When buying any new car, there are a lot of considerations to be made which will ultimately shape your purchase decision. From cost to features, safety to tech, good research will help you choose the best car for your needs.
When it comes to buying an electric car however, we’re often blinded by official range figures — or how far a car can travel on a full charge. But shopping for a new electric car based on the range alone might leave you with a car that isn’t as good value as you might expect.
In reality, choosing the best electric car for your needs will need you to not only consider how many miles the car can travel per charge, but also the ratio of the car’s cost to total range, its recharging capabilities and the cost of recharging the car.
Purchase cost vs range
As the MojoMotorsBlog detailed last week, one way of looking at vehicle affordability is to examine how many miles you can travel compared to the vehicle’s sticker price.
The logic is pretty sound. After all, if you’re spending $40,000 on a car capable of just 80 miles per charge, you’ll be worse off than spending $30,000 on a car which can manage 84 miles. That’s common sense.
Plotting the cost of the purchase price of the most popular electric cars on the U.S. market against their official EPA-rated range, MojoMotors concluded that the $41,250 BMW i3 was the most expensive car you can buy today in terms of cost vs range, with a total cost per mile of more than $500.
The Chevrolet Spark EV meanwhile, achieved a figure of around $325 per mile of range, and the $79,900 Tesla Model S 85 kWh luxury sedan came out with the lowest cost per mile ratio of just over $300 per mile.
The efficiency question
While this particular metric works well to demonstrate which car is more cost-effective in terms of range per charge vs cost, it doesn’t deal with vehicular efficiency. Nor do any metrics simply stating range per charge.
For example, the BMW i3 EV manages 81 miles on 22 kilowatt-hours of electricity. The Tesla Model S manages 265 miles on 85 kilowatt-hours of electricity. In other words, the BMW i3 can travel far further on every kilowatt-hour of electricity than the Tesla Model S can.
Luckily, the standard Monroney label found on every new car on sale today — more commonly known as the window sticker — lists electrical efficiency alongside the miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) figure. While MPGe is a figure created to help make it easier to compare electric, plug-in hybrid and gasoline vehicles side-by-side, Monroney labels also list the fuel efficiency in kWh per 100 miles.
Using this figure, it’s easy to see the Tesla uses 38 kWh to travel 100 miles, while the BMW i3 uses just 27 kWh to travel the same distance.
Which leads us nicely to the subject of running costs. At the moment, the cost differential between driving a Tesla Model S 100 miles and driving a BMW i3 100 miles might not be all that great. Even if you’re charging at home at an electricity cost of 12.2¢ per kilowatt hour — the U.S. national average — driving a Tesla Model S is only $1.34 more expensive for every 100 miles you travel.
Over the course of a year, assuming a total of 15,000 miles per year, that’s equivalent to spending $201 more per year on electricity for the Tesla versus the i3.
At the moment, that’s not a lot, especially if you consider the fact that Tesla offers free charging to its customers at its Supercharger stations. Factor that in, and it could be said that the Tesla is free — or almost free — to fuel if you have a Supercharger nearby.
For other vehicles however, the efficiency of a vehicle should be factored into your calculations along with its range. The less energy it needs to drive every mile, the larger the savings will get as electricity prices rise — and in that scenario, a BMW i3 is cheaper to fuel than any other car on the market.
Do your own math
Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s all too easy to overlook something when buying a new car. Some electric cars may cost more to buy than others, but could reward you with much improved efficiency in the long run. Others may look super-cheap on paper — like the Model S for example when compared to cost per mile of range — but in reality may only be that way if you regularly drive longer-distance trips.
When picking a car that’s right for you, be sure to examine all your needs. Do you need to drive more than 100 miles a day? Do you need a vehicle for longer-distance trips? How often are you going to be charging at home versus charging at public charging stations?
Once you’ve answered these questions and factored in costs per 100 miles in terms of electricity and cold-hard cash — not to mention the amortisation of purchase costs over the lifetime and mileage you’re expecting the car to have — you should have a far fairer picture of which car best suits your needs.
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