The sticker prices for electric vehicles in the US market, even when federal tax incentives and state and local rebates are factored in, are usually significantly higher than fuel-efficient small cars. Still, if you're looking at total lifecycle ownership costs, the fuel savings are very good for electric vehicles compared to gasoline- and diesel-powered competitors. Another number to look at on the lifecycle cost sheet is maintenance, where EVs win big.

The Institute of Automobile Economics has released a study finding EVs have maintenance costs that are about 35 percent lower than those for comparable gasoline- and diesel-powered cars. The study calculated maintenance costs for compact cars with internal combustion engines driven by owners for eight years. The findings come from research conducted for IFA by the University of Economics and the Environment, based in Nuetringen-Geislingen, Germany.

EVs have fewer mechanical and moving parts, which is where the savings comes from. They don't need oil changes and regenerative braking leads to reduced brake wear. Another advantage is not having to replace exhaust systems or clutches since EVs don't release tailpipe emissions and don't have conventional gearboxes.

The current wave of EVs, starting with the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, has only been on the market for two years now, so it will take a while to see how they hold up in real-world operation on US roads after reaching 150,000 miles on the odometer. The big question is battery replacement costs, but with warranties and second-life options being figured out, the signs are there that EV owners are in for a pleasant surprise.


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