Electric Vehicles Have Much Lower Maintenance Costs

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This has been something that electric vehicle fans have been telling people for years. Whoops, I should say: decades. (Actually, BEV fans were probably even saying this more than a century ago.) Unfortunately, if you’ve taken a few economics courses or studied public policy research on transportation topics, you know that we humans are not always the best at being rational — about our economic activity in general or our transportation choices in particular.

One tendency is to buy a cheaper house further from where you work and do stuff without taking into account the higher cost of transportation (which often negates those savings, or worse). Another thing that people who learn about electric vehicles know well is that most auto buyers who look too briefly at electric vehicle prices without considering total ownership costs are misunderstanding the frugal electric powertrain. Part of the lower operational costs come from the fact that electric powertrains are much more efficient, so there’s lower “fuel costs.” However, there’s more to it than that.

Maintenance of all sorts that is needed with a complicated internal combustion engine (ICE) is not needed in an electric vehicle due to it having a much simpler powertrain. Now, a new study from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information tells us the same thing — in a more scientific and precise way.

“The estimated scheduled maintenance cost for a light-duty battery-electric vehicle (BEV) totals 6.1 cents per mile, while a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) totals 10.1 cents per mile,” the U.S. DOE OSTI writes. “A BEV lacks an ICEV’s engine oil, timing belt, oxygen sensor, spark plugs and more, and the maintenance costs associated with them. The hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) and the plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) share costs with both the ICEV and the EV but save money on brake maintenance.”

Yeah, there’s the list I was looking for — well, a short part of it. Anyone who has spent a bit of time owning non-electric vehicles has plenty of experience with different doodads breaking — hoses, belts, mufflers, or even transmissions if we want to get into the scarier end.

The authors of the report — a mere Burnham, Andrew; Gohlke, David; Rush, Luke; Stephens, Thomas; Zhou, Yan; Delucchi, Mark; Birky, Alicia; Hunter, Chad; Lin, Zhenhong; Ou, Shiqi; Xie, Fei; Proctor, Camron; Wiryadinata, Steven; Liu, Nawei; and Boloor, Madhur — write this to start the abstract:

“In order to accurately compare the costs of two vehicles, the total cost of ownership (TCO) should consist of all costs related to both purchasing and operating the vehicle. This TCO analysis builds on previous work to provide a comprehensive perspective of all relevant vehicle costs of ownership. In this report, we present what we believe to be the most comprehensive explicit financial analysis of the costs that will be incurred by a vehicle owner. This study considers vehicle cost and depreciation, financing, fuel costs, insurance costs, maintenance and repair costs, taxes and fees, and other operational costs to formulate a holistic total cost of ownership and operation of multiple different vehicles. For each of these cost parameters that together constitute a comprehensive TCO, extensive literature review and data analysis were performed to find representative values in order to build a holistic TCO for vehicles of all size classes.”

For more, here’s the link to the report: Comprehensive Total Cost of Ownership Quantification for Vehicles with Different Size Classes and Powertrains.

For more of our total cost of ownership analyses for electric vehicles, go here.

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