Are Electric Cars Worth It?

We are in the year 2019, do you know what's gaining momentum like a steam train? ELECTRIC CARS.

We have made significant progress since the early 2010's when the first truly popular mainstream electric car made its way to the public (Nissan Leaf). During that time, there were very few DC fast chargers available and a fair amount of level 2 chargers. It only made sense to charge at home and take advantage of the impressive 84 mile range the Leaf offered at the time.

It was an automobile advertised for commuting and around-town trips. People definitely knew that, but they wanted MORE.

As laws have become more strict with emissions and fuel prices fluctuate like an emotional teenager, people have started to move towards more efficient vehicles. Big SUV's are not selling as well, big family sized sedans are not selling as much also. What IS selling well are hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, diesel cars (surprisingly) and now electric vehicles.

There's only one problem with electric cars so far, they are more expensive to buy brand new.

The question then comes up, ARE electric cars worth it?

Let's find out!

Diesel

Gasoline

Electricity

Available Options

I am not saying the way I classify if its worth it, should be the only way to do so. You may see things differently, I at least want to give you someones perspective who was in the same position as you were. The following things are what I took into consideration in coming to a conclusion.

Vehicle Option #1: Gasoline

Gasoline cars are the most common type of automobiles (so far) on the roads. They have become progressively cheaper and cheaper to the point where you can get a "base model" car with features that "fully loaded" cars had a few years back.

In addition to that, many fuel efficient cars today have MUCH better MPG ratings, comparable to even hybrid cars. Take a modern Hyundai Elantra SE from 2018, it can achieve highway fuel economy of 40-45 mpg (in some cases better). In January of 2019 with an average cost of 2.24 per gallon for 87 octane, it would cost a total of $31.41 to full up a 14 gallon tank.

While burning fossil fuels, you get plenty to choose from for economic cars.

PROS:

  • Drive for long distances
  • Fill-up in less than 5 minutes
  • Cheapest option

CONS:

  • Prone to breaking over time
  • Still emits emissions

Vehicle Option #2: Diesel

This is the dirtiest fuel, no doubt. Diesel is not common in the United States or Canada. Everywhere else in the world, diesel is the most common type of fuel because it gets the BEST efficiency for every gallon used.

Do you want Toyota Prius fuel economy from a non-hybrid drivetrain?

A diesel automobile would be perfect. The most popular brand to make diesel automobiles is Volkswagen. The whole diesel SCANDAL set aside, with the fix in place for better efficiency... you can get upwards of 50-55 miles per gallon on the highway.

Take a Volkswagen Golf TDI as an example, at around 50 mpg on the highway... it would take around $36.62 to fill a 12.5 gallon fuel tank (based on $2.93/gallon average diesel price).

Today in 2019, a 3-5 year old diesel Volkswagen can cost you as little as $5K-$10K with fairly low miles.

PROS:

  • Drive for long distances
  • Fill-up in less than 5 minutes
  • Engines often last 3-4X longer than gasoline versions

CONS:

  • Pollutes the most

Vehicle Option #3: Hybrid

There's no stopping hybrid vehicles, each year more and more hybrids are being sold around the world. They are becoming the cars of choice for: law enforcement, taxi cabs and budget oriented consumers.

Back about 10 years ago, you could get a Toyota Prius which could reach almost 50 mpg in the city and mid 40's on the highway. It was the leading hybrid and fuel efficient vehicle (not including diesel cars). When it comes to saving money, are on the more expensive side when brand new BUT, when you decide to buy them second-hand you'll have a car that holds its value for longer.

The average fuel capacity of most hybrid cars today is 10 gallons or less. In todays fuel prices (of around $2.09/gallon), a 10 gallon tank would cost just over $20. The most fuel efficient hybrid in 2019 is the Hyundai Ioniq which gets 55-60 miles per gallon on the highway. It means you can travel 500-600 miles for around $20. Now THAT, is impressive!

PROS:

  • Cheap fill-up costs
  • Highly fuel efficient drivetrains

CONS:

  • None

Vehicle Option #4: Plug-In Hybrid

When the first main-stream plug-in hybrid hit the market, people had mixed feelings about it. Chevy introduced their Volt Plug-In in 2011 with a reasonable 35 miles of range in EV only. This was something people could use for their commutes to work or for errands around town.

Ever since then, the market for plug-in vehicle has evolved to vehicles with greater range.

This is where people find themselves when debating between going all EV or going half-way. It is very possible to burn almost ZERO fuel in a plug-in hybrid vehicle if you plan your trips properly. Todays automobiles like the Volt (in its second generation) has an impressive 53 miles of range in electric mode, combined with the gasoline generator you'd get more than 400 miles in total driving range.

Let's be honest, 53 miles would be MORE than enough for anyone who is not planning on doing long distance drives. This would be an ideal choice for city drivers!

PROS:

  • You can drive on on electric if you want
  • As efficient as hybrids, but better

CONS:

  • Charging can take a few hours

Vehicle Option #5: Electric

About 10 years ago an electric car was not only inconvenient , but also expensive. The original Tesla Roadster was almost $100K, and it was groundbreaking to have so much range available. Can you guess how long it took to charge it?

Around 3.5 hours using a 220V, 70 amp outlet. That was considered quite fast by comparison to the few cars which came before it.

Today, you can get a brand new Nissan Leaf for less than $30K after some government incentives. You get 151 miles of range, 30 minute 80% quick charging capabilities, and more manufacturers are bringing EV cars to the market (like Chevy, Hyundai and Kia).

Range anxiety is becoming a thing of the past (slowly). To give you an example of a great deal currently, you can get a 2017 Chevy Bolt EV LT with 30-40K miles for around $25-$27K. This car can charge to 100% in less than 1.5 hours using CCS fast charging. Best of all, you will get a reasonable 238 miles of range (or better) from a full battery.

When it comes to electric cars, your reward for driving sensibly is MORE driving range.

PROS:

  • Absolutely no emission 

CONS:

  • Prone to breaking over time
  • Still emits emissions

Doing the Math

I've broken down a few different equations, based on driving 12,000 miles per year. I then did a cost comparison between all types of automobiles (shown under different options above). For the automobiles that would qualify for tax incentives, I will apply them as necessary.

Each automobile will be priced brand new, in the BASE model versions.

Recharge/Refuel Cost Compared


The following automobiles are chosen to best represent the comparison. 

  • #1 is 2018 Hyundai Elantra SE (MSRP: $20,950, mpg City 32, Highway 40, Combined 36) 
  • #2 is 2018 Chevy Cruze Diesel (MSRP: $25,620, mpg City 31, Highway 48, Combined 39) 
  • #3 is 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid (MSRP: $22,200, mpg City 57, Highway 59, Combined 58) 
  • #4 is 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid (MSRP: $33,400, mpg City 44, Highway 40, Combined 42, Electric Range 47 miles) 
  • #5 is 2018 Chevy Bolt EV (MSRP: $36,620, Electric Range 238 miles, Battery Size 60kWh) 

*NOTE: The numbers below are only estimates and not exact figures. Conditions vary from person to person (especially driving habits). 

2018 Hyundai Elantra SE

2018 Chevy Cruze Diesel

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

2018 Chevy Bolt EV

CAR:

CITY COST:

HWY COST:

COMBO COST:

COMBO MONTHLY:

2018 Hyundai Elantra SE

$841.87/year

$632.50/year

$737.18/year

$61.43/month

CAR:

CITY COST:

HWY COST:

COMBO COST:

COMBO MONTHLY:

2018 Chevy Cruze Diesel

$1,135.35/year

$733.25/year

$934.30/year

$77.85/month

CAR:

CITY COST:

HWY COST:

COMBO COST:

COMBO MONTHLY:

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

$472.63/year

$456.61/year

$464.62/year

$38.71/month

CAR:

CITY COST:

HWY COST:

COMBO COST:

COMBO MONTHLY:

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In

$673.50/year

$612.27/year

$642.88/year

$53.57/month

CAR:

Range:

# of Charges to Drive 12K Miles:

Cost To Drive 12K Miles:

 MONTHLY:

2018 Chevy Bolt EV

238 miles

50.42 

$363.02/year

$30.25/month

Financing Compared

As you read the list below, the cost per month is an estimate only. Things such as sales tax, interest rates, down payments and purchase prices can vary significantly. 

These figures are calculated without a downpayment. 

CAR:

MSRP:

Interest Rate:

Sales Tax: 

Finance Term:

Incentives:

Monthly Cost:

2018 Hyundai Elantra SE

$20,950

4.93%

5.75%

60 months

none

$417.00/month

CAR:

MSRP:

Interest Rate:

Sales Tax: 

Finance Term:

Incentives:

Monthly Cost:

2018 Chevy Cruze Diesel

$25,620

4.93%

5.75%

60 months

none

$510.00/month

CAR:

MSRP:

Interest Rate:

Sales Tax: 

Finance Term:

Incentives:

Monthly Cost:

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

$22,200

4.93%

5.75%

60 months

none

$442.00/month

CAR:

MSRP:

Interest Rate:

Sales Tax: 

Finance Term:

Incentives:

Monthly Cost:

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In

$33,400

4.93%

5.75%

60 months

$7,500

$516.00/month

CAR:

MSRP:

Interest Rate:

Sales Tax: 

Finance Term:

Incentives:

Monthly Cost:

2018 Chevy Bolt EV

$36,320

4.93%

5.75%

60 months

$7,500

$574.00/month

What Now?

If going green isn't the most dominating reason and instead its practicality and financial savings, the way you can calculate the worthiness is by adding up the expenses in each category of fuel. For example:

Option #1 is the 2018 Hyundai Elantra SE. Add the "Combo" fuel cost over 12 months, and you get $77.85/month in fuel. Then you take the financing payment per month of $417.00 and add the fuel cost. From there you add it up and get a total monthly cost of owning and using the automobile. 

Cost Saving Perspective

  • Number one from a pure cost savings aspect is going with the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. You'd be spending around $475.71/month for 60 months (until vehicle is payed off).
  • A close second is the 2018 Hyundai Elantra SE which would have a monthly cost of around $478.43 for 60 months (until vehicle is payed off).
  • Number three is actually the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. Monthly cost associated with owning that car for 60 months is around $587.85.
  • Next up in number four is 2018 Chevy Cruze Diesel which came out to be around $587.85/month for 60 months.
  • Last in this list would be the Chevy Bolt EV which equalled out to $604.25/month for 60 months.
  • Eco-Friendly Perspective

    • Number one is as you'd expect, the electric car.
    • A close second would be any kind of plug-in hybrid vehicle (ideally with decent range of 20+ miles).
    • Number three a hybrid vehicle that consumes less than 10 gallons of fuel per fill-up. 
    • Next up in number four is gasoline automobile.
    • Last in this list would be any kind of diesel vehicle, which is the dirtiest fuel.