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A 2012 Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle is parked at a solar-powered electric charging station in the parking lot of the General Motors assembly plant in Hamtramck, Michigan (REBECCA COOK/Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
A 2012 Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle is parked at a solar-powered electric charging station in the parking lot of the General Motors assembly plant in Hamtramck, Michigan (REBECCA COOK/Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Driving It Home

The real-world operating costs of an electric vehicle Add to ...

Joe, a loyal reader, has chided me for writing a big feature about the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF, yet being too stingy with details about the operating costs of both.

He’s correct to say I did not provide much information on operating costs in my recent feature about these two electric cars, although I have done so in the past. In any case, here is more information about operating costs:

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Nissan Canada says a typical gasoline car getting a combined 8.0 litres/100 km will have an annual fuel cost of $1,800, or $0.08 per km (at $1 per litre). The LEAF? At current electricity rates (averaging $0.06 per kilowatt hour) the per km cost comes down to $0.009, with annual energy costs coming in at $180, or one-tenth the cost of a comparable gasoline-powered, four-door hatchback.

As well, an electric car will be easier and less expensive to maintain. EVs don’t have spark plugs, they don’t use oil, and an EV motor barely has any moving parts. The battery has a lot of complex electronics in it, but no moving parts. And the regenerative braking system – if you use it properly – is going to do most of the work your brake pads do now. So in an EV, there is almost nothing to maintain outside of tires.

“We haven’t calculated maintenance costs, but they will be lower,” says Nissan Canada’s Forsyth.

He also suggests that buyers need not worry about resale value. Nissan expects a four-year-old LEAF to retain about the same amount of its purchase price as any other standard family car – 40-45 per cent after four years.

Meantime, General Motors of Canada says “in British Columbia, the nominal cost per km to operate Volt in EV mode (Plug-to-Wheel) is approx 1/5 the cost of gasoline equivalent. In Ontario, about 1/4 cost versus gasoline vehicle, and in Quebec, about 1/6.”

Real numbers? GM Canada expects fuel costs for the Volt to run about one to two cents per km, versus six to eight cents a km for a normal gasoline car. That’s with gas selling for $1.10-$1.30 a litre.

These are all projections, of course. Real running costs in Canada won’t be known until both the LEAF and the Volt go into real-world use. That starts now.

Down the road we’ll need to report on real-world operating costs, so stay tuned.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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