Electric vehicle costs: How easy is it to be green?

The Government is looking into ways to make electric vehicles (EVs) more attractive to consumers but, for many motorists, they remain a mystery.

EV owners love the cars because they're quieter and cheaper to run than petrol cars.

But New Zealand only reached 10,000 EV's on our roads in September 2018, with cost a factor putting many people off.

Newshub looked into what some of the actual costs of buying and driving an EV are.

Upfront costs

There's no doubt about it, EVs are very expensive to buy.

The Nissan Leaf is the cheapest and most popular, but a 2011 Nissan Leaf will be setting you back about $10,499. For comparison, a 2011 Suzuki Swift would be $8790.

If you would prefer something a little more upmarket than the Leaf, you'll be spending a lot more than $10,000.

The Renault Zoe is a nice little run about that costs more than $45,000 and you'll spend at least $100,000 if you want to make Elon Musk even richer and drive a Tesla.

Volkswagen released an electric model of the Golf, but it's double the price of a petrol version of the same car.

A graph comparing the cost of different EVs and petrol vehicles. EVs are more expensive.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Braving the battery

EV batteries will degrade with each year of use just like other electronics. The problem is the technology is too new for any of them to have really hit bottom yet.

Calendar (how the car is parked and stored) and cyclic degradation (how the EV is driven and charged) will both play havoc with the battery.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has some good suggestions on how to mitigate this including dodging frequent fast charging, avoiding charging to full every day and driving efficiently.

EV batteries haven't been around long enough to work out how much they do go down or when they will need replacing, but, when they do need replacing, it will probably cost a lot.

AA Motoring Advisor Cade Wilson told Newshub batteries in the Nissan Leaf are degrading at about 2 to 4 percent per year.

"It’s yet to be seen how low the 'normal' degradation gets and the effect it has on an EV," he said.

Mr Wilson said a study on EV battery life had recommended full factory replacements as a good, yet expensive, option.

Estimates for a full factory replacement on a battery are $7,700 plus fitting for a 24KWH battery on a Nissan Leaf and $35,000 for an 85KWH battery on a Tesla.

Currently, if a battery in an EV was to fail dramatically replacing it could exceed the purchase price of the vehicle.

"If a used EV was to have a drastic battery failure, the current cost of battery replacement - if one was available - would far exceed the vehicle purchase price," Mr Wilson said.

"Roughly $14K for the cheapest used Leaf on TradeMe vs $8K estimated cost for battery complete replacement."

Mr Wilson said batteries have not yet started to fail drastically.

Power vs Petrol

Charging an entire car is going to add to your electricity bill, just like using any appliance will, but it probably won't be add that much.

EECA says it works out to about 30 cents a litre if you were buying petrol. Sounds a bit better than $2.70, doesn't it?

At that cost though you're most likely to be charging your car like you charge your phone - at night while you're asleep using the three pronged wall plug.

That method takes about 10 hours, so maybe don't forget to turn it on at the wall.

People who don't like waiting can buy their own slightly faster wall charger for a cost of around $1800 and get it installed in their house.

A comparison of cost of petrol (cents per litre) from September 2016 to September 2018 next to battery degradation. Degradation is assumed at 4 percent.
A comparison of cost of petrol (cents per litre) from September 2016 to September 2018 next to battery degradation. Degradation is assumed at 4 percent. Photo credit: Newshub.

Range anxiety

You're going to need to find a fast charger if you’re running low on battery while out and about.

They will charge your car in about half an hour and are spread around the country. The Government eventually wants to see at least one every 75km of state highway.

That's not the case right now, though, so if you're driving for a while it's best to use a site called PlugShare to hunt one down.

Some charge stations are free, some aren't. On a machine provided by installer Chargenet, it will cost $0.25/KWH and $0.25 per minute.

All up it looks like the running costs of an EV can be a bit cheaper than for gas, but starting up can be a big cost - with the purchase of the EV and a wall charger.

Keep an eye on that battery, you'll be hit in the pocket if it goes bust.