• Study
  • Dec 17th 2012 at 10:04AM
  • 33
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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  • 33 Comments
      brotherkenny4
      • 2 Years Ago
      This presumes that you would get the expected life out of the batteries. Unfortunately, americans do not know math. They see one event and use it as evidence of a trend. I mean how often have you seen FOX or any other news outlet use a single event to suggest a trend or reality or a generalization. The anecdotal is evidence of exception, not information to be used to make rules for public policy. Yet, most people think otherwise as evidenced by the stupid congress we have. If people were rational we would have a congress that worked for the people, instead we have these creepy money grubbers. Of course EVs are less expensive to maintain, it has been known for some time, and is one of the reasons the car companies hate these things, because they make a lot of money fixing the junk they sell you now. Again, this has been know for at least a decade if not longer. Let's review a few things: Lithium is not rare or expensive, there are no rare earths in batteries, batteries are safer than a tank of gasoline, and anxiety is something a weak mind has. Also, there are no top secret military batteries. Electric vehicles are not too expensive, the car companies are charging too much. Congress works for the oil companies.
        Aaron
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Did you forget to take your medication again?
      Reggie
      • 2 Years Ago
      You can't beat user friendliness with the simple low easy maintenance of the electric car, l think once people experience this they won't change back. Once the purchase price comes down with time electric cars really will take off. I don't think range is a great issue in the UK as as the vast majority do small commutes, you can always use alternative transport for the odd one or two long journeys or even stay in a motel and do some touring of local area attractions as part of your holiday if its planned well, whilst car is charging up.
      bluepongo1
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just based on points of failure: In concept BEV would be most reliable, then ICE. Most complicated and least reliable: hybrids =hybrids most expensive(and greenwashed)
      • 2 Years Ago
      Electric cars might not make sense now, but internal combustion engines have been there for a long time. gas/diesel ngines, parts have been researched for decades. The big oil companies and traditional car companies have been poring billions... compared to that I think the bang we got for the buck is quite less.... Look at the present day SUVs, now all of a sudden an explorer can get 30 miles! come one all these years they were fooling us? We all know that only 20% or less energy produced by burning gas ever reaches the wheel.. Anyway, going forward I would like to see both succeed , more fuel efficient hydro carbon burning cars and electric cars and may be better technology win (or co exist). My honest opinion, electric cars have much to catch up but that is not because they cannot, because of the lack of will. Lack of funding and petro-heads being adamant. I too love a roar of a v8 or v10... but its not sufficient to just hate a new technology.
      fred schumacher
      • 2 Years Ago
      The parts that get the most maintenance are the same on both ICE and BEV -- tires, brakes, shocks, steering and suspension. This is a German study, and German drivers push their cars harder than American ones, resulting in greater engine and transmission wear.
        bluepongo1
        • 2 Years Ago
        @fred schumacher
        BEV brakes don't get much wear (regen). Source for study?
      usbseawolf2000
      • 2 Years Ago
      "The current wave of EVs, starting with the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt..." I am dumbfounded by that statement. Volt is not an EV. Ihas an internal combustion engine, tailpipe and a gearbox with 3 clutches.
        danwat1234
        • 2 Years Ago
        @usbseawolf2000
        The Volt IS an EV as long as the battery is charged. Under no circumstances will the engine be used if the battery if charged, unless you are in a severely cold environment or the gas in the tank is going stale.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @usbseawolf2000
        The Volt's ICE is cargo roughly 80% of the time. At 100k miles, it's only been used for 20k.
        Smith Jim
        • 2 Years Ago
        @usbseawolf2000
        According to GM the average Volt owner drives 67% of their miles in EV mode. Essentially, the Volt is two-thirds of an electric vehicle. This particular article is about reduced maintenance. The Volt ICE is only used about 33% of the time and most Volt owners will only need to change their oil once every two years. The platinum tipped spark plugs should last about 300,000 miles. I know none of this matters to you, seawolf, because you are a Toyota fan-boy with no objectivity at all when it comes to the Volt and quite frankly, you're kind of a jerk.
          Actionable Mango
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Smith Jim
          I have to agree with EVSuperhero. My ICE is very low mileage; it's the lowest I've seen on cartrader.com for its age. But despite the very low mileage, as it gets old I am having to replace parts that are failing due to age. If those parts didn't exist at all, they wouldn't need to be replaced.
          Actionable Mango
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Smith Jim
          Plastic coolant overflow tank and some sort of hose (vacuum hose?) failed. Two belts replaced, not due to failure or mileage, but due to warning about their age. I can't remember exactly which two, maybe serpentine and timing? I am not much of an engine guy. I admit none of it has been particularly expensive, nor did anything leave me stranded, not even the broken coolant overflow tank.
          MTN RANGER
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Smith Jim
          Technically, the Volt doesn't have a serpentine belt - it has an electric alternator. The simple engine belt connecting the water pump needs to be checked every 150,000 miles. No timing belt. Brakes will last a long time (probably the life of the car) due to heavy regen use. Engine coolant needs to be replaced every 150,000 miles. The manual does suggest an air conditioning flush every ten years. Sounds pretty low maintenance to me.
          Smith Jim
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Smith Jim
          Actionable Mango I'm curious to know specifically which parts failed due to age.
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Smith Jim
          We all know how ICE's love to sit without use. They don't do well. The Volt will cycle the ICE but still it is there with it's mass air flow sensors, cracked serpentine belt, yearly oil changes, oil should be changed according to time as well. The Volt is a EV? That is the opinion of GM and the author of this article only! Their is a tremendous amounts of failures possible in the ICE over ten years because their are a tremendous amount of parts in a ICE period. Funny how you only hear about the ICE that goes 300k miles and not about the one that died after 36k miles.
      ev_ftw
      • 2 Years Ago
      I love that the example of a cost benefit is a coda! Are they still around? Explain how buying a $40k corolla saves money over a $16k one. I'll be dead by the time I've made up the $24k extra up front! (Either through time or the result of the two star crash test...)
      Turbo Froggy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow "shocking" study... I just concluded my own study, snow is cold, rain is wet.. 17,000 miles on our 2011 Nissan Leaf, so far zero cost in maintenance.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Turbo Froggy
        As long as you don't ever have to replace your pack, you're golden!
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Turbo Froggy
        how much would a new battery cost ? and when do you replace it. the company chevy one we had (pick up) lost range till we could only use it to go around the corner . eventually you'll need triple a if you can't afford a new battery. we scraped ours because of the battery. the price of the battery should also be added to adjust the mpg's along with the electric bill. I'm not saying they are bad but why is this info so hard to find. and that applies to hybrids also .
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Turbo Froggy
        Hell yea, Froggy!
        Nick Kordich
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Turbo Froggy
        @Turbo Froggy - Last year, Consumer Reports called out one oddity in the Nissan Leaf manual regarding recommended maintenance: change the brake fluid ever 15,000 miles - do you know if that's still the case? http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/07/zen-and-the-art-of-nissan-leaf-maintenance.html
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well EV makers should charge an extra $2000 or so and say 100% maintenance covered for 6 years. That might end up being quite profitable. I guess Tesla is doing that.
      MTN RANGER
      • 2 Years Ago
      Duh!
      danwat1234
      • 2 Years Ago
      Electric cars still do not make financial sense unless you drive a crapload of miles, in which a good lease deal might work well for you too. A low tech late 90s Civic with power nothing will have very low maintenance costs especially if you do basic maintenance like fluid and filter changes yourself and it'll last forever. I hope that electric car batteries get cheaper and more dense in the future. That is the key to their success.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @danwat1234
        so true
          • 2 Years Ago
          I own a 93 civic with well over 300k never had anything go wrong with it . everything is original except for the 4 or so timing belts and water pumps. I get close to 50 mpg's . should I buy a ev or should I get free gas for the rest of my life. bar an accident this car will last me the rest of my life. of course in not factoring in style and I could care less what the jones think.
          danwat1234
          • 2 Years Ago
          Wow almost 50MPG that's great. The only downside to your car is it's OBD1 so it probably has higher toxic emissions(CO, NOX) than a 1996+ year car. I have a 1999 civic with an automatic transmission, 229K with no problems. I get low 30s average and mid to upper 30s on long highway trips. Since I figure the automatic transmission is the weak point I make sure to do a drain/fill every 20,000. Costs me about $22 for 3 quarts of genuine DW1 fluid + a washer and I'm good.
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      Who expects to replace an exhaust system in 8 years? I had my last two cars for 8 years and 10 years and never came close to needing an exhaust on either. Also, oil changes are very cheap, on my current car oil change costs amount to about $80 a year (it only needs one a year) and I don't even go to off brand places, I take it to the dealer. I don't expect battery "second life" value to amount to much. We shall see though.
        methos1999
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        then you clearly don't drive much - I used to go 25-30k miles/year, so assuming an oil change rough 6000-8000 miles and requiring Mobil 1 (because of the turbo), I would be spending anywhere from $150-$200/year on oil changes (doing it myself)
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @methos1999
          These figures being compared to are also not for driving 25-30K a year. Oil changes on my car are at least 10,000 miles apart from the manufacturer's recommendation, I'm not sure of the recommended mileage interval as I just end up getting once a year because that's the max time interval. So I wouldn't go assuming you'll need 3 oil changes every year.
        Ryan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        I replaced my exhaust after 15 years (125,000 miles). I have to get new mufflers every 2 years because the cheap steel ones rust out in Ohio & Michigan where I drive.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        It depends on the exhaust. My GM cars used cheap materials and rusted out after a few winters. My Subie exhaust lasted over a decade.
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