It’s been a rough year for your gas-powered car. Prices at the pump have climbed to above $5 a gallon, then fallen, then…well, who knows what’s next? If you’re someone who likes predictability, 2022 has not treated you kindly. And the road ahead for gasoline prices? We’ll just see what happens from week to week and hope for the best!
It’s no surprise that this year’s gasoline price rollercoaster has many drivers thinking about switching to electric. Many observers have documented a surge of interest in electric vehicles (EVs), with more and more people hitting the dealership and combing the internet for information about a lower-cost alternative to their suddenly too-pricey gas guzzler.
Want to learn more about the benefits of driving electric vehicles? MLive took a spin with Consumers Energy's Karl Bloss to get the driver's seat view on how this new technology is transforming transportation.
So, are EVs more affordable? Will I save money as an EV owner – assuming first that I can get my hands on an EV that meets my needs?
Do you really save money with electric vehicles?
The short answer is yes! But maybe you want a little more assurance than that. Vehicles are a big-ticket purchase and, even as more people transition to remote work, they’re still a huge part of our lives. Let’s examine some factors from a cost-cutting perspective and help flesh out the case for going electric.
First, a little perspective. Sales of electric vehicles are growing, as is customer interest. But they’re not ready to dominate the market yet. EVs make up less than 5% of the cars on the road today, and major automakers including the Michigan-based Big Three General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford Motor Company, are looking for half their sales to be EVs by 2030
. That’s still a while from now.
EVs have momentum on their side. Automakers are rolling out new models and promising a lot more, including biggies like the Ford F-150 or the Chevrolet Silverado. While prospective buyers see more options, they also realize that, yes, they can save money.
How much money will you save on gas with electric car?
According to a study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Idaho National Laboratory, EV owners can save as much as $14,500 on fuel costs by owning an electric car for 15 years.
That’s almost $1,000 in savings for every year of driving. While the limited number of EV models on the market today might cost more on average than their gasoline-powered friends, the low cost of the fuel (electricity instead of gas) makes electric cars cheaper in the long term.
That’s just the start of the comparison if you’re looking at cost. And the more you compare, the more that EVs stand out as a better value.
Why, you might ask? Electric vehicles have some critical differences from the ones that Henry Ford watched roll off assembly lines a century ago. Namely, they have thousands fewer moving parts inside the engine. And as any car enthusiast will tell you, each moving part means another opportunity for something to break!
A recent Consumer Reports study found that the average electric vehicle owner will spend 60 percent less
to power the car, truck or SUV and half as much on repairs and maintenance — no oil changes needed! — when compared with the average owner of a gas-powered vehicle. There are also fewer fluids, such as engine oil and coolant, that require regular maintenance. There are no belts and hoses to break, and with regenerative braking returning energy back to the battery, those brake pads will last a lot longer. Less money, plus no time wasted waiting for an oil change or your friendly mechanic to deliver expensive news.
How long do electric cars last?
\Let’s not exaggerate the situation. EVs do need to be serviced, typically a twice-a-year service to check the vehicle systems, replace wiper blade and cabin filters, and perform tire rotations. This kind of maintenance helps maintain optimal battery performance and the longevity of the EV. Electric vehicles often come with a manufacturer’s warranty of eight to 10 years
. Anything longer than that, and you may have to save up for some maintenance or repairs. In the long run, however, electric cars typically require less maintenance than regular vehicles as the battery, motor, and corresponding electronics don’t require as much regular maintenance as your standard vehicle. The last parts of the equation around EV costs have to deal with Uncle Sam and, ultimately, you.
The federal government has been a booster of electric vehicle technology. Part of that comes from the fight against climate change – EVs have zero tailpipe emissions – but federal policies have traditionally given support to new and emerging technologies. The transcontinental railroad didn’t happen by itself, you know! That support comes in the form of tax incentives for EV ownership
, and some states have gotten in on the action, too, offering rebates of their own. The federal credits vary, but there are resources that lay out how much you can receive, and how, depending on what electric vehicle you purchase.
And what can you do to keep your EV costs low? Probably a lot more than you realize! Electric providers typically offer time-of-use rates
. These rates reward you with the lowest possible price if you charge your vehicle overnight when the vehicle is parked in your driveway and when you’re asleep.
Why? You’re doing the electric grid a favor by charging “off peak.” Power plants, poles and wires that hum with activity in the middle of the day when factories are open, the lights are on and air conditioners are running will typically see less activity – about half as much, actually – overnight as during the day. Basically, the electric grid is ready and waiting for EVs to plug in and charge up overnight, and energy companies can meet the demand for electricity without having to build new power plants or equipment to serve communities.
In Michigan, energy provider Consumers Energy reports that over 80% of all EV charging that they are tracking is taking place outside of their peak period where electricity demand is the highest. They reward EV owners for behavior change with lower rates. If you own a gas-powered vehicle, you might drive around town looking for a gas station with prices that are a few pennies lower. If you own an EV and charge it overnight, you’re shaving your fuel cost by a lot more!
National Drive Electric Week
EV sales are growing across the U.S., and as new models roll off the assembly line, consumers are learning more about them and how they can do their part to protect the planet. Still, not everyone is going to be motivated for those reasons alone – it has to make sense. Dollars and cents, that is!
This year might have changed the conversation around EVs as gas prices surged. Still, many people are still just learning about their options. If you’re one of those people, you might get a chance to learn more quickly during National Drive Electric Week.
National Drive Electric Week, Sep 23-Oct 2, 2022, is a nationwide celebration to raise awareness of the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars, trucks, motorcycles and more. Depending on where you live, you can find community events where EV enthusiasts gladly show off their vehicles and explain the benefits of all-electric driving.
In Michigan, for example – birthplace of the U.S. automotive industry – National Drive Electric Week events are planned in Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Ann Arbor, Hastings and East Lansing, home to Michigan State University. Speaking of MSU, the university is introducing new EVs to the community as it commits to electrify a large number of the vehicles it owns. For an event near you, visit https://driveelectricweek.org/
Additionally, you can learn much more through public events and by exploring the options that Consumers Energy and other energy providers will offer to reduce EV expenses.
You might not be ready to make an EV purchase right away. But when you do, the cost may be no obstacle! Learn more at ConsumersEnergy.com/ev