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AAA Studies the Cost of Driving Electric Vehicles

AAA analyzes the cost and experience of going green with an electric vehicle.

Ninety-six percent of electric vehicle owners surveyed said they would buy or lease another EV the next time they're in the market for a new car.

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New research from AAA finds that over five years and 75,000 miles of driving, the overall cost of owning a new compact electric vehicle is only slightly more expensive—about $600 annually—than its gas-powered counterpart. The study also revealed that the experience of owning an electric vehicle eases one of the biggest fears associated with these cars—range anxiety.

“Although 40 million Americans have shown interest in buying electric for their next car, actual adoption is happening at a much slower rate,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “AAA wanted to understand what kind of impact the experience of owning an electric vehicle has on the perception of these cars and—maybe more importantly—if given the chance, would consumers choose to go green again.”

AAA surveyed 1,090 EV owners, 71 percent of whom had not previously owned an electric car.

  • 96 percent said they would buy or lease another electric vehicle when in the market for a new car.

  • 43 percent said they drive more now than when they owned a gas-powered car. On average, electric vehicle owners drive 39 miles per day.

  • 78 percent also have a gas-powered car in the household, yet they report 87 percent of their driving is in the electric vehicle.

Previous AAA research found that Americans shy away from electric vehicles for two reasons: Not enough places to charge and fear that the charge will run out. But almost all owners surveyed report never having run out of charge. Drivers concerned about range said they became less or no longer concerned post-purchase.

“Range anxiety has been synonymous with electric vehicles from the beginning,” said Brannon. “Hearing firsthand from owners that this is no longer a worry may change the mind of those who have otherwise been skeptical of the idea of owning an electric vehicle.”

The study also addressed concerns about value. AAA compared the cost of owning a new compact electric vehicle to that of its gas-powered counterpart. Although the study found that overall cost of electric vehicle ownership is 8 percent more per year, individual categories such as fuel and maintenance/repair are lower.

  • Electric fuel costs less. The electricity required to drive 15,000 miles per year in a compact electric vehicle costs an average of  $546, while the gas required to drive the same distance costs $1,255 (or 130 percent) more.

  • EVs cost less to maintain. Electric vehicles don’t need oil changes or air-filter replacements. Maintained according to the automakers’ recommendations, electric vehicles cost $330 less than a gas-powered car.

Vehicle ownership, whether electric or gas-powered, is a personal choice that should take many factors into consideration. For consumers interested in electric vehicles, AAA recommends visiting a dealership, test driving one, and asking as many questions as possible.