Much has been said and written about the time it takes to payoff, and affordability of purchasing an electric car. Will an electric car pay for itself? If so, how long will it take? In this article, we have undertaken to answer those questions.
For starters, we have chosen to leave one important variable. This is one of maintenance. Gasoline-powered vehicles have (or should have) considerably more required maintenance, as there are considerably more moving parts. However, electric cars generally require a battery replacement at some point in their lives – generally accepted around the 100,000 mile mark. As a battery replacement is considered a pretty expensive task, we have left out these items and treated them as a wash.
For comparative purposes, our table uses the 2012 Ford Focus. We use the Focus here because Ford makes an all-electric Focus and an all-gasoline Focus. Essentially the same car, we can then extract the additional cost associated with the electric-power feature. Doing this will help isolate that cost required to upgrade to all-electric power. Once we do this, we can then apply the future cost savings associated with the electric motor as well, and present an annual cost saved. Dividing the annual cost savings into the electric motor cost will tell us the payback buyers will face in years.
MPGE (below) is a term introduced by the EPA to help shoppers understand a “Miles Per Gallon Equivalent” for comparison purposes. Obviously, Electric cars aren’t powered by ‘gallons’ of anything, but rather electricity. So to help shoppers find an equivalent cost to operate, the EPA came up with MPGE. This is the cost of electricity converted into a fuel cost that shoppers can understand. The MPGE stated below is actually a number used by the Nissan Leaf – an equivalent plug-in, all-electric. As of this writing, the Ford Focus Electric has stated that their MPGE will be right in line with other all-electric cars. Therefore, we believe that our numbers are very close here.
Also, below, we have chosen to use the current $3.25 per gallon of gas – simply because that’s the current cost of fuel. And, the electric car price does NOT consider any electric car tax credits that may be available for 2012.
To summarize, we can only conclude that shoppers may want to seriously consider whether buying an electric car for cost savings only is a good idea. Our table would suggest a second take is due. For the most conservative driver, our estimates suggest that it may take over 30 years for the decrease in driving expenses to return the initial investment of the more expensive all-electric. If you drive an electric car 50,000 miles per year, yes, the time-frame to recover the the initial cost is much quicker, but who’s going to drive an electric car 50,000 miles? That’s a whole lot of 100-mile charges.
With the difference in cost actually more than the value of the gas powered model car itself, one can only conclude that there should be other reasons to buy an electric car (at least the Ford Focus Electric) besides price.