Should you buy an electric car? This was a very good suggestion from a reader to review. An honestly, I am pretty interested in that question too. Time to find out!
Should you buy an electric car?
Actually the answer to this question, in most cases, is no. Why? Because in countries like the Netherlands, with its good public transport and cycling facilities, you don’t really need a car. Heck, it’s better for your wallet, the planet and your health if you don’t get a car at all! Not even an electrical one.
But I realize that in certain situations it is very convenient to have a car. No one likes to ride a bicycle in the rain and/or during strong winds. Not everyone wants to make the time to cycle longer distances (on say a speed pedelec; love the Stromer ones!). Sometimes you have several people that need to get somewhere, preferably at the same time :-). Or, distances are getting too far and/or public transport does not get you there efficiently. So whatever excuse you have, let’s see if you should buy an electric car, shall we?!
Electric Car Options & Costs
What electric car options do we have in this cheesy country? The ANWB (Dutch Car Association) made a great list, which I summarized here below into a table and a graph (range vs price). I’ve also included the test results from the ANWB based on 4 years operating @ 10.000km/year, which includes the depreciation (done in 2017). Suddenly our Prius does not look that bad!
Couple of notes:
- This list does not include all electric cars (or models) available. But it does appear to give a good overview of ranges and prices.
- The price of the Model 3 Tesla was based on this post. It was not available on the ANWB site. Not all model options will be available here in the Netherlands either!
- Yes, for a relatively “small” extra charge you can get a larger range. Which for most models will drop the overall Euro/km range ratio. Problem is I don’t have all the data and didn’t want to invest the time. Plus, the already “expensive” prices will get even worse! But if you want to do the research & math, please do let me know the results 🙂
- I ignored all battery rental options, what way the cars can be charged and how fast. Just to keep things simple.
Which one to buy?
Looking at the graph and the table, you get the best bang for your buck (Euro) with the Renault Zoe. This one has the cheapest purchase price per km range, and you have quite some range too with about 300km. The Hyundai’s are also appealing considering the purchase price per km range, as is the Ampera.
Based on the total operating cost for 4 years @ 10.000km per year , you better get the Citroen C-Zero. But this actually a bad example calculation as you only keep the car for 4 years. For the noted prices you can private lease a car for less money (including fuel)! Not as environmentally friendly perhaps, but better for your wallet for sure!
Despite being expensive, the Model 3 is actually reasonably well priced if you look at range for your Euro. I can certainly see the appeal here. I know petrol powered cars that have similar ranges! But boy, almost €59.000! That’s more than two years of net (after taxes) mean wages here in the Netherlands, ouch. Not really an electric car “for the people” just yet 😉
Case Study: Renault Zoe
Ok, so let’s assume we go for the Renault Zoe. No rental battery either, full on purchase of the car. Let’s assume the car lasts 15 years and you drive 12.000km per year (180.000 total). The battery survives this long too without needing replacement (albeit your range certainly will suffer!). We also assume 3 new set of tires. Fuel costs are €0.205/kWh for green electricity and usage of 0.105kWh/km. No road tax and only mandatory insurance (with max no-claim discount). Maintenance is assumed to be about 1/2 of a regular petrol car. No inflation included!
This get’s us te the following:
- €32.890 purchase costs
- €3.000 residual value
- €3.875 “fuel”
- €600 in tires
- €2.500 in maintenance
- €3.600 in insurance (average rate of €20/month)
- Grand total: €40.465 = €0.225/km
This best compares to the Renault Twingo in terms of size and capacity. Let’s assume €1,55/l for fuel. Fuel consumption 4.2l/100km (combined cycle). Two sets of tires (less torque and weight = less wear and tear). Same/similar level of maintenance and insurance. Road tax is calculated at €416/year (951-1050kg car weight – province of South Holland). In that case you get this:
- €10.990 purchase costs
- €2.000 residual value
- €11.718 fuel
- €400 in tires
- €5.000 in maintenance
- €2.160 in insurance (average rate of €12/month)
- €6.240 road tax (South Holland)
- Grand total: €34.508 = €0.192/km
This does not look good, does it? Looks like electric cars (or at least these ones) are still more expensive for the average consumer! But obviously fuel prices, electricity prices, maintenance and taxes will play a role in the future and could tip it into favour of the electric car. Too bad environmental damage is not able to be calculated into the equation… Would probably be a easier calculation in that case.
That being said, the Guardian wrote a piece about operating costs of electric cars vs their petrol/diesel powered versions. In this case the VW golf. Turns out the original research can be found here and focussed heavily on the taxation part. Taxation, as you can see above, also has a major impact on our case study, albeit I only looked that operational taxation cost in the from of road tax. Turns out that (without maintenance costs, insurance depreciation effects), an electric Golf is indeed cheaper after 4 years, albeit marginally. Still, promising results I would say.
Making a car costs immense amounts of energie. Making electric cars is even worse due to the batteries. That being said, when the electric energie is produced in an environmentally friendly way (solar, wind, tide, etc.) the overall environmental impact seems less than of that of a regular car. How long it takes for this to be true depends on the size of the car and battery. Based on Swedish research, a Nissan leaf (with 30 kWh battery) needs 2,7 years. A Tesla S (with 100 kWh battery) needs about 8 years (based on 12.000km/year driving).
Also this cradle-to-grave research done in the US is quite interesting. It also clearly points to the lower overall emissions of EV’s compared to regular petrol cars. But it’s heavily affected by how the electric energy is produced, obviously. Still, you probably should buy an electric car for this reason!
The good thing is that batteries get better, and it’s not unlikely that they will also need less energie to be made per 1 KWh of capacity. This will ultimately drive down the overall environmental impact of electric cars. That being said, a smaller car will always be better. So don’t buy an Jaguar or Telsa, but focus on the Leaf, Smart, Zoe, I3, Golf of Ioniq (or similar) if you still want to help the planet. Even better, buy and (electric) bicycle and actually use it!
Do you have an electric car? How do you like it? Any feedback?