Schafer: Gasoline car, EV or no car?
With a 13-year-old car in the garage and electric vehicles finally reaching the mainstream, now is the time to carefully consider an electric car.
The surprising thing, after calculating the numbers, is that the hypothesis that electric vehicles cost more has not been proven to be true. The other big surprise is that buying no new car is now an option on the table.
There are now a lot of electric cars to choose from, but the easiest way to compare them to a conventional drive car is to choose two cars that are basically the same. This led to Volvo’s smallest crossover SUV, the XC40.
There is a petrol version and an electric version and the only noticeable difference is the odd fake grille that Volvo has placed in the front of the battery-powered version, called the XC40 Recharge.
To get very comparable vehicles, you have to load the gasoline XC40 version with a few expensive options, although in Minnesota heated seats are no longer considered frivolous. The sticker was worth over $ 49,000, including a destination charge of $ 1,095. Sales tax brought the total cost north of $ 52,000.
The Recharge version, with sales tax, comes in at around $ 64,000, an estimate that doesn’t include $ 900 to wire the garage for a charger.
There is a tax credit to offset part of that, though: $ 7,500 in this case.
Yes, there are cheaper cars out there, but the average price of new cars according to the latest Kelley Blue Book data is over $ 43,000. That old LaSalle that worked so well is no longer on the new car market.
An important factor in the total cost, of course, is the value of a car after five years. This has turned out to be a fascinating question, as based on data from the Kelley Blue Book and other estimates, it appears that EV values are slipping faster. This is in part due to the lack of a federal tax credit in the used car market.
Both cars in this analysis will lose a lot of value over five years, but the conventional version is expected to be worth around 40% of MSRP while the recharge value drops to just 35%. This is a big advantage for the gasoline car.
The cost benefit goes to the EV after maintenance and fuel costs, even if the manufacturer pays for some maintenance.
The conventionally powered car gets about 25 miles per gallon, so driving 12,000 miles in a year burns nearly 500 gallons of premium gasoline. I don’t know how to forecast gasoline prices or else I would be living the lavish lifestyle of a retired commodity trader, but I guessed an average of $ 3.72 per gallon over five years.
This brings the total cost of fuel to almost $ 9,000.
Charging takes about 40 kilowatt hours of juice to travel 100 miles, and each kWh costs about 13 cents each, for about $ 3,200 in total fuel costs. But that’s not the whole story.
The gasoline-powered car will spit out over 9,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
If that sounds like a lot, know that one of the weird aspects of climate science is that a gallon of gasoline that doesn’t weigh much more than 6 pounds generates almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned, as all of those oxygen atoms now combined with carbon add up.
Carbon dioxide seems to go away, so it’s not obvious that it costs anyone a nickel.
The cost of this pollution is known as an externality, that is, a cost or a benefit that has been passed on to someone else. It happens all the time, and a great example of a positive externality is getting your COVID-19 injections, for the benefit of the whole community.
It is economic thinking that leads to political ideas like a carbon tax, which has gone nowhere here. An interesting question, however, is whether gasoline car owners are really avoiding this cost. They live here too.
But what does it really cost? The Biden administration set the cost at $ 51 per metric tonne after taking office, and it looks likely to increase it soon. There were also much higher estimates.
Even at $ 51 per metric tonne the first year and $ 85 for each year thereafter, those costs aren’t enough to make a difference.
There’s yet another wrinkle, though, and that’s why the power coming from that new charger in the garage wasn’t produced without carbon. Saint-Paul’s supplier, Xcel Energy, has generated approximately 62% of its electricity in our region carbon-free and is increasingly successful in eliminating carbon every year.
Yet in the first year, the electric vehicle is still associated with the cost of over a ton of carbon dioxide pollution.
Other costs were too difficult to estimate to even be included, such as additional tailpipe emissions and even particles blown into the air from the pipe. There is also a cost for these.
Bottom line: The XC40 Recharge wins the cost of ownership battle at around $ 10,600 per year, while the conventional gasoline-powered XC40 will cost over $ 11,400.
This makes the choice pretty clear – unless one or the other number seems that big, some will wonder if they’ve ever bought their last car.
A person still needs to get around, so how about one of those e-bikes? No one needs to train hard for months to get it up to 25 miles an hour quickly.
I put a Turbo Vado 4.0 electric bike that specializes in the cost of ownership worksheet, with a retail price of $ 4,000.
One big difference is that maintenance will be a much larger share of the total cost of ownership. No one gets 40,000 miles on a set of these bike tires, and just about everything else on that bike will be replaced at least once. You can have a philosophical discussion about Theseus to find out if it’s even the same bike in five years.
The real challenge has come in estimating costs when there is no other good option than a car, like a weekend up north. The best idea turned out to be an Hourcar membership which allows the member to take a shared car out of town for $ 45 per day.
An estimate of the cost of ownership for a very sophisticated electric bicycle was about $ 2,200 per year.
Is the bike even realistic for someone who had a beloved Chevy Chevelle at 16? These winter bike commuters, bundled up like scuba divers, never seem to be having fun. Still, sliding leisurely alongside them in a luxury electric car costs $ 29 a day.
We probably all said, “I don’t care if it’s free, I don’t.” Still, there always seems to be a number that could make a once unthinkable idea look good.