Electric vehicles initially cost more to maintain than gasoline models, but only for the first year

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Battery-electric vehicle owners can expect to pay more for the upkeep of their vehicles, including servicing and repairs, at least for the first year of ownership, new research says, but the cost drops quickly and, in the third year, BEVs have a significant cost advantage compared to conventional gasoline vehicles.

The costs associated with an electric vehicle are higher than those of a gasoline vehicle in the first year alone.

Previous research has found that consumers can also expect a steep drop in energy costs with a battery-powered electric car, especially if they do most of their charging at home.

With more battery electric vehicles on the road and many new models set to debut in the coming years, “consumers are trying to understand the risks and what they’re going to face if they buy. one of those vehicles, ”said Renee Stephens, vice president of automotive operations for research firm We Predict.

The study looked at the cost of maintaining a battery-electric vehicle, breaking it down into three categories:

  • Routine maintenance, such as replacing wipers and filters and keeping a vehicle in good condition;
  • Repairs, including broken body and transmission parts; and
  • Recalls, although manufacturers normally cover the cost of these repairs.

Higher costs in advance

Right out of the box, BEVs cost about 2.3 times more than gasoline vehicles in the first three months of ownership, according to the study. Most of this is in the form of repairs and recalls.

2021 Mustang Mach 1
For the life of the car, this Mustang will cost the owner more to repair, fuel and insure …

But the costs quickly start to drop for battery-powered cars, while they increase for vehicles using internal combustion engines, or ICEs.

For the first full year, the service is approximately 1.6 times higher. Breaking that down by category, maintenance costs an average of $ 7 per vehicle for BEVs, compared to $ 30 for the average gasoline model. But the repairs cost $ 247, nearly double the $ 142 spent by the owner of a typical gasoline model. BEVs also increased by $ 50 in recall fees, down from just $ 12.

“Over time, the relationship changes,” however, according to Stephens.

Less costs later

BEVs continue to have lower maintenance costs, as they do not need an oil change, tune-up, etc. But other service costs are also starting to drop.

After three years, the typical BEV has racked up $ 77 in maintenance bills, $ 301 for repairs, and $ 136 for recalls, for a total of $ 514.

Side barn Ford Mustang Mach-E 2021
… Than this Mustang Mach-E, according to We Predict.

In comparison, ICE models cost an average of $ 228, $ 387, and $ 136 in these respective categories, for a total of $ 751.

Now, all of these expenses are not coming out of pocket. Recall costs are normally borne by the manufacturer and depending on the warranty, maintenance and even some repair bills could also be passed on to the owner. But the study shows how less expensive BEVs are to maintain over the life of a vehicle.

Energy savings

And other studies have added to this equation. Energy costs are typically half that of a battery-electric vehicle, depending on where it is charged. The savings go up when the home is charged overnight by using the discount programs offered by many utilities.

“A typical EV owner who does most of his fueling at home can expect to save an average of $ 800 to $ 1,000 per year in fuel costs compared to an equivalent gasoline car,” concluded Consumer Reports in a report released in October 2020.

The magazine concluded that when all the costs of ownership are added, a typical BEV buyer can expect to save $ 6,000 to $ 10,000 over the life of the vehicle, even after an apple-to-apple comparison with a. otherwise identical gasoline model.

Loading the Mustang Mach-E
Charging at home is much cheaper than paying for gas.

Reminders are still a puzzle

The higher initial cost of repairs for a BEV appears to reflect issues manufacturers have with certain electrical and electronic components, We Predict’s Stephens said. And this is not unusual for new products in the period immediately following their launch. Most repair and recall issues seem to appear within the first year of ownership and then go away “quickly”, but not always.

It also predicts that average BEV repair costs will decline in the future as automakers learn how to avoid problems with batteries and other expensive components.

This will also be essential in dealing with recalls. Stephens warned that an update to the BEV cost study could show a sharp increase in average recall costs due to some high-profile issues. This includes battery failures involving the Hyundai Kona EV and Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV models.

Chevrolet is replacing batteries on all bolts built since the lineup’s initial debut in 2016. Parent General Motors predicts the program will cost around $ 1.9 billion. So, dividing that by 142,000 vehicles, that comes down to about $ 13,000 for each Chevrolet Bolt, although all costs are covered by the manufacturer.


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