The costs of owning an electric vehicle are competitive with conventional and hybrid vehicles, but the environmental impacts of running EVs vary depending on where the car is operated, according to two separate reports on the state of the EV market from the Electric Power Research Institute and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.
The EPRI study compares the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf with gasoline-fueled cars that reflect average costs for different makes and models. Nissan lowered the price of the Leaf by about $6,000 in January. It looks at several factors, including gasoline and power prices, incentives, financing, driving patterns and maintenance.
The cost advantage of EVs increases as gasoline costs rise and decrease as they fall. Electric vehicles can still be competitive with lower gasoline costs, but payback will take a longer period.
According to the report, lifetime costs for the Nissan Leaf are lower than that of the comparison vehicles. However, the variation in costs is much higher for the Leaf than for the Volt – up to 30 percent of total costs.
On top of the variation in running costs between the Leaf and Volt, the environmental damage done by an electric vehicle also varies from region to region.
The environmental impacts of EVs vary widely based on the fuel used to generate the electricity that charges the vehicle, according to the ACCEE report, Plug-in Electric Vehicles: Challenges and Opportunities. On the average grid mix and on a full-fuel-cycle basis, EVs offer major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions relative to conventional gasoline-powered vehicles.
But driving an all-electric vehicle in the Northeastern US, which uses mainly hydropower and nuclear power, will result in far lower GHG emissions than driving even a hybrid-electric vehicle. The reverse is true, however, in the Midwest, which relies more on coal power plants, ACEE says in a blog about its new report.
A report published this month by Carnegie Mellon University found that hybrid vehicles are, in general, only cheaper to own that conventionally-powered vehicles when they are driven in a certain manner.
Drivers who travel in New York City-style conditions could cut lifetime costs by up to 20 percent by selecting hybrid vehicles instead of conventional vehicles, but under highway test driving under 60 mph drivers of conventional vehicles see a lower lifetime cost option without a major increase greenhouse gas emissions.