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Are Hybrids or EVs Any Cheaper to Own?

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On: Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 8:54AM | By: Elizabeth Puckett

Are Hybrids or EVs Any Cheaper to Own?

The US Department of Energy recently published an article about the consumption of energy by a hybrid or electric vehicle and how that stacks up against gasoline use. With the rising cost of both electricity and gasoline worrying consumers, many wonder if it is actually worth it to buy a hybrid or EV. After all, the cost of owning an electric car or hybrid does go beyond the savings of not having to buy gas.

Energy.Gov is the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, which is designed to allow consumers compare the cost of energy associated with driving a hybrid or EV with gas prices. Consumers can visit the site and view the average price of gas in the country versus energy, or visit their state’s page for more regional specific data.

This website uses a conversion they call an eGallon to show the cost of powering an electric vehicle compared to fueling a like model that uses gas instead. The conclusion is that it costs around three times less to operate an electric vehicle, that’s as long as you take only the eGallon cost versus the gasoline gallon cost into account. Another valid point the site makes is that the cost of gasoline often spikes erratically because it is linked to volatile international oil markets.

Their current nationwide information shows that the average cost of a gallon of gas is $3.65, while an eGallon is $1.14. Hybrids and electric vehicles definitely win that round. So that’s pretty conclusive, powering an electric vehicle is indeed cheaper; chapter closed on the fuel debate.

But what about all of the other factors? The cost of buying hybrids and EVs new is still significantly higher than their gas-powered counterparts. This used to be countered by the significant tax credit offered to hybrid buyers, but federal hybrid tax credits have silently disappeared over the years—while credits for electric vehicles are still in place. Overall, hybrids and EVs also have a higher depreciation value—a value that’s actually somewhat unpredictable and depends on the current cost of gasoline.

Hybrid and electric vehicle drivers will see a drop in their insurance rates. Insurance companies place most hybrids in a lower risk category and therefore premium rates are lower.

How about the cost of repair? Normal maintenance on hybrids cost about the same as gas cars and they actually require far less engine maintenance, but major repairs can run much more. For example, if the battery needs to be replaced on a hybrid, expect to pay over $2,000 for a replacement. On the other hand, the braking system is regenerative and lasts far longer than the system on traditional cars.

The bottom line is that operating an electric vehicle or hybrid is cheaper, while buying one is more expensive, and you’re less likely to get as much of your money back when it comes time to trade up. They may not be great for people who frequently cycle through different models, but are great for those who want to put as little time and money as possible into the powering and maintenance of their car.


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