A battery is not like a gas tank. Given today's tank sizes and ubiquitous gas stations, gas-powered cars are rarely sold on their ability to travel X number of miles (it does happen). But when it comes to electric vehicles, the all-electric range number remains all-important. Forget the fact that most people in the US drive around 35-40 miles and even the cheapest EV available here has 62 miles of range, there's a lot of focus on how far you can go in a battery-powered car.
With that in mind, we were curious to see how much it actually costs to get your EV miles. There's a lot of talk about the ever-decreasing cost-per-kWh of battery capacity, and the lower you can get the pack, the lower you can price the car, but for today's experiment, we're more interested in the whole cost of the car. From the tires to the li-ion cells to the windshield wipers, how much will you pay for each electric mile in your plug-in car? Like any sane person, we built a spreadsheet. That's what sane people do, right?
Before we delve into the results, a few notes. These are all of the 2015 model year vehicles in the EPA database and the prices are the base MSRP without destination fees or taxes or any government incentives. This is a straight-up simple MSRP comparison with official EPA numbers thrown in, because that's a fair place to start. Also, the useable portion of the battery in one of today's EVs is never equal to the full kWh rating. But, since automakers can be cagey about letting the public know how much of the pack equals a "full charge," the best we can do is compared the overall sizes to each other.
Now, since we were curious about the cost per EV mile number (MSRP divided by official range), what's striking is how the two higher-end models bookend the list. The Tesla Model S comes in at the low end, costing just $312.50 for each of its 240 electric miles while the BMW i3 costs $523.46 for one or its 81 miles of range. While we can sort of understand that Tesla is able to hide some of its battery cost in the luxuriousness of the Model S (and its $75,000 price tag), BMW has a harder time doing that, perhaps because of the cost of the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic frame hiding under the i3.
After a lot of volatility in EV costs over the years (most of the long-termers have seen some sort of price drop), the cost of a mile of EV range has settled down a bit. The average cost of a mile of EV range across these 11 vehicles is $384.36. That's down from an average price of $414.44 before all of the price drops figured in, a decrease of $30.08 or a 7.25 percent drop. This is certainly moving in right direction, but the real problem is that so few of these cars are available in all 50 states.
We've put all of these EVs and their cost-per-electric-mile rating into a gallery full of pretty pictures, so go ahead and click to see more.