Must-Ask Eco Questions: Buying an Electric Vehicle

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The all-electric Mitsubish i (MiEV) is currently the most affordable electric vehicle on the market. Photo: Mitsubishi

2. Can I afford an electric vehicle?

The price of an EV may be higher than your average gas-powered midsized or compact car, but with gas prices on the rise again, an electric car may actually save you money in the long run.

The federal government’s Fuel Economy website, run by the EPA and the Department of Energy, is a great place to compare the cost and fuel savings of all-electric vehicles and plug-ins side-by-side.

The Nissan LEAF starts at $35,200, but should cost around $600 to fuel up a year, according to the EPA’s calculations based on 15,000 miles of annual driving and an electricity cost of $0.12 per kilowatt hour. The EPA also estimates that the average consumer will pay around $1.02 to drive 25 miles in the LEAF. With those kinds of fuel savings, the LEAF’s sticker price may seem more reasonable, especially considering the Alliance to Save Energy’s prediction that the average U.S. household will spend about $3,325 to fill up its vehicles in 2012.

As for the other all-electric vehicles on the market, the Ford Focus Electric starts at $39,200, while the subcompact MiEV, currently the most affordable EV available, is priced at $29,125. The EPA estimates you’ll pay $600 annually to charge your Ford Focus Electric and $500 to fuel the MiEV.

Learn More: Mitsubishi EV Ranks No. 1 on EPA Fuel Economy Guide

If you’re considering a plug-in EV, you should note that Chevrolet dropped the starting price of the 2012 Volt by around $1,000 to $39,145 from the 2011 model. If you drive the Volt in EV mode only, it will cost about $650 a year to charge, says the EPA. But if you drive the car solely in gas-powered mode, you’ll pay $1,650 annually.

Your other option for a plug-in, the Toyota’s plug-in Prius, is priced at $32,000, but because the car is just being released, the EPA has not done any of its fuel-saving calculations just yet.

If you want to go beyond the EPA’s estimates and figure out exactly how much an EV will cost to charge in your area, check your utility bill for electricity rates or contact your utility directly. Note that it may be cheaper to charge your EV in the evening hours, because of higher electricity rates during the daytime’s peak energy demand.

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