Why We Drive Electric: Lower Cost to Operate

By Paul Gipe

Electric vehicles are cheaper to operate and maintain than conventional cars, in part, because they have fewer moving parts. They are also cheaper to fuel than gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles.

We’ve been driving electric for five years. In that time we’ve driven a 2015 Nissan Leaf, a 2013 Chevy Volt, and a 2017 Chevy Bolt. The Leaf and the Bolt are pure EVs. They only use electricity. The Volt functions as an EV, but also uses a gasoline engine when the traction battery is depleted.

We replaced the original set of tires on the Volt, changed the engine oil and replaced the air filter. We drove it about 6,000 miles before we scaled down to a one-vehicle household.

The only service we’ve had done on the two pure EVs is to rotate the tires every 10,000 miles–about once per year–and periodically replace the windshield wiper blades. Granted, both the Leaf and the Bolt were new when we leased them. So they were unlikely to have major service required during the three-year lease period.

The cost to drive on electricity in California is about one-half that of driving with gasoline for most vehicles. It’s even less expensive driving electric than it is driving a Prius. See What does it Cost per Mile to Drive an Electric Vehicle? It’s an even better deal in a state, such as Indiana, where gasoline is much cheaper than in California because electricity is proportionally also much less expensive than that in the Golden State.

PG&E, our regional utility, provides an online calculator that estimates a Chevy Bolt is $700 less expensive annually than paying for gasoline to fuel a Toyota Camry. Similarly, the calculator estimates that a Chevy Bolt is $7,000 cheaper to own over three years than a Toyota Camry, including up-front costs, minus state, federal, and local subsidies.