Total cost per mile of driving an electric car

According to the federal government and AAA, it costs 58 cents/mile to drive a gas powered car when taking all expenses into account. What is this cost for electrics? Not only is fuel still cheaper, they also don’t need oil changes, air filters, or spark plugs. They have no exhaust system to maintain, and the engines are much simpler to repair.

I was wondering why you asked such a silly question when you could probably Google it.
So I tried…

I can’t find any “all in” cost per mile comparisons. Any article that looks like it might be helpful is two or more years old so manufacturing and battery efficiency improvements make those articles somewhat useless.

And it seems like modern statements only refer to equivalent miles per gallon MPGe and don’t address the all in cost.

I’m with you on this. I hope somebody can find a useful cite.

First I’d like to see where the 58 cents/mile number comes from, and what exactly “all expenses” means. Does it include all typical repairs? Depreciation of the car’s value? Insurance? Typical cost of maintaining a parking space?

I think the true apples-to-apples comparison would yield an answer of… 58 cents.

As I understand it, the rate at which the IRS says someone should be compensated for mileage is based on a broad survey of nearly all automobiles on the road. So that 58 cents applies to a 2015 Honda Civic with a “true cost to own” of $30k over five years, as well as a 2016 BMW M5 with a cost of $115 grand.

It seems that comparable estimates for a 2016 Nissan Leaf put its cost at $35,000 over five years, which actually breaks out to just under 50 cents a mile for a 15,000/mi/yr driver. Data on Teslas, the BMW i3, and other electrics don’t seem to be as readily available, at least on that website.

To make my point a different way, the cost per mile calculation for compensation doesn’t reflect the true cost of anything, really. It’s just a number, that’s informed by data, used to set a fixed price for something – how much you can deduct from your taxes or whatnot. It’s like traveling on per diem: if you travel to New York, your employer probably gives you some fixed sum per day, simply so they don’t have to calculate whether you need to be compensated for staying at the Waldorf or the Amy Flophouse Hotel for Itinerant Men. One can’t necessarily take the per diem and conclude that the cost of a hotel and meals cost “this” much in New York. It’s just a reasonable figure that’s neither too high or too low.

What Ravenman said.

It IS possible to compute actual direct costs per mile. And right now electrics are generally cheaper in direct costs.

That will start to change as more and more electrics are on the road and the utilities discover they now have a large overnight baseload demand charging all those millions of cars.

Yes, yes, yes, and maybe.

Parking fees and money put into parking meters definitely ARE included. If you have to purchase a parking space, that purchase might not be considered “parking”.

Fuel is definitely cheaper per mile for an EV. It depends on the price of electricity where you live and which EV you buy, but typically the cost will be 2-3 cents per mile. Compare that to the average ICE which gets 27mpg at $2/gal (in the US) spending roughly 7-8 cents per mile. This cost difference alone accounts for nearly 10% of the total 58 cents we’re discussing.

The problem is that we don’t have a lot of data about repair costs of EVs over their total lifespan, so much of it will have to be educated guesses. We know they don’t need oil changes or spark plugs or mufflers, but they will likely need a new battery pack around 80,000 or 120,000 miles. (My 2012 Mitsubishi iMiev has an 8-year, 96,000 mile warranty on the battery pack.) Compare this to the fact that some ICEs need an engine overhaul in the middle of their lifespan, but most don’t. And the motor itself is much simpler than an ICE but the computer which controls the whole thing is just as complicated as the computer from an ICE.

As for depreciation, that’s easy. Over its entire lifespan, every car (EV or ICE) depreciates 100% of the purchase price. So just take that number and divide by how many miles driven.

IMHO, the money saved by lower maintenance costs is offset by the cost of replacing the battery pack so those two things more or less cancel each other out. Now factor in the fuel cost per mile and the EV is 5 cents cheaper per mile.

But there’s another factor which we don’t have huge amounts of data for. Anecdotal evidence says EV owners tend to drive fewer miles. (That’s definitely true for me. I ride my bicycle more often than I drive the EV). So that means the EV might be driven fewer miles in its lifespan than an ICE hence the expenses in question are spread out over fewer miles. So that might cancel out the fuel savings and bring us back to 58 cents.

But what about the cost of fuel in the future? Is it likely that, over the EV’s lifespan, the cost of gasoline will go up? I’d say yes. But the cost of electricity probably won’t increase as much. If the price of gasoline goes up from $2/gal to $6/gal and the cost of electricity goes up from $0.10/KWh to $0.30/KWh then the EV owner has to pay an extra 5 cents per mile but the ICE owner has to pay an extra 15 cents per mile. So the price per mile might be the same right now but gets more and more tilted in favor of the EV as time goes on.

On the purely accounting end of thing, the IRS hasn’t updated the number but I have seen some corporate and government mileage reimbursement rates going down because of the current low fuel prices. If those persist, it’s possible the IRS might move their number down as well.

Another problem with the battery packs is that you’ve really got two unknown figures: both how long the battery is likely to last and how much it’ll cost several years down the road. Tesla, for example, prices its extended battery warranties with the assumption that the batteries will be much cheaper once the cars are old enough to start commonly needing them.

FWIW, we do now have more than 15 years of experience with hybrids’ electric drivetrains, much of which should be broadly applicable to EV’s. At least with the Prius, the electric motor and battery seems to be more or less lifetime items. Battery failures past 100,000 miles (or random failures before that) aren’t unheard of, but I wouldn’t really say they’re “likely” in the sense of more likely than not to happen.There’s plenty of 1st gen Priuses still running around with their original batteries, including some that were used as taxis that racked up many hundreds of thousands of miles. The batteries also aren’t that expensive when they do fail; the price of an OE replacement has steadily declined, but also because the batteries have proven so reliable there’s a robust used market for them as well as aftermarket rebuilt ones that are pretty cheap.

If we’re talking about the IRS’s mileage rate, 58 cents is old news. It’s currently 54 cents.

As someone said, electric cars are part of the numbers the IRS crunches to come up with this average, but I also don’t know how much this is a real number. (After all, formulas are also used to determine that medical and moving miles are only worth 19 cents, so the tax code clearly thinks that it’s cheaper to drive to the doctor :slight_smile: )

The IRS numbers include gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, oil, tires and depreciation on the original purchase. Pretty much everything but parking, tolls, and ferries.

Anyway, it would be relatively simple to calculate the cost on a specific model, though your results would only be as accurate as your assumption about things like lifetime of the vehicle, cost of repairs, etc. With electric vehicles being relatively new, you won’t have real statistics to rely on, but there should be estimates. The same could be applied to all models, but then you have the added complication of choosing how to weight the models and which vehicles you choose to include.

I could see a bigger variance in by mile costs based on how much it’s driven. Li-ion batteries degrade with time just sitting without usage. The amount of degradation is affected by charge level and battery temperature. Since battery replacement is a big part of the operating cost that likely makes for a bigger car to car variance in per mile costs, even for the same model. provides a “true cost to own” covering all expenses over 5 years and assuming 15,000 miles per year. The Nissan Leaf is 49.9 cents/mile and the Nissan Juke is 44 cents. The big difference is that the Leaf costs an extra $12k to buy. This does not take into account any possible Federal and State tax credits for buying an electric car.