio

0.00%

0

0

0

Oklahoma

0.00%

0

0

0

Oregon

0.00%

0

0

0

Pennsylvania

0.00%

0

0

0

Rhode Island

3.44%

1,417

989

858

South Carolina

2.38%

980

684

594

South Dakota

0.00%

0

0

0

Tennessee

0.00%

0

0

0

Texas

0.00%

0

0

0

Utah

0.00%

0

0

0

Vermont

0.00%

0

0

0

Virginia

4.20%

1,730

1,208

1,048

Washington

0.00%

0

0

0

West Virginia

1.66%

684

477

414

Wisconsin

0.00%

0

0

0

Wyoming

1.80%

741

518

449

AVERAGE*

0.96%

395

276

239


So, in some states, such as Virginia, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Missouri, and Connecticut, one would pay $1,075 to $1,730 per year on a standard range Tesla Model 3.  In Virginia, the annual property tax for Tesla Model 3 is almost $700 per year bigger than the annual property tax for ICE Hyundai Sonata.


Insurance Cost

As you may know, your car insurance cost typically includes a number of key components that are relevant for our analyses:

  • Liability insurance:  covers personal/bodily damage (including medical expenses), as well as "other vehicle" damage.  Amount is usually not too dependent on the type of car you drive,
  • Comprehensive coverage:  this one covers damage to your car in the form of fire, hail, as well as theft, vandalism and other damage.  Unfortunately, theft and vandalism are quite vehicle specific—some car brands and models are stolen and vandalized a lot more than others,
  • Collision coverage:  pays to repair or replace your car in case of accidents.  So you can imagine that this one is very vehicle-specific—the more expensive your car is, the higher the insurance premium you end up paying.

Of course, there are also other types of car insurance coverage that one can buy (such as uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, rental reimbursement coverage, etc.).  But the above three are the key ones that are vehicle-model dependent.

So, how much more or less do people pay for electric cars versus other types?

According to ValuePenguin, a subsidiary of LendingTree, on average EVs are 6% to 45% more expensive to insure than comparable (actually, the same brand and model) ICE vehicles.  These guys compared the relatively inexpensive EVs with their same-brand ICE brethren, including Ford Focus, Chevy Spark, Kia Soul, and Fiat 500, to come up with these numbers.

What about Tesla, you might ask?

MotoTrend.com puts the annual insurance cost of Tesla Model 3 at $2,114 for the Base model and $2,351 for the Long Range one.  Another well-known blog, NerdWallet, estimates that insuring a Tesla Model 3 will set you back $1,815 to $3,331 per year, which is about 40% higher than any of the 24 ICE car models that NerdWallet has analyzed.  The average annual insurance rate for Tesla Model 3 across 50 states is $2,132, which is pretty close to MotorTrend's numbers for the Standard Range model.

Compare this to the average rate for:

  • Hyundai Sonata, ranging from $1,412 to $1,735 (average of $1,574),
  • Toyota Camry, ranging from $762 to $1,529 (average of $1,645),
  • BMW 3i Sedan, ranging from $1,602 to $1,987 (average of $1,795) ,
  • Chevy Bolt on average is $1,529.

Of course, all these ranges and averages include varying degrees of coverage, different geographies, and widely different drivers' ages and safety track records.  But overall at this point in time, when EV technologies are still underdeveloped, most auto repair shops are not very knowledgeable about how to repair/ fine-tune these cars, and when overall purchase prices for comparable vehicles are still pretty high, one should expect to pay for car insurance up to 40% more for EV vehicles compared to similar ICE or hybrid ones.

Quoting ValuePenguin:  "One major factor why car insurance premiums are higher [for EVs] may be that the cost of the vehicles are higher.  Electric vehicles tend to be filled with cutting-edge technology like high-capacity batteries, sophisticated sensors, and more.  The more a vehicle costs, the more expensive it is to repair."

Below in Table 2 are the numbers that after extensive research we suggest to use for our estimates.  These numbers are more or less consistent across multiple sources we have looked at and logically do make sense.


Table 6:  Estimated U.S. Average Insurance Costs based on Vehicle Model

#

Model

Annual Insurance Cost ($)

Source

1

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Base Model 2021

2,114

Mototrend.com

2

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Long Range 2021

2,351

Mototrend.com

3

EV:  Chevy Bolt 2022

1,544

Insuraviz.com

4

Hybrid:  Hyundai Sonata Blue 2022

1,768

Insuraviz.com

5

Hybrid:  Toyota Camry 2018

1,542

TheZebra.com

6

Hybrid:  BMW 330e Sedan 2022

2,114

Mototrend.com

7

ICE:  Hyundai Sonata SE 2021

1,574

Average (see above)

8

ICE:  Toyota Camry 2020

1,645

Average (see above)

9

ICE:  BMW 330i Sedan 2022

1,795

Average (see above)

 





Maintenance & Repair Cost

It is a well-known fact that EV vehicles have a lot fewer "moving parts" than any ICE or hybrid car.  This fact alone, over time, will lead to lower maintenance cost for EVs.

However, there is a big difference between "now" and in the "future."  Now the number of technicians at the nation's auto shops, who are well-trained or at least somewhat familiar with EVs, which account only for 2% of the cars on the roads, is still extremely small.  And you know what happens to the cost of EV-knowledgeable mechanics who are in extremely small supply in a situation of growing demand?  Their services become a lot more expensive.

According to predictive analytics firm WePredict, which analyzed service and repair visits for about 19 million vehicles between the 2016 and 2021 model years, EVs cost less in maintenance because they have fewer regular maintenance procedures, but they cost more to repair than their gasoline equivalents.  How much more?  First year:  2.3 times more—and 1.6 times more after the first year.  

Why with fewer moving parts are EVs still more expensive to maintain and, especially, to repair?  WeTrade is listing a number of issues, which will probably start decreasing over the next 5-10 years as more and more EV vehicles hit the road:

  • Service technicians are spending 2x as long diagnosing problems with EVs versus ICE vehicles,
  • Technicians are also spending 1.5 times longer fixing identified problems,
  • On top of the above two issues, technicians who are familiar with EVs are more expensive—their labor rate is 1.3 times to 2 times higher than that for ICE vehicles.

Now, what sorts of problems can you expect to have maintaining and repairing your EV vehicle compared to ICE or hybrids?

Unsurprisingly, the WeTrade study found that most of the repair work on EV vehicles is focused on wiring problems or battery charging issues.

Another significant difference between EVs and ICE and hybrids is a substantially faster tire wear and tear.  Why?  Two main reasons:

  1. EV vehicles have a much higher initial torque (which is pretty typical of electric motors compared to internal-combustion engines).  This makes tires spin while the car is still idle and this wears them out twice as fast as tires on gas-powered cars with low initial torque.
  2. EV vehicles on average are heavier than comparable in size ICE or hybrid ones.  This is due to the extremely heavy battery packs that these cars carry.  Thus, for example, Tesla Model 3 weighs 3,650 to 4,250 pounds.  Compare this to Hyundai Sonata SE, which is identical in height and width, but 8 inches longer than Tesla (193 vs. 185 inches), and still weighs only 3,120 pounds.  Tesla is 8 inches shorter but 530 to 1,130 pounds heavier.  This extra weight does wear out the tires faster, especially coupled with higher motor torque mentioned above.

Given the weight difference, one could also logically expect a higher number of issues with brakes and suspension.

The good news for EV's faster tires wear and tear though, is that tire manufacturers are well aware of this problem and are working on trying to solve it in the future.

On the plus side, unlike ICE or hybrid cars, EV vehicles don't require regular oil changes or air-filter replacements.

Let's try to compare side by side the basic maintenance required for ICE, hybrid, as well as EV vehicles, and roughly estimate the cost of each.

  • Oil Change:  According to AAA motor oil should be changed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.  Full synthetic could last as much as 15,000 miles.  Typically it costs $35 to $75 to change oil.  Synthetic could cost $65 to $125.  On average, Americans drive about 14,000 miles per year.  This means changing oil 1-3 times per year with the annual cost of $35-$125 to $105-$375.  The good news for EV owners is electric vehicles don't need any oil change.
  • Windshield Wiper Replacement:  According to AutoZone windshield wipers can be replaced once a year.  Some can last as long as 2-3 years (of course it all depends on where you live, how often you drive, and other conditions).  If you are a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kind of person and can easily replace those on your own (maybe after watching some how-to videos online) it should cost you only $20-50 to do that.  If you are more of a Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) kind of person and would rather an auto shop mechanic do this for you, it could cost you as much as $61-$85.  So, depending on how frequently you replace them and whether or not you do it yourself, the annual cost could be:
    • $10-$25 if you do it yourself every two years ($5-$8/year), or as much as
    • $61-$85 if you hire help and do it once a year.
  • New Battery:  an ICE vehicle typically requires a new lead-acid battery every three years or so at a cost of $60-$200 (or $20-$67/year).  EV vehicles typically have an 8- to 10-year warranty on their lithium-ion battery packs.  One should read the warranty fine print though to understand if car manufacturers would replace the battery pack when its performance is degraded down to 50-60% of the original capacity or if it has to be down to 0% before they honor their warranty.
  • Brake Pad Replacement:  some estimates show that brake pads typically get replaced after 40,000 to 50,000 miles (or every 2.5-3 years if you drive 14,000 miles a year).  Of course it depends on where and how you drive—in the city, with a lot of braking and speeding, or in the rural area or on highways with a lot less brake pad wear and tear.  According to Kelley Blue Book it costs about $150 per axle (or $300 total) to replace the brake pads.  And according to Advance Auto Parts it could set you back as much as $350 to $500 depending on your location and car model.  Annualizing these numbers means that on average it will cost you $100 to $167 per year for all vehicle types.
  • Tire Rotation:  tire rotation should cost about $35 to $44 and is recommended to be done every 7,500 miles or so (which means roughly every 6 months or about).  Annually, this will cost you approximately $70 to $88 per year regardless of the vehicle type.
  • Tire Replacement:  most tires are rated to last 40,000 to 60,000 miles, some premium quality ones could be rated as high as 80,000 miles.  The tires themselves as well as the installation costs vary quite a bit.  If you buy and install tires at Walmart it could cost as low as $250 for all four.  Tires themselves could cost anywhere from $50 to $300 (or $200-$1,200 per set) and installation could cost $15-25 or more per tire (or $60-$100 for four).   This means:
    • For ICE and hybrid vehicles driving on average 14,000-15,000 miles a year all four tires would need to be replaced every 2.5 to 4 years.  Annualized this means a cost of about $65 to $520 per year for ICE and hybrid cars.
    • For EVs, as discussed above, due to their heavier weight and higher engine torque, tires wear out 25-50% faster.  This means you'd need to replace them every 2 to 3 years or even more often.  Annualized this means a cost of about $87 to $650 per year for ICE and hybrid cars.

Now, let's summarize the above maintenance costs in a table format.


Table 7:  Annual EV and ICE & Hybrid Car Maintenance Cost Estimates

Maintenance Type

Cost per Year: ICE & Hybrid ($)

Cost per Year:

EVs ($)

Oil Change

$35 - $375

not needed

Windshield Wiper Replacement

$5 - $85

$5 - $85

New Battery [Pack]

$20 - $67

10-year warranty

Brake Pad Replacement

$100 - $167

$100 - $167

Tire Rotation

$70 - $88

$70 - $88

Tire Replacement

$65 - $520

$87 - $650

TOTAL

$295 - $1,302

$240 - $860


In addition to the regular car maintenance every car, especially after putting on 100,000 or more miles, will also occasionally require repairs.  It is hard to predict specific types of repairs.   For the sake of our analysis we will make an assumption that within the first 7 years, with the average American driving 14,000 miles per year, our compared cars will still be under the now standard 100,000 mile warranty.

After the first 7 years most cars will pass the 100,000-mile threshold and thus will be off the warranty.  For years 7 through 10, when cars have already driven an additional 40,000 miles (reaching 140,000 or so miles), repair costs might start mounting up beyond the regular wear and tear discussed above.   For these years, for the purpose of our analysis, we will assume an additional repair cost of $200 per year for ICE and hybrid cars.   For EV cars we will assume $320 per year, which is consistent with the WeTrade's estimate described above that EV repair costs are 1.6 times higher than those for gasoline vehicles.


EV Vehicle Lithium-ion Battery Pack Replacement Cost

There is one more cost associated with EV vehicles that might be important to take into consideration when estimating the Total Cost of Ownership—the new lithium-ion battery pack.  Most EV battery packs are rated to last 10 or more years (or 1,200-2,000 charge/ discharge cycles), albeit with the gradual degrading of performance.  After that an EV car owner faces the cost of battery pack replacement.

Currently, according to TrueCar, the cost to replace the EV car battery pack is $5,500.  For the purposes of our 5- and 10-year Total Cost of Ownership analysis we will assume that no EV car will need a battery pack replacement within our chosen life span of 10 years.  However, if you are seriously considering buying an EV vehicle and planning to keep it beyond the 10-year / warranty expiration point, this substantial cost should absolutely be taken into account.

Look at it the other way—when after 8 or 10 years you decide to sell your EV auto—any potential buyer will for sure incorporate this $5,500 (or whatever it will be at the time) cost of replacing the battery pack when deciding how much your car will be worth.  This will for sure impact the "residual value" that your car will have 8-10 years down the road.


Fuel Cost

Most of the time when devoted EV-vehicle owners talk about their cost savings of owning an electric car over gasoline-powered ones, they are primarily focusing on their substantially lower fuel cost.

Let's estimate how much cost advantage EV vehicles have over ICE and/or hybrids when it comes to fuel.

As we all know, in the United States both the gasoline (fuel for ICE and hybrids) prices as well as electricity (fuel for EVs) prices vary substantially from state to state.  Thus it is a lot more accurate to estimate potential fuel savings state by state.

In order to estimate such fuel savings we first need to come up with a common way to compare fuel efficiency of ICE, hybrids, and EV cars.  Luckily the U.S. government has already done this for us:  they provide detailed estimates of fuel economy numbers as follows:

  • miles per gallon for ICE and hybrid cars, and
  • kWh per 100 miles for electric cars

It might sound confusing to compare “miles per gallon” to “kilowatt hours per 100 miles,” but it’s not really.  First, recognize that both are ratios.  To make the two ratios both have “miles” on the bottom, invert an ICE or hybrid car’s MPG so instead of miles/gallons, it’s now gallons/miles.  For example, the hybrid Hyundai Sonata Blue 2021 has an EPA MPG rating of 52.  That’s 52 miles per gallon of gasoline:

  • MPG ratio: (52 miles/ 1 gallon gas),
  • Inverted to create a GPM ratio: (1 gallon gas/ 52 miles)=0.01923 GPM,
  • How much gasoline is needed to travel 100 miles?  Multiple the ratio by 100: 
    • 0.019 GPM * 100 miles=1.923 gallons of gasoline.

So, the hybrid Hyundai Sonata Blue 2021 takes 1.923 gallons of gasoline to travel 100 miles.

Since gas stations charge drivers per gallon of gasoline we can estimate how much it costs to drive 100 miles for different ICE and hybrid car models in different states.

Similarly, since electric power companies (and a growing number of EV charging stations) charge drivers per kWh of electricity consumed we can estimate how much it costs to drive 100 miles for different EV car models in different states.

Let's take a look.


Car Fuel Economy

Below is the table that shows the fuel economy numbers for different types of cars and different makes and models.


Table 8:  Fuel Economy by Car Model

#

Model

Fuel Economy per 100 miles

1

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Standard Range 2021

24 kWh

2

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Long Range 2021

25 kWh

3

EV:  Chevy Bolt 2021

29 kWh

4

Hybrid:  Hyundai Sonata Blue 2021

1.9 gallons

5

Hybrid:  Toyota Camry Hybrid LE 2021

1.9 gallons

6

ICE:  Hyundai Sonata SE 2021

3.3 gallons

7

ICE:  Toyota Camry LE/SE 2021

3.1 gallons

8

ICE:  BMW 330i Sedan 2021

3.3 gallons

 




As of the time of this article, according to AAA, the average gasoline price in the U.S. across 50 states is $3.20 per gallon.  And according to the U.S. government, the average electricity price in the U.S. across 50 states is 13.3 cents per kWh.

Using these numbers let's see how much fuel would cost to drive 100 miles, as well as how much it would cost over the period of one year, given on average Americans drive about 14,000 miles.


Table 9:  100 Miles and Annual Cost of Fuel by Car Model

#

Model

Fuel Economy per 100 miles

Fuel Cost:  100 Miles

Fuel Cost: 

1 year*

1

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Standard Range 2021

24 kWh

$3.19

$447

2

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Long Range 2021

25 kWh

$3.33

$466

3

EV:  Chevy Bolt 2021

29 kWh

$3.86

$540

4

Hybrid:  Hyundai Sonata Blue 2021

1.9 gallons

$6.08

$851

5

Hybrid:  Toyota Camry Hybrid LE 2021

1.9 gallons

$6.08

$851

6

ICE:  Hyundai Sonata SE 2021

3.3 gallons

$10.56

$1,478

7

ICE:  Toyota Camry LE/SE 2021

3.1 gallons

$9.92

$1,389

8

ICE:  BMW 330i Sedan 2021

3.3 gallons

$10.56

$1,478

 



 

 

*NOTE:  Assumes driving 14,000 miles per year

So, as we can see, the annual savings that EV vehicles offer over ICE and hybrid vehicles is quite substantial: 

  • across the three analyzed EV vehicles the average annual fuel cost is $485,
  • to drive 14,000 miles in a hybrid will cost $851, or $367 (or 75%) more, and
  • to drive an ICE vehicle will cost $963 (or about 200%) more than an EV.

But it is always quite dangerous to look just at "averages" as they are more often than not either insufficient or even misleading.  You know, like in a statistician’s description about the hospital with two patients:  one guy has a huge fever and another one has just kicked the bucket and is, well, pretty cold, but on Average the patients' temperature in this hospital is "Normal."   So the next time when you see some estimates of "U.S. average" EV fuel economy versus that of ICE or hybrid vehicle, think about that hospital.

Below is a table showing gasoline as well as electricity price state-by-state.  As you can see, both range widely.  And as you can imagine, such a wide range of prices does have a very significant impact on how much money you can save on fuel with an electric vehicle versus hybrid and ICE.


Table 10:  State-by-State Gas and Electricity Prices

U.S. State

Avg. Gas Price (Regular Grade $/gal)

Avg. Electricity Price (¢/kWh)

Alabama

2.83

13.1

Alaska

3.71

21.9

Arizona

3.13

12.4

Arkansas

2.86

11.2

California

4.40

22.5

Colorado

3.63

12.4

Connecticut

3.18

22.4

Delaware

2.99

12.3

Florida

2.99

11.8

Georgia

2.97

11.9

Hawaii

4.09

32.3

Idaho

3.81

9.9

Illinois

3.34

13.2

Indiana

3.06

13.0

Iowa

3.00

11.8

Kansas

2.92

12.7

Kentucky

2.88

11.0

Louisiana

2.83

10.4

Maine

3.11

16.4

Maryland

3.04

12.5

Massachusetts

3.05

22.2

Michigan

3.20

17.2

Minnesota

3.04

12.9

Mississippi

2.79

11.6

Missouri

2.86

10.1

Montana

3.31

10.9

Nebraska

3.03

10.2

Nevada

4.05

11.7

New Hampshire

3.00

19.4

New Jersey

3.19

16.0

New Mexico

3.06

12.9

New York

3.22

18.6

North Carolina

2.91

11.3

North Dakota

3.12

10.2

Ohio

2.97

12.1

Oklahoma

2.88

13.7

Oregon

3.80

11.2

Pennsylvania

3.28

13.1

Rhode Island

3.06

23.1

South Carolina

2.88

12.9

South Dakota

3.17

11.9

Tennessee

2.86

10.8

Texas

2.82

11.9

Utah

3.85

10.1

Vermont

3.09

18.8

Virginia

2.97

11.7

Washington

3.91

9.9

West Virginia

3.05

11.8

Wisconsin

3.01

14.4

Wyoming

3.59

10.9


So, now let's estimate what kind of impact these gas and electricity prices have on the total annual cost of fuel for different vehicle types.  For our analysis we'll pick:

  • for ICE:  BMW 3i Series 2021,
  • for Hybrid:  Hyundai Sonata Blue 2021, and
  • for EV:  Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus 2021


Table 11:  State-by-State Annual Fuel Cost Estimate for ICE, Hybrid, and EV Vehicles

U.S. State

ICE:

BMW 330i Sedan 2021 ($)

Hybrid:

Hyundai Sonata SE 2021 ($)

EV:

Tesla Model 3  Std Range 2021 ($)

Alabama

1,268

753

459

Alaska

1,660

986

768

Arizona

1,400

831

433

Arkansas

1,282

761

392

California

1,969

1,169

788

Colorado

1,627

966

435

Connecticut

1,422

845

785

Delaware

1,340

796

431

Florida

1,337

794

412

Georgia

1,331

790

417

Hawaii

1,831

1,087

1,129

Idaho

1,706

1,013

347

Illinois

1,496

888

462

Indiana

1,372

814

456

Iowa

1,345

799

412

Kansas

1,307

776

445

Kentucky

1,289

766

384

Louisiana

1,266

752

364

Maine

1,392

827

575

Maryland

1,361

808

439

Massachusetts

1,366

811

776

Michigan

1,432

850

603

Minnesota

1,361

808

451

Mississippi

1,248

741

405

Missouri

1,279

759

355

Montana

1,482

880

382

Nebraska

1,357

806

357

Nevada

1,816

1,078

409

New Hampshire

1,344

798

678

New Jersey

1,430

849

561

New Mexico

1,373

815

451

New York

1,443

857

652

North Carolina

1,302

773

394

North Dakota

1,399

831

355

Ohio

1,328

789

424

Oklahoma

1,290

766

480

Oregon

1,703

1,011

391

Pennsylvania

1,470

873

459

Rhode Island

1,370

814

809

South Carolina

1,288

765

450

South Dakota

1,421

843

415

Tennessee

1,280

760

377

Texas

1,264

751

416

Utah

1,723

1,023

352

Vermont

1,385

822

659

Virginia

1,331

790

409

Washington

1,751

1,040

348

West Virginia

1,365

810

413

Wisconsin

1,349

801

504

Wyoming

1,607

954

381

AVERAGE*

$1,400

$850

$500

*NOTE: all numbers are rounded for convenience


So, based on the above estimates EV vehicles on average can offer fuel savings of:

  • $900 per year compared to ICE vehicles, and
  • $350 per year compared to hybrid vehicles

What is interesting, and why the state-by-state analysis is so important, is that:

  • In the state of Hawaii, hybrid vehicles' gasoline is less expensive than electricity for EVs:  Hybrid fuel cost per year is $1,087 while the fuel cost for EV is $1,129, which is $42 higher,
  • And such states as Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island offer almost no savings compared to hybrid cars (savings range from $5 to 60 per year, which is pretty close to a rounding error).

Another important consideration of the above fuel cost savings analysis is that it assumes 100% of the fueling to be done at home, where each state's average residential electricity prices listed above would apply.  However, if a significant portion of your driving each year will be done on highways between towns or states and you will have to recharge your car at Tesla Supercharger or other vendor charging stations at 25-28 cents per kWh, your EV vehicle fuel savings will be significantly lower than the above estimates.


Car Value Depreciation Cost

The final piece of the puzzle that we need in order to come up with the full picture of the Total Cost of Ownership is the annual depreciation of the original car value.  Such depreciation determines the value of your car in 5 or 10 years for when (of if) you decide to trade it in to a car dealer or sell it to an individual buyer.

You've probably heard quite a few times that the moment you drive the brand new car from the dealer’s lot, it loses 15-20% of its value.  Well, unfortunately, it does not stop there.  Every car continues losing its value as time passes and especially as it is driven more and more miles.

Here is the chart showing the rate of depreciation for different models and vehicle types. Most cars depreciate by about 50-60% within 5 years and by 75-80% within 10 years.


Figure 1:  Annual Brand New Car Value Depreciation


It is important to mention that between the years of 2016 and 2019 electric vehicles experienced a depreciation rate that is extremely unusual for cars: the majority of EV vehicles depreciated substantially faster than their ICE and hybrid brethren.  iSeeCars.com analyzed more than 4.8 million car sales to identify models with the greatest loss in value after three years.   Within 3 years most of the EV cars lost 40-60% of their original value.  Usually, within the same time period, ICE and hybrid cars lose "only" 30-40% of their value.

Interestingly, there was also one exception to this unusual phenomenon—Tesla Model 3 was the only model that completely bucked the trend and depreciated only 10%.  Below is the chart showing different EV vehicles value depreciation within 3 years.


Figure 2:  EV Cars 3-Year Value Depreciation

CEO of iSeeCars.com Phong Ly hypothesized about the reasons as to why EV vehicles depreciate so quickly.  He believes that “because the technology of EVs changes at a rapid pace, obsolescence plays a role in their dramatic depreciation as well as consumer range anxiety and lack of public charging infrastructure.”

So, how does this affect the Total Cost of Ownership?  Well, directly.  When you buy a brand new car, you pay, for example, $50,000 for it.  If you decide to sell it in 5 years and by then the car value depreciated by 50%, this means you can sell the car only for $25,000.  This also means you lost $25,000 of the value within 5 years on top of all the other expenses, such as car insurance, fuel, and maintenance and repair.

Car value depreciation is not a trivial expense.  Amazingly, having read numerous other blogs and articles, praising EV vehicles for their "incredibly low cost" and bashing ICE vehicles based purely on the cost of fuel alone, we cannot help but think that very few authors bother to do the Total Cost of Ownership analysis and simply jump into conclusions based on the gas versus electricity savings alone.  This reminds us the parable of the four blind men.  Of course, there could always be some ulterior motives, but let's just assume this is purely due to lack of the end-to-end Total Cost of Ownership analysis.


Summary of the Detailed Total Cost of Ownership Analysis

Now, let's add up all our estimates and see what kind of final numbers we will get.  To simplify the results we will show the analysis only for five cars—one or two for each vehicle type:

  • for EV: 
    • Tesla Model 3 Standard Range 2021, and
    • Tesla Model 3 Long Range 2021,
  • for hybrid:  Hyundai Sonata Blue 2021, and
  • for ICE: 
    • BMW 330i Sedan 2020, and
    • Hyundai Sonata SE 2021.

First, let's add up all the car annual expenses, such as annual vehicle property tax, car insurance, fuel, and maintenance and repairs and see what we get.


Figure 3:  Annual Car Expenses for EV, Hybrid, and ICE Vehicles (during warranty period*)

*NOTE:  during the warranty period (equal to about 7 years or 100,000 miles) all major repairs are assumed to be cover by OEM warranty.  Repair expenses are assumed to start after the expiration of manufacturer warranty.


Looks like we have a tie!  Tesla Model 3 and Hyundai Sonata hybrid are pretty much equal in terms of annual operating expenses (Tesla is just $5 per year less expensive than Hyundai hybrid). 

Tesla Model 3 Long Range is about $350 per year more expensive to operate than its Standard Range sister.  Its annual expenses are about equal to those of Hyundai Sonata SE.

The ICE BMW 330i sedan is the most expensive of the five.  It is about $800 more expensive per year than Tesla Model 3 Standard Range and about $400 more expensive per year than the Long Range.

Tesla is also less expensive than an ICE vehicle by $402 per year thanks to lower maintenance and repair and, especially, thanks to much lower fuel cost.

So, can we now declare a winner and go home?

Well, as they say, "Not so fast!"  We still have not accounted for a few more relevant expenses:  car purchase price, sales tax, car registration fees, and an additional upfront expense of buying and installing a home EV charging station, which is critical for any EV to save money on fuel.

The car depreciation (or car value loss) expense is usually accounted for as the difference between the original purchase price minus estimated selling price.  As you can see from Figure 4 below, it is a major expense that could be as significant as the ongoing vehicle annual operating expenses.

Let's make an assumption that all our considered vehicles would be sold after 10 years.  Let's take a look at the numbers.  In Figure 4 we intentionally kept the order in which the car models are listed exactly the same as they are listed in Figure 3 above:  from the lowest annual operating cost model to the highest.


Figure 4:  10-Year Value Depreciation plus Upfront Taxes & Fees for EV, Hybrid, and ICE Vehicles*

*NOTE:  For Home EV Charging station the cost range is $1,290 to $4,110 with the average of $2,139.  Above estimate assumes the average of $2,139 minus the $1,000 Federal Tax Credit.


Based on these numbers EVs, due to their much higher up-front cost (high purchase price, equally higher sales tax and vehicle registration fees) are substantially more expensive to own than hybrids, and, surprisingly, even one of the ICE vehicles.

Now, let's bring all the numbers together and estimate what we are here for—the Total Cost of Ownership for 10 years (see Figure 5 below).


Figure 5:  10-Year Total Cost of Ownership for EV, Hybrid, and ICE Vehicles

*NOTE1:  Annual Operating Costs (see Figure 3 for the detailed breakdown) include car insurance, annual vehicle property tax, fuel, and maintenance and repair costs).

**NOTE2:  Up-front (One-Time) Costs includes sales tax, registration fees, and the up-front investment (net of federal tax credit) into the Home EV Charging station for EV vehicles.


Based on the above numbers over a period of 10 years the Total Cost of Ownership is the lowest (best!) for the hybrid vehicle.  Interestingly, ICE vehicles are only slightly more expensive by about $800 over 10 years (which means by just $80 per year).

EV vehicles, unfortunately, have a significantly higher Total Cost of Ownership compared to both hybrid and ICE cars.  Over 10 years Tesla Model 3 Standard Range (the least expensive vehicle in the Tesla lineup) is more than $11,000 more expensive than a hybrid and more than $10,000 more expensive than an ICE car.

Why is that?  With all those "fuel savings" and "maintenance and repair" lower costs?  Well, unfortunately, the fuel and maintenance and repair savings are not nearly enough to offset the much higher EV vehicles’ purchase prices and resulting sales taxes.  The need to buy and install the home EV charging station makes total cost even worse.

There is a bit of good news for EV vehicles that still qualify for the federal government tax credit of up to $7,500.  This tax credit would offset about 70% of the Total Cost of Ownership gap:  instead of the gap of $11,000 and $10,000 between EVs and hybrid and ICE the gap would be smaller at only $3,500 and $2,500.

But even with such a tax credit, both hybrids and ICE cars will still be less expensive to own over a 10-year period.

Now, let's see if over a 5-year period the picture would be any better?


Figure 6:  5-Year Total Cost of Ownership for EV, Hybrid, and ICE Vehicles

*NOTE1:  Annual Operating Costs (see Figure 3 for the detailed breakdown) include car insurance, annual vehicle property tax, fuel, and maintenance and repair costs).

**NOTE2:  Up-front (One-Time) Costs includes sales tax, registration fees, and the up-front investment (net of federal tax credit) into the Home EV Charging station for EV vehicles.


What is fascinating about the 5-year Total Cost of Ownership, compared to the 10-year one, is that now the ICE vehicle (instead of the hybrid) is the least expensive on a Total Cost of Ownership basis.  The cost difference between a hybrid and an ICE car is not that significant though, just about $500 over 5 years (or $100 per year).

The EV cars are still much more expensive, by about $5,000 compared to a hybrid (or $1,000 per year) and almost by $5,500 compared to an ICE car.

One thing that is worth noting, though, is that for those EV vehicles that still qualify for the maximum possible federal tax credit of $7,500, the Total Cost of Ownership will flip and it will become less expensive to own an EV vehicle.

Remember, Tesla and GM brands do not qualify for those tax credits anymore though.  But all other brands do, at least for now.  So, while the federal tax credit is applicable, the Total Cost of Ownership for other EV brands might make EV cars less expensive over a 5-year period.  But it might be worth doing the math in each case.

As for the Tesla and GM brands, the only way for these brands (and all other brands once their tax credits expire as well) to be competitive with hybrids and ICE vehicles on a Total Cost of Ownership basis is to significantly reduce their selling prices.  How significantly?

Well, if Tesla Model 3 Standard Range were to reduce its selling price of $39,990 by $14,000 (and price it at $26,000) it would become less expensive than an ICE vehicle over both a 5-year and a 10-year period of time.  Reducing the price by $15,000 (down to $25,000) would make it cost-competitive with a hybrid as well.

When will it happen?  Well, that's a $15,000 question, pun intended! 

Until then, take advantage of the lower Total Cost of Ownership of EV cars that still have the $7,500 credit, if an EV car is something you are seriously considering.  Or simply go with hybrids, as compared with ICE they are about the same or slightly less expensive to own in the longer-term.

Regular self-charging hybrids also offer another advantage over EV cars—convenience! See our last section in this article for a more detailed overview of convenience that ICE and hybrids offer today compared to the EV vehicles.


What About State-by-State Analyses?

We should also not forget about another important aspect of the above comparison analysis—the fact that it is based on:

  • National average gasoline and electricity prices of $3.20/gallon and 13.3 cents/kHw.  The actual state-by-state gas prices range from $2.79 in Mississippi to $4.40 in California.  And the actual state-by-state electricity prices range from 9.9 cents/kWh in Idaho and Washington to 32.3 cents/kWh in Hawaii (see Table 10 above).
  • National average of sales tax of 7.1% versus actual state taxes ranging from 0% to 9.6%, and in some townships, such as Cicero, IL, as high as 10.75% (see Table 4 above).
  • National average of annual vehicle property tax of about 1% of residual value.  In reality in 21 states this tax is 0% and in 19 states it ranges from 0.1% in Louisiana to 4.2% in Virginia (see Table 5 above).

Due to the significant impact of the above costs and because of the significant difference of such costs between states, the Total Cost of Ownership in one state is likely to be thousands of dollars more or less than the national average we have estimated.

Of course, given the above TCO difference shown in Tables 5 and 6 the state-by-state analysis may not change the answer.  But as EV manufacturers continue lowering the selling prices, as gas and electricity prices change, there might be a tipping point at some point in the future (probably within 5 or 10 years) when EV vehicles will become as or even more cost competitive than their ICE and even hybrid counterparts.

Now, last but not least—let's talk about "convenience" of owning different vehicle types in order to estimate not just the Total Cost of Ownership but the Total Cost & Convenience of Ownership as well.


Convenience of Ownership Comparison

As briefly discussed above, today there is a huge difference in terms of convenience of owning an ICE or hybrid versus an electric car.  Why?  Well, in our opinion there are at least three reasons:

  1. Extremely long charging time,
  2. Smaller driving range, and
  3. Extremely undeveloped network of charging stations.

Let's review each one of these reasons one by one and compare and contrast them with the convenience of owning ICE and hybrid vehicles.


 Long Charging Time

There are three different "types" of charging outlets you could use.  In the car industry they are known as Level 1 (the slowest), Level 2, and Level 3 (also known as DC fast-charger, and the fastest) charging options.


Level 1

Level 1 is technical-speak for a typical 120-volt electric outlet available in every American home and office building.  The best thing about it is that it is by far the most ubiquitous option.  The worst thing about it is that it is by far the slowest charging option bar none.

How slow?

Think about your last gas station visit.  It probably took you a couple of minutes to pull over and about 3-5 minutes to fill your tank.  Well, Level 1 will take 26 to 49 hours.  Yes, hours, not minutes.  And you know what the worst part is?  During this time you will charge your Tesla Model 3 battery up to its maximum capacity of 63 kWh and this will ensure you can drive a whopping 263 miles.

The reason it takes so long is that electrons flow from a typical 120-volt outlet into your car battery at a snail pace of 1.3 kW to 2.4 kW per hour (or 1.2-1.8 kW by some other estimates).  A Tesla Model 3 battery needs 63 kWh (50 kWh at 80%).  Well, you can do the math.

If you have a hybrid with 55-60 MPG (which is already pretty common), on a 10-gallon tank you can drive 550-600 miles. That range is more than twice what Tesla Model 3 will travel after 26-49 hours of charging.  This means to get 550-600 miles from your Tesla Model 3 you'd need to charge it twice.  And if you are using a Level 1 charging outlet, it will take you 52 to 98 hours (or 2 to 4 days)!

Obviously, this is not an option... 


Level 2

Level 2 is what they named a specially-installed 240-volt / 50-amp electric outlet.  You can install it in your home (in the garage or in the front yard).  You'd just need to buy the EVSE equipment and hire an electrician to do the trenching, wiring, and circuit installation work.  

According to our estimates the equipment and installation cost would range from $1,290 to $4,110 (see Table 2 above for details).

Why spend all this money?

Well, you pay for the speed.  If you get the Level 2 charger, also known as a home EV charging station, installed, the electrons will flow faster, maybe even a lot faster:  3 kW to 19 kW per hour (depending on the equipment you buy and on whether the electrician knows what he or she is doing).

This means that your charging speed from zero to "full tank" will decrease from 26-49 hours down to 3-21 hours.  In most cases it takes 6-10 hours (or overnight) to fully charge your car.  Now, compare this again with the 3-5 minutes of gas tank refilling which would also give you twice the driving range.


Level 3, also known as DC Fast-Charger

Level 3 is the fastest option available today.  It is also known as DC Fast-Charger (DCFC for short).  You cannot have it at home.  But there is a growing network of DCFC stations (equivalent of gas stations) in the United States.  At this point, there are about 17,000 of these "pumps" in the United States.  The most well-known ones are owned by Tesla and are called Superchargers.  But there are also a growing number of other vendors, such as ChargePoint, EVgo, Electrify America, as well as the traditional oil and gas company brands, such as Exxon, Shell, and BP.

There are a lot of blogs and articles claiming that you can now easily achieve charging times as short as 15-20 minutes.  Well, we caution you about accepting all these numbers as many of them, for whatever reason, refer to charging your car "just a bit" to get you to the next EV charging station, rather than the "full tank" charge (often without mentioning this to their readers).

Most of the DC Fast Charging stations available today can support a speed as high as 50 kW.   This means a Tesla Model 3, with its 80% battery capacity of 50 kWh can be charged in about 30 minutes and to 100% within 1 hour.

The reason why there is such a significant slowdown in charging speed between 80% and 100% of the battery charge is because most (if not all) car manufacturers have what is called a Battery Management System (BMS) inside each EV which manages the speed at which each vehicle can "accept" the charging current flow.  And most of these BMS systems slow down the charging speed substantially between 80% and 100% (we won't go into the technical details as to why they do that).

So, with Level 3 DC Fast-Chargers you can charge your vehicle to 80% within about 30 minutes or to 100% within about 1 hour.  Remember, in the case of Tesla Model 3, we are still talking about 263-mile range, which is half of the range you'd get with a hybrid that can be refilled within 5 minutes.  So, the equivalent time of "refueling" for an EV would be 2 times longer, or 2 hours.

Over the last couple of years Tesla has been installing faster charging stations with charge rates of 150kW and even 250kW.  However, these faster charge rates result in pretty much the same speed of charging.  CarAndDrive.com is a company that is continuously testing EV vehicles and everything related to them.  Their tests have shown that the Tesla's 150kW charging station can charge a Tesla Model 3 to 100% within 68 minutes.  And the fastest 250kW charging station charges the same car to 100% within 66 minutes, 2 minutes faster!

Unfortunately, these "faster" options also cost on average 2 times more than the Level 2 and Level 1 (home charging) options.  The Level 3 (aka DC fast-charging) option usually costs about 25-28 cents/kWh versus on average 13.3 cents/kWh for "home charging."

For an apples-to-apples comparison of "refueling" time, we need to measure such refueling time in minutes per 100 miles of driving.   We did just that in Figure 7 below.


Figure 7:  Refueling Time to Fill Tank to 100-Mile Range [minutes]

As Figure 7 above shows it takes 23 minutes to refuel EV using the fastest available option (DC fast-charger station) to get enough charge to drive 100 miles.  Compare this to 1 minute that it takes an ICE or a self-charging hybrid car to refill enough gas to drive the same 100 miles.

When charging an EV at home, which is the least expensive option, it takes 274 minutes (4.6 hours) or 274 more times than the gasoline refueling option to get enough charge for 100 miles.

So, this incredibly long charging time is the first major inconvenience when it comes to driving an EV compared to driving an ICE or self-charging hybrid car.

Let's look at the next one.


Small Driving Range

Another major inconvenience associated with electric vehicles is a much shorter driving range that you can get from one "full tank of gas" (or full battery pack in this case).

The maximum driving range of your car depends on two things:

  1. The size of the fuel tank or battery pack capacity, and
  2. The average gasoline or electric power consumption per 100 miles or MPG.

The bigger the tank, the further you can drive.  And the less gas or electricity your car consumes, the further you can drive.

Let's compare driving ranges of various cars.  Also, to convert a pretty technical "driving range" to something normal people can associate with, let's add how many times per year you'd need to refill the tank/ battery (based on the average American driving distance of 14,000 miles per year).


Table 12:  Maximum Driving Ranges on a Full Gas Tank / Battery Charge by Vehicle Model

#

Model

Driving Range (Miles)

# of Refills per Year*

1

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Standard Range 2021

263

53

2

EV:  Tesla Model 3  / Long Range 2021

353

40

3

EV:  Chevy Bolt 2022

247

57

4

Hybrid:  Hyundai Sonata Blue 2022

686

20

6

Hybrid:  Toyota Camry Hybrid 2021

686

20

7

ICE:  Hyundai Sonata SE 2021

477

29

8

ICE:  BMW 330i Sedan 2022

476

29

9

ICE:  Toyota Camry 2022

411

34

 




*NOTE:  Based on 14,000 miles per year; all numbers are rounded.


As you can see from Table 12 above, the second inconvenience factor is a pretty small driving range of EV vehicles compared to ICE and especially compared to hybrids.  Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt EV need to be refueled pretty much every week (53-57 times a year).  Compare this to Toyota and Hyundai hybrids at 20 times a year and ICE cars at 29-34.  Even if you agree to pay an extra $10,000 for the "Long Range" Tesla, you'd still have to visit the DC fast-charging stations or recharge at home twice as often as a hybrid.

So, the first significant inconvenience associated with owning an EV is the time it takes to charge the vehicle.  The second significant inconvenience of electric vehicles is the relatively shorter driving range.

How about the third one, the highly undeveloped charging stations network?


Undeveloped Charging Stations Network

The third inconvenience related to electric vehicles today is a very undeveloped network of charging stations.  It is completely understandable, the EV popularity is still at the beginning stages and over time the number of DC Fast-Charging (DCFC) stations will grow.

How many stations will there need to be to ensure that drivers won't have to wait for hours and hours for their turn to charge their EV?  It is actually a relatively straightforward math problem with several variables.

According to our estimates, if EV drivers will only use external DCFC stations for 20% of their fuel needs (using Home EV Charging stations for the other 80%) by 2030 we will need about 140,00 DCFC stations in the United States, up from 17,000 today.

If the drivers will use external DCFCs for 30% of their needs then we'll need about 212,000 DCFC stations, a 12-fold increase from today (see Figure 8 below).


Figure 8:  Estimated Number of Required DC Fast-Charging Stations based on Share of Market and % of Recharging at Home vs. at DCFCs


Until then, EV owners will have to rely primarily on overnight charging at home and face the inconvenience of searching for the nearest DCFC station when they have no other choice or when on an out-of-town trip and then waiting in line for hours for their turn to recharge the batteries.

To summarize, in addition to the Total Cost of Ownership, which at this point of the EV car industry development is not yet cost-competitive with hybrid and ICE vehicles primarily due to the much higher initial selling price, EV cars are also relatively inconvenient to own requiring 23 to 270 times more time to refuel, 2-3 times smaller driving range (requiring 2-3 times more frequent recharging), and a pretty undeveloped network of DC fast-charging stations.  Over time, as technology improves, costs go down, and the required infrastructure gets built out many or maybe even all these disadvantages will diminish or go away.  But as of today, owning a hybrid or even an ICE is a much better deal from the Total Cost & Convenience of Ownership perspective.


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