What Will That Electric Car Cost?

Adding up the Costs of Operating an EV


  • 2012 Toyota RAV4

    2012 Toyota RAV4

    No oil changes necessary. With an electric vehicle, maintenance costs go way down. | January 22, 2013

3 Photos

Most people know that buyers pay a premium for electric cars. But what are the additional expenses, such as the charging station installation and the cost of the electricity to recharge the battery? And are there savings on such things as vehicle maintenance?

It's somewhat difficult to give a single answer to these questions since there are many choices for charging stations and many, many different rate schedules for purchasing electricity. However, we will try to provide some general guidelines for estimating these costs.

Electric Car Charging Options
For home charging, there are two options: 120 and 240 volts. Most electric cars come with a charging cord that will plug into a standard 120-volt outlet, which is widely available. However, this is extremely slow charging, taking up to 20 hours. Consequently, most EV owners will want to recharge at 240 volts, which will cut the time to about 6 hours.

A number of home recharging stations are available, and EV makers are offering more options all the time. To save money, some EV owners will simply have an electrician install a 240-volt outlet and modify the standard cord to allow the higher voltage.

Whatever route an EV owner selects, an electrician will have to make modifications or install the vehicle charging station. The charging station and the labor to install it typically costs about $2,000 combined. Federal income tax credits of about 30 percent offset this cost. State and local agencies often offer additional incentives and rebates.

Besides saving time, the 240-volt electric car charging system will eventually save money. Some energy is lost during charging due to the resistance of the wires. Our testing shows that 30-35 percent is lost when charging at 120 volts. At 240 volts, however, these losses are only 20-25 percent. So the 240-volt charging station will cut electricity costs in the long run.

The Cost of Electricity
Electric rates vary widely across the United States. Many local utilities are encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles by offering lowered charging rates at night. If an EV has a recharge time of about 6 hours, the owner can schedule recharging for when the rates are lowest. Here is an article that describes in detail the true cost of powering an electric car.

Electric Vehicle Maintenance
One area of savings for EVs is maintenance. They don't need oil changes or many of the routine maintenance items common with conventional cars. Because of regenerative braking, brake jobs are less frequent, too.

Summary
Remember that electricity rates, tax credits, deductions and incentives and rebates do change. Check with your local utility company and governmental agencies for details. And use the topic headings to estimate EV costs to see if they will fit into your budget.

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