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How do electric vehicles compare to gasoline when you consider all of the costs?

As the number of electric vehicles in Michigan increases, state lawmakers and local officials are debating how to tax them fairly for road use.
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Smaller, shorter range battery electric vehicles are cost less to own and operate that similar gasoline vehicles. Larger, longer range battery electrics don't compare as well.

A study by the University of Michigan compared the total costs of buying and owning gasoline, hybrid-electric, and all-electric vehicles.

A lot of variables went into the calculations, including cost of refueling, financing, buying home charging equipment and so on. The study applied those variable to 14 U.S. cities: Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Where you live makes a difference. In New York or Detroit, high insurance costs were key. San Francisco and Los Angeles had the highest costs for both gasoline and electricity. Cleveland seems to have the best policies and cheaper costs for electric vehicles among the cities studied.

There were some conclusions that were true across the spectrum.

“For lower range battery electric vehicles, 200 mile range, they’re more affordable than comparable gasoline vehicles,” said Greg Keoleian, professor of environment and sustainability. He’s also the director of the Center for Sustainability Systems at UM and a co-author of the study.

He said that holds true for those smaller battery electric vehicles even without government incentives.

Right now the federal government is offering $7,500 credits for new cars and $4000 credits for used electric vehicles.

Larger electric vehicles with longer ranges were not as cheap in the long run and less attractive compared to equivalent gasoline vehicles.

Keoleian said there is another factor that a potential buyer should include in their decision.

“We’re in a climate emergency. We need to reduce our emissions, cut them in half by 2030, get to net zero by 2050. And we’re not on track with meeting the targets to avoid the most adverse effects of climate change.”

The lead author of the study was Maxwell Woody. Other authors were Shawn Adderly and Rushabh Bohra.

You can find the study in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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