Electric vehicles least expensive in long run, study suggests

According to a recent report the low “fuel cost” (i.e. cost of charging) of electric vehicles brings TCO below those of conventional vehicles or other types of alternative fuel vehicles


Faced with pressure to reduce both the costs and the environmental impacts of their vehicles, fleet managers are seeking the most cost-effective ways to "green" their vehicle fleets while ensuring that operations continue to run smoothly. While a wide array of alternative vehicle options are now available on the market, many of them come with high upfront price premiums compared to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. According to a recent report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant's Energy Practice, the low "fuel cost" (i.e. cost of charging) of electric vehicles, including both plug-in hybrid and battery electric models, brings their total cost of ownership (TCO) to below those of conventional vehicles or other types of alternative fuel vehicles, offsetting the higher average vehicle prices.

"BEVs also offer higher overall fuel efficiency than conventional hybrids and low electric range plug-in hybrids. That's a major reason why battery electric vehicles have been experiencing a resurgence of automaker and consumer interest over the past few years, particularly for fleet operations."

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) offer the lowest TCO of any of the 17 vehicles compared in the report, when taking into account the federal tax credit available for electric vehicle (EV) purchases.

"One of the primary benefits of BEVs is their very high efficiency compared to conventional ICE vehicles," says senior research analyst Lisa Jerram. "BEVs also offer higher overall fuel efficiency than conventional hybrids and low electric range plug-in hybrids. That's a major reason why battery electric vehicles have been experiencing a resurgence of automaker and consumer interest over the past few years, particularly for fleet operations."

Fleet operators are more likely than consumers to focus on the total cost of ownership rather than just the upfront cost, making fleets an attractive early market for electric vehicles. Many government and utility fleets, which are often involved in testing vehicles, have already begun implementing Level 2 (up to 19.2 kilowatt) charging systems. Nevertheless, many fleet managers continue to see the cost of EV charging equipment as more of a concern than do the auto manufacturers.

The report, "Total Cost of Ownership of Alternative Fuel Vehicles for Fleet Operators", provides a comparative TCO analysis across various alternative fuel vehicle categories including biodiesel, ethanol/flex-fuel, propane/autogas, compressed natural gas, stop-start, hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, battery electric, and fuel cell vehicles. The primary focus is on fleet vehicles as they would operate in North America, with additional coverage provided for Western European vehicles and operations. Because each fleet's experience is different, this report also includes a spreadsheet that can be customized with the fleet operator's own data. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Pike Research website.

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