Forum Rules (Everyone Must Read!!!) (updated: 04/28/2015)

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Do the 1st Generation Electric Cars Save Money

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  • Do the 1st Generation Electric Cars Save Money

    Jan 10, 2011

    Here at the Thrifty Spender Experiment, we are always looking for ways to save money. From a pure money saving perspective, can you really save money with an electric vehicle?

    Believe me, I am tempted by the prospect of not having to buy gasoline, but electric cars require recharging and are significantly more expensive than their high MPG counterparts.

    According to the Nissan Leaf FAQ, Nissan estimates that it will cost $2.75 to charge the vehicle assuming a $0.1147/kWh (kilowatt per hour) cost of residential electricity. This means that it takes approximately 24kWh to charge the car. The car has a realistic range of 50-100 miles per charge. Now, we need to extrapolate the monthly cost. Given the vehicles inherent driving restrictions, the car would primarily be used for commuting and local driving at less than highway speed. So, I am going to assume the car does not require a full charge on a daily basis, to save me the time and brain power, I am going to assume a full charge frequency that averages out to 5 days of full charging in a given week. So, that means the Leaf will draw 120kWh, per week, to charge. Let’s even assume an average full charge rate of 3 per week, that is still $36 per month in additional electric usage.

    This means that it will cost approximately $36-$60 per month in additional electrical utility bill to charge the Nissan Leaf. That gives me pause. Of course, any comparison is dependent on the price of gas and driver habits; right now, near me, gas is $2.72 per gallon. A Nissan Versa is rated for 28/34 mpg; but I have a 2002 Mazda Protégé 5 and am averaging 27 mpg, so under my driving conditions, I am betting I could get 30-mpg in a Nissan Versa and the Nissan Versa holds 13.2 gallons of gas. So, realistically, under similar driving conditions as a Nissan Leaf and assuming a 12 gallon fill-up for each fill up, I am looking at an average monthly fuel cost of $70 per month. This number assumes filling up about every two weeks, which is what I currently do. Now, if fuel goes to $4.25 per gallon, the monthly fuel cost of the Nissan Versa goes to $110.50.

    At current fuel prices, the Nissan Leaf would only save me about $120-$408 per year compared to owning a car like the Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Mini Cooper, Diesel VW Jetta, Toyota Yaris, Mazda 2 or Kia Rio. The Nissan Leaf’s MSRP is $33,720, with a net cost of $26,220 (not including tax, title, etc) after the Federal Tax Incentive, whereas a fully loaded Nissan Versa is $19,840, an upfront cost difference of $6,380. Note, this analysis doesn’t even include the cost of the charging station ($2,000+). Not to be too coy, but at current fuel prices, it would take me 16-53 years to make up the difference in cost savings. Even if fuel went to $4.25 per gallon, it would take 7-10.5 years to break even. However, by then, the Nissan Leaf’s battery pack will be long dead and you would have to pay for another one or get a different car.

    For the current generation of electric car to be cost effective, at least for my driving profile, (short of significant decrease in purchase price), gas would need to be $5.75-$6.00+ per gallon (let’s hope that doesn’t happen any time soon).

    As with most super new technologies, from a pure cost perspective, it is not worth becoming an early adopter, I think I will wait for the next generation before taking the leap. But hey, the first batch of electric cars are neat cars with all sorts of cool technology, but from the context of “saving money”, the cost/benefit doesn’t seem to justify the purchase, for me!

  • #2
    Given that our electric rate is .49 per kWh (nearly 5 times what the article lists), an electric car would cost a FORTUNE for us to drive....I want a solar powered car, can someone please invent one of those?
    Filed Chapter 13 on 2-28-10. 341 completed 4/14/10. Confirmed 5/14/10. Lien strip granted 2/2/11
    0% payback to unsecured creditors, 56 payments down, 4 to go....


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