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These EVs are cheaper to own than their gas-powered counterparts

Not buying gas saves you quite a bit of money over the lifetime of a car.

These EVs are cheaper to own than their gas-powered counterparts
[Photos: Ford, pagadesign/Getty Images, arsa35/iStock/Getty Images Plus]

Ford’s new F-150 Lightning—the electric pickup that can double as backup power for your house in a blackout—is 17% more affordable to own than the gas-powered version of the vehicle. That’s according to a new analysis that looks at some of the most popular cars and trucks in the U.S., and then compares the cost to the closest electric equivalent.

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“If you’re buying a vehicle, it’s really hard to know what the total cost is going to be over the lifetime of the vehicle,” says Tom Taylor, a policy analyst at Atlas Public Policy, the organization that did the analysis. “So this is part of giving people better data to help people think through that decision. And then also to just challenge a prevailing notion that EVs are more expensive.”

Others had looked at the cost difference between electric and gas vehicles in the past, but this is the first calculation to look at specific models, comparing the costs over an expected eight years of ownership. The gas version of the Ford F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the country, and has been for more than four decades. The F-150 Lightning might become the best-selling EV. (When Ford stopped taking reservations last December as it began production, 200,000 people had signed up.) The base model starts at $39,974, which is around $10,000 more than its gas twin. But the $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs brings the cost down. The analysis didn’t look at state incentives, which can help more. In Maine, for example, there’s a $2,000 rebate for electric vehicles, and low-income customers can get a $5,500 rebate.

The real cost advantage happens over time, since charging the truck costs less than buying gas, and maintenance will also be less expensive because EVs have fewer moving parts. The same is true for other EVs. “The fuel cost is where there are significant savings for EVs,” Taylor says. “It depends a little bit on which vehicle and which class we’re talking about. But if we look at a light-duty sedan, for instance, that’s a very low-cost sedan, and the fueling cost is effectively 50% of the fueling cost for an [internal combustion engine] vehicle. So that’s a really significant savings.” (The calculations assume that someone charges their vehicle at home most of the time, and the public charging costs come from Electrify America data.)

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The analysis also compares the Honda CRV, one of the most popular SUVs, to Volkswagen’s electric ID.4. The electric SUV has a total cost of ownership that’s 15% lower. Owning a Tesla Model 3 is nearly 5% less expensive than a similar Lexus. Chevy’s electric Bolt is 6% less expensive than a similar Toyota Corolla. (The cost savings is smaller for the cars because Tesla and Bolt have used up their share of the $7,500 tax credit for EVs.)

The real tipping  point for EVs is likely to happen when the initial sticker price is also lower. That’s likely to happen relatively soon: One projection from Bloomberg NEF suggests that EVs could be cheaper to buy than their gas-powered counterparts, without any subsidies or consideration of fuel savings, in less than five years.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley

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