With the auto industries' renewed interested in electric vehicles, owning a rechargeable vehicle is becoming more practical, especially if the majority of your daily driving is within the range of the battery in 100% EV mode. Although car companies have tried and failed to introduce electric vehicles to the motoring public several times already (see GM EV1), I believe that we are now are now entering the age of the electric vehicle (EV).  (See Electric Vehicles are Here to Stay.) What is different now is the impetus to address climate change and many countries are actively promoting EVs along with renewable energy.  In the past, EVs failed to take hold for a variety of reasons including high cost and low range.  With the help of government incentive programs, EV prices are decreasing at a remarkable pace.

 

Chevrolet Volt

 

Until technological advancements further drive down the cost of batteries, the lower initial-cost option at this time is the Plug-in Hybrid with a range-extending on-board generator.  Cars like the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt, and Honda Clarity have batteries that can operate in 100% EV mode for a limited distance, which ideally should be at least the round-trip of your commute or the one-way distance to work if your employer has provided EV chargers.  Even with Ontario's spectacularly high electric rates, it is still much cheaper to run on electricity than on gasoline.  However, the premium for a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) compared to the cost of the non-EV version of a similar car is several thousands of dollars (even with a very substantial government subsidy), with a payback of several years to a decade just on fuel savings.

Another cost that must also be considered is the 240V home charging station, which can run a few thousand dollars for installation.  Although EVs can be recharged from an ordinary 120V wall outlet, recharging time can be cut by a half or more with a 240V plug.  Although it is likely that the charger can be used indefinitely, its cost should factored into the first EV.

For those of you commuting on highways with HOV Lanes & HOT Lanes, vehicles with Green License Plates often get a free pass to use this lane just like having the requisite numbers of passengers.  This alone should make the PHEV and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) worth consideration.  However, as the number of Green License Plate vehicles increases, it is very possible that the government will revoke free access to the HOV/HOT lanes.

EVs driven very moderately have been reported to have achieved much higher electric-only ranges than the EPA ratings.  In the Volt's case, some people have gotten as much as 110 km or more from a charge instead of the 85 km EPA rating as reported on the GM Volt forum.  Cold weather adversely affects a battery's capacity so YMMV.

As battery technology evolves, buying an electric car will eventually become a no-brainer.  Until then, buying a conventional, fuel-efficient compact car seems to be the better option for now.


Using the Chevrolet Volt (based on GM's Delta platform shared with the Chevrolet Cruze) as an example, using GM Canada's online build estimator in January 2018, a basic 2018 Chevrolet Volt LT has an MSRP of $40,490 with a cash purchase cost of $28,101.  In comparison, a basic 2018 Chevrolet Cruze LS Automatic has an MSRP of $21,953, a difference of $6,148 ($6,947.24 with Ontario HST).  Using the most optimistic estimates, the Volt can travel its rated 85 km on its 18.4 kWh lithium-ion battery (65% allowable = 12 kWh usable).  That translates to 14.1 kWh/100 km.  Using Ontario's off-peak rate of 6.5¢/kWh, a full charge on the battery costs $0.78 (simplified estimate) so the "fuel" cost is $0.92/100 km.  In comparison, the Energuide fuel efficiency ratings for the Cruze LS Automatic are 7.9 L/100 km (city) and 5.9 L/100 km (highway), If we optimistically assume 100% city driving and gasoline costs $1.20/litre, the fuel cost for the Cruze is $9.48/100 km.  The fuel savings to drive the Volt in 100% electric mode is $8.56/100 km.

Let's pretend that we commute with the Volt 85 km a day (no battery degradation), 5 days a week, 50 weeks/year, and recharge overnight at home.  The Volt will then save us $1,819/year.  The simple payback on fuel savings is therefore 3.8 years most optimistically, not including the cost of the home charging station.  The reduced costs for maintenance should improve the payback somewhat.  Driving the Volt 85 km/day and 365 days/year saves $2,656/year and improves the payback to 2.6 years. Obviously, a longer commute with a recharge at work further improves the payback.

 


Using the Chevrolet Bolt (similar to GM's Gamma platform used by the Chevrolet Sonic) as an example, using GM Canada's online build estimator in January 2018, a basic 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV LT has an MSRP of $44,895 with a cash purchase cost of $32,506.  In comparison, a basic 2018 Chevrolet Sonic LT Automatic  has an MSRP of $19,903, a difference of $12,603  ($14,241.39 with Ontario HST).  Using the most optimistic estimates, the Bolt can travel its rated 383 km on its 60 kWh lithium-ion battery.  That translates to 15.7 kWh/100 km.  Using Ontario's off-peak rate of 6.5¢/kWh, a full charge on the battery costs $3.90 (simplified estimate) so the "fuel" cost is $1.02/100 km.  In comparison, the Energuide fuel efficiency ratings for the Sonic LT Automatic are 9.3 L/100 km (city) and 7.0 L/100 km (highway), If we optimistically assume 100% highway driving and gasoline costs $1.20/litre, the fuel cost for the Sonic is $9.32/100 km.  The fuel savings to drive the Bolt in on a long distance commute is $8.30/100 km.

Let's pretend that we commute with the Bolt 300 km a day (no battery degradation), 5 days a week, 50 weeks/year, and recharge overnight at home.  The Bolt will then save us $6,223/year.  The simple payback on fuel savings is therefore 2.3 years most optimistically, not including the cost of the home charging station.  The reduced costs for maintenance should improve the payback somewhat.  Driving the Bolt 300 km/day and 365 days/year saves $9,086/year and improves the payback to 1.6 years.  As with the Volt, a longer commute with a recharge at work further improves the payback.

If you're commuting in GTA, it is likely that your Sonic will never get highway fuel economy due to gridlock so an electric vehicle will have even better economics.

 

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