• Aug 29th 2010 at 6:23PM
  • 49
Mitsubishi i-MiEV – Click above for high-res image gallery

For years now, some electric vehicle advocates have argued that despite the higher up-front cost of batteries, plug-in cars would be cheaper to own and operate in the long run. The problem was, until the Tesla Roadster came along a couple of years ago, there were no factory-built and sold electric vehicles (EVs) to gather any real evidence from. The real test will begin in the next few months when Nissan, General Motors, Mitsubishi, Ford and others start to sell EVs to the masses.

Two big factors really can't be argued against right now. Even with government incentives, EVs will be more expensive to buy than an equivalent internal combustion vehicle and energizing them from the grid will cost less. However, one of the big arguments against buying most new cars, regardless of power plant, has been that they lose a good chunk of their value as soon as you drive them off the lot. The rate of depreciation varies widely and is often connected to how well they hold up after several years on the road. A typical car might be worth half or less of its original value after just five years.

How will this affect plug-in cars? With an EV, the battery pack often accounts for a much larger percentage of the car's original value other types of vehicles. While an engine that has been maintained properly can easily exhibit most of its original performance after 100,000 miles – and many can often go 200,000 miles or more – the same cannot reliably be said (yet, as far as we know) of a battery in an EV. The reality is that no one really knows how much value a battery will retain after 50,000 or 100,000 miles. It's a hard number to calculate. Nissan has said that the Leaf battery might only hold 80 or 70 percent of its original charge after ten years, for example, which will make it worth less. Speaking to the BBC, Mitsubishi has acknowledged that the i-MiEV's depreciation over three years could turn out to be more than the original cost of an internal combustion car (a Fiat 500 Lounge 1.2 petrol, in the example given). That's a tough bunch of numbers.

[Source: BBC]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      There is certainly a lot of unknown. But I suspect they have to have a clue as to the battery longevity. Nissan had a Li-Ion Altra back in 1999. PDF warning:

      They must have results of using that car for 10 years. That is a real-life 10 years of experience with Li-Ion batteries. What happened to them? Yes the battery chemistry has changed (for the better) but those cars should at least provide some guidance

      But the most key piece of data is WHAT WILL OIL COST 5 YEARS FROM NOW? If Chris Skrebowski and others are correct, we will see VERY expensive oil within 5 years. It all remains to be seen.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Overlooked: If I replace my car battery in 7 or 10 years, battery prices will have tumbled and battery capacity will have improved dramatically.

      So: for not that much money my EV may well get more than twice the range it had when new.
      ...if its battery pack contains standard cells like e.g. Tesla's.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The only thing that depreciates on an electric car is the battery, as the rest of the car is good for probably 1 000 000 (a million) miles. This is just another hit piece as big industry tries to save a sinking fossil fuel business model and tries to monopolize an emergent EV model. Save what they have for as long as they have and buy time to buy up all the electric startups, using the unlimited buying power of fractional reserve banking. All this talk about depreciation is nonsense, unless they weld the batteries to the car. I would not put it past them.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree, you'll wind up replacing the interior, or just get tired of the squeaks, creaks and moans of an old frame. Most people just don't care enough for their cares to make them last much longer than 200K even with a maintenance free million mile drive train.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The i-MiEV will be obsolete long before it breaks down! There will probably be several manufacturers making EVs with much longer range than the i-MiEV.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't get that an EV will last 1M miles. I keep my card until about 200k miles and when I get rid of them typically it's not because of engine/trans issues (to be honest sometimes it's the trans). Usually it's because the whole car gets loose and too many things start breaking:
        suspension is gone and needs $1k+ to make it right
        interior switchgear is falling apart
        seats & window tracks are worn out
        door hinges go bad
        not to mention rust if you're in the salt belt
        safety is a decade behind the times

        There's lots of reasons to not take a car to 1M miles, many reasons that have nothing to do with the motor.
        • 5 Years Ago
        well, to be fair, parts like shock absorbers, suspension bushings, CV joint seals etc. won't last any longer than on a regular car, though how long exactly varies depending on where you live and how you drive.

        The rest including the drivetrain should last for a long time without any maintenance though.

        And let's not forget that after 10 years, 75% to 80% remaining capacity on a 100-mile-battery is still more range than most people need, while public charging will be widespread and gas much more expensive.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I can't quite sign what you've stated. Considering pure EVs, these don't need a two ton empty chassis plus the engine weight and transmission etc.. An electric motor runs smooth, is light and doesn't need mountings calibrated for a rambling, tearing, jerking weight of 500kg or even more. Recuperative braking is easy on the brakes. All in all, a properly designed and constructed EV will exert far less wear and tear on those used-up parts than a conventional gas hog due to its lower overall mass; M & R will definitely be lower.
        • 5 Years Ago
        C'mon. The entire vehicle depreciates. Apparently you do not live in a Northern climate that destroys cars with rust. All the moving parts depreciate. But all the parts are subject to degradation from user usage, sun damage, corrosion, etc.

        Everything falls apart. That is entropy in action.
        • 5 Years Ago
        As a backyard mechanic, i agree with dasboese. An electric drivetrain may not vibrate like an ICE does, but it needs equal amount of rubber parts replaced just like any ICE car.

        The brakes will most likely be undersized to reduce rotating mass. It would be stupid not to do so as a design choice. Unless the car is designed with more brakes than it needs, it will need the same amount of brake attention.

        And like he mentioned, there are a lot of suspension parts in a modern car. Those will need attention too.

        You may not have to deal with oil changes, but that transaxle is going to need fluid flushes too. The cooling/heating system for the batteries will need coolant flushes as well, as that stuff goes bad over time.

        What you save in fueling costs and oil changes, you will certainly fork over for in either depreciation when you trade it in, or the cost of a new battery pack which will probably still be in the 10 thousand range in 10 years considering the rate at which we're using the world's resources.

        For maintenance costs, i cannot see the electric car as a win/win at all. But i still want one for the environmental performance, and the fact that i can fix many problems with a .... soldering iron :)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Vehicle weight is not an important factor in the lifetime of suspension components, it's a matter of load cycles and amplitude, i.e. how far you've driven and how good the roads were.

        Irregardless of that, mass-market EVs aren't gonna be any lighter than ICE cars until we've increased battery energy densities by an order of magnitude or so. Give it a decade.

        Electric motors need supports engineered for the torque loads they produce, just the same as any ICE. Duh. Though, on the NVH side of things you might get away with simpler rubber mounts instead of hydro bearings because oscillations only become an issue at high rpm = high frequencies.

        Don't get me wrong, I'm quite convinced that the huge savings that EVs provide on things like brakes and drivetrain maintenance bode well for residual values, but I do like to correct people's misconceptions, like unrealistic expectations of a car's durability.
      • 5 Years Ago
      See Robert Llewellyn's 'fully charged' episode about this BBC article
      • 5 Years Ago
      A couple of things the articles seems to have conveniently overlooked is one, the increase in fuel costs once the economy recovers and as we approach 2015 which is considered by many to be the year the world hits peak oil production. Two battery packs will cost less to replace in 3 years time and hence should to lower the rate of depreciation.

      They should also do a comparison of the fossil fuel powered i-miev against the battery version. Like for like. The Fiat 500 looks to be a smaller car than the i-miev but I may be wrong.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Fiat 500 and the little Mitsubishis are around the same size.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The BBC writer skewed the results by calculating depreciation on the full sales price of the MiEV before and not after subtracting the £5k incentive.

      If the incentive is subtracted before calculating depreciation then the BBC writer wouldn't have anything to write about because the cost of owning the MiEV over 3 years then becomes £1,557 or 16% CHEAPER than the Fiat 500.

      • 5 Years Ago
      But all they are admitting to is that the future is unknown.

      If they think it is likely that this will be the case - then that is interesting.
      If they simply admitted that the future is unknowable and so they cannot be absolutely positive that it won't be the case then - so what?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The current system of used car sales in the U.S. is determined by the industry and driven by the industry's little "blue book." It is all part of the current system designed to sell new cars, i.e., if used cars are worth less as trade-ins; it increases the value of a new car in the eye of the buyer; and, if it fetches a fair price on the used car market, the dealer gains. He pays low blue book and sells as close to high blue book as possible, unless he wholesales the car to other dealers. If the car business depended on guys like me, it would go bust. I intend to buy my Leaf, maintain it in proper order, keep it off salt roads and keep it in the family for at least 15 years or more.

      Have a 39 year old race car, a 13 year old family sedan and a 10 year old truck...all paid off! BTW, the banks hate me because I never buy via loans. I come from the old school: If you can't pay the car off in 36 months, then you will always remain upside down on the cost of the car, so think about a late model, low-mileage used car from a private party, because that is where the best values are.

      The future is in BEVs and it's only a space of time before we all awaken to that fact. Many will be politicians kicking and screaming as their oil money dries up; but, hey, there's always battery money to support our corrupt Washington politicos.
      • 5 Years Ago
      keep whislting past the green graveyard folks ...
      • 5 Years Ago
      lets have some more Peak Oil predictions ... after all if you are going to look stupid you should do it BIG :)
      • 5 Years Ago
      More food for thought on peak oil.....

      Peak oil alarm revealed by secret official talks

      Behind UK government dismissals of 'alarmist' fears there is growing concern over critical future energy supplies

      • 5 Years Ago
      Electric car depreciation will depend more upon the speed of battery technology upgrades in new models than it will upon the actual condition of the vehicle or battery.

      If a later generation iMiev is sold with a battery pack that is half the weight, half the size, and 300+ miles of range at a 20% lower price than the current iMiev price, resale values will plunge.

      The only factor is how long it takes to get to the next generation of batteries, many of which are claiming 10X improvements over current technology.

      This of course assumes relatively stable gas prices. If gas prices go crazy, a car's battery range won't mean much to resale value. Just the fact that it doesn't burn gas and can be powered by a home solar panel will cause resale values to skyrocket.
        • 5 Years Ago
        MHM. When i look at SUVs on the road today i think 'that's going to be scrap metal in 5 years'.

        I personally am more nervous about buying a gas powered vehicle than an electric one. You can't put an oil panel on your roof or install an oil turbine and make it appear.. ;)

        yeah yeah, i know.. biofuels, whatever :D
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