Are electric vehicles the new economy cars? - MoneySense

Are electric vehicles the new economy cars?

Switching to an EV is good for the environment and—surprise—it can benefit your budget, too.


You may have noticed there are a lot more electric vehicles on the road today than there were only a couple years ago. While EVs account for fewer than 3% of all vehicles driven around the world, they no longer stick out like they once did. Yet, many drivers are still hesitant to consider an EV for their next set of wheels—and in many cases their reservations are rooted in misconceptions rather than actual facts.

A common one is that electric vehicles may be better for the environment, they’re just too pricey for most Canadians to consider. But the reality is there’s plenty of evidence EVs are not only kind to the environment, but kind to your pocketbook as well.

While EVs do, indeed, have a higher sticker price—as much as 40% higher, in some cases, compared to equivalent gas-powered vehicles—there is an economic offset that comes from the fact that operating an EV tends to cost much less on an ongoing basis. In fact, when you look at and compare the ongoing costs of owning a gas vehicle versus an EV, the higher purchase price of electric powered vehicles is mitigated or even nullified by the savings incurred on everything else. (And, in the shorter term, available government EV rebates help offset the higher purchase price.)

One of the largest ongoing expenses associated with driving is—wait for it—fuel. Gas prices across Canada have been floating around historic highs recently, with the average ranging from $1.38 per litre in Alberta at the lower end to as much as $1.66 in B.C., according to At these prices, gassing up even a fuel-efficient small car can put a hefty dent in your wallet over time. By comparison, charging up your EV can be significantly less expensive, and the savings between the two can often be substantial.

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Given that both gas prices as well as energy prices across the country can vary, it’s hard to put an exact figure as to just how much you’d save by charging up instead of gassing up, but the results of a B.C. Hydro survey gives us a good idea of the potentially significant savings awaiting EV drivers in that province. B.C. Hydro determined that charging up an EV would cost the equivalent of $0.25 per litre, then, using this figure, determined that a commuter who regularly drove between Vancouver and Surrey, a distance of 80 km round-trip, in a Nissan Leaf EV would spend $409 a year. By comparison, someone driving the same route in a gas-powered Honda Civic would pay an estimated $2,200—or about $1,700 more a year. Driving a Toyota RAV4 would set someone back $2,519, or $2,000 more, and a Ford F-150 owner would spend $3,779 or $3,200 more.

Maintenance is another significant ongoing cost of automobile ownership, and EVs have a notable advantage here as well. The overall design of an EV powertrain is far simpler than that of an internal combustion engine. The drivetrain in an gas-powered vehicle typically contains 2,000-plus moving parts, whereas the drivetrain in an EV contains around 20. With fewer moving parts, the lack of a multi-gear transmission and no mechanical lubricants such as engine oil to change, the maintenance schedule of EVs is less cumbersome and costly by comparison. Proof can be found in the recommended maintenance schedules for a variety of EVs such as the Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Ioniq. The schedules recommend service every 12,000  to 24,000 kilometres, compared to about every 5,000 kilometres for most gas-powered vehicles. On top of the reduced frequency, most EV maintenance checks involve simple inspections and basic fluid top-ups only.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is that, according to a report by vehicle maintenance information firm CarMD, of the Top 10 most common automotive repairs in 2016, only one would apply to EVs—but a missing fuel cap (or charger cap), which came in at No. 4, is by far the cheapest repair item on that list to fix at around $15. The most common repair was replacing oxygen sensors that would set you back around $250, while the most expensive repair on the list, coming in at No. 2, was catalytic converter replacement, which costs $1,150 to complete.

Automakers who produce both gas-powered and EV variants of the same vehicle, such as the Hyundai Kona or the Kia Soul, either haven’t done any calculations yet as to how much one would save on maintenance with an EV or, if they have, they aren’t willing to make the figures public. However, an informal survey of EV owners on dedicated Facebook groups indicated that they have almost universally enjoyed significant savings on maintenance with their EV compared to their last gas-powered vehicle.

Another place where EV drivers can save money is insurance. While the costs to repair EVs is still proportionally higher compared to gas-powered vehicles, mostly due to the relatively few numbers of EVs on the road today, many insurers are still willing to offer discounts for making a greener choice. Providers such as TD Insurance, Aviva, Desjardins, Intact and others indicate on their websites that they offer premium discounts ranging from 5% to 20% for electric cars and hybrids.

Electric vehicles are fun to drive and offer all the features and benefits that consumers want in their vehicles. Many automakers have also committed to offering a greater selection of EV models for Canadians to choose from in a variety of sizes and styles. When you factor in that EV owners can rack up thousands in savings each year through a greatly reduced cost to operate, it’s becoming increasingly clear that EVs can meet the needs of Canadian drivers while being especially kind to both the planet and your wallet at the same time.

2018 Hyundai Kona (Photo: Eric Novak)

2019 Hyundai Kona EV

MSRP* $27,599 $44,999
Annual Fuel Costs** $1,754 $452
Maintenance Schedule Every 5,000 km Every 24,000 km
Insurance*** Discounts available
H.O.V. Access**** Minimum 2 passengers Full access
Preferred Parking EV parking available

*MSRP does not include available EV pricing incentives, which include a $5,000 Canadian federal incentive, as well as an additional $5,000 incentive for purchasers in B.C. and $8,000 for purchasers in Quebec.

** Figures obtained from 2019 Fuel Consumption Guide, Natural Resources Canada.

*** Discounts vary among various insurance providers. For specific information, contact your broker or agent.

**** EVs are allowed full access to HOV lanes in Ontario, Quebec and B.C., provided vehicles have proper license plates or stickers identifying them as an EV.

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