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Battery Electrics Offer Best Savings; EV Emissions Beat Gas, Even in ‘Dirty Grid’ Regions

The total cost of ownership (TCO) over the lifetime of an alternative fuel vehicle can be lower than a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle, despite higher upfront costs for the vehicles and potential infrastructure investments, according to a Pike Research report.

The report, Total Cost of Ownership of Alternative Fuel Vehicles for Fleet Operators, finds that for U.S. fleet operators, the alternative fuel vehicle with the lowest TCO is the battery electric vehicle, assuming that the operator is able to claim the $7,500 federal tax credit.

Pike senior analyst Lisa Jerram said that currently the tipping point for a mid-size hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric is 120,000 miles. The vehicles achieve a lower TCO over a vehicle lifespan when hitting that mile marker, but if the vehicle lifespan is well under that mileage level, then the TCO savings do not beat internal combustion engine vehicles.

However, at gasoline prices of $3.50 per gallon, AFVs will provide payback in fleets that do a lot of driving, and as gas prices continue to rise over $4, the equation will tilt in favor of options like hybrids and plug-ins that reduce gasoline usage, the report said.

Also this week, a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists finds a great deal of variance to the carbon footprint of an EV, based on the energy mix of each region’s electricity grid. Still, there are no areas of the country where electric vehicles have higher global warming emissions than the average new gasoline vehicle – and regions with the cleanest energy mix beat the most fuel-efficient gasoline hybrids on the market, UCS said.

Overall, EVs charged from the electricity grid produce lower global warming emissions than the average 27 mpg compact gasoline-powered vehicle, even when the electricity is produced primarily from coal in regions with the “dirtiest” electricity grids, USC said. EVs charged entirely from renewable sources like wind and solar power produce virtually no global warming emissions.

The report found that nearly half (45 percent) of Americans live in UCS-rated “best” regions—where an EV has lower global warming emissions than a 50 mpg gasoline-powered vehicle. Charging an EV in the cleanest electricity regions, such as California, New York, and the Pacific northwest, produces global warming emissions equivalent to a gasoline-powered vehicle achieving over 70 mpg, UCS said.

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