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The ownership-cost advantage is particularly strong against the SUVs and pickup trucks American buyers are increasingly flocking to over traditional sedans.
When comparing vehicles of similar size, an electric car can cost 10% to 40% more than a similar gasoline model, according to the study. But most owners will save $6,000 to $10,000 in running costs over the life of the car (measured as 200,000 miles), the study found.
For lower-priced models, ownership-cost savings usually exceed the higher purchase price of an EV, according to the study. As one example, a Chevrolet Bolt EV costs $8,000 more than a Hyundai Elantra GT when new, Consumer Reports noted, but the Bolt EV costs $15,000 less to operate over a 200,000-mile lifetime.
Ownership-cost advantages grow with vehicle size and length of ownership, according to the study. Car owners can save an average of $800 in fuel costs in the first year, but pickup-truck owners—for the upcoming GMC Hummer EV SUT, for instance—could save $1,300 in the same period, with SUV cost savings falling in between.
After seven years of ownership, an electric car will save its owner $4,700, but an electric pickup truck will save its owner almost $9,000, the study predicted. Over the lifetime of a vehicle, predicted savings were $9,000 for cars and $15,000 for trucks.
Discounted first-owner fuel costs for ICE and BEV (from Consumer Reports study)
A Consumer Reports whitepaper released last month also found that electric cars cost less to maintain and repair than internal-combustion vehicles—by an average of 50%, in fact.
This research echoes some of the findings that AAA has noted—although costs will vary widely between models.
However, some studies have pointed out that service bills might be higher for EVs, perhaps part of a strategy for dealerships to make up for their less-frequent service visits.
Automakers are touting potentially-lower ownership costs, at any rate. Ford has made that part of the sales pitch for its upcoming F-150 Electric pickup, while Volkswagen has said ownership costs for the European-market ID.3 hatchback will be lower than for comparable gasoline cars.
But steeper depreciation remains a serious issue for all EVs—other than those from Tesla.